In this tutorial, you'll learn how to pixelate an image in Photoshop. I'll explain everything in so much detail that everyone can create the effect, even those who have just opened Photoshop for the first time.
What You Will Learn in This Pixel Effect Tutorial
- How to select the subject in Photoshop
- How to make pixel art in Photoshop
- How to create a stroke around the subject
- How to change a background in Photoshop
- How to make the final adjustments
What You'll Need
To recreate the design above, you will need the following resources:
1. How to Get Started
First, open the photo that you want to work with. To open your photo, go to File > Open, choose your photo, and click Open. Now, before we get started, just check a couple of things:
- Your photo should be in RGB Color mode, 8 Bits/Channel. To check this, go to Image > Mode.
- For best results, your photo size should be 2000–4500 px wide/high. To check this, go to Image > Image Size.
- Your photo should be the Background layer. If it is not, go to Layer > New > Background from Layer.
2. How to Select the Subject in Photoshop
In this section, we are going to make a selection of our subject and then copy the subject to a separate layer. Choose the Quick Selection Tool (W) and select the background of the photo. Use the Shift-Alt buttons on your keyboard to add or subtract areas from the selection. After you've made a perfect selection, press Control-Shift-I to invert the selection.
Now go to Select > Modify > Smooth and set the Sample Radius to 2 px. Next, go to Select > Modify > Contract and set Contract By to 1 px. Finally, go to Select > Modify > Feather and set the Feather Radius to 1 px.
Press Control-J to create a new layer using the selection. Name this new layer Subject.
3. How to Make a Photo Look Pixelated
In this section, we are going to transform our Photoshop image to pixel art.
Press Control-J on your keyboard to duplicate the current layer, and name this new layer Temp. Then, hide the Subject and Background layers, go to Select > Color Range, and set the Select to Highlights. After that, press Control-J to create a new layer using the selection, and name this new layer Highlights.
Now hide the Highlights layer and select the Temp layer. Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and enter the settings below:
Go to Select > Color Range, and set Select to Shadows. After that, press Control-J to create a new layer using the selection, and name this new layer Shadows.
Now hide the Shadows layer and select the Temp layer. Then, go to Filter > Sketch > Photocopy and set the Detail to 10 and Darkness to 5.
Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and enter the settings below. Then, go to Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask, and set the Amount to 500%, Radius to 25 px, and Threshold to 0 levels.
Now change the Blending Mode of this layer to Multiply and name it Outlines. Then, show all the layers in the layers panel, select the Highlights layer and change the Blending Mode of this layer to Screen and set the Opacity to 50%. After that, select the Shadows layer, change the Blending Mode of this layer to Multiply, and set the Opacity to 50%.
Select the Subject layer, go to Filter > Pixelate > Mosaic, and set the Cell Size to 20 square. Then, do the same for the Outlines, Shadows, and Highlights layers.
4. How to Create a Stroke Around the Subject
In this section, we are going to create a stroke around the subject. Go to Layer > New > Layer to create a new layer, and name it Stroke.
Now Control-click on the Subject layer to make a selection of this layer. Then, go to Edit > Stroke, and enter the settings below. After that, press Control-D to deselect the selection.
5. How to Change the Background in Photoshop
In this section, we are going to change the background. Select the Background layer, go to File > Place Embedded, select the second stock photo, and click Place. Then, set the Width and Height to 85.95%, and position the photo as shown below. Name this layer Background Photo.
Now go to Filter > Pixelate > Mosaic and set the Cell Size to 40 square.
6. How to Make the Final Adjustments
In this section, we are going to make the final adjustments to the pixel effect. Select the Stroke layer, go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Vibrance to create a new vibrance adjustment layer, and name it Overall Vibrance/Saturation.
Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and, in the Properties panel, set the Vibrance to +50 and the Saturation to +25.
Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels to create a new levels adjustment layer, and name it Overall Brightness.
Now Double-click on this layer thumbnail and, in the Properties panel, enter the settings below:
You Made It!
Congratulations, you have succeeded! You've learned how to turn a picture into pixel art in Photoshop. Here is our final result:
5 Best Photoshop Image to Pixel Art Actions
Want to see some of the best Photoshop pixelate filter actions? Check out this list of pixel effect Photoshop actions from Envato Elements.
Convert a photo to an 8-bit pixel art Photoshop effect in no time! Open your photo, brush over your subject, and just play the action! The action will do all the work for you, leaving you fully layered and customizable results that you can further modify. You can choose from the three pixel sizes included (small, medium, and large), and you can change the background with a single click using the actions included.
If you are a fan of dispersion effects, you've got to love this pixel effect Photoshop action. You simply brush over your photo where you want to pixelate it, and play the action! The action comes with a video tutorial demonstrating how to set up your file before using the action, and it also covers customization techniques in detail.
Here's another interesting pixel image Photoshop action. There are four actions included with different directions (up, left, right, and down). All you have to do is to brush the area that you want, choose the direction, and click play. It's a one-click Photoshop action.
Pixel Poster Photoshop Action (ATN, ABR)
With this Photoshop pixelate filter, you can create a professional pixel effect with not only pixels, but also geometric and abstract style elements. The result includes fully editable layers, colors, and elements.
Pixel Artist: Photoshop Action (ATN, TXT)
Using this pixel image Photoshop action you can turn your images into their pixeled version in just a few clicks! The way that the action works is you just open the your image, and click play. The action will create 25 different pixeled versions that you can choose from. Once you choose the version that you like the most, you can customize the result to achieve 8-bit retro effects!
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