Pop-Art Photo Tutorial

This tutorial will show you how to create a fun “pop-art” style photo.

Adobe Photoshop CC and Adobe Lightroom Classic were used. (Older version of software will still work, but the screenshots may not match.)


Step 1: Take a photo against a solid color backdrop. To give the right effect, studio lighting is preferred.

Since I did this myself, I used a tripod and remote. I set up a “studio” space in my bedroom and draped my backdrop over the curtain rod in my closet doorway. The equipment used was a Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 50mm f/1.2L lens @  f/2.8, PCB Einstein strobe in a reflective umbrella softbox, and Canon remote shutter release. I turned off all lights and used the strobe at relatively low power.


Step 2: Edit the photo as normal. Use a low opacity brush in Photoshop to “paint” the background to even out the color and any wrinkles that may appear.

For my example, I had to also extend the backdrop at the edges. This of course can be avoided by using a larger backdrop and/or shooting in a larger space.


Step 3: While in the Lightroom library, open the edited photo again in Photoshop (right-click and command-E or ctrl-E). This will create additional edits of the same photo without over-writing the first edit.


Step 4: Duplicate the base layer (command-J or ctrl-J). With the new layer selected, open the “Hue/Saturation” window (Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation).


Step 5: Use the sliders to change the background to the desired color. The entire image will also change, but don’t worry, this will be undone.


Step 6: Add a layer mask to the new layer. (The layer mask icon is at the bottom of the layers palette.) The layer mask will appear as a white box next to the layer.


Step 7: With the layer mask selected, paint over the subject with a black paintbrush at 100% opacity. This will remove the new layer from part of the image. To paint the layer back on, use a white paintbrush at 100% opacity.


Step 8: Refine the edges of the layer mask by using the paintbrush in varying opacities or sizes. It may take some time depending on how crisp the edges of the subject are. Once you are satisfied with the background color change, flatten the image and save it as a new file.


Step 9: Repeat Step 8 with the image two more times, to get a total of four different background colors (original background plus three new colors). Export or save each as a separate file.


Step 10: Create a new Photoshop document. It should be a square. Any size will do, but I chose 4000 pixels x 4000 pixels, at 300 ppi.


Step 11: Open the four images in Photoshop.


Step 12: Resize each image to half the height of the new document. For this example, this means 2000 pixels high. Be sure to keep the aspect ratio locked so that the image doesn’t become distorted.


Step 13: Create a square box that is 1/4 the size of the document. First create a new layer (the icon on the layers palette that looks like a sticky note). Select the shape tool (square/rectangle), and click the gear at the top of the screen. Define the exact pixel size to 2000 pixels x 2000 pixels.


Step 14: Click anywhere in the document to place the new square box. Use the move tool to place it in the upper left corner. Photoshop automatically will help you place it with its “snap to guides” feature.


Step 15: Repeat steps 13-14 to create three more square boxes and place them in each quadrant of the document. (Be sure to create a new layer each time!)


Step 16: Drag the first image into the new document. Place the layer directly above the square box layer you want to place it in.


Step 17: Repeat step 16 for all four images. Place each above their corresponding square box layer.


Step 18: Turn each square box into a “clipping mask.” Right-click on the image layer, and select “Create Clipping Mask.” This will fit the image inside the constraints of the square boxes.


Step 19: Line up each image. Select each image layer while the Move tool is selected to click and drag. Photoshop automatically helps you snap the image to its imaginary guides.


Step 20: Flatten and save! If saving for the web, I recommend resizing the finished image to 2048 pixels x 2048 pixels.


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