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In the old days, say 10 years ago, when you shot film, the film had a signature grain pattern and there are always different brands of film and they each kind of have their own signature and you would notice the film grain quite a bit when you shot with high ISO or high film speed. Well you can simulate the old look of film grain very easily in Photoshop. That's what we're going to do right now. We're going to add a little grittiness, a little noise to this image. Of course we don't want to do it on the original Background layer because we want to have some flexibility so we can simulate different types of grain, different sizes, different hardness or softness and so forth.
So to begin we're going to create an Overlay layer filled with gray. If you remember we hold down the Option key or the Alt key to do that on the New Layer icon and we'll go ahead and do that. We're going to call this Add Noise and we'll change the blend mode to Overlay. While we're at it, we'll fill this Add Noise layer with its Overlay neutral color 50% gray. It's important we do this because if we have a new blank layer and we try to go to the Filter > Noise > Add Noise command, we're going to get a warning saying I can't do this because the layer is empty. So the Add Noise command is a filter that actually needs to have some pixels in the layer before it can actually work. So we're going to go ahead and delete Layer1. This extra layer, just hit Delete key and it goes away.
All right now in order to have this flexible and be able to change it after the fact, after we run some filters, we want to convert the Add Noise layer to a Smart Object. That way we can have smart filters. So I'm going to right-click and say Convert to Smart Object. Great! Now we'll go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. We'll zoom into 100%, Command+1 or Ctrl+1, and we can pan around to see a portion of the image here. The Amount is really up to you. I'm going to start with Amount of 10 but you can of course raise that higher and really get a crazy noise pattern or take it down and make it a lot more subtle. Amount of 4 or 5 or whatever. So it's up to you.
I'm going to go ahead and stick with 10. I want a lot of noise here. Then I usually chose Gaussian, which randomizes a little bit, and of course Monochromatic. If Monochromatic was turned off, you're going to get color noise. Most of the time that's not what you want. So I'm going to turn on Monochromatic and then I'm going to click OK. Now because it's a smart filter, if you want to change your grain pattern, all you need to do is double click on Add Noise in the Layer panel here. That will reopen the Noise filter and then you can change your value non-destructively. I want to randomize it just a little bit more. It's a little bit too hard.
I mean you see a distinct pattern there. I want to soften it up just a bit. So while I have this layer selected, I'm going to go back to Blur > Gaussian Blur under the Filter menu and then I can soften that grain independently. I'm going to just do a slight half-pixel blur. Don't need a lot here just to soften the effect. Of course if you do take it up further, you get a slightly different signature pattern there. I'm going to take I back down to 0.5 and click OK. So now a very versatile Add Noise grain or film grain technique. As a matter of fact you could even save this layer off as a separate file. If you go to the Layers panel and say Duplicate Layer and from Destination Document say New and we'll give this a name. I'll call it Film Grain. Click OK.
This is now a separate layer, as a separate file that you can drag and drop into any other document that you want to add film gain to and because it's a Smart Object, you can just double click on the individual filters there to customize it for that particular image. So it's kind of a nice bonus tip there for you. I'll go ahead and don't save that and come back to this image here. So there you have it. A nice way to add film grain non-destructively, fully customizable using your friend the Overlay blend mode with a layer filled with gray.
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