tutorial: get that tri-x pan look

AndyAndy Registered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
edited January 26, 2012 in Grad School
hello everyone,

i recall fondly the days when i used to develop my own film, and make my own prints in my basement darkroom.... i'd spend hours in there... talk about post-processing! wow. about a month ago, i found a box of old prints that i'd made when i was a kid, and i thought - how cool to create this today, in the digital darkroom! coincidentally, i read two different articles, one in a black & white magazine i subscribe to, and one in a british photo mag that i got at the airport. both covered this technique. so, i didn't invent this, but i sure like it ;-)

did you know that your sony (or any digital camera!) can be loaded with kodak tri-x pan fim? hehe you can do it in photoshop! here's how:

first, decide on a suitable image. this effect doesn’t work on every image, so use it judiciously. i originally chose this particular shot because it seemed a bit “edgy” to me.


now we do a b&w conversion. I use layer>new adjustment layer>channel mixer and then choose these values: red – 50%, green 50%, blue 0% and then check the box “monochrome.” the advantage of doing this conversion in an adjustment layer is that if we want to return some of the color selectively later, or change the amount of color that we use in the entire image, it can easily be done by adjusting the opacity or by using the layer mask.


here’s an optional step that you can try. it helps to increase the contrast of the final result, and the only way you’ll perfect it is to try it with different images. reintroduce a bit of the original color by reducing the opacity of this layer (there’s a slider in the layers pallete). i reduced it by 25% in this example.


now, to ensure that the noise / film grain we add will blend in nicely with the photograph, we’ll create a grey layer that will underpin the whole works… layer>new layer> and then use the color picker to get a neutral grey (values of 126 for r, g, b works well). wet the blending mode of this layer to “overlay.”


ok, now, let’s *make some noise* … duplicate the background layer (ctrl-j) and then choose filter>noise>add noise and use the slider to get the amount you would like. on a full size image the amount could be as much as 100% but it varies so play with the slider. i prefer gaussian noise for most of this work, but you can try uniform, too. always be sure to check the “monochrome” box.


it’s getting there, but it is a little harsh. use filter>blur>gaussian blur to make the noise less sharp. An amount of 1 to 3 pixels should do it, but again, you decide by trying different values.


a final levels adjustment to give the pic a bit of pop and we should be done. choose layer>new adjustment layer>levels and click ok. now drag this layer to the top of your layers palette. click on the levels icon on this layer in the palette and make your levels adjustments to taste.


not happy with the amount of color? want more, or less? no problem, activate the channel mixer layer, and adjust the opacity slider to taste. Want to make selective color? in this image, i originally chose to do this, because of the store’s name. for selective color, simply put the opacity of the channel mixer layer to 100%, and then click on the layer mask icon. now choose an appropriately sized soft edged brush, and make sure black is your foreground color. use the brush to paint over the areas you want the original color to return to. you can reduce the opacity of just the brush, in the brush menu (usually at the top of your screen).

at this point i also chose to do some curves adjustments, with a layer mask, so that i could really get some pop in the image. i also reduced the opacity of the noise layer, just a bit (you do this to taste), and finally i decided only to have selective color on the store's name... and came up with this final result:


now, this may not be to everyone's taste, and certainly it should be used sparingly. i hope you find this information useful!

enjoy (recreating the results of the old darkroom) photography,


  • AndyAndy Registered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited July 3, 2004
    has anybody tried this?
  • dkappdkapp Registered Users Posts: 985 Major grins
    edited July 4, 2004
    andy wrote:
    has anybody tried this?

    I've been wanting to try it, but never find a shot that would look good w/ this treatment.

  • pathfinderpathfinder Super Moderators Posts: 14,662 moderator
    edited January 2, 2005
    andy wrote:
    has anybody tried this?

    Hows this Andy...

    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • AndyAndy Registered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited January 2, 2005
    pathfinder wrote:
    Hows this Andy...


    i dig it! clap.gif
  • photocatphotocat Registered Users Posts: 1,334 Major grins
    edited January 3, 2005
    Did this one in october... I love the effect very much.
    I tried it on some of the babyshots I did lately.
  • dlplumerdlplumer Registered Users Posts: 8,080 Major grins
    edited June 27, 2009
    Tri-X pan attempt
    Here's my attempt Andy using Apple Aperture rather than PS.

  • AndyAndy Registered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited June 27, 2009
    dlplumer wrote:
    Here's my attempt Andy using Apple Aperture rather than PS.

  • ruttrutt Registered Users Posts: 6,511 Major grins
    edited June 28, 2009
    Andy wrote:

    Andy is clapping, but I'm wondering if the post meets the Grad School standards. Dlplumer, it's cool that you did in Aperture, but how? Please show your steps.
    If not now, when?
  • dlplumerdlplumer Registered Users Posts: 8,080 Major grins
    edited June 28, 2009
    rutt wrote:
    Andy is clapping, but I'm wondering if the post meets the Grad School standards. Dlplumer, it's cool that you did in Aperture, but how? Please show your steps.


    1. Simple Crop, highlight and shadow adjustment (no levels nor exposure adjustment) in Aperture

    2. Add Monochrome layer with Orange filter

    3. Add Tiffen DFX filter (Film Lab Grain ASA 800) - Tiffen DFX is an Aperture plugin which is wonderful and relatively inexpensive

    4. Add another Tiffen DFX filter (Old Photo Platinum)

    5. Return to Aperture and tweak to taste.

    Thanks for asking Rutt,

    Dan :D
  • KatmitchellKatmitchell Banned Posts: 1,548 Major grins
    edited July 1, 2009
    Andy wrote:
    has anybody tried this?

    Hey Andy.. That is cool.. Nice Thread..:D

    I can't help myself but to share this link with you.. If you like recreating the film look, then you would really dig this PS Plugin Alien Skin Exposure 2.
    I use it, and it is amazing. Not only can you chose "any" film, even Polaroid,,, but you can adjust every detail of the process, grain, coloration, sharpness, RGB curves etc.. you can even tell it where to put the grain, i.e. in the highlights, midtones, or shadows.

    Just thought I would share, it seems to be hugely popular with the pro photogs...


  • Carmelo75Carmelo75 Registered Users Posts: 232 Major grins
    edited November 4, 2009
    I Andy and all, very interesting technique and nice shots. I'll look for a good image, give it a try and post it.

    I have a question concerning the grain effect: whenever I have tried the overlay blend technique, I always found the effect in the shadows and highlights "too weak" or almost vanishing. Moreover, the sharp dark/light transitions remain sharp, intead of having grains that smear the transition as in the chemical case. That is especially evident when printing the image in large format.
    I wonder if I am the only one disturbed by that, and if you experts have a better way to render grain...

    By the way, it looks like AlienSkin Exposure, although quite sophisticated, cures the first problem I mentioned but not the second...

  • Quincy TQuincy T Registered Users Posts: 1,090 Major grins
    edited January 26, 2012
    I recently bought some TRI-X film for my Canon EOS620 and methodically spent over three weeks finishing the roll. If I have any keepers, I'll be sure to share them here.
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