Pop Art Photoshop: Images Inspired by Lichtenstein and Warhol

You’ve seen the images: a can of Campbell’s soup in psychedelic colors, four faces of Marilyn Monroe in the same. Or what about those images that look like they were taken straight out of a 1960’s comic book? While Warhol and Lichtenstein didn’t use Adobe Photoshop to create their famous works of art, you can recreate the effect quickly and easily right from your computer! With a bit of practice, you’ll be creating Pop Art Photoshop effects in no time.

If you want to learn some of the basics before diving right into this tutorial, sign up for Udemy’s beginner Photoshop course; it’ll help make many of these instructions much easier to understand!

To begin, choose a photograph with a simple subject and a white background. While you can work on more complicated images later on, it’s important to learn the techniques with a simple photograph that won’t make you want to throw your computer out the window. Don’t let me scare you! Pop art in Photoshop is not extremely complicated, but it can be frustrating if you try to work on an image that is too complex.

I chose a simple image of tomatoes on the vine to start out with. I’d advise you to choose an image that has an all-white background for this tutorial.

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1. First things first, you want to desaturate your image so that there is no color left. In order to do this, go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. You’ll see that you now have a black and white image.

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2. Take a look at the black and white image I now have:

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What you want to do now is create two separate layers: one for the background and one for the tomatoes. In order to do this easily, click on the Magic Wand tool in your toolbox on the lefthand side of the screen. It will look like this: Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 4.45.47 PM Click anywhere on the white background, and you’ll see that it instantly selects the entire background. If there are parts of the background that the Magic Wand tool did not select, simply hold down the Shift key and click all of those parts until they are all selected. You’ve selected the background, but you really want to select your subject. To inverse the selection, hold Ctrl+Shift+I. Now your subject is selected instead!

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3. Press Ctrl+C to copy your subject, and Ctrl+V to paste it right on top of itself. If you take a look at your Layers Palette once you have completed this step, it should look something like this:

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Rename ‘Layer 1’ to something that you will remember. In my case, I renamed it ‘Tomatoes’. To rename a layer, double click on its name. But now the tomatoes are in both their own separate layer and the background layer! You can fix this by clicking on the Eraser tool in your toolbox: Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 4.51.41 PM.

Click the eye next to your subject layer, which will allow you to see only the background. Now make sure the background layer is selected (by simply clicking on it in your Layers Palette), and erase the tomatoes off of the background. If the white of the background doesn’t match, erase the entire background.

4. Now you’re left with a plain white background layer and your subject layer. You’re going to want to fill your background with a bright Pop Art color. Making sure the background layer is still selected, click the Paint Bucket tool: Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 4.51.03 PM On the bottom of your toolbox, you’ll see two squares overlapping each other. Click on the top square: Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 4.56.39 PM A box will pop up allowing you to choose a color. Pick whatever color you like! Once you have chosen a color, click on your background. You now have a colorful background!

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5. Now it’s time to fix your subject (in this case, the tomatoes).  Go to Filter > Sketch > Photocopy. In some versions of Photoshop, you may have to go into the Filter Gallery to find this option. Adjust the sliders accordingly until your image looks something like this:

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If you’re messing with the sliders and it is not looking anything like this, make sure your two overlapping squares (at the bottom of your toolbox) are set back to Black and White.

6. This is a good start, but we want to get rid of a lot of the unnecessary ‘dirt’ to make the image look more clean. In order to do this, go to Image > Adjustments > Threshold and adjust accordingly.

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7. This is much better, but there’s still some ‘dirt’ I don’t like. To fix the rest of these pesky dots, I’ll just use the Paint Brush tool set to White.

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8. Now it’s time to color! You’ll want to make sure you don’t ruin your Sketch subject, so make sure your Subject layer is selected and then go to Layer > Duplicate layer. In your Layers Palette, you’ll see a drop-down menu that says ‘Normal’. Click on that, and set the layer mode to ‘Multiply’.

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9. Now you can click on the Paint Brush tool, choose a color you desire, and paint away at your image! If you want to create cleaner lines when painting, use one of the various selection tools available to select certain parts of your image before using the Paint Brush. A helpful hint: when using the Paint Brush, pressing the [ on your keyboard will make it smaller, and pressing the ] on your keyboard will make it larger!

I didn’t spend a lot of time making my lines super clean, but you’ll end up with something like this (more time would make it much cleaner!):

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10. Now for a Pop Art effect: go to File > New. Create a template that is four times the size of your initial image. You can check the size of your image by going to Image > Image Size. My original image was 9×6 at 72PPI, so I will create a new template that is 20×13 at 72PPI. I make the canvas slightly larger than four times the size so I have room to play around and crop later.

11. Go back to your original image. Go to Layer > Flatten Image. Press Ctrl + C to copy it, and then go over to your new canvas. Press Ctrl + V to paste it onto your new canvas, and move it up to the top left corner.

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12. Head back to your original image. We’re going to alter the colors a bit. Go to Image > Adjustments > Hue / Saturation. Slide the Hue slider any way you like, you’ll see your colors shifting. When you reach a result that you like, press Ok. Press Ctrl + C to copy this, then head over to your new canvas and press Ctrl + V to paste it. Move it directly next to your first image.

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13. Repeat step 12 two more times until you have a grid of Pop Art images. If your canvas is too large, use the crop tool: Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 5.30.52 PM to get rid of the excess space. You’ll end up with something that looks like this:

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Now you can turn any subject you desire into a work of art! Play around with people, pets, and locations. If you want to learn more about the magic of Photoshop, sign up for Udemy’s course on Photoshop Made Easy – created for people of all skill levels!