HOW TO RETOUCH Pt. 12: Tone Smoothing Grain Layer(s)

You’ve made it! It’s part 12 and we’re wrapping up this series on how to retouch images in Photoshop. This final step is all about creating realistic grain and how to use it, not as some cheap Instagram grain effect, but instead to smooth the tones in your image and remove digital banding in any blurred edges or gradients in our image. I’ll show you how I mix things up to create grain that is sharp and crunchy and does not look digital at all.

See All 12 Parts!

Download: Click here for my free action for creating this epic grain in seconds no matter how big or small your image is!

1. Preparing to Add Grain

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Create a new layer and name this layer “Grain”. Go Edit>Fill and choose to fill this layer with 50% gray from the drop down menu. This gray fill will allow us to easily add grain, but also easily make it disappear when we sent the blend mode here to Soft Light. That’s coming up in a moment.

2. Adding the Grain

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Next, go Filter>Noise>Add Noise and choose to add 30% noise and set this to “Uniform” noise and also tick on “Monochromatic” to ensure that no color is added to your grain.

3. Blend the Grain

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To drop out all the gray color and just save the darker and brighter grain, set the blend mode of this layer to Soft Light.

4. Randomize the Grain
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We don’t want digital-looking and repeating grain so we’re going to perform a couple of tricks to mix things up. First, duplicate the grain layer by hitting Cmd/Ctrl + J and then go Edit>Free Transform and set the width and height percentages to 200% each. Before you commit that change, right click on the transform box and choose to flip this grain horizontally.

5. Reduce Opacity to Blend

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Now, simply reduce the opacity of each layer until the grain effect looks great. If you don’t want to be bothered with this process, simply grab the free action that I have linked above and this will be a simple one-click process each time!

Also, check out the full video at the top of this post and see exactly how I walk through each step of the process!