Create a Toy Camera Effect in Photoshop

Written on Monday, July 18th, 2011 in Tutorials

In our previous article we talked about the history of Toy Cameras, those who haven’t read it can do so right here. Today I’m going to show you how to get that real toy camera effect on any of you digital pictures using Photoshop! We’ll overhaul the colors, add a vignette, light leak and finish it with a kodak film border.



Picture of a Cat in Front of a Store
Kodak Film Border


Let’s get started by opening our picture in Photoshop. Go to File > Open… or use the shortcut Cmd/Ctrl + N, select the picture you want to use and click the OK button. To give our finished picture that real Diana/Holga look I’ve used a square one, since those camera’s only shoot square pictures, but any orientation or size will work just fine.

We’ll start by adding a vignette. Add a new layer by going to Layer > New > Layer… or use the shortcut Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + N, or use the New Layer button in Layers palette. If you don’t see a Layers panel you can open it by going to Windows > Layers.

You can rename a layer by double clicking on it’s name. We’ll name this one Vignette.

Now in our Layers panel we’re going to change it’s Blending Mode to Overlay and reduce it’s Opacity to 75%. Next step it to fill it with black. In the Tools panel, choose black as Foreground Color, select the Paint Bucket Tool (G), with our Vignette layer still selected click anywhere in our picture to fill it with black.

Now we’re going to grab the Eraser Tool, and with a large soft brush (around 1500px) we’re going to erase everything but the corners and a little bit of the side, don’t do this too evenly, we’re going for a grungy look here.


Now we’re going to add a couple of Adjustment Layers to make our colors more lively.

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation… or use the button in the Adjustments panel, and increase the Saturation to +20.


Next, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Curves… or again, use the button in the Adjustments panel. Now we’re going to change the curves for each of our 3 channels, Red, Green and Blue. Select the Red channel in the Adjustments panel, click inside the graph to add a point and drag it down. Output is set to 120 and Input to 160.

Now select the Green channel, here we’re going to add two points to make an “S” curve. For the first point Output is set to 50 and Input to 70. For the second Output is set to 200 and Input to 185. Don’t worry too much about these values, just look at your picture while doing this and change as much as you want until your happy with the result.

On to the Blue and last channel. Here again, 2 points to make a (reversed) “S” curve. For the first point Output is set to 70 and Input to 60. For the second Output is set to 190 and Input to 200.


To add a little more contrast we’re going to add a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer. Like we did before, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Brightness/Contrast… or use the button in the Adjustments panel, and increase the Contrast to 10.


It’s looking good but the colors are still a bit too realistic, not dreamy enough. So let’s fix that by adding a last Adjustment Layer. The great thing about these layers is that you’re not actually applying anything to your picture, so afterwards you can still adjust every setting.

Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map… or use the button in the Adjustments panel, and click on the gradient in the Adjustments panel to edit it’s colors.

Select the first color in the Gradient Ramp (Location 0%), and choose a dark pink as Stop Color (R: 180 G: 0 B: 50). Do the same with the second color in the Gradient Ramp (Location 100%) and choose a dark yellow (R: 230 G: 200 B: 10). If that’s all done we can click OK.

The effect is way too harsh, so let’s drop the Opacity of this layer to 20%.

Now it’s starting to look like something! Still something’s missing, almost all retro toy cameras have light leaks. So let’s add one!


Add a new layer, like we did for the vignette and name it Light Leak. Select your Rectangular Marquee Tool (M) in the Tools panel and click and drag in your picture to make a selection of approximately 500 pixels wide by 2000 pixels high, on the left side of our picture. Don’t worry too much about the location, you can change this afterwards if you don’t like how it’s positioned.

We’re going to fill this with a gradient. Choose a medium dark yellow (R: 240 G: 180 B: 10) as Foreground Color and select the Gradient Tool in your Tools panel. If you can’t see your Gradient Tool, click on the Paint Bucket Tool and keep pressing on it until a menu appears where you can choose between the Paint Bucket Tool and the Gradient Tool.

Now we need to select the right gradient. Click on the little arrow next to the Gradient Picker on the top left side of your screen and select the second gradient Foreground to Transparent. Make sure you have Linear Gradient selected, right next to the Gradient Picker.

Now click and drag from the right side of the selection to the left to fill it with our gradient.

Now we can deselect our selection. Go to Select > Deselect or use the shortcut Cmd/Ctrl + D.

The right edge of our gradient is a bit too hard so we’re going to apply a Gaussian Blur to it. Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur… fill in a Radius of 15 pixels and hit OK.

Now we’re going to change the Blending Mode of our Light Leak layer to Color Dodge and reduce it’s Opacity to 60%.

Aah, faking an undesirable photo effect, how wonderful! 😉


Our picture is still a little too sharp to be really genuine so let’s fix that. We’re going to duplicate our Background layer which contains our original picture by selecting it and going to Layer > Duplicate Layer… and apply a Gaussian Blur with a Radius of 5 pixels to it.

Change the Blending Mode to Overlay and reduce the Opacity to 30%.


Allmost there… The only thing missing to make our picture really look analogue is a film frame border. I’ve prepared one for you to use, if you haven’t downloaded it yet, you can get it here.

Once you’ve downloaded the film frame, go back to Photoshop, and go to File > Place… find your picture in the finder and hit OK. Make sure it’s at the top of your Layers, if not you can just click it and drag it up in the stack. Change the Blending Mode to Multiply to make the white shine trough.

The only problem now is that the “Kodak” text in the frame border isn’t really showing, so we’ll have to solve this by adding some white underneath the letters. Add a new layer just under the Frame layer and grab your Brush Tool, with a small soft brush (around 100 pixels) and white as Foreground Color. Now we’re just going to paint 2 lines at the top and bottom of our frame to reveal our text.

You can hide the Frame layer by clicking on the little eye icon next to it to draw your 2 lines. Now lower the Opacity of the layer with the white lines to 60%. Reactivate the Frame layer and you’re done!


I encourage you to experiment with all the settings and use this tutorial as a starting point. Enjoy!


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3 Responses to “Create a Toy Camera Effect in Photoshop”
  1. Majalah says:

    How to make a Toy Camera Effect like Canon PowerShot SX230 HS has in Photoshop?

  2. thats is so cool i reallly love itz….

  3. Hi says:

    Thanks for sharing this awesome tutorial. It was easy to follow the steps and the result was great. I enjoyed it! thanks!