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I'm trying to figure out how to take a photo (of a rose for example) and manipulate it so that the following effect is achieved.

It looks like vector graphics to me with only a very limited color palette, but I still cannot figure out how to do it.

What I've tried in Photoshop: using Posterize and Indexed Color palette on the image of a rose. I've also tried Photoshop effects like Dry Brush and Cutout. Still after importing it to Illustrator, no matter what I try it doesn't even come close to the clean and smooth image like the one I've posted.

Any ideas how to do this? Don't mind that it's a pattern, I'm only trying to learn how to achieve the look on a single flower.

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    I'm pretty sure this was drawn from scratch: no filters will give you such control over shapes. A result of a Photoshop Cutout filter might be a base for future paintover though. – Sergey Kritskiy Sep 26 at 8:24
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    Not all art can be created from a photo and a bunch of application filters. – Scott Sep 26 at 8:44
  • But even if it was drawn from scratch, you could perhaps help yourself by tracing actuall flower shapes from a photo in a vector graphics editor and then adjusting it to your liking. This would also help with the limited color palette and flat style. – J.E Sep 26 at 12:03
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You can try to make it a vector. Separate the parts from a photo by using Photoshop's normal pro quality background removal methods such as clipping paths (the magic wand is mostly useless) and paste them one by one into a vector drawing program which has bitmap tracing. Here's an example:

enter image description here

This is in Inkscape. Only a couple of red flowers are pasted to it. Tracing with 3 colors (one is for the background which is removed) created 2 vector shapes. They are colored separately and moved on a pink background shape.

Tracing with one color more can create more plausible result, but recoloring becomes much harder (=more colors to match):

enter image description here

Limited number of colors can fade too much geometric forms of the objects. Experiment a little in Photoshop with the curves tool to get a well traceable image. You can also trace with even more colors and make an union of some areas so that the remaining areas present the geometry acceptable.

In vector drawing program you can

  • build easily a plane filling pattern from the traced and colored shapes.
  • edit paths for example to remove excessive details.

In my example no path edits are applied, but tracing option Smooth=ON automatically makes edges a little simpler.

Inkscape is not effective for print preparation because it knows nothing of CMYK nor Pantone color printing. You must fix the colors in Photoshop. For printing it's best to make the vectorization in Illustrator or other proper print aware program.

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