One of the most effective ways to save time when you’re designing or illustrating is through the use of actions – automated sets of commands that are executed with the click of a button. As you’ll know, they’re particularly useful when it comes to quickly achieving complex or hard-to-replicate effects, or when you’re facing any sort of repetitious design job.
That’s why we’ve taken the time to create a series of super-affordable, premium Photoshop actions for quickly creating vintage and retro effects. You’ll find all kinds of ultra realistic retro print effects – everything from offset to ink starve, wood type, halftone, retro 3D and more – at super low prices, over in the actions section of our shop.
There are also thousands of free Photoshop actions online. But when it comes to creating retro and vintage effects, quality resources can be hard to find, so we’ve put together this handy collection of some of the best options out there.
As you’ll see, we’ve included a few RetroSupply bargains among the freebies, too. These are some of our most popular retro and vintage Photoshop actions – they’re clearly marked, and might just help you take your artwork to the next level.
So read on for our selection of the very best free Photoshop actions for creating vintage and retro effects (plus a few ridiculously affordable premium options too)…
If you’re looking to create an old-school, wood-cut illustration style, try Chris Spooner’s engraved illustration effect Photoshop action. You can choose from three levels of detail, and he says that the moire effect seen in the preview images doesn’t appear at 100% scale.
Quickly and easily convert your images into halftone dots and lines with this free Photoshop action. Created by Matt Borchert, it won’t destroy your original image, and applies the halftone effect on a new transparent layer.
If you’re after a really striking, customisable halftone effect, check out our SparkPrint pack. This one isn’t quite free – but it is a bargain at $15.
Inspired by auto part catalogues, hardware stores and 70s rock, SparkPrint will give your work a classic monotone halftone print style. It’ll save you a bunch of time too, and is both non-destructive and super easy to use.
Included in the pack are five curated subtle SparkPrint brushes – perfect for creating rugged design; five subtle shop brushes (including sandpaper, subtle print and cardboard textures) and four shop paper textures (including chipboard, cardboard, folder and sandpaper).
The SparkPrint pack works with Photoshop CS4 and above, and comes with built-in instructions so you can get going straight away.
Add some 1930s glamour to your retro illustrations with this free glitter text effect. It’s compatible with Photoshop CS and above, lets you change the color of the glitter, and leaves the layers intact.
Action 3D is a set of four free Photoshop actions that will give your images a retro anaglyph 3D look – in other words, the stereoscopic 3D effect you see at the cinema if you remove your 3D glasses.
Create an authentic offset print effect with our best-selling Retro-Matic Action ($15), an insanely easy-to-use, non-destructive action that will instantly add age to your illustrations, and make them feel rich and warm.
It’s one of our most popular actions. You can select the colors to offset and control the exact placement of the offset – and it works on all sizes of work.
The pack comes with two tutorial videos, to help you get perfect results, plus the sample image from the video for inspiration and teaching purposes. Give it a go and let us know how you get on!
Recreate a 19th century gum bichromate print aesthetic with this set of free Photoshop actions. Created by Maximilian Jänicke, the set includes an action each for vertical and horizontal photos (it doesn’t matter which one you use for square photos), plus a texture to help create the ‘old photo’ look.
Another free Photoshop action that will produce an ‘old photo’ vibe, Lithprint Hard Boiled – also by Maximilian Jänicke – transforms photographs into arresting lithograph-style images. It works best on images with medium contrast levels, so consider using levels or curves first.
Add vintage 19th century American wood cut type effects to your designs with our powerful American Wood Type action ($15). As well as letting you choose the textures, colors, edges and intensity of your wood type effects, it comes with 18 wood type textures, a video containing tips on how to get precision control with the action, a handy quick reference texture sheet and a full-color instruction manual.
If you’re interesting in learning more about the history of wood type, you’ll find a brief back-story on the product page – just hit the link above and scroll down.
Convert a flat map into a retro 3D isometric map in one click with this free Photoshop action. There are three styles: sand, snow and grass; and you’ll also find a selection of buildings, trees and clouds to decorate your map inside the download. And although it’s intended for maps, the makers say you can apply the 3D isometric effect to anything from fonts to logos.
Graphicsoulz created this Photoshop action, which will transform your vector or raster artwork, text or logo into a retro stitched denim style at click of a button.
Working on a retro space scene? Quickly create nebula backgrounds with this free Photoshop action from Emanuele Feronato. It’s especially useful for game design - just be aware that it was created in Photoshop CS2.
Ink starve is a powerful but subtle vintage effect that occurs after a printing plate pushes into a sheet of paper. Our high-res Photoshop action InkChamp ($15) simulates this effect to bring warmth, age and authenticity to your designs.
The kit comes with a free subtle rough edge effect, plus five paper textures, three super-soft brushes, and a helpful manual.
Create aged documents with this free vintage Photoshop action. Old Parchment isn’t new, but according to maker Karl Sneath, it’s one of his mot popular. Compatible with Photoshop CS and higher, Old Parchment will add tears, yellowed edges and other artifacts to your old documents.
We’ve saved the best of the bargains until last: if you liked the look of the almost-free RetroSupply Photoshop actions included in this post, then you’ll be interested in our flagship actions bundle, the Mid-Century Print Pack.
For $49, you can get five of our best-selling actions – RetroMatic, PhotoBaker, SparkPrint, InkChamp and the Blacksmith – and save $25 in the process (versus buying them individually).
The kit has all the vintage options you need to quickly achieve a realistic retro print effect, such as ink starve, ink offset, halftones and more – and by combining the retro and vintage Photoshop actions in the pack you can create all kinds of unique results.
Alana Louise's work is heavily vector based. Yet, it maintains the feel of hand-drawn work you mostly see in Photoshop. The lines are loose and organic, and as a collector of vintage commercial art, that resonates with me.
Whether you’re into mid-century advertising, pop art, traditional hand-lettering or beyond, these retro and vintage artists are at the top of their game.
From grunge to halftone to stipple effects, add texture and warmth to your designs with this collection of the best free retro and vintage Illustrator brushes.