For lack of a better name, I'm trying to create a decreasing stippling effect like this: Decreasing Stippling

My first inclination was that this could be created in Photoshop with some sort of filter effect. I was thinking along the lines of creating a smart object, applying a filter effect, then using a gradient on the filter mask to decrease the effect. This would allow for the possibility of a curved edged like you see in the image. No dice though, there doesn't seem to be an effect that quite does this.

The problem with searching for this effect is that I don't know what it would even be called. I've seen it implemented all types of posters though, so it seems to be generally used.


To be honest, the easiest way to pull this off is via the Phantasm Plug-in from AstuteGraphics.com for use with Adobe Illustrator. There is a free 30-day trial which would allow you to use it a while without having to pay anything.

It's a simple effect you can apply to a gradient filled shape, any shape, and then adjust the halftone effect.


For halftone effects, I've not seen anything as versatile or powerful as the Phantasm plug in in any application.

You could try the Pixelate > Color Halftone... filter in Photoshop then desaturate or use one channel from the output. However, I find controlling Photoshop's color halftone filter a bit frustrating. It generally takes a lot of trial and error to get only close to what you really want.

You could also find a printed halftone pattern and scan that and then mask and distort to fit a shape. Your sample appears quite distorted and that may have been the method used there.

Another option is to create a series of paths, then either set them to dotted paths in Illustrator and use a width profile to control the size of the dots. Or stroke a series of paths in Photoshop then scale portions. None of these comes anywhere close to what the Phantasm plug in can do in 30 seconds.

  • Great methods! So would you say a better name for this is a custom halftone effect seeing as it is just a facet of it? – Adam Schuld Aug 2 '13 at 8:06
  • It's merely a halftone pattern or halftone effect. I wouldn't call it custom. There's a halftone which has been masked and reduced in opacity. "Halftone" designates the dot pattern to indicate tone variations. The opacity and masking are added afterwards. – Scott Aug 2 '13 at 8:07

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