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Halftone Image Effect

Halftone effects are certainly nothing new—designers have been using them for years—yet they never seem to go out of style. I saw this effect in a magazine and thought it had a cool look to it. Building on a technique I did a while back, I’ve added a couple new things to spice it up a bit.


Open the image of the model. Notice it was shot on a green screen. We won’t need to extract the subject here, because we’ll be working close enough in on the face that the green screen will not be seen anyway. So, press Command-A (PC: Ctrl-A) to select the entire image and then press Command-C (PC: Ctrl-C) to Copy it.



Press Command-N (PC: Ctrl-N) and create a new document that’s 9 inches wide by 12 inches tall at 100 ppi. Click on your Foreground color swatch and set your Foreground color to a light beige (I chose R: 186, G: 179, B: 160) and then press Option-Delete (PC: Alt-Backspace) to fill the Background layer with this color.


Press Command-V (PC: Ctrl-V) to Paste the high-res model shot in the new document. It will appear very large, because the new document itself is a much smaller resolution than the image. This actually is okay, though, because we want the image big anyway. In fact, as you can see here, the face fills the canvas, leaving none of the green screen visible. Go into Free Transform (press Command-T [PC: Ctrl-T]) and, while pressing-and-holding the Shift key, click-and-drag a corner point inward to bring more of her face into the image, then move your cursor outside the bounding box, and rotate it just slightly to the left to make the subject more balanced in the composition. Once the image is in place, press Return (PC: Enter) to commit the transformation.


Now, we don’t need this image to be in color, so we’ll convert it to black and white. While there are numerous methods for doing this, I like to use the Gradient Map adjustment, because it leaves the image with a fair bit of contrast. (If I were just creating a black-and-white photo, then I would probably use Camera Raw or the Black & White adjustment.) Press D to set your Foreground and Background colors to their defaults of black and white, then go under the Image menu, under Adjustments, and choose Gradient Map. Just click OK when the dialog opens.


For the effect we’re creating here, the subject is a little dark. However, rather than run a Levels adjustment, which will affect the whole image, I’d prefer to lighten the image in specific areas. So, click on the Create a New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to create a new blank layer above the model layer, then select the Gradient tool (G) from the Toolbox. In the Options Bar, click on the down-facing arrow to the right of the gradient thumbnail and choose the Foreground to Transparent gradient (the second one from the left in the top row) in the Gradient Picker, and then click on the Radial Gradient icon (the second icon to the right of the gradient thumbnail). Set your Foreground color to white by pressing X, then change the layer’s blend mode to Soft Light, and click-and-drag the gradient in the dark areas of the image to lighten them (here, I mainly lightened her hair, the left side of her face, and her neck). This will show more of the halftone effect in a moment.


With this gradient layer active in the Layers panel, Command-click (PC: Ctrl-click) on the model layer beneath it to select them both. Then, Right-click on one of the layers and choose Convert to Smart Object from the pop-up menu.


Now, press D to set your Foreground color to black, then, from the Filter menu, under Sketch, choose Halftone Pattern. From the Pattern Type pop-up menu, choose Dot, then set the Size to 2 and the Contrast to 0. Click OK.


Go back under the Filter menu, again, this time under Artistic, and choose Poster Edges. Set the Edge Thickness to 0, the Edge Intensity to 1, and the Posterization to 6. Click OK. This will intensify the halftone effect quite a bit, but it could stand a little bit more contrast.


Here’s a pretty cool trick to enhance the contrast a bit more: With the layer being a smart object, it automatically applies the filters as smart filters, allowing you to modify their appearance without having to reapply them. So, in the Layers panel, double-click on the icon to the right of the Halftone Pattern filter to open the filter’s Blending Options. This dialog allows you to modify the opacity and blend mode of just this filter effect. In this case, change the blend Mode to Hard Light and you can see the halftone effect become a little more clearly defined—just through a single blend mode. Click OK when you’re done.

STEP 10:

Now, change the layer’s blend mode to Multiply to blend the color of the Background layer with the halftone layer. By using Multiply, the dark areas remain, while the lighter areas are letting the Background layer color show through. Then, drop the layer’s Opacity down to 90%.

STEP 11:

Let’s add a cool text element to finish the design. Open the file of the paper texture. Then get the Rectangular Marquee tool (M) from the Toolbox and draw a horizontal rectangle in the middle of the canvas, like you see here. Press Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) two times to create two layers of the selected area.


STEP 12:

Click on the Eye icons to the left of the Background layer and the top copy layer (Layer 1 copy) to turn them off, leaving just the bottom copy layer (Layer 1) visible. Then, click on the bottom copy layer to make it active. Press Command-U (PC: Ctrl-U) to open the Hue/Saturation dialog and turn on the Colorize checkbox. Set the Hue to 50, the Saturation to 25, and the Lightness to 50. This will give the texture an off-white color. Click OK.

STEP 13:

Next, turn the top copy layer (Layer 1 copy) back on, and then click on it to make it active. Press Command-U (PC: Ctrl-U) again to bring up the Hue/Saturation dialog and, this time, set the Hue to 23, the Saturation to 49, and the Lightness to –3 (don’t forget to turn on the Colorize checkbox, again, as well). This will add a subtle orange hue to the texture.

STEP 14:

Get the Polygonal Lasso tool from the Toolbox (or press Shift-L until you have it) and click in the top-left corner of the top texture layer, just a little inside the outer edge. Then, continue the selection around the rectangle just clicking in a random spot in each corner making the selection uneven all the way around. Press Command-Shift-I (PC: Ctrl-Shift-I) to Inverse the selection, then press Delete (PC: Backspace) to reveal the texture layer below around the edge, creating a border effect. Press Command-D (PC: Ctrl-D) to Deselect.

STEP 15:

Now get the Horizontal Type tool (T) from the Toolbox and click on the canvas to create a text layer. Here, I typed the word “TABS” in Helvetica Black Oblique and set the font size to occupy a large area of the texture. Next, select the text by Command-clicking (PC: Ctrl-clicking) on the text layer’s thumbnail in the Layers panel. Then, click on the top texture layer to make it active and press Delete. Turn off the text layer and you’ll be able to see through the text to the bottom texture layer below. You can now deselect.

STEP 16:

To give this top texture layer a sense of separation from the texture layer below, let’s add a Drop Shadow layer style. Click on the Add a Layer Style icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choose Drop Shadow. Feel free to change the angle of the shadow, if you like (I changed it to 30°, but the other default settings will work fine here), and click OK.

STEP 17:

Finally, Command-click (PC: Ctrl-click) on the bottom texture layer to select both texture layers. Then, Right-click on one of the layers and choose Convert to Smart Object to convert these layers into a smart object to bring over to our halftone image.

STEP 18:

Go back to the halftone image and, using the Move tool (V), drag-and-drop this text graphic onto the layout. Position it at the bottom of the image and there you have it!

Final Image

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