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I love getting inspiration from darkroom techniques and applying original effects to digital photos. If you’re like me and want to give your images a vintage look, this tutorial is for you. I’ll show you how to get a beautiful creamy-caramel tone that mimics Lithography (or Lith for short) printing.
Lith printing is a monochrome technique that consists of overexposing the paper and then underdeveloping it. By doing this, your photograph gets warm colors with strong shadows but with aerial highlights. That explained, now let’s get into Photoshop.
To create a Lithography Effect Using Photoshop, choose the image you want to work with and open it in Photoshop. There’s no need to duplicate it or save an extra copy as you’re not going to touch this original image. Everything is done using layers and adjustment layers. Working this way not only protects your original image, but it also allows you to go back and adjust or modify every step if you wish to.
The first step is to create an adjustment Black and White Adjustment layer. To do this, click on the ‘Add Adjustment Layer’ button from the bottom of the layers panel. It’s the one with the symbol of a half dark – half light circle. A pop-up menu appears with all your choices. Choose the Black and White one. Now the properties panel allows you to adjust it through the use of sliders. You can move the green and the yellow sliders to lighten it a little bit like I’m doing. However, this depends on the photo you’re using.
Next, add another adjustment layer. This time choose ‘Hue/Saturation’ from the menu to achieve the tones you want. Ensure the ‘Colorize’ box is checked and move the ‘Hue’ slider. In the original technique, the tone depended on the type of paper, the specific blend of developer and the time you left it to process, so you can also be flexible here. In any case aim for a soft brown or caramel, For my taste, something between 20 or 30 on the slider works well.
Create another adjustment layer and choose ‘Brightness/Contrast’ from the menu. Click the ‘Legacy’ box and drag the contrast slider to the left to flatten your mid-tones.
The last adjustment layer is meant to adjust the shadows. Add a ‘Curves’ adjustment layer and anchor the lightest part by clicking on the top right corner. Drag the darkest one (on the bottom left) to the right until you reach the first quadrant. Finally, create an anchor point in the middle and drag it upwards for the mid-tones. It may sound complicated, but you can see it in the screenshot below. There is also no need to replicate exactly. It also depends on your image and your liking.
That is all for the adjustment layers. Now create a new layer. This button is also on the bottom of the panel; however, the symbol is a square with one corner bent. Color this layer by going to Menu -> Edit -> Fill, choose 50% Gray and apply. This layer should completely cover your image but don’t worry; you’ll fix that later.
While still in this layer, go to Menu -> Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise. In the pop-up window, choose ‘Monochrome’ and slide up to about 140% because you need to distress the image.
Next, go to Menu -> Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set it to ‘4.’ This softens the noise.
Now change the Blending Mode from the drop-down menu that you’ll see on the top of the panel, and choose ‘Soft Light.’
Now your image is distressed as desired, but the effect needs to be contained only into the darkest areas because Lithography prints are characteristic for their grittiness within the shadows. To achieve this effect, you need to add a layer mask to it. Go to Menu -> Select -> Color Range and sample the darkest areas by clicking on one of them. You can fine-tune this selection by dragging the fuzziness slider.
Now click on the Layer Mask button and see the results or your finished digital Lith. Please give it a try and share your results in the comment section.