How to create a vintage pin-up look with photoshop

Written by mika ortiz
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How to create a vintage pin-up look with photoshop
Pin-up model in classic pose and black dress (sexy Asian pin up girl image by NorthShoreSurfPhotos from

The classic pin-up image not only includes a posing or candidly captured model, but also reveals something delightful about the model's personality or situation. Although the golden pin-up days of the early through mid-1900s are over, you can create your own pin-up with old-fashioned flair. Create a vintage pin-up look in Adobe Photoshop with classic design with careful attention to colour, as well as smudging and blurring techniques that lend photographs a painterly look. Finish the image with textural filters to give it old-fashioned pin-up charm.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Photograph
  • Adobe Photoshop

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Start with a photo of a model. Vintage attire, including fitted clothing and old accessories, brings authenticity to the project. Vintage make-up and hair completes the look. Scan the photo and import it into Adobe Photoshop or, if the image is already digitised, open the file in Photoshop.

  2. 2

    Make a duplicate of your background layer. Use the Magnetic Lasso tool to trace around the model if you want to remove the background. Once your selection is complete, separate it from the background by copying your selection. Create a new layer, fill it with a solid colour or gradient and place it beneath the cut-out copy of the model. Gray is an effective neutral tone to use as a background while you are retouching.

  3. 3

    Retouch the model. Grab the "Blur" tool, turn its strength down and begin to smooth out any sharp edges and elements in the model cut-out. Smooth the skin and clothing, adjusting the size of the brush as you work. Switch to the "Smudge" tool, turn down the strength and gently trace the strands of hair.

  4. 4

    What you do next depends on the specific image at hand. If the model is wearing a red dress and red lipstick, select and isolate each element and boost the saturation to make the red hue pop. You may choose to convert most of the photo to black and white, while colorizing key elements, like eye shadow, lipstick, hair adornments, and areas of clothing. Save your image when you are satisfied with the results.

  5. 5

    Complete the pin-up image by changing the grey background to a preferred solid colour, gradient or simple design of your choice. Duplicate the model layer and the background colour layer and merge them. Select "Distort," then "Diffused Glow" under the Filter menu to give the image a soft and radiant appearance with a hint of grain for antique appeal. Open the Styles palette, open the Photographic Effects group and choose an filter that helps enhance the old-fashioned look you're creating.

Tips and warnings

  • Work with a large image for optimal editing abilities. A large image can be sized down later, but an image that is too small cannot be enlarged without the loss of detail.
  • Save frequently while you work.

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