A washed out effect with crushed blacks and lessened contrast, the matte look was first developed in antique film processes and is popular in today’s digital photography.

opacityWhile you can purchase film packages and actions that have replicated this vintage look, the secret to how this effect is created is all in the curve tool. Follow along to learn how you can easily create your own custom matte look using the curve tool in Topaz B&W Effects.

Creating the Matte Look

Topaz B&W Effects is a plugin, so you’ll need to use a standalone host editor, such as Lightroom or Photoshop, to use it. Don’t own B&W Effects? Download a free 30-day trial here.

To create a vintage matte look:

How to Create a Vintage Matte Look

  1. Open your image in a compatible host editor. For this demo I’ll be using Photoshop.
  2. Duplicate the background layer by pressing ctrl/cmd + J.
  3. Open Topaz B&W Effects from the Filter menu.
  4. Press Reset, found in the bottom right corner, to start with a clean slate. (B&W Effects will remember your previously applied settings).
  5. Optional: you can apply a preset from the list of darkroom inspired effects on the left side of the screen before creating the matte look. For this example I left the image in pure grayscale (sans preset) as shown: How to Create a Vintage Matte Look
  6. Expand the Conversion panel.How to Create a Vintage Matte Look
  7. Then, expand the Curve Tool panel. How to Create a Matte Look
  8. To create the matte look, you’ll want to create an anchor point along the curve line. Simply click to create the anchor point. (Tip: try creating the anchor point closer to the shadow anchor point, where the curve data meets the negative space.)How to Create a Matte Look
  9. Then, drag the shadow anchor point upwards. Make sure you don’t accidentally create an extra anchor point (something I’ve done many times). Just press reset under the curve tool to start over if this happens. How to Create a Matte Look
  10. You’ll notice as you drag the anchor point up, the image becomes more washed out and flattened. If you drag the shadow anchor point above the anchor point you created, the tones will start to become inverted.

Shadow anchor point brought above the created anchor point = inverted tones:How to Create a Matte LookShadow anchor point brought back below the created anchor point for a matte look: How to Create a Matte Look

Once you’ve created the matte effect, you can then do whatever else you want to the image. I’d suggest checking out the Basic and Adaptive Exposure options within the Conversion panel to further adjust the tones in your image.

Another trick is to try reducing the opacity of the layer to blend color back in. You can either do this in B&W Effects by going to Finishing Touches -> Transparency or back in Photoshop by reducing the opacity of the black and white layer.


Adding a Vintage Touch

Here are some other features within Topaz B&W Effects that can further add to the vintage look and give your image additional depth.

1. Quick-Toning

How to Create a Matte LookThe quick toning options within B&W Effects are great for adding a hint of tone to your image. Options include Selenium, Gold (Blue), Copper (Red), Sepia, and Antique Dye.

How to Create a Matte LookCopper (Red) Tone at a reduced Tonal Strength

Clicking on any of these tear drops will automatically bring up the adjustment panel so you can further refine the settings.

How to Create a Matte Look

2. Adaptive Exposure

Use the adaptive exposure slider to further intensify the dynamic range in your image.

How to Create a Matte LookBy increasing the adaptive exposure and regions slider, you can create an HDR-like look. This is the same technology that is found in Topaz Adjust.

3. Authentic Grain

Use the film grain (found under Finishing Touches) within Topaz B&W Effects to add a vintage touch to your matte look.

How to Create a Matte LookThe grain within the program was taken from real film and scanned into the program’s algorithm for the most authentic look possible. Choose from an assortment of different grains, but remember, the higher the number (i.e. 3200), the grainier the image will be.

If you want to save the effect you’ve created, simply press on the How to Create a Matte Look icon within the presets panel. This will save the effect to My Collection.

How to Create a Vintage Matte Look

And that’s the basic information you should know to create a vintage matte look. If you followed this tutorial, feel free to share your results with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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