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I want to create a halftone effect in Photoshop. The only output I'm getting is hard pixels and nothing like dots. I also tried lines, diamonds, etc. etc. and the output is always the same. It also doesn't matter if I change the output value or frequency.

I think there is some setting in Photoshop which I may have changed but I have no idea which one.

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Are you using the Filter > Pixelate > Color Halftone effect or are you converting a grayscale image into a bitmap with Image > Mode > Bitmap? – Const Apr 9 '13 at 20:13
What are you outputting to? Does your output device allow screen rotation and frequency control? – SOIA Apr 9 '13 at 20:40

2 Answers 2

A raster image is basically a grid of squares and in order for you to have something that looks like a dot or diamond, the dot size must be larger than the grid size. Obviously from your question, a pixel is not round enough so to describe the roundness properly, you are probably going to need at least 3x3 pixels (which looks like a cross).

So in order to pack a 3x3 "circle" into the same "optical space" you need more pixels in order to simulate roundness in a square world.

The next step is deciding the size of the simulated dot screen, measured in lines per inch. FYI newspapers are/were approximately 80 lpi. Commercial color is about 150 lpi.

To translate this into photoshop, convert your image to greyscale. Then convert it to bitmap. For the output resolution, try 1200ppi. For the halftone frequency, try 80 (smaller numbers yield a larger pattern).

The image gets upsampled to your output resolution and then converted to a bitmap simulating halftone. This will increase the file size: a greyscale pixel is stored optimally as 1 byte, so a 1000 px square is 1,000,000 bytes (about .9MB). A bitmap pixel is optimally stored as 1 bit (1/8 the storage of a greyscale pixel, but we are upsampling the image by some amount. If you are starting with a 1000px square at 72 dpi and request upsampling to 1200dpi, you are increasing the dimensions by nearly 17x in each dimension (=289000000 bits = approx 34MB)

TLDNR; need moar pixels.

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The halftone frequency depends on the printer's driver; that's why you seem to have tried and it didn't work no matter the shape you chose. Most home/office printers don't have this functionality since they don't have Rip. They will barely do separations and it's quite rare you can actually make any use of the lpi.

Converting to bitmap will actually make the image "too perfect" and solid for halftone; you want to keep it grayscale to see the dots, if that's what you want. A bitmap will actually make your high resolution almost as nice and perfect as a vector.

So there's 3 solutions for you, depending on how realistic you want the result and what you need this for:

1) You bring your file to a printer and ask for the rendered files back!

Most of the time, their Rip can produce a flat tif that can be saved. It will probably be sent back to you as separations but at least you'll get something to work with if you want to reapply that effect on your images. You should ask for a very low lpi for maximum effect.

2) You use a plugin or filter for Photoshop.

That's not the "real thing" but if you only want the effect, you can achieve it artificially with the halftone filter or by using an addon that will do all the work for you. There's a few online.

3) You buy a mini Rip.

That should output some files that you can use and you'll have a total control on how you want your halftone.

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