OC Adding realistic grain/noise to an image (or parts of an image after editing!)

The Camera Raw filter is great for generating good grain.

You can also make your own "noise layer" by making a 50% gray layer, converting it to a smart object, using the "Add Noise" filter followed by a little gaussian blur (IMPORTANT!). Zoom to 100% to see what you are doing. Set the blend mode to a contrast blend mode like Overlay (or similar) and adjust Fill% (or Opacity) to taste.

But now, to the main part of the post. I'm copying parts of one of my old but still valid reddit comments:

It's possible to copy/reuse noise from the image itself if you have a somewhat smooth area somewhere to copy it from. This can give a closer match.

  1. Starting point. Person added to photo. Noise mismatch!
  2. Find the largest and smoothest area possible to copy noise from, select and copy.
  3. Paste into a new document. At this point you might want to desaturate it if it's colored (then do Edit > Fade and choose Saturation blend mode to keep luminosity).
  4. Image > Adjustment > Curves... and move in the white and black point so that the noise hovers around 50% brightness. The further you move them in, the more flexibility later, but make sure nothing clips! Result.
  5. Since no area is perfectly smooth we now run the High Pass filter to remove the low frequency details (leaving us with just the fine noise details). Chose a radius just as high as the radius of the smallest details you want to keep (usually 1-5 px).
  6. Use Filter > Other > Offset... to shift the noise around looking for visible seams. If any are found, clean them up upsing Healing Brush and Clone Stamp Tool.
  7. Edit > Define Pattern... to save the noise as a pattern.
  8. You can now use this pattern in your other image. I prefer as a pattern layer clipped to the relevant layers. Use contrast blending modes like Linear Light/Overlay/Soft Light and adjust opacity until it looks right. You can also use a luminosity mask if you want more control of how it affects shadows/midtones/highlights.
  9. Result.

Ps: If you know how to do a frequency separation (and then probably have an action for it), then that will give slightly more accurate results than high pass. If you don't know how, stick with High Pass. It's simpler, and i doubt anyone can tell the difference. ;)

-- avatar

Very cool! I usually just eye ball it, but I will definitely start using this!


I made that comment originally 9 years ago, and since then I have started to simplify it a bit. It's essentially the same technique, but I do it the following way:

  1. Select a smooth area.
  2. High Pass (stamp visible or flatten first if needed).
  3. Define Pattern.
  4. Undo the last steps.

Use the pattern with Linear Light blend mode at 50% fill. Use Fill% to control strength (not opacity unless it's a layer style and you have no choice).

The main change is that I don't copy it over into a new document for editing before defining the pattern. Saves time. For grain I find the editing isn't needed a lot of the time (but if you experience seams, use Offset to locate and fix).

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