How to Create a Foil Engraving Art Effect in Photoshop

How to Create a Foil Engraving Art Effect in Photoshop

Emulate the retro gold foil engraving art boards

Learn how to recreate this classic foil engraving effect in Photoshop by combing different various, using layer blending modes, textures and smart objects.

Download the effect for free

If you want to save some time and get the end result (plus a few nice bonus adjustment layers) you can download it for free here:

Step 1

Launch Photoshop CS6 or newer, and create a new document. 3000 x 2000 pixels is a good size to use, you can go larger if needed but it changes the effect slightly when you do. I found that this size is the sweet spot.

Step 2

Download this free image of a cat and place it into your document. The image should be a Smart Object layer that fills the whole canvas.

Step 3

This effect is built using two main layers, mid-tones and highlights. First up is the mid-tones, go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation... or press CMD/CTRL+U and drag the Saturation slider to 0.

Step 4

Go to Filter > Stylize > Find Edges. This will bring out and isolate the detail in the image.

Step 5

Go to Image > Adjustments > Invert or press CMD/CTRL+I to invert the image so that it is white on black again. 

Step 6

Go to Filter > Stylize > Solarize. This will flatten the brightness of the image which is exactly what we want for the mid-tones. 

Step 7

Lastly for the mid-tones, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur... and enter 1 Pixels. This is just to soften the effect slightly.

Step 8

Above the smart object layer, add a new Brightness/Contrast adjustment layer and set the Brightness to 90 and Contrast to 100.

Step 9

To once again reduce the amount of highlights on this layer, add another adjustment layer, this time Selective Color and set the Whites to Black +100%. That may sound confusing but think of it as making the whites, 100% more black (darker).

Step 10

Now it's time to add the gold foil. Go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Pattern and select seamless-gold-foil-2 from the Seamless Foil Textures & Layer Styles set. If you are not a member, we have prepared this free sample for you to download.

Step 11

Move the new pattern fill layer below the smart object in the layers panel, and set the smart object layer's Blending Mode to Multiply.

Step 12

Group all of the layers so far and name them 'Midtones' then create a new group above them in the layers panel called 'Highlights'.

Step 13

Duplicate the pattern fill and smart object layers from the Midstones group into the Highlights group. Turn off the Solarize and Gaussian Blur filters for the highlights smart object.

Step 14

Above the highlights smart object, add a new Selective Color adjustment layer and this time set the Blacks to Black +100%.

Step 15

Set the Blending Mode of the Highlights group to Screen.

Step 16

We can add some depth to the effect by fading out the mid-tones slightly, set the Opacity of the Midtones group to 50%.

Step 17

Finally, add a Curves adjustment layer above both the Midtones and Highlights groups. Create two points and arrange them similarly to shown below, or until you are happy with the result.

Result & Conclusion

The result is a rather stunning effect which looks a lot like those classic foil engraving art kits. What makes this effect interesting, is that by using the Find Edges filter, we do not rely on black and white levels in the original image, we don't need to create a duotone image first.

Another benefit of Find Edges is that we do not need to isolate the subject of the image. Wherever there is detail in the image, it will be gold. And where there is no detail, it will be black.

Download the effect for free

If you want to save some time and get the end result (plus a few nice bonus adjustment layers) you can download it for free here:


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