How to Turn a Portrait into Pop Art
This article is a step by by step tutorial showing you on way to create an Andy Warhol style Pop Art image from your own photograph.
It’s usable even by beginners at photo editing.
The article contains no video but has lots of screen shots. I personally find it hard to follow a video and make edits at the same time. I constantly have to stop, go back and watch the same bit over and over. So this tutorial is for those who, like me, find it a challenge to multitask on a computer.
Once you get the hang of the repeating steps, it’s really easy to complete this project. Which is good, because once you’ve done one, everyone will want one. You’ll also be applying the idea to lots of other things!
The first thing you need is a black and white portrait. Face on is great, especially if you want to put in a make-up layer. More about that later.
Open your chosen file in a Photo editor. I’m using Photoshop but Gimp is a great free alternative as is Serif’s photo editor.
The first thing you will need to do is adjust levels to get a nice contrasty image that still shows some detail in the skin.
Click on the levels icon (looks like a bar graph) or in the layer tab go to new adjustment layer>levels and the properties box will pop up.
Move the black slider under the histogram to the right to strengthen the darks and the white slider to the left. You want bright highlights but leave some detail in the mid-tones of the skin. Move the grey slider slightly to the right to even the effect.
Flatten the image so far by going to the layer tab >flatten image.
The next stage of the process is to separate the image onto several layers so that we can apply a different colour to each.
For my picture I will separate the shirt, skin, hair and background. You could also do an extra layer for adding vibrant make-up. As my subject is wearing dark glasses I won’t be doing this.
The first step for each area is create a new layer so got to the layer tab at the top, then new in the pop-up list followed by layer.
This will bring up a dialogue box where you can rename your layer. A word of caution here. Your black and white portrait is automatically named Background so choose something that won’t be confused with that one. I’ve used backdrop for mine.
In this box, you will see that there is a blend mode option, currently set to normal. There is a drop down list of options. In this case, we want to see both the selection we are going to make on this layer and the portrait layer so you’ll want to set the blend to Multiply.
The next step is the key to the whole process, making a selection.
If you look at Andy Warhol’s work, you will notice he uses a single flat colour for the whole of the background. For this first selection, we need to include all our background.
Choose quick selection tool from the left hand tool menu. Move your mouse close to the edge inside your image in the background area. Hold the button down while you move the mouse through the background around your subject. Let go of the button and a selection has been made. At this stage it may be very rough but that doesn’t matter as we can add or subtract areas to this selection.
If you look at the top corner of the screen, there are some settings relevant to the tool you are using, in this case the selection tool. Click on the button to add areas to your selection with your mouse. The minus sign removes areas from the selection. Zoom in on your image for greater control. You can also change the size of your tool by clicking on the button with a number in it.
You don’t need to make the selection too accurately. A little colour bleed in the final image is part of the style of Pop Art.
Once you are happy with your selection, the next step is to fill it with a mid tone grey.
To do this we need to use the colour picker, then bucket fill.
Click on the colour picker icon and a dialogue box will pop up. Click on a mid grey area in the large square to choose a new colour and click on OK.
To fill your background selection, go to the bucket fill icon on the left. Some tools are grouped together so it may not be visible. Mine is with the gradient tool and I can get to the bucket fill by right clicking on the icon and selecting from the drop down menu. Move your pointer over the background and it will change to a bucket of paint. Click the mouse and the whole area fills with the grey colour.
The next step is to create a layer containing just the hair. Following the steps above, open a new layer, change blend mode to multiply and give the layer a name before clicking OK in the dialogue box.
Repeat the whole process for the skin and clothes.
Once you have finished, your screen should look something like the one above. You can see each of the layers you have created on the right.
Colourising your Image
Now comes the magic!
For each of the layers you have created a colour needs to be added. To do this, click on a layer in the right hand column to highlight it. This indicates the layer you are working on.
Go to image in the tabs, choose adjustments, then hue/saturation from the drop down menu. An the dialogue box click on the colorize box and a tick will appear. Move the saturation slider to 100%. Moving the hue slider will change the colour of the area you selected in that layer.
Here I have chosen the shirt layer and moved the slider to get a purple colour. At this stage the colour doesn’t matter, just choose one you like.
Next, click on another layer and follow the same steps, choosing a different colour at the end.
For the skin layer there is one difference, don’t saturate the layer and increase the lightness. Bright coloured skin can just look overpowering so go for a subtle shade here.
At this stage, you may find areas you don’t like such as messy overlaps. Now is the time to a critical look and make any changes to your layers.
In my image, I didn’t like the messy bleed above the hair, the little bit of hair colour I missed near the bottom and a little bit of skin tone missing.
To tidy up, click on the little eye next to the black and white layer so that it is temporarily invisible. You can now see just the coloured layers.
Choose the layer you want to adjust.
Click on the colour picker and move your mouse to the coloured area. The pointer will change to a dropper. Click to choose the colour. Make sure web colours only is unticked to get an accurate selection.
In the tool menu, find the brush tool. Choose a hard brush about size 30 from the tool properties at the top of the screen. Use the brush to smooth edges or fill gaps.
Switch the black and white layer back on by clicking on the eye icon again.
This could be your finished project if you want a single image, but to get the full Andy Warhol effect we need to open a new file.
To create a project composed of 4 images, you first need to find the size of the image you are using. To do this go to the image tab, then to image size.
You can see that mine is 18.29cm x 18.29cm with a resolution of 300.
Make a note of this, you will need to know your image size and resolution to set up the right dimensions for your final image.
Now, we need a copy of our image so far to paste into the new file. To do that press Ctrl and A at the same time to select the whole image, then Ctrl and C to copy it.
Now to open your new file.
Go to File in the tabs and select new. The dialogue box appears to set the dimensions of the file. In the boxes enter twice the width of your original image and twice the height giving you two images across and two down.
Set the resolution to match that of your original image. Click OK to create your new file. You will see a blank space outlined. To insert your image press Ctrl and V at the same time.
Use the move tool at the top of the tool menu bar to place the image in the top corner by dragging it with the mouse.
Add more copies of the image by pressing Ctrl V again and moving the image to fill another space.
All the images at this stage are identical, but now is the fun bit. Because each copy image is on a separate layer we can make adjustments to each one individually.
To do this, go to Image>adjustments>hue/saturation. In the dialogue box move the hue slider only.
The last layer you added will change colour. Set it to a scheme you like different to the original. Now click on another layer in the panel to the right and follow the same procedure.
For my version I have chosen 2 sets of complementary colours (Red/Green and Yellow/Purple) for the background to create a real zing. There are endless combinations to try!
I hope I haven’t missed any steps out here. If I have or there is something you don’t follow, drop me a message in the comments and I’ll see what I can do to help. It would be great fun to see your projects too.
Thanks for reading and if there is a project you would like to see done step by step please let me know and I’ll give it a go.