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By Lauren Harmon |

Add a pointillist effect to your photos: Deke's Techniques

Pointillism was a late-19th century painting technique comprised of dot-like strokes of color. It got its name from critics who wanted to ridicule its style of brushwork—but the name stuck. If you think about it, pointillism—which tricks the eye to perceive a broader range of tone, without any blending—is a kind of precursor to pixilation. The digital world owes a lot to these enterprising artists.

You, too, can become a pointillist. Learn to mimic the style of Seurat and Signac with today’s Deke’s Techniques. Deke shows you how to shortcut this exacting process with Smart Filters in Adobe Photoshop.

Figure 1

  1. Start off with the Woman in profile.jpg file, if you have access to exercise files, or use any image of your own. Note that this technique works best with well-lit photographs. The first step is to convert the image into a Smart Object, so you can apply the effects nondestructively.
  2. Double-click the background layer to duplicate and rename the new layer portrait.

  3. Right-click in the image window and choose Convert to Smart Object from the pop-up menu that appears.

  4. Next, you’ll improve the detail in the image. Choose Filter > Other > High Pass and then dial in a Radius value of 25 pixels and click OK.

Figure 2

  1. Go to the Layers panel and click the slider icon to the right of High Pass to open the Blending Options dialog. Change the Mode to Overlay. Click OK.
  2. Right-click the Smart Filters layer and choose Delete Filter Mask to get rid of the unnecessary filter mask and declutter your panel.

  3. Now it’s time to burn in the details. Press the D key to make sure your default black foreground and white background colors are selected. Then choose Filter > Filter Gallery.

  4. Choose the Photocopy filter from the Sketch group. This effect traces the edges in your image. Click OK to apply it.

Figure 3

  1. Double-click the slider icon next to Filter Gallery in the Layers panel. Change the Mode to Multiply and click OK.
  2. Now choose Filter > Pixelate > Pointilize to generate some basic points. Click OK to accept the default Cel Size of 5.

Figure 4

  1. Choose Filter > Filter Gallery once again and this time select Graphic Pen. Increase its Light/Dark Balance option to 100 and reduce Stroke Length to 2. Select the Stroke Direction that works best for your image; in Deke’s case, he uses Left Diagonal. Then click OK.
  2. For the final step, choose Filter > Noise > Reduce Noise to soften the transition between light and dark pixels. Dial in the following values and then click OK:

• Strength 10 • Preserve Details 1% • Reduce Color Noise 0% • Sharpen Details 0%

Figure 5

This unassuming collection of five filters results in a visually striking image. And you can swap out the image and swap the effect between a variety of portraits by adding layers to your Smart Object. Watch the video to learn more about this technique.

Figure 6

If you’re a member of the lynda.com library, check out the follow-up tutorial that shows you how to transition this black-and-white result into a full color one.

Next week, Deke returns to Illustrator and shows you how to draw a 3D cube with the (usually 2D) Line tool. Come back and visit us soon!

Interested in more?

Become a lynda.com memberThe entire Deke’s Techniques collection

Adobe, Illustrator, and Photoshop are registered trademarks of Adobe Systems Incorporated in the United States and/or other countries.

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