Cre­ate a pop-art por­trait us­ing Adobe Pho­to­shop

Maximum PC - - R&D - –IAN EVENDEN

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POP ART WAS A CREATIVE MOVE­MENT that be­gan in the late 1950s and flour­ished in the United States. It saw the artis­tic space that had been pre­vi­ously in­hab­ited by re­fined paint­ing and sculp­ture in­vaded by com­mon ob­jects, par­tic­u­larly comic-book pan­els and mun­dane im­ages, such as Andy Warhol’s soup cans.

There was more to pop art than a few stacked tins, how­ever—it also saw the re­moval of sub­jects from their con­texts, and a re­turn to hard-edged com­po­si­tion in con­trast to the soft­ness of ear­lier por­trai­ture. It could be sur­real, min­i­mal, col­or­ful, repet­i­tive, and even cre­ated me­chan­i­cally.

Here, we’re go­ing to look at a pop-art por­trait, cre­at­ing it us­ing Pho­to­shop’s lay­ers as well as its clever Smart Ob­jects and Smart Fil­ters, which re­tain the in­for­ma­tion you used to cre­ate them, and al­low you to go back and tweak them af­ter you’ve com­mit­ted to the ef­fect. If you don’t like what you see, you can erase an en­tire sec­tion of your work and start again—it’s a very popart method of cre­at­ing a por­trait, so it seems ap­pro­pri­ate to build some­thing hard-edged and in­flu­enced by comic books.


The first thing to do is sep­a­rate your por­trait sit­ter from the back­ground. Choos­ing an image with a clean back­drop in­evitably makes this eas­ier, but if you’ve got a busy back­ground, Pho­to­shop can help you out. We used the Quick Se­lec­tion tool’s “Se­lect Sub­ject” op­tion, found on the tool­bar at the top of the in­ter­face, to make a rough au­to­matic se­lec­tion, be­fore re­fin­ing it with the “+” and “-” op­tions, to make sure the young lady and her mo­tor­bike were se­lected, even though the col­ors were very sim­i­lar in places to what’s be­hind her. Then, for fur­ther re­fine­ment, we chose “Se­lect and Mask” from the “Se­lect” menu, and used “Smooth” to re­move any rough cor­ners, and “Smart Edge De­tec­tion” to lock the se­lec­tion out­line to the edges of our sub­ject [ Image A]. When you’re done, set “Out­put” to be a new layer with a layer mask, and hit “OK.”


In the Lay­ers pal­ette, your orig­i­nal Back­ground layer should now be hid­den, and a new back­ground­less layer has ap­peared on top, called Back­ground Copy. Cre­ate a new layer us­ing the square-with-an-up­turned-cor­ner but­ton at the bot­tom of the pal­ette, and drag it below the Back­ground Copy layer. Fill the new layer with white—if it’s your back­ground color (press D to change to the de­fault black fore­ground and white back­ground), you can press Ctrl-Backspace to do this. Just make sure you’ve got the right layer se­lected. Al­ter­na­tively, you could set white as your fore­ground color (D fol­lowed by X), and use the Bucket tool. Next, right-click the top layer, and choose “Con­vert to Smart Ob­ject.” This has the ef­fect of chang­ing all the fil­ters we ap­ply to it into smart fil­ters, which can be al­tered af­ter they’ve been ap­plied. Now, us­ing the same right-click menu, du­pli­cate the layer twice. We need a cou­ple of copies to per­form dif­fer­ent ed­its on, be­fore blend­ing them back to­gether for the fi­nal look. By de­fault, the new lay­ers are called “Back­ground Copy 2” and “Back­ground Copy 3.”


Hide the top two lay­ers us­ing the eye icon and work on the orig­i­nal Back­ground Copy. Open the “Gauss­ian Blur” fil­ter from the “Fil­ter” menu, and ap­ply it to the layer with a “Ra­dius” of around four pix­els. We want an un­fo­cused look, rather than a com­plete de­struc­tion. When done, head back to the “Fil­ter” menu and choose “Fil­ter Gallery”—we want “Cutout,” from the “Artis­tic” folder. There are some op­tions on the right of the new win­dow—we want the image to be sim­pli­fied but rec­og­niz­able, so use the “Num­ber of Lev­els” slider to achieve this. Some­where in the four to six range should work. It’s a com­plex fil­ter that can take a while to re­pro­cess its pre­view when you change some­thing, so

don’t be sur­prised if you move a slider and noth­ing hap­pens for a mo­ment. We found keep­ing “Lev­els” low but turn­ing the “Edge Fidelity” slider all the way up kept our por­trait rec­og­niz­able.


Bring back the Back­ground Copy 2 layer us­ing its eye icon, and you’ll see the ef­fects of the “Cutout” fil­ter below it dis­ap­pear. Change the up­per layer’s blend mode to “Mul­ti­ply” us­ing the drop-down in the “Lay­ers” pal­ette, and you should see the two blend to­gether, but be­come darker. This is what “Mul­ti­ply” does—mul­ti­plies the nu­meric val­ues of the col­ors be­ing blended to­gether, then di­vides the re­sult by 255. It al­ways ends up darker. Make sure Back­ground Copy 2 is se­lected, and open “Fil­ter Gallery > Cutout” again, but this time go for a higher num­ber of “Lev­els,” say eight, with high “Edge Sim­plic­ity” and low “Fidelity” [ Image B]. The pre­view doesn’t show the blended re­sult; you won’t see that un­til you hit “OK.”


With Back­ground Copy 2 still se­lected, open “Image > Ad­just­ments > Lev­els,” and drag the white tri­an­gle at the right of the his­togram to the left. This re­de­fines the bright­ness of col­ors in the image that are ren­dered as pure white, and bright­ens all col­ors as it does. Drag it left un­til you’re happy with the re­sult—we’re look­ing for good def­i­ni­tion in the face, which had been dark­ened by our use of “Mul­ti­ply.”


Make the top layer, Back­ground Copy 3, vis­i­ble us­ing its eye icon, and click it so it’s ac­tive. Head back to the “Fil­ter Gallery,” but this time choose “Glow­ing Edges,” which is the only fil­ter in the “Styl­ize” folder. You’ll see an im­me­di­ate ef­fect, but can al­ter it us­ing the slid­ers to the right. You want “Bright­ness” and “Smooth­ness” to be quite high, but “Width” to be low [ Image C]. Blend this layer with those below by chang­ing its “Blend Mode” to “Sub­tract” us­ing the drop-down (ex­per­i­ment here—we found “Lighter Color” also worked well). Use “Lev­els” on the layer if it needs bright­en­ing up.


Be­cause we ap­plied the fil­ters as smart fil­ters, we can go back and tweak them by click­ing their en­tries in the “Lay­ers” pal­ette. You can also use the plain white Layer 1 we cre­ated in step two to cre­ate a back­ground for your image [ Image D]. Save your work as a PSD to pre­serve the lay­ers, and use “File > Ex­port” to cre­ate a JPG or PNG ver­sion for post­ing on­line.

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