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litho effect

In the spirit of my 2020 resolutions, this was going to be called sunshine on lith, but I have dropped the pun and used a straight title.

So this is about the Photoshop settings to make lith prints. Or perhaps lithy.

A lith print is defined thus: “warm tones, hard shadows, enhanced grain and creamy highlights are signature characteristics of lith prints”. That’s from Ann Pallesen. Traditionally it would have been an actual print on Litho paper, which is very high contrast. The print was developed by inspection in dilute developer and then pulled and fixed as the image developed and before it turned to pure black and white. Definitely an art. There are enough variables that each print will be unique.

One of the joys I found when I went from a wet darkroom to digital was the ability to make small changes, see what they looked like and reverse or tweak them. And when I had settled on a result I liked, I could make as many finished copies as I wanted. So to make a lith print, what I would need to do is warm the tones with some colour, make the shadows dark, add grain and then a bit of blur on the highlights.

Method 1

Remove colour by desaturating with one or, better, two Hue Saturation adjustment layers. The reason and method for this is here.

Duplicate the background layer and call this new layer Clipped. Create a Levels adjust ment layer linked to it and drag down the white point to block-up the highlights.


Add noise to the Clipped layer with a value of around 9%. The menu options are Filter, Noise, Add noise.


Temporarily make the Clipped layer invisible to work on the background.

Adjust the levels of the background, moving the black point to the right to lift and lighten the shadows.


Sepia tint the picture. Add a fill layer at the top of the layer stack using Layer, New Fill Layer, Solid colour. Set the colours to R210 G165 B90. Set the blending mode to Colour.

Make the Clipped layer visible again and use an unsharp mask with values of around 100%, 6 radius and 0 threshold. To do this use the menu options Enhance, Unsharp mask.


Change the blending mode of the Clipped layer to Multiply.

If necessary, add a Brightness/ Contrast adjustment layer at the top of the stack to tweak the image.


Litho 1

Method 2

Add a Hue Saturation adjustment layer above the background with blending mode Overlay. Set the Hue between 10 and 25.

Create a new fill layer above the Hue Saturation one with RGB values all set to 128 (50% grey), blending mode Overlay.

Add noise to this fill layer with an amount of around 10%.

Add gaussian blur to the fill layer with a radius of around 0.4.

Duplicate the background layer, calling it Mask. Use Filter, Adjustment, Threshold to Select the shadows. Invert the layer with Ctrl i.

Shadow mask

Move the Mask layer up the stack above the fill layer. Group the mask layer with the fill layer (Layer, Group with Previous). Add some gaussian blur to the mask layer to smooth the tones.

Add a layer at the top of the stack to sepia tint the picture. use Layer, New Fill Layer, Solid colour. Set the colours to R210 G165 B90. Set the blending mode to Colour.

Stack 2

Litho 2

This second method might be closer to the litho effect, as the shadows are darker. Anyway – over to you. Have a play and see what you can do.


Author: fupduckphoto

Still wishing I knew what was going on.

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