Pin-up Photo Effect

Posted on January 10, 2012


I am a big fan of the vintage style pin-up girl type pictures from the ’40s, so I decided to try to achieve the same effect with my own.

I scoured the wonderful interwebs and found a few how-to’s and tutorials using different avenues. I decided Photoshop was going to be my best bet.  I used some instructions I found and tweaked them as I saw fit.  I did a few and liked how they came out, so I thought I’d share how I got the effect so you can play with it too.  (The source vid I used is found here, if you need a good visual of what I’m talking about.)  I have CS3.  First, I need to mention that if you’re going to be editing photos in this way, you’re going to want to start out with a nice, bright picture with a light background (preferably white).  If you don’t, the photo comes out too busy and dark.  You want the focus to be on the girl.  That being said, let’s get started.

  1. Fix any fly-aways (hair) and any imperfections/flaws in skin and smooth the background with the Clone Stamp and Patch tools.
  2. Now duplicate the layer.
  3. Next, Go into the Filter menu, under Blur and click on ‘Surface Blur‘.  This gives the whole photo a nice soft overall look and takes out some minor details, as the old pin-ups didn’t have these.
  4. Using your Smudge tool at a low percent (I used 24), take out some detail and smooth the hair and lips.  Go with the direction of the hair.  For the lips, trace along the edges for a soft line and go over any shine to give them a more painted look.  If you want to make the lips fuller, drag the Smudge tool downward on the bottom lip to pull the colour down, shaping it, thus plumping the lips.
  5. Duplicate the layer and change its blending mode (in the pull-down on your Layer menu) to Overlay.
  6. Load the luminosity as a selection (Mac: Option+Command+~   PC: Ctrl+Alt+~).
  7. Invert the selection (Mac: Shift+Command+i   PC: Ctrl+Shift+i).
  8. Copy the selection to its own layer (Mac: Command+j   PC: Ctrl+j).
  9. Change that layer’s blending mode to Vivid Light.
  10. Load that layer as a selection (Mac: Option+Command+~   PC: Ctrl+Alt+~).
  11. Create a new layer on top of it and fill (Shift+F5) with white.  Deselect and change layer’s blending mode to Soft Light.
  12. Merge Visible (in Layer menu), holding down the Option key on the Mac, Alt on the PC.  (Holding down the key while doing this will put a merged copy as its own layer, in case you need to back up later.)
  13. Using the Eyedropper tool, find and select a nice dark red/maroon-ish colour.
  14. In the Filter menu, go to Sketch and click on Photocopy.  Make sure the Detail and Darkness settings are each at 5.  Click Okay.  Change the layer’s blending mode to Multiply.  (What this has done is darken the edges and better define your subject.)
  15. Add a new layer and change its blending mode to Color.  Make sure you have a nice red colour and using your Brush tool, at a medium opacity (play with what looks right to you.  I usually varied anywhere between 40% to 75%), enhance the blush, right at the apples of the cheeks.  Then select a blue colour and enhance the eyeshadow on the lids.
  16. Add a new layer and fill (again, Shift+F5) with 50% gray. (Yes, the picture is solid gray now.  Don’t worry, it’ll change.)
  17. In the Filter menu, go to Texture and click on Grain.  I set the Intensity to 40 and the contrast to 15 and I used “Enlarged”.  You can play with it to see what works for you.  Click Okay.  There is some colour in the grain, so to get rid of it (we just want straight black and white), press Shft+Command+U on the Mac and Shift+Ctrl+U on the PC.
  18. Change the layer’s blending mode to Overlay (Pah! No longer all gray).
  19. Again, merge visible, holding down Option key on the Mac, Alt on the PC.
  20. Click on the layer below it (the gray one) and add a new layer (this layer will now be directly under the (merged) top layer).
  21. Fill with Color now and select a good, old-timey (light) yellow or orange tint.
  22. Go back to the merged layer and change its blending mode to Multiply.
  23. Flatten the image.  You can stop here and have yourself a classy vintage pin-up photo.  Or you can take it a step farther and take away more detail and giving more effect by adding a filter.  It’s up to your personal preference (play around with the different filters until you find what you like) but I used Water Paper in the Filter menu under Sketch.  My settings: 5, 67, 70.  A few other suggestions would be an Artistic Filter like Poster Edges, Watercolor, Dry Brush or Fresco.  Play with it and have fun!

That’s it.  You now have a pin-up photo of your very own.  Happy editing!  If you have any questions, if you need clarification, don’t hesitate to ask.  And I’d love to see your finished product (like I said, I love the look!), so please, link to your photos in the comments section below!  ♥

(This photo, so you can see the difference, is without the final filter)

Posted in: Art, Photography