Photoshop Pop Art Tutorial

Friday, September 24, 2010

I've had a lot of questions about how I created the pop art style images for my Pop Art Canvases, so I thought I'd put together a little tutorial for those of you who may be interested.  Here we go... bare with me as this is the first Photoshop tutorial I've ever done!  By the way, I live in the dark ages and only have Photoshop CS, so some of the info I'm giving you may be outdated if you have a newer version, but you'll still get the basic idea.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)

Start with any photo of your choosing (close-ups with simple backgrounds work best) and open it in Photoshop.  First things first: crop it to your desired size.  I bought a four-pack of 6 x 6 canvases at Michael's, so I cropped all my images to 6 x 6, but in hindsight, I should have cropped them a little smaller to make them fit nicely on the front of the canvas.  5 1/2" x 5 1/2" would have worked better.  Just keep this in mind for however you're using the final product.

Open your photo in Photoshop.  First things first:  Make a copy of your Background layer by dragging the layer to the "Create a New Layer" button OR go to Layer > Duplicate Layer.

Make sure your Background copy layer is selected, and set your colors to the default white foreground and black background.  If you forget to do this, you'll realize it after the next step.

Go to Filter > Sketch > Stamp.

In the Stamp box, you can change the Light/Dark Balance and Smoothness to your liking.  40 and 2, respectively, worked for mine.  Click OK.

Now, we need to delete the white in our photo so only the black is left.  Go to Select > Color Range.

When the Color Range box pops up, your cursor will turn into the eyedropper tool so you can choose the color in your photo.  Click on any white space in your photo (your ACTUAL photo, not the preview in the Color Range box), you shouldn't need to change the Fuzziness, and click OK.

Now you should have the marching ants around all the white in your photo.  Before you do anything else, make a copy of your Background copy, and hide the original by clicking the eye next to it.  I like to make copies of everything just in case.  You never know what might happen.

Make sure you have the Background copy 2 layer selected, and press the DELETE key on your keyboard.  All of the white should be gone and only the black should be left!  You can see your original full-color layer behind it.

Choose Select > Deselect or press CTRL-D.

Hide the Background layer and you should see a gray and white checkerboard where the white would be that indicates transparency.  Only the black should remain.

Now to add some color back in!  Create a new layer.

Move the layer underneath your black layer.

Make sure you're on your new layer.  Select your paintbrush tool and choose your color.

Start painting!

Be careful around the edges, but the black outlines should hide the majority of mistakes.  You can change the size of your paintbrush using the "[" and "]" keys, or in the top toolbar.  TIP: Be sure to color the teeth and whites of the eyes WHITE or your subject will look really funny.

Keep painting and changing colors as you go.  Pay attention to details like earrings, eye color, etc.  After you finish your first color combo, make a copy of that layer and then you can use the Paint Bucket tool to recolor it in approximately 5 seconds if you want to do a pairing of four like I did!

Save your Photoshop file and be sure to save each color combo as a JPEG for printing.  Hide and show each colored layer to save them as four separate files.

Since my images were 6 x 6, I created an 8 x 10 document in Photoshop and pasted my image onto it, which I then saved and uploaded to Sam's Club's photo web site for printing.  But you can always print them at home!

So what do you think of my first tutorial?  Easy enough?  Helpful?  Still confused?  Let me know in the comments!


  1. Great tutorial! I use Photoshop a lot, but I wouldn't have guessed that was how to do it! Thanks for sharing!


  2. Oh wow. Love this. I have photoshop but have never really taken the time to delve in and learn it. Your tutorial is awesome and I love this look. Thanks so much for sharing. I will be bookmarking this for sure. Now to look around a bit further. :)

  3. Thanks for the tute! I was wondering if you painted because I didn't think there was an effect that would do that on its own. Good to know!