In this tutorial I’ll cover my current favorite way to create grain for my photographs. Many retouchers will create layers of grain to sit up on top of all of their layers as a sort of finishing layer that helps blend all the colors together below the grain and create a smoother, more finished look. We will create the multi-layered grain and create an action so when we want grain, we just click and we’ve got it! The image I used in this image: https://unsplash.com/photos/mgAioVzKcjQ
1. Quick Hipster / Retro Effect
With this image I’m going to first go in and add a Levels Adjustment Layer to my PSD and drag the output sliders (the lowest ones) inward a little on the right and a little on the left. This will give us a faded effect.
2. Start by Recording an Action
Go Window>Actions and hit the little new action icon at the bottom of this dialog box and name your action whatever you like. Hit the “Record” button to start the action recording process. Be very careful once you start recording. Nearly everything you do in Photoshop will be recorded and the action will attempt to reenact this when you run this action in the future.
3. Fill a Grain Layer
Create a new layer and name it “grain-small” and then go Edit>Fill and choose “50% Gray” from the contents drop down menu.
4. Add Noise
Go Filter>Noise>Add Noise. I like to add at least 25% noise and check on Uniform and tick on Monochromatic.
5. Change Blend Mode
Set this layer to the blend mode Soft Light. We now have our first layer of grain.
6. Duplicate for Realism
Duplicate this layer by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + J and go Edit>Free Transform and look to the control bar running across the top of the screen and set the width and height to 200%. We have just create a bigger, chunkier noise pattern to mesh together with this fine noise that we made earlier.
7. Cut Down to Save File Size
Go Select>Select All and hit Cmd/Ctrl + J. This will get rid of all the grain outside of the boundaries of our document, but now we need to be able to get rid of that second big, chunky noise layer and record that within our action. It’s tricky, but check out the next step.
8. Selecting Layers when Recording an Action
You really don’t want to click on a layer while you’re recording an action because Photoshop will always look for a layer that has that name. Instead, use the hotkeys Alt/Opt + [ to select the layer below (use Alt/Opt + ] to select layer above.) Use Alt/Opt + [ to select the chunky noise layer that we did not cut down and then delete that layer by hitting the trash can icon in the Layers panel.
9. Change Opacity in Blending Options
We want to reduce the opacity of both layer to 40% so with either one of your grain layers selected go Layer>Layer Styles>Blending Options and slide the opacity slider down to 40%. Use those hotkeys we talked about above to select the other layer and reduce the opacity of that layer as well.
10. Stop Recording!
Over in the Actions panel, hit the stop recording icon and you now have an action that can be used on any image that you need to add some noise to! Of course you still have the ability to boost or reduce your noise just by using the opacity sliders in the Layers panel.
Be sure to watch the video at the top of this article tutorial for even more detail!
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