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Three simple ways to ‘crush’ the blacks in Photoshop for a faded film look

One of the signature aesthetics of many film stocks is the faded look of shadows. This is especially visible on expired film or film that has purposely been pushed or pulled.

Like many other analogue aesthetics, this faded look has been replicated by many digital photographers and even has its own dedicated slider in many editing applications. If you prefer to work directly in Photoshop though, there are a handful of ways to go about getting the “crushed” blacks as they’re so often called.

Helping to explain just three of the ways you can achieve this look is photographer Mathieu Stern. In his latest YouTube video, Stern breaks down these three methods for getting the faded effect on any image you throw into Photoshop.

The first method is arguably the most common. Using a curves adjustment layer, he shows how you can manipulate a few of the points to achieve the faded effect. Once the desired look is achieved, you can tweak the opacity of the layer for even more precise toning.

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Next up is a less traditional method, but one that looks to be equally effective. Using a solid grey layer above your image, Stern shows how you can change the blending mode to “Lighten” to achieve the desired effect. Again, the opacity layer can be adjusted for minute adjustments.

The last method is one I’ve personally never come across before. Using a selective color layer, Stern shows how you can tweak the black slider to not only add a faded look, but also tone the shadows with a little slide to the right or left.

To conclude the video, Stern shows how all three of these methods can be used together to create the ultimate solution that allows you to adjust every aspect possible when it comes to crushing the blacks.

Take notes and head on over to Stern’s YouTube channel for more helpful tutorials.