Create an Antique Sepia Effect in Photoshop Elements

Sepia Tone Phonograph
Yuri Arcurs/Getty Images

Sepia is a reddish-brown color that harkens back to turn-of-the-century photographs that were treated with sepia ink. Programs such as Photoshop Elements allow you to quickly and easily create a convincing sepia effect.

Interesting fact: Sepia ink is extracted from cuttlefish.

Sepia Tint Before and After photo
Liz Masoner

There are many ways to achieve a sepia effect. This tutorial shows you the simplest method, along with how to further age the photo if desired.

There is a guided sepia effect in several Photoshop Elements versions, but the process is simple to do on your own and gives you more control over the result.

This tutorial uses Photoshop Elements 10, but the method should work similarly in almost any version or graphics program.

  1. Open the photo you wish to use.

  2. Open the Adjust Hue/Saturation menu using a keyboard shortcuts (macOS: Command-U; Windows: Control-U) or by going through menu options (Enhance > Adjust Color > Adjust Hue/Saturation.

    Photoshop Elements Adjust Hue
  3. Click the box beside Colorize and move the Hue slider to around 31.

    The colors of original sepia varied, based on factors such as how much ink was used and how much weathering a photo suffered over the years. So, feel free to experiment some. As long as you stay within the reddish-brown ranges, the method should produce the desired result.

    Photoshop Elements adjust hue
  4. Use the Saturation slider to reduce the strength of the color. Again, around 31 is a good rule of thumb, but this can vary based on your preference and the original photo's exposure.

    Photoshop Elements adjust saturation
  5. Adjust the Lightness slider if you like.

Adding noise to age the photo

To age the photo and strengthen the antique feel:

  1. Open Filter > Noise > Add Noise.

    Photoshop Elements Add Noise
  2. Select Monochromatic at the bottom of the dialog. This adds just enough greyscale noise to match the sepia effect. Uniform and Gaussian affect the pattern of the noise; base your choice on your preference. Use the Amount slider to control the amount of noise. For most photos, stick to around 5 percent.

    Photoshop Elements Add Noise

Adding a Vignette

The vignette wasn't always an artistic choice. It happened because of early cameras' limitations.

All camera lenses are round, so they project a round image onto your film/sensor. The film/sensor is actually smaller than the full projected image. If the projected image is close to the size of the film/sensor, a loss of light occurs at the edge of the circular image, creating what today call a vignette effect.

The method below creates a more authentic-looking style of vignette than the hard shapes often added to images today.

  1. Open Filter > Correct Camera Distortion.

    Photoshop Elements Correct Camera Distortion
  2. Use the Amount and Midpoint sliders to darken the edges of the photo. Remember: This is not going to look like a hard oval; rather, this is a more natural style of vignette that will add an antique feel to the photo.

    Photoshop Elements Vignette