How to add Dust and Scratches using Lightroom and Photoshop

ADDING DUST AND SCRATCHES TO YOUR PHOTOS USING LIGHTROOM AND PHOTOSHOP // If you always wondered why on earth do people purposefully degrade their perfectly digital photos with vintage dust and scratch effects, maybe stop reading right now. Creating dust presets and putting fake scratches on your photos can add a different nostalgic feeling to your photos, it can be that special sauce if that’s what you like.

If that’s you, let’s learn how to make pictures look grainy and vintage.

First of all, there are some iPhone and Android apps that do this for you. They add grain and dust overlay to your photos, one of the most popular ones is called Afterlight. But if you want to achieve this effect on your computer using Lightroom and Photoshop, there’s a super easy option.

adding vintage dust effect in Lightroom


You’ll need some sort of .png file that you’ll apply over your edited photos. You can either make some on your own scanning actual dust and scratches (pretty easy actually) or download some free ones online (like this one for example).

After you have the files, you can add them to your Photoshop library for quicker access. Simply open Photoshop, click Window – Libraries and drag your .png files here so you can always access them without having to open your files manually every single time.


Now that everything’s set up, you can edit your photos in Lightroom as usual and when you feel like it’s time for that special vintage preset, right click on the image and select “Edit in” and click on Photoshop.

In Photoshop, simply drag your dust file over your photo, adjust the crop and opacity and hit save. You’ll see the edited photo with your dust and scratches in your Lightroom and you can keep editing the rest of your set. Easy!


Adding dust, grain and scratches can make your photos look very vintage. I find that it works really well with photos that are already very old school, have lots of textures in them, maybe some movement. It looks pretty fake and uninspiring if it’s added on unedited clean photo. Play around and find what works for you!

Pro Tip: When applying the overlay, you can hit Cmd+I to invert colors and switch between light and dark dust.

Another Pro Tip: Feel free to combine multiple dust overlays for more realistic results.


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