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May 11, 2016

Convert Your Photos to Sepia Tone for that “Vintage Look”

Babe Ruth portrait, original and new sepia tone

Adobe Photoshop is the “go-to” program for all image editing and offers unlimited possibilities. In this tutorial, you will learn how to convert an image to sepia tone to give it that “antique” or “vintage” look. When retouching a photograph – or other kind of image – which is sepia-toned, I generally convert it to black and white, then apply my own sepia tone after I remove all flaws. Old images tend to have a discolored, faded, and oftentimes uneven sepia tone. Below are the steps I use to convert an image to sepia tone.

Convert Your Image to Black & White

Open your image, then convert it to grayscale by going to Image > Adjustments > Black & White. Make sure the image is in RGB (Red, Green, Blue) color mode under Image > Mode. There should be a check mark next to RGB Color.

Babe Ruth portrait

Original, faded sepia tone image of Babe Ruth (on left) converted to black and white (on right).

Add Sepia Tone

Now you are ready to add the sepia tint to your image. You can do this by going to Image > Adjustments > Variations. Make sure that Midtones is selected in the top right, and that Original is selected in the top left of the Variations window. Next, you will click on More Yellow once, then on More Red once. Hit okay, and your image is now sepia tone.

Variations adjustment in Adobe Photoshop.

Variations window in Photoshop, where you convert your image to sepia tone by adding more yellow and red.

Reduce the Saturation

This step is totally optional, and depends solely on your taste. Once again, go to Image > Adjustments, then select Hue/Saturation (shortcut Command/Control U). Depending on the image, decrease the saturation to either -20 or -30. This less intense sepia tone produces a beautiful color which looks great on all kinds of images, from portraits to old documents and more.

Hue/Saturation window in Adobe Photoshop.

For this image, I decreased the saturation to -20.

Add Contrast

Like the previous step, this one totally depends on the image you are converting. Some images have plenty or too much contrast, while others desperately need more. This image of Babe Ruth falls under the “need more contrast” category, as it is rather dull. Auto Contrast worked great with this photo, but it doesn’t always produce the desired effect.

Add sepia tone to an image in Adobe Photoshop

Original, faded sepia tone image of Babe Ruth (left) and new, richer sepia tone added (right).

As you can see, converting an image to sepia tone in Adobe Photoshop is straightforward, and can be achieved very quickly using the steps above. Do you know of another method in Photoshop with which you can achieve similar results? Feel free to leave a comment or question below, and sign up for my newsletter to be notified of new blog posts.