Retro & Vintage Effects for Photoshop Elements 6

Written by shawn m. tomlinson
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Retro & Vintage Effects for Photoshop Elements 6
Photoshop Elements 6 makes it possible to turn your modern photos into retro art. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 provides many of the same special effects filters that Photoshop itself has. They work a little differently, but most aspects are the same. With these special effects, you can produce images with a retro look or with vintage effects. This can help even a mundane photo come alive in a different way. Because of the way it works, you can save virtually infinite variations of your original image while leaving the original intact.

Graphic Pen

Most of the special effects that can turn your photos into retro or vintage images reside in the "Filter Gallery" of Adobe Photoshop Elements 6, including the "Graphic Pen." There are two ways to get to the filter you want. In the right palette, click the "Effects" tab, then click the "All" icon, the one farthest right. Scroll down through the sample icons to find "Graphic Pen." Hovering your mouse over each icon reveals its name. The other way to get there is to go to the "Filter" menu, select "Filter Gallery," then select "Sketch" and finally "Graphic Pen." This effect will turn your photo into a sketch version of the original. You have several controls available under "Graphic Pen," including "Stroke Length," which helps you design your pen strokes; "Light/Dark Balance," which helps increase or decrease the light to dark balance, thus adding or subtracting detail; and the "Stroke Direction" that provides four variations on how the strokes appear.


Posterizing, as the name indicates, can turn your photo into a vintage poster-like or comic-like image. In the "Filter Gallery," select "Artistic" and then "Poster Edges." Like the other filters, "Poster Edges" has three basic controls that can make your image look more like a comic or more like an old poster. For example, "Edge Thickness" strengthens or weakens the black pen-like strokes around the edges. The more you add, the more it produces comic-like images. "Edge Intensity" darkens or lightens the edges. "Posterization" allows you to add just a touch of the effect or a lot. The lower the number, the more the posterization effect takes shape.

Sepia Toning

Sepia toning makes your image appear brownish red, similar to old photos from the 19th century. Sepia toning originally was done to extend the life of photos by making them more stable. Now, such photos appear quaint and very old. You can create the same effect in Photoshop Elements 6 with a few quick steps. First, go to the "Enhance" menu and select "Adjust Color" and, in the submenu, "Remove Color." This turns your colour image into a grayscale picture. Next, go to "Enhance," then "Adjust Color" and "Color Variations." This calls up a new dialogue box in which you can add or subtract colours to your image. In the top area, you will see the image as it stands now and what it will look like as you make changes. Select "Midtones" in the left column, then click "Increase Red" once, and then "Decrease Blue" once. This will give you a simulation of sepia toning.

Combined Effects

You also can combine retro and vintage effects for more variations in your photos. For example, if you sepia tone an image using the method above, you then can turn it into a dreamlike Victorian image using a filter. With your photo already turned to sepia toning, go to the "Filter Gallery" and select "Distort." Select "Diffuse Glow" and the image will take on a soft glow, particularly around white areas of the image. You also can adjust this using the "Graininess," "Glow Amount" and "Clear Amount" controls to the right. You can take the same sepia toned image and add an artistic retro look by selecting "Brush Strokes" in the "Filter Gallery" and then "Dark Strokes." There are nearly endless variations.

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