The Pop Art comic strip

The Pop Art comic strip

One instantly recognizable Pop Art style was inspired by the comic strip and utilized features from commercial and newspaper printing. Roy Lichtenstein painted comic-strip scenes drawn from adventure, romance, or detective stories. Words often appeared as boxed captions along the picture's edge, as speech and thought bubbles, or with huge lettering for maximum impact. And what the words said was important, toothey forced the viewer to ask whether the image was really quite as trivial as its comic form suggested.

In most of these comic strip paintings, the first element you notice is the black line drawing which defines the major shapes in the image. These shapes are colored with either rough blocks of solid color or an even pattern of dots. The palette is usually restricted to red, yellow, and bluebut more shades are introduced by varying the size of the dots and the spaces between them. Closely gathered red dots form a woman's red lips, while skin areas look pink where dots are spaced out more sparsely on a white background. To recreate this style, Photoshop has a few options for converting a photograph into a line drawing. You can then paint onto separate layers, and make some of them dotted with the Halftone Pattern

Image quality isn't too important for this technique and you can crop down and use just a small section of the original.

  1. Duplicate the image layer and change the new layer's blending mode to Dodge. (You can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl/Cmd + Alt/Opt + J to do this quickly.) Name this layer "Blurred." You'll soon see why.

  2. Invert the Blurred layer using Ctrl/Cmd + Shift + I. This makes the image appear white.

  3. The next step is to apply a little Gaussian Blur to the Blurred layer. You will see a colored line drawing start to appear. The beauty of this method is that the blur radius controls the line strength.

  4. To remove the color, click the "Create new fill or adjustment layer" icon in the Layers palette and select Threshold. Drag the slider until the line drawing includes all key details, such as the eyes. Because it's an adjustment layer, you can fine-tune it later.

  5. You can use more than one Threshold adjustment layer and paint black on their masks. Drag the Threshold slider up to 255 to produce detail in the girl's hair.

  6. For each primary color you want to use, add a new layer and change its blending mode to Multiply. Set the foreground color to your primary color and make the background white, then paint on the layer with the Brush tool (shortcut B).

  7. To make a colored layer into a halftone pattern, choose Image > Adjustments > Threshold and drag the slider to the left until the primary color disappears. If you look at the layer thumbnail, you'll see the color is now white.

  8. Your primary color should still be the foreground color. Choose Filter > Sketch > Halftone Pattern. Set the Pattern to Dot, push the contrast slider to the far right, and adjust the size to match the image area. Then click OK.

  9. A quick way to adjust the layer's color is to reduce the layer opacity, but this fades the color. It's better to increase the white space between the dots, so ensure the foreground color is set to your primary color and choose Select > Color Range, adjust the Fuzziness, and click OK.

  10. With the dots selected, choose Select > Modify > Border and enter a small value, which changes the selection just enough to contain only the edges of the dots. Use Edit > Fill to paint this selection with the white background color. You'll see the pattern more accurately if you view the image at 100%.

  11. Repeat steps 610 for each block of color. For areas of solid color, such as the hair and the eyes, you only need to follow step 6.

  12. As a final touch, use the Text tool to add a caption and the Custom Shape tool to add a thought bubble. Load the Photoshop TalkBubbles set of shapes and drag the shape to the correct size to contain the text.

Photoshop's Halftone Pattern filter is perfect for creating patterns of colored dots, transforming a photograph into a panel from a comic strip.

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