So for the last couple of days I've been researching and trying to find out how to recreate this awesome looking effect, but haven't found any similar tutorials on the internet, and where better to ask for professional help than here.

enter image description here

On the left is the effect I'm going for, on the right the guy I'm trying to put the effect on.

I have an idea that the first steps is to make it black and white then apply posterize effect to 4 levels and some median filter and there is where my knowledge ends. How do I make the edges so clean and artistic, how do I colorize the picture?

Full resolution cutout: https://i.sstatic.net/g0OvZ.jpg
Full picture of the effect: https://i.sstatic.net/1jOiP.jpg


5 Answers 5


I'd start out with the Cutout filter in Photoshop, I set it up to use 3 colour levels and adjusted the other sliders until I got the effect I liked best.

enter image description here

Then I coloured the image with the paint bucket, and added some extra highlights and shadows by making a selection with the lasso tool, and filling with colour.

enter image description here

Then I used this image as a guide to trace vector shapes with the pen tool, and filled them with colour, then disabled the raster layer.

enter image description here

The benefit of this method is that the image is vector, and can be rescaled without pixelization.

  • That is awesome, I'll try and replicate it, will update you with results.
    – Giancarlo
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 6:11
  • Sorry for my lack of understanding, what do you mean by used this image to draw vector shapes with the pen tool.
    – Giancarlo
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 7:01
  • @Giancarlo I used the image as a guide to trace the vector shapes with the pen tool. Sorry, should have made that clearer. Will edit my answer.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 9:58
  • @Giancarlo Here's a link to download the PSD if you want to examine how it was made filedropper.com/test_6 You will be able to see all the shape layers.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 10:00
  • Hey, I've been experimenting a bit and this i.imgur.com/CB2a7hV.jpg is what I came up with. I'm certainly not an artist so I lack the ability to keep the face accurate, this is a great practice for me and much room to improve.
    – Giancarlo
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 12:22

I have an idea that the first steps is to make it black and white then apply posterize effect to 4 levels and some median filter and there is where my knowledge ends.

That's a good start. Applying a bit of a gaussian blur prior to posterization can help smooth things out a bit too.

How do I make the edges so clean and artistic, how do I colorize the picture?

By hand. You draw.

Photoshop filters are amazing and can do a lot of things. But, at the end of the day, most great looking design is because there's a designer doing actual work on it.

So, after posterization in Photoshop to get you halfway there, you now need to dive into some illustration program and trace the image to meet your specific needs...at which point you can also easily decide on colors.


If you have the chops, redraw it (not my idea, it's already suggested). I prefer some at least semi-automatic help. It's found from freeware. Goto Inkscape and trace the bitmap with only few colors. Then add the path simplifying filter.

See a screenshot. Only 4 colors are used.

enter image description here

This can be dene in vector domain, but most easily the image is finalized in Photoshop as a raster image. The exessive dots can be painted over and the colors can be adjusted.

Here the image was saved as PNG, opened in Photoshop, removed some small dots and added the saturation.

enter image description here

I believe you want the eyes to be more visible. They should be adjusted before going to Inkscape. Here's a screenshot from inkscape after tracing the image. Before going to Inkscape the eyes were edited in Photoshop (= made a selelection, added light with the curves tool, reduced the exessive saturation which easily follows adding the contrast)

enter image description here


There are actually a lot of tutorials on recreating this effect.

My favorite one is by the wonderful blog SpoonGraphics.

You start off in Photoshop and applying smart blur to reduce the details of the image.

enter image description here

You might need to play around with the amount to get the desired detail reduction.

Then you need to segmenting the image with the Posterize effect (Image > Adjustments > Posterize) and find a level that gives you large enough segments to work with.

enter image description here

Then SpoonGraphics recommends to:

Duplicate the Smart Blur layer one more time and place it above the posterized layer. Change the blending mode to Color to remove the ugly green and blue tones added by the posterization effect.

This is up to you, and on a per-image basis. Play around and experiment with settings a bit until you find something you like!

Next I would save your .psd and drop it into Illustrator or use a .jpg of your work to start working on your outlines.

Using the Pen Tool start to trace out the segments you created in the previous steps. Accuracy isn't key but maintaining the general shape of the portrait helps. You need to find that balance between stylization and accuracy.

enter image description here

When you have a shape that you like you can start coloring in the art using the Eyedropper and sample a tone from your sample image. Continue doing so, moving onto the next part of the face; trace; then sample the next tone.

enter image description here

Keep in mind that you will need to alter the stacking order of the layers. You can do this with the CTRL/CMD+[ or CTRL/CMD+] shortcuts.

And there you have it, keep working and tweaking your shapes until you get your desired result!


I would try to include use of the "Cutout" filter located under Artistic in the filter gallery/dropdown menu. I think that may push you in the right direction as well.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.