Photoshop Sunday; Lego Portraits

Sunday is the only morning I really have to chill out and relax. Usually I wake up and join my cat on my desk. Switching on the computer I drop my head phones over my head organize some podcasts and YouTube videos on a play list, to be the back ground noise for catching up on current events articles before I sink time in Tumblr and Facebook. Once I have exhausted all of the conventional sites I will flick through some photography and design inspiration blogs opening and bookmarking some interesting pieces. In these there are sometimes tutorials, which I read and think about how I can take advantage of some of the tips written down. From time to time I will run through a whole workflow and then find my way of doing things and make notes in my Photoshop cookbook or take a few things from different places and create my own recipe.

This morning I saw a great idea of using a Lego inspired pattern with a basic font. I really liked the idea of this although I was thinking about how it could be used with a portrait. Of course this would distort the portrait but it wouldn’t be that different than creating an 8bit styled image. In the past I created 8bit images by taking an image and then using a brush to sketch and copy the image. The thing with adding the pattern to my 8bit workflow is that the pattern and distorted blocks of colour in the image would need to match up exactly. This gave me a problem to think about.

Sitting down I first thought about distorting an image and realised this is a lot more simple than I was stressing over.
I took my first image to test on (that of my nephew with a hard hat on) and cut him away from the background and then changed the image mode to indexed colour. Indexed colour allows you to choose the number of colours that are used in an image. I choose about 20 colours and this greatly reduced the amount of detail. Next I purposely reduced the size of the file down to 80 pixels on the shortest size and then enlarged it using Image> Image Size by 1000%, bringing it back up to a decent size but now pixelated. I wanted to make sure the pixels were the right size so I used Filter> Pixelate>Mosaic and set the value to 20. This now gave me a nice hard edged pixelated image.

I then created my Lego inspired pattern creating a 20×20 document filling it with grey before adjusting the blending options and then added a circle on top. I defined this as a pattern and applied it to my pixelated portrait using the blending mode overlay.

I was quite happy and added a grey background.


Now I had done it once, I wanted to tweak the process a bit. For me the image really didn’t stand out as if it had been made with Lego blocks and it felt quite flat. I also wanted to make the size of the pattern smaller.

I did all the steps the same with the next image (that of my cat), except I changed the size of mosaic filter.


This actually produced a result that I didn’t expect. I reduced the mosaic filter to 10 making the squares of colour smaller and then reduced the scale of the pattern by half (with the idea that the original pattern was design as 20×20 squares. With the scale reduced by half I expected it to fit nicely into the mosaic filters output as the square pattern would now be 10×10). The pattern and the image didn’t really match up.

Although I still liked the effect it looked a bit more flat. The subject really needs to be cut away from the background no matter the image but there needs to be a perception of depth as well between the subject and the background.

With my next experiment I took an old illustration image I made many years ago (a cartoon image of me teaching).

This time I adjusted the size of the pattern by creating a new one therefore allowing me to make changes to the size of the mosaic. I also added a brightness and contrast adjustment layer to really make the subject stand out. I also converted the layer to a 3d object, in turn creating the depth I wanted.


What did I learn from this experiment? I learnt about using the Indexed mode to dictate the number of colours I wanted. I also think that using the mixture of resizing the image and then using the mosaic filter works well to create strong image.

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