Richard asked me whether I could write a tutorial on the Daguerreotype conversion (a photograph taken by an early photographic process employing an iodine-sensitized silvered plate and mercury vapor).

I like a challenge, but the act of polishing a silvered copper, then sensitising it with iodine vapour, and developing it with mercury was just a little beyond the UK Health and Safety legislation.

So you’ll have to make do with a PaintShop Pro simulation instead.  Before we can begin, we need to know the characteristics of the images from this most early of processes.

The photo agent is silver iodide.  This is sensitive to blue light only, and exposures run into minutes, not fractions of a second.  The image is formed on a silvered plate, and the viewing angle for the image is critical.

The choice of subject matter in the image to be converted to the Daguerreotype is critical.

The subject should reflect the period. (mid 1800s)

  • A long time exposure must be simulated.  The exposure were typically up to 10 minutes.
  • The subject must have sufficient detail to be ‘read’ when the colour is removed.
  • The photo sensitisation was in the blue part of the spectrum.  Blues become lightened, all other colours become darkened.
  • There will be some ‘age damage’ or staining to the image.

You could use the built-in Daguerreotype filterin PaintShop, but frankly Daguerreotypes are rarely that colour.
Effects > PhotoEffects > Time Machine > Daguerreotype

Daguerreotype Steps

The Faneuil Hall with the statue of Samuel Adams would seem to be of the right time era.

Convert to Black and White

It needs to be converted to a greyscale image, but with the colours modified.

Adjust > Hue and Saturation > Hue/Saturation/Lightness

When the dialogue box appears the following settings need to be made.

Edit:  yellow ……..Lightness -31
Edit:  master …...Saturation -100

You may need to make slight changes to the other settings to neutralise any strong tones.

Gaining The Sense of Time Exposure

Use the Freehand selection Tool to choose areas which would become blurred during a long exposure. In my shot the trees and people would be liable to movements.

Adding to the selection is achieved by holding the SHIFT key down; 

Removing the areas you don’t need is achieved by holding the CTRL key down.  

The exactness of the selection is not critical since randomness in movement of the aspects of the image is to be expected.

Adjust > Blur > Motion Blur

The values of Angle 126 and Strength 54 were applied to a 4600 x 3000 pixel image.  Smaller images will require less Strength value applied.

CTRL-D deselects the selected areas.

The ‘Metallic’ base

You will need a silver base layer since the photos were made on a metallic substrate, not on paper.  

I searched Google for ‘silver metallic textures’.  

This texture needs to be Edit > Paste as New Layer above the image.

Re-size the texture to cover the image using the Pick tool.

Set the blending mode to Multiply and the opacity to about 50%.

This is the image with these settings ...

Final Step - The Daguerreotype Look

Principally, there are three ways of creating the daguerreotype effect.  

  1. The first method is to paint onto a new Raster Layer above the image.
  2. The second method is to use a mask. 
  3. The third method is to use something natural to make the mask.

I’ll take you through a few of the ways of masking since I’m not brave enough to paint an effect.

No matter which masking method you choose, the steps to mask the image are always the same ...

  1. Choose the mask you want to use (more on this follows).
  2. Go to Layers > New Mask Layer > From Image > Source Luminance.
  3. Save the mask - Layers > Load/Save Mask > Save Mask to Disk ... and give the mask a name you will remember.
  4. Go back to your original image and add a new Raster layer above the Daguerreotype image.  Use the Flood Fill Tool to fill it with the colour you want to have on the edges of your image.
  5. With the solid colour layer selected go to Layers > Load/Save Mask > Load Mask From Disk ...
  6. Now you can modify the opacity of the Solid Colour raster layer to taste.

Mask Creation 1

I searched for greyscale masks for PaintShop Pro on Google.  Masks are generally downloaded as JPG files so need a bit of preparation before they’re usable.

Layers > New mask Layer > From Image> Source Luminance > OK

Then you have to let PaintShop Pro save the mask to the right destination.

Now add a raster layer above the Background layer and fill it with any color you wish .

Layers > Load/Save Mask > Save mask to disk and then you need to name the mask.

Mask Creation 2

PaintShop Pro has some frames which can be cannibalised and turned into a mask.

New > New Image

And make the image at least 500 x 500 pixels; colour should be black; transparent should be unticked.

Image > Picture Frame and choose a suitable ragged edge - this one, for example ...

Layers > Merge All

Then save the mask using Layers > New mask Layer > From Image > Source Luminance > OK
Now save the mask you just created with Layers > Load/Save Mask > Save mask to disk and then you need to name and save the mask.

Using The Mask

Place a new layer above the image you are turning into a daguerreotype.

Layers > New Raster layer

Select a foreground colour. I chose Red 149; Green 73; Blue 7.  Use the Bucket fill tool.

Load the mask you’ve made.  Layers > Load/Load Mask and enter the dialogue box to find the mask.

Use the Pick Tool to adjust the size of the edge of the mask.  You may need to invert some masks.  Layers > Invert Mask/Adjustment.

And there you have it – and with a little bit of painting on the masks, personalisation is easy.

Mask Creation 3

So what if you want a more ‘naturally’ created mask?

You could spread white paint on black paper (or vice versa) and photograph it and use bits of the image (in a method similar to the one described below) to make a mask.

The gradual degradation in storage of the Daguerreotype is random; so you need a ‘random’ image; there’s nothing more naturally random than clouds so I went to search for an image of some clouds.

What you’ll need for this is a photo of some clouds where there is some distinction between the cloud and the sky; that is, the sky does not have a thin veil of cloud.

You’ll also need a working image in which to build the mask.

Make a new file of about 500 to 750 on the longest edge and the colour should be set to mid-grey which is Red 127Green 127Blue 127.

Return to the image which is the source of the clouds Image > Free rotate is needed to get the edge of the cloud almost horizontal for selection.  Use the Selection Tool (the Edge Seeker Option works really well) to obtain the area.

Edit > Copy

Select the file in which the mask is being built Edit > Paste as New Layer.

Use the Pick Tool to move it to the edge of the image and to scale it.

Use a new selection with different clouds; or copy and rotate (using the Pick Tool) parts of the original selection to make the remaining three layers.  When you're finished you'll have four layers with each of the four edges and it will look something like this ...

Image > GreyScale makes the layers monochrome.

Layers > Merge > Merge All Collapses the layers into one layer.

Adjust > Brightness and Contrast > Levels sets the black and white levels in your mask. 

Use the black slider, moving it to the right until the black becomes uniform in ‘blackness’. Then make the mask in the way described in methods 1 and 2.

Layers > New Mask Layer > From Image > Source Luminance > OK

Layers > Load/Save Mask > Save mask to disk and then you need to name and save the mask.

The next step is to add a raster layer above the background and fill it with a colour using the Flood Fill Tool.

The final step is to load the mask from disc - Layers > Load/Save Mask > Load Mask from Disc ... and select the  mask you just saved.

There you have it – three ways of making a mask and infinite possibilities.  Richard has added his image made in this fashion.


There are other programs which give stained and grunge edges.

I merged my unstained image into a TIFF files and took it into OnOne Perfect Suite for the framing options.  I chose new_emulsion_neutral_red_rl_10x8 as the frame. The frame was slightly adjusted to match the image.  You could use a new layer and paint a similar frame.

Daguerrotype Video

If you want to learn more about this old time photo process then here's a link ...

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