photoshop creative

Create a Polaroid effect in Elements

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
November 13, 2014

Turn modern colour images into realistic Polaroids using layers, layer styles and textures

1. Prepare main photo

Open your main photo. Make sure that you work on a copy. Double-click on its layer thumbnail to unlock the layer, then grab the Marquee tool (M). In the tool options, pick Fixed Ratio from the Aspect menu, and then set Width and Height to 1. Draw a square over the main focus of your photo.

2. Import into artwork canvas

Hit Select>Inverse to invert your selection, then hit Backspace, so you are left with the square photo. Make a new document for your artwork (ours is 230mm x 200mm, 300dpi, Background: Transparent). Copy and paste the square photo onto it.

3. Add a border

With the Move tool (V) selected, hold down Shift and then scale your photo down to size. Select the Marquee tool again, but make sure that Aspect is set to Normal. Draw a rectangle around your photo, making sure it is the same width on the top and sides but bigger at the bottom.

4. Add a Colour Fill

Now add a Solid Colour adjustment layer with the selection still active so that it only fills in the selected area. Pick white from the Colour Picker that comes up. Move this new Colour Fill layer down to the bottom of the Layers stack so that you can see your photo again.

5. Bring in vintage styling

Add a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to the very top of the Layers stack. Make sure that the Colourise button is ticked, then lower Hue and Saturation to 30. You can play around with these sliders to suit your image, but you are trying to crate a brown, aged look.

6. Grunge texture

For an aged look, we’ll add a grungy paper texture. You can get these from all over the web, including on the File Silo. Open a texture, Select All and Copy. Paste into your document and move to the bottom of the Layers stack.

7. Apply the texture

Make sure you have the texture layer highlighted in the Layers palette. Hold down Cmd/Ctrl and click on the Colour Fill layer’s mask thumbnail. This will select the Polaroid shape. Invert the selection as before, then hit Delete, so the texture is the same size as the Polaroid. Bring it above the photo layer and lower the Opacity.

8. Add some effects

Select the photo layer. Switch to the Effects palette (from the bottom-right of the window). Go to Styles, then pick Stroke from the drop-down menu. Double-click on Black Stroke 02px to apply. In the Layers palette, click on the Colour Fill layer, then do the same to apply a Low Drop Shadow.

9. Create a merged layer

We now want to create a single layer that merges everything we have done so far together. Do this with Cmd/Ctrl+Opt/Alt+Shift+E. Duplicate this new layer twice. Select the Move tool and the bottom merged layer. Rotate it to the right so that it pokes out from beneath the top Polaroid.

10. Fan the photos out

Now select the middle merged layer and rotate that too, so it comes out from beneath the top Polaroid, but not as far as the bottom one. Select the bottom merged layer again, then hit the bottom one. Select the bottom merged layer again, then hit Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels and darken the image. Do the same with the middle merged layer but darken less.

11. Add a background

We will now add a background beneath our Polaroid stack. Find a nice picture of a desktop or take your own. Open it, Select All and then Copy/Paste into the main artwork, as we did with our texture. Move it to the bottom of the Layers stack.

12. Handwriting on the Polaroid

As a nice touch, we are going to add some writing to the top of the Polaroid. Select the Text tool and type in your chosen words. Change the colour of the text to Darker Cool Brown and pcik a handwriting font. Scale down the text with the Move tool so that it sits nicely on your Polaroid.

13. Final touch

Our image is now finished, but we are going to make a final adjustment. Add a Levels adjustment layer right at the top of the Layers stack. Darken the whole image a touch. And we’re done!