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I'd be the first to admit that it's a little funny that I like to add a Film Grain effect to many of my digital photos. Because I use to try to avoid film grain, or at least minimize film grain back in the days of film photography. But with a black and white image especially, I find that a Film Grain effect can actually add a nice little touch to an image. And I do personally prefer to only add film grain, at least most of the time, to monochromatic images. Images that have been converted to black and white, or perhaps with a slight color tint, such as a Sepia-tone effect. For full color images, I find that the Film Grain effect tends to just come through as noise, rather than an actual sort of organic effect in the image. Let's take a look a how we can add a Film Grain effect. In fact, very easily, there's actually a Film Grain filter in Photoshop. But I tend not to use it because I'm just not happy with the results I get most of the time.
So, instead I use a slightly different technique that enables me to add a film grain type of texture into the photo. I have in this case, an image that already contains several layers. I have my Background Image layer. I have a Cleanup layer that was used for cleaning up some blemishes, and I also have a black and white adjustment, and a curves adjustment. The Film Grain effect can be placed anywhere in the image as long as it's above all of the Pixel layers. In other words, above the Cleanup layer and the Background Image layer. And that's important because I want the Film Grain effect to apply to all of the pixels within the photo, not just the background image. And then, I'd have the cleanup pixels up here clean with no film grain at all. So, I recommend selecting the top most image layer. You don't have to select the top most adjustment layer. In this case, that will be my Cleanup layer.
And then, I'll add a new layer, but I need a new layer with special properties. So instead of simply clicking on the Create New layer button, the blank sheet of paper icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. I'm going to hold the Alt key on Windows, or the option key on Macintosh, while clicking on that button. That will cause the New layer dialog to appear. I can type a name for this particular layer. In this case, I'll just call it Film Grain since I'm using this layer to add a Film Grain effect. But the most important issue is actually the Blend mode plus the Fill Color that we're going to use.
From the Blend mode popup, I have a couple of options that I could choose from. The Overlay Blend mode will provide a rather subtle effect. You can also use hard light or some of the other contrast blend modes to create a little bit stronger effect. I'm going to start off with hard light, but we can take a look at some of the other options in just a moment. With that option selected, you can see now that I have the option to fill this layer with middle grey, with 50% gray. And I definitely do want to do that. In fact, I must do that in order to use the technique that I'm about to show you.
I'll then click OK to create that layer. And you'll notice that the layer is added directly above the layer that I had selected essentially, and in this case, the Cleanup layer. So, now I have a film grain layer that is filled with gray and that has it's blend modes set to hard light. Next, I'll go to the Filter menu and then choose Noise, followed by Add Noise. I can then adjust the Distribution, either Uniform or Gaussian. I use Gaussian so that it provides a little bit more of a random pattern. You can also turn on the Monochromatic check box. That will actually seem to diminish the effect because now we only have shades of gray as opposed to individual colors. We can compensate for that though by increasing the amount value. Now, one of the tricky things about adding noise in this way in order to create a Film Grain effect is that we're not really seeing the final version of the effect right now.
So, we need to sort of anticipate how we'll apply this texture into the final image. I'll leave the settings as they are, for the moment, and click OK. And then, I can adjust the Opacity in order to reduce the strength of the effect. And in actual fact, you'll tend to want to use a very, very low Opacity. I would say in most cases, below 20%. And sometimes, a fare amount lower than that even. Because while it might seem that the Film Grain effect seems to disappear altogether at a very low Opacity setting. The truth is in most cases, you don't want an extremely strong effect.
So, you want to sort of try and mitigate the effect a little bit. Generally speaking, I recommend setting the value for the Opacity to a little bit lower than you think you should. To set it to the point where you feel like the effect is almost disappearing. Because probably, on closer examination, you'll actually feel that the effect is good when it's at a lower value. You can also turn off the effect by clicking on the Eye icon to the left of your Film Grain layer, and then click again to toggle that Film Grain effect back on. And that gives you a good before and after so that you can get a better sense of the effect.
You can also play with different blend modes. I'll go ahead and increase the Opacity here so that we can see the effect a little more strongly. And then I'll switch, for example, to the Overlay Blend mode. And I can toggle through the various contrast blend modes. So, Overlay, Soft Light, Hard Light, Vivid Light, Linear Light and Pin Light. And so, you might take a look at some of these various options. Keeping in mind that if the Blend mode that you select is a bit too strong, you can always adjust the Opacity. So, reducing the Opacity for Blend modes that cause a stronger effect. And increasing the Opacity for Blend modes that cause a more subtle effect.
And finding just the right options to produce the effect that you're looking for in the image. So, as much as I try to avoid film grain when I was doing film photography. I still do enjoy adding that type of effect to certain digital images from time to time.
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