Designbysoap Tutorials – Make Photos Into Graphics

Being able to turn photos you’ve taken into digital graphics is an incredibly useful trick for all kinds of graphic design, but especially posters and music design. In this tutorial I will show you an easy way to create a photoshop graphic from photo, perfect to then use in other applications.
A few pointers before we begin. We’ll be creating a four-layer graphic here, so you need to pick out four colours. In the image below I have chosen dark red, lighter red, dark grey and light grey. It tends to work best if there are two colours each in two shades, but it doesn’t really matter and you can play around with them when you are done.

Note: for this tutorial we will be working quite a bit with the layers palette, the layer and channel tabs specifically. So you know what i’m on about i’ve provided a little diagram below:
designbysoap tutorial diagram
First off, open your image into Photoshop, then click on the ‘Channels’ tab at the top of the layer palette. This will reveal the different colour channels that the photo is composed from.

We now need to duplicate all the channels, red, blue and green. This can be done by simply right clicking on each one in turn and selecting ‘Duplicate Channel’, then clicking ‘Ok’. This will give the picture a really saturated tone, for the moment this is fine.

Next we need to give our duplicated channels a harsh curve.  This is done by selecting each channel individually and going to Image > Adjustment > Curves. You will then need to drag the top and bottom points until it’s the same as shown in the image below. Repeat for all thee duplicated channels. This will give the channels more contrast.

Once all three channels have been given harsh curves, they need to be inverted. This is done by selecting each channel in turn and going to Image > Adjustments > Invert, or by pressing CRTL + I.  Remember to do this for all three channels.

Once all three duplicated channels have been given harsh curves and inverted, we are ready to make our image into a graphic.

Firstly, we need to create the background of the image. Hold CTRL (or command on Mac) and click on the RGB channel at the top of the palette, this will create a selection of the background. Click on the ‘Layers’ tab to return to the layer. Now go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Colour and pick your first colour (for the background) when prompted.

Now comes the clever bit.  Return to the ‘Channels’ tab, hold CTRL (or command on Mac) and click on one of your duplicated layers, red for instance. This will create a selection of what the layer contains.

This selection now needs to be inverted by going to Image > Adjustments > Invert, or by pressing CRTL + I.

Now you have your inverted selection, click on the ‘Layers’ tab at the top of the layer palette. Make sure you have the background layer selected and go to Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Colour. Once clicked it will prompt you to pick your second colour. Once complete, deselect by pressing CTRL+D or Select > Deselect and return to the ‘Channels’ tab. Note, the blue channel tends to hold the darkest parts of the picture, so put the darkest colour in this channel and get lighter as you work upwards.

Repeat step six and seven with the other two channels. Hold CTRL, click on them, invert the selection, go back to the layers, make sure the background is selected and add another solid colour fill layer until you have the finished image, This can be a bit fiddly and does go wrong occasionally, but it’s definitely worth learning and produces some great results.

Rob is our head of photography, specialising in architectural and music photography. He’s also a search engine optimisation engineer, often helps out with our digital marketing and loves graphic design.

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