Creating Instagram-style Filters In Paint.NET

When Instagram launched, it experienced what can only be described as a meteoric rise to success. Within the first two months, the service hit the one million user mark. Within the first year, the service ballooned to ten million users, and the current mark sits somewhere between on hundred and fifty and two hundred million active monthly users.

With the explosion in popularity of the “Instagram look” most photo editing programs have tried to re-create the filter effect with their own tools. While there are some plugins available for Paint.NET that allow for single-click Instagram filters, we have found that it is more effective to make adjustments by hand on a picture-by-picture basis. Here’s how:

  • First open the Paint.NET program, and then go to File > Open and find the image you want to open on your computer’s hard drive.

  • To prep you raw photo, you want to make sure the colors are well-balanced and composed. We recommend starting by auto-adjusting your image by selecting Adjustments > Auto-Level. This automatic correction tool will assure that the colors, brightness, and other settings all are optimized to make your photo look its best.

  • The most common way to create Instagram-style aging is to blend in color that will make it look like an old, fading photograph. To do this, create a new layer by clicking Ctrl+Shift+N. Once the new layer is created, hit F4 to bring up the Layer Properties, and choose Multiply for the blending mode.

  • Bring up the color select tool by pressing F8. In the top right of that menu, there will be values for RGB levels. Set your RGB values to the following: R:250, G:220, B:175, the final product will be a light beige, almost peach color. Using the Paint Bucket tool, click once on your new layer. Since the layer’s blend mode is set to multiply, it should incorporate the color change directly into the photo.

  • Create one more layer with Ctrl+Shift+N, and this time set the blend mode to Overlay. Then select the Gradient Tool, which looks like a pane of glass in the Tools menu. Simply click and drag across the image to create the gradient overlay, the final product will replicate the look of light leaking into film as it is exposed.

  • You can also create shadow with the Vignette tool, which can be accessed by selecting Effects > Photo > Vingette. This tool creates external shadows along the perimeter of an image, and you can adjust the size of the radius, the darkness of the shadows, and the focal point of the image all using this tool.

  • To achieve the “grainy” look, add some digital noise to the photo. The trick here is to add enough to make the photo look rough, but also to blend it well enough that it doesn’t look overly digital. Go to Effects > Noise > Add Noise, and this will create digital noise in your photo. We recommend starting at Intensity: 50, Color Saturation: 75, Coverage: 60, but adjust to whatever best suits your eye.

    In the end, the best advice we can give you is to play around with these options, and try stuff that we haven’t thought of. If you ever do something that you don’t want to keep, just remember Ctrl+Z is your best friend, and will undo whatever your previous step was!