21 September 2010

Classic effects reimagined - Vintage halftones

We continue our series looking at how you can create stylish and innovative effects with some of Photoshop’s most overused filters. In this tutorial, Fabio Sasso will show you how to put together an inspired vintage design playing with the Color Halftone filter.

Halftones are collections of dots that, from a distance, appear to merge into shades between the colour of the dots and the background. They were first used for printing in the 19th Century to allow newspapers to show shades of grey, and have been popular ever since. Currently, halftones are often used for creating screenprinted projects, T-shirts, stickers and posters to make the most of a small number of inks – but the dots used are often so small that its use isn’t apparent.

In the past, larger dots were used that were more obvious to the reader, so the use of digital-created halftones can bring a retro feel that harks back to the newspapers and comics of your childhood. Applying the Color Halftone filters to a whole image could look cheesy, so here Fabio shows that by using it sparingly around a 50s-style photograph, you can achieve stylish results.

Step 1 Open Photoshop and create a new A4 document at 300dpi. Then import a stock photo of a modern pinup, the one I used was courtesy of Shutterstock and you can get it atbit.ly/b3vYP5.

After that with the Magic Wand tool (W) select the white background, and with the new Refine tool in Photoshop CS5, extract it precisely. It wouldn’t be exactly necessary to delete the background because that will be done late in the tutorial, but this will be necessary to create the masks we will use. Duplicate this layer, changing their names to ‘Girl 1’ and, below it, ‘Girl 2’ (imaginative, huh) because we will need extra copies to layer the effect over the model shot.


Step 2 Select ‘Girl 1’ this and go to Filter > Pixelate > Color Halftone. Use a Max Radius of 12, and for a 100° Angle. Notice the Color Halftone filter works well for large images, if you are working with a small image I suggest you should try the Image > Mode > Bitmap with Halftone and Round for the settings. It has pretty much the same effect.

Step 3 In order to make the effect unique, let’s do something unusual to it. First desaturate the image so go to Image > Adjustment > Hue and Saturation and reduce the Saturation to 0. After that, go to Image > Adjustments > Levels. Change the Black Input triangle to 99 and the White Input to 205.


Step 4 Add a new layer, change its name to ‘Brown’ and fill it with a dark brownish grey (#5a5855). Put this new layer behind ‘Girl 1’. Select the white area of the ‘Girl 1’ layer and delete it. You will have just the black dots. Then go to Image > Adjustments > Invert. Now you will have only white dots on your image.


Step 5 Group the ‘Girl 1’ layer (Cmd/Ctrl + G) to create a folder with one layer inside it and change the folder’s blending mode to Color Dodge. You will now have a folder with one layer inside it. Select the ‘Girl 1’ layer and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Use a radius of 2.5 pixels here. Because of the Color Dodge, you will get a light effect.

Step 6 Select the ‘Brown’ layer and the folder with the ‘Girl 1’ layer and select Layer > Merge Layers. Now you will be left with just one layer. Go to Image > Adjustment > Levels. Increase the Black Input triangle to 140 and change the White Input to 215.

Why we did all of this? With the Blur and Color Dodge, we make the dots that were closest to one another get blended. Then with the levels here we make them solid again. These create a more organic effect, a little bit like molecules.


Step 7 Go to Image > Adjustment > Invert. Then select the Magic Wand tool (W) and select the white area. To get all the whites go to Select > Similar and delete the white area. Duplicate this layer and go again to Image > Adjustments > Invert. You will have two layers, one with black dots and another one with white dots. Call these layers ‘Black Dots’ and ‘White Dots’.

Step 8 We’ll now use masks so as to apply the effect sparingly. Order the layers as shown (left). For the ‘Black Dots’ and ‘White Dots’ layers, select the area of the girl using the ‘Girl 2’ layer for reference (as detailed in Step 1) and select Layer > Layer Mask > Hide Selection. Now every time you want to make a part of the layer visible, you can paint over the mask to reveal it.

I recommend that you make a pixel selection of the dots before painting the masks as well. To do this, right-click with the mouse over the thumbnail of the layer with the halftone girl and hit Select Pixels.


Step 9 First make some white dots visible, then make some black dots visible, always painting over the mask. After that with the pixels selected, hide some areas of the girl’s photo again using masks.


Step 10 To complete the retro effects, I’m going to use a paper texture. The one I used can be found at bit.ly/cUKkGz. Import the texture, place it at the bottom of the layer stack and label it ‘Texture 1’. With this layer selected, create a selection of the girl. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Go toLayer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection, and make just the area you selected visible. Select the mask of this layer and go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Use a radius of 50 pixels.

Step 11 With the ‘Texture 1’ layer selected, go again toFilter > Color Halftone. Use a Max Radius of 12 pixels and an Angle of 100 for all channels. Then, go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate, and Image > Adjustments > Levels. Increase the Black Input triangle and reduce the White Input to get rid of the midtones.

Step 12 Import another texture. The one I used can be found at bit.ly/do9kSn. Put this texture on top of all the other layers. Change the Blend mode to Multiply with 30% Opacity. After that go to Image > Adjustments > Hue and Saturation. Reduce the Saturation to -70, the go to Image > Adjustments > Levels. Change the Black input to 120 and the White to 212, and the Greys input to 1.18.

Step 13 Now just add some text. In order to create a stylish composition, I placed the word Halftone with the top half using Helvetica for the font and the bottom half using Times, then I applied the Color Halftone to the bottom part.

Fabio Sasso

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