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Rev up your pictures of everyday people and objects with a silkscreen effect

Added on Friday 23rd of April 2010 05:14 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3/CS4

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows





If your photos are looking a little too pretentious and intense these days, perhaps it’s time to rebel. Forget about perfecting tone and correcting color. Instead, you can make light of modern culture and use Photoshop to create trendy, multi-toned images reminiscent of the resurgent pop art style.

To transform an image into pop art, we’ll show you how to:

Accentuate the tonal values in your image with the Cutout filter.

Enable selective editing with the creation of channel masks.

Splash brilliant bursts of color on your image using multiple adjustment layers.


When you hear the words “pop art,” the first name that comes to mind is probably Andy Warhol. Pop art began in the 1940s and climaxed in New York in the 1960s with Warhol’s quasi-photographic paintings of people and everyday objects. Warhol’s art is provocative, frivolous, sharp, brilliant, irritating, intelligent, bold—well, it depends on whom you talk to. Its purpose, however, is undisputed.

If you too are ready to say the heck with “Art for art’s sake,” we’ll show you how to bring art back to the material realities of everyday life and pop culture. Warhol did it with flat, bright acrylics on silkscreen and canvas. We’ll do it with a conventional image and a Photoshop technique. It isn’t too difficult, and as shown in Figure A, the results are really groovy.



Accent the positive

The first step in our technique is to desaturate your image of color, leaving only its tonal (shadow, midtone, and highlight) values without actually changing its color mode. This will make it easy for you to selectively fill the different tones with solid colors.

To desaturate an image:

1. Download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article, extract the file spike.jpg, launch Photoshop, and open the image. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.)

2. Press [command][shift]U ([Ctrl][Shift]U in Windows) to remove the color from the image, as shown in Figure B.


Be selective

The next step is to select the specific areas you want to fill with color later on. You’ll save the selections as channel masks, so that you can easily mask or protect the unselected areas from editing as needed.

To create channel masks:

1. Select the Magic Wand tool from the Tools panel.

2. Click the New Selection button on the tool Options bar and then click anywhere in the white background.

3. Select the Add To Selection button on the tool Options bar and then click the Magic Wand tool on any white background areas that aren’t yet selected, such as around the top of the head.

Note: If any white areas that aren’t part of the background become selected, select the Lasso tool from the Tools panel and click the Subtract From Selection button on the tool Options bar. Then, lasso the stray pixels to remove them from the selection.

4. Choose Select > Save Selection once you’ve selected the entire background and enter Background in the Name text box. Click OK.

5. Press [command]D ([Ctrl]D in Windows) to deselect the background.

6. Choose Window > Channels to display the Channels panel and see the new channel you created, as shown in Figure C.

7. Click on the channel to see the mask in your image, as shown in Figure D. The black area indicates the mask. When selected, this channel will enable you to edit the subject apart from the background.

8. Click on the RGB channel to deactivate the mask and display the RGB channels again.






Cut it out

The next step is to apply the Cutout filter. It accentuates the tonal values in the image in a rather crude fashion, but will give you the levels of gray you need. Prior to applying the filter, you’ll load and inverse the Background selection. This ensures the filter applies to only the selected areas in your image.

To load the Background selection:

1. Choose Select > Load Selection. Background is already selected in the Channel pop-up menu.



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