Photoshop tutorial: Create retro posterized illustration effects

Photoshop’s Posterized tool is shamefully underused. Here, artist Baz Pringle shows you how to rediscover its potential…

The power of posterization shouldn’t be underestimated when it comes to creating art with Photoshop. In this piece by Baz Pringle, Photoshop’s Posterize tool is used to maximum effect.

The Posterize tool allows you to specify the number of tonal levels (or brightness values) for each channel in an image, and then maps pixels to the closest matching level.

For example, choosing two tonal levels in an RGB image gives six colours – two for red, two for green, and two for blue. It’s a tool useful for creating special effects, such as large, flat areas in a photograph. It also produces interesting effects in colour images, but works best with greyscale photos.

Step 1
First of all, we need to select a photo that has an element that we want to include in our final illustration. For this example, open the original photo called ‘Scooter.jpg’ (included on the Download link on the right). Using the Lasso tool, select around the bike. We want to include some of the ground, so select some of the shadow area as well. Also, be creative and use this step to create an interesting shape, instead of a predictable cutout of just the scooter. I included some of the brick wall so as to make the profile of the shape a little more original.

Step 2
Copy the selection, then paste into a new layer. In the Layer palette, hide the Background layer. Next, select Image > Mode > Grayscale. Click on Merge when prompted. Since our ultimate goal is to simplify the image, turning it to greyscale will help us concentrate on breaking down the image into various values.

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