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Easy Retro and Light Leak Effect for Photoshop and Elements

TS-retro-filmWhen it comes to creating that retro look Photoshop offers a seemingly endless range of options. The trouble is many of the techniques involve multiple complex steps. Well here’s a retro effect that is quick and will work for users of both Photoshop AND Photoshop Elements.

In the video I’ll also demonstrate how to create a simple light leak effect and how to add in a film rebate border.

To download your free copy of the film border visit my Creative Cloud page here:

NB : Variations is not part of Photoshop CS5 and CS6 on Apple Mac Computers. The light leak and frame can be added however.

About Gavin Hoey (45 Articles)
Gavin has been a regular contributor to Digital Photo Magazine in the UK since 2003 where he writes “how to...” techniques on photography and Photoshop Elements. His Photoshop lectures are always in demand and he can often be seen popping up at camera clubs all over the UK.

15 Comments on Easy Retro and Light Leak Effect for Photoshop and Elements

  1. Hello Gavin,

    Looks good, but being a photographer for over 30 years and working a lot with dslr and 135 film I have some minor problems with the execution: #1 135 always has the sidestrips for transportation on the long side of the picture. #2 When there is a glaze of light, like you created, most of the times the light goes also in the film just outside of the picture. #3 when looking at a picture with reversed colors the edges are black with white numbers. When shooting on negative film the numbers are dark and the film was orange, because of the filters in the film. When shooting in Black and white the edge was white with black numbers. When there was a dark tone in the white/orange parts of the edge of the film then you knew it was time to go to your camera dealer, because there was a leak of light somewhere in the camera.
    But then again, who cares in the digital era. It looks very good, although for history’s sake I had to mention it.

  2. Barry Weaver // 20/07/2012 at 5:23 pm //

    Hi Gavin.
    Sorry but this effect does nothing for me. In the days of film we would have binned any pics this happened to, so why deliberately create this effect and spoil a perfectly good image? Surely the main object of photoshop is to improve.

  3. That’s impressive knowledge Nico that makes for interesting reading for people like me who’s film based photography isn’t as extencive. I think you’re right, it does look very good, and, one may argue, is all that matters. A little artistic licence goes a long way?

  4. Isn’t it odd how things come around Barry? I like the look and this kind of ‘retro look’ is very fashionable, especially with amateur photographers who may be trying to emulate effects that have been produced by iPhone apps etc.
    I would argue that, as with all tutorials on Tipsquirrel.com, the finished effect isn’t the entire point of the tutorial. We like to provide tutorials that look at how Photoshop works so that users can adapt the techniques for their own projects. If the light leak isn’t for you, that’s cool, but hopefully you’ll take away something else, maybe transforming from one corner, blending mode use or just seeing the workflow of a seasoned Photoshop User and photographer.
    One man’s ruin is another man’s improve I guess 🙂

  5. Gavin,
    I love your super simple retro effect and the film border. My problem is finding a program to open .ase files. PSCS6, PSCS5 and PSCS4 will not open the file and cannot find any opeions via Google or Adobe.com. Can you help?
    I look forward to your answer.

  6. I’ve tried locating the Variations feature in CS5 but can not. A few internet forums indicate the feature is not supported or found in CS5 and beyond. Others say you must convert your image to 32 bit first. I did that also but I was still unable to locate Variations.

    Can you provide any clarification regarding this? Can I accomplish the split toning using the Variations feature shown in the video using CS5? TIA. John

  7. Barry Weaver // 21/07/2012 at 1:48 pm //

    @ Eric.
    I fully endorse your points re tutorials and through them I have learned a lot. Although the ‘retro’ look isn’t for me I agree that some will like it. The point I was making concerns the light leak which is something we never found acceptable in the days of film. What makes it acceptable now?

  8. Mike Butcher // 21/07/2012 at 2:34 pm //

    I can’t open the .ase file either. Help!

  9. To download the image follow the link https://creative.adobe.com/#file/13c19235-e179-44d2-b27c-e48dcc12914d

    Click on the download icon (down arrow with line below) and select the PNG file format.


  10. Bob Kerr // 22/07/2012 at 6:50 pm //



  11. krishnaraj // 22/07/2012 at 8:50 pm //

    Hai sir ur videos are super. unfortunately i have macbook pro so how can i use this effect in that with photoshop cs6

  12. LynneM // 17/11/2012 at 3:47 pm //

    Excellent, as always. I love the retro effect and the technique you used to create it. Thanks so much.

  13. Thanks for a great article!

    If anyone is looking for FREE light leak video effects see the link below.
    They work to achieve the same looks except for moving image.


    Cheers and thanks again Gavin.


  14. altarvic // 05/09/2013 at 12:30 pm //

    Good to know!
    Premiere users can use free light leaks from this link (free collection of 20 HD light elements)

  15. Awesome article Gavin, loving the technique!
    If anyone is interested, we have a collection of free light leaks and transitions for Premiere users.

    Check out http://lightleaks.me/pages/free-light-leaks

    Thanks again!

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