Step-by-step Pop your portrait
Choose a photo
Your choice of image for your pop-art portrait is important – anything with a busy background is going to take much longer to separate the subject from what’s behind. That said, Photoshop Elements 2018 has some clever tools that can help. You also need a strong, recognisable facial expression, as we’re going to mess around with it a lot, and we don’t want something indistinct.
Select your subject
We need to remove the background, and Elements’ tools can help. We tried Auto Selection, which is an option for the Quick Selection tool that sees you drag a box around what you want selected. Elements analyses the image and gives its best guess. For our image, it got confused between the model’s hair and her shadow, so we tidied it up with the Selection Brush. |
Create some layers
Once your selections complete, create a new layer with the subject on with Layer > New > Layer Via Copy. Then do it again twice, so you have Layer 1, ‘Layer 1 copy’, and ‘Layer 1 copy 2’. Select the Background layer at the bottom of the Layers palette. Create a new layer (Layer > New > Layer) and it’ll appear above Background. Fill it with white using the Bucket tool.
Blur your image
Save your file as a PSD. Hide everything except Layer 1 using the eye icons to the left of their entries in the Layers palette, and make sure Layer 1 is selected. We’re going to blur this layer just enough to make it look unfocused. Use Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and use a Radius setting of 4. The more you increase the Radius, the more blurred the image will become.
Cut out your image
On the same blurred layer, go to the Filter menu and open the Filter Gallery. In the Artistic folder you’ll find Cutout. Select it, and you’ll get a preview of the effect and some sliders to change the parameters. We want to keep it recognisable for now, so use: Number of Levels: 5; Edge Simplicity: 0; and Edge Fidelity: 9. Mess around with the sliders and see what looks good for you.
Blend your layers
Now, despite having done all that, you’ll only be able to see the top layer. We need to blend them together, using the dropdown menu at the top of the Layers palette. Start with ‘Layer 1 copy 2’ – Exclusion looks good, and is as good a place as any to start. Then blend ‘Layer 1’ copy with Layer 1 using something like Color Burn to bring out the colours. Feel free to experiment!
Levels adjustment layer
Bring back every layer except Background, and you’ll be able to appreciate your work. We’re going to add an Adjustment Layer between Layer 1 and ‘Layer 1 copy’, so select Layer 1 and go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels. Moving the central triangle under the histogram in the popup window changes how bright the colours are on the two lower layers. Adjust as needed.
Cut and glow
Bring back ‘Layer 1 copy’ and select it. Open Cutout again, and use the same number of Levels but greater Simplicity and less Fidelity for a simpler look. OK it, and unhide and select ‘Layer 1 copy 2’. Open the Filter Gallery, and choose Stylize > Glowing Edges. We went with: Width: 3, Brightness: 10, Smoothness: 10, but again experiment to see what works with your image. OK it.
Add a background
Bring back Layer 2 using its eye icon, and hide everything else. We’re going to paint a frame across it using the Paintbrush and Bucket tools. Choose red as your foreground colour, and the Paintbrush tool with a reasonably thick tip. Click the brush once, hold [Shift] and click again somewhere else to draw a straight line - repeat to create a frame, then fill the frame with the Bucket tool.
Save and share
Save your PSD file, as this retains the layers and allows you to come back and do more work on the image later. As there’s not a lot of fine detail in the image, it will probably compress well, so export it as a JPEG using File > ‘Save for web’. We’re going to use the JPEG High preset, to minimise the appearance of compression artefacts in the final image. Click ‘Save’ to save the JPEG image.