A halftone effect applied to an image of a person looking down while wearing sunglasses


Get a retro look with halftone effects.

Cruise back to an old-school CMYK printing style with Adobe Photoshop.

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Halftone effects give you a cool vintage vibe.

Use a halftone filter in Adobe Photoshop to evoke the look of old-fashioned color printing. Halftones were developed by 20th-century printers for presses that used only cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) inks. Fields of tiny dots in those four colors created every shade that could be printed. You can easily recreate this retro technique for a vintage look in your own pop art, screen printing, or graphic design.

What are halftone effects?

Halftone is a 20th-century printing technique where patterns of dots were used to create images. At a time when printing processes were limited, halftone was the method used to create the appearance of colors and shades. Today, simulating halftone effects is a way to reference or play with vintage photo effects by evoking the dotted, grainy look of old-fashioned color printing.

Early color presses used only cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) inks. Printers developed the halftone as a way to print a wider spectrum of colors. Halftones were made up of fields of tiny dots in those four colors, positioned closely together . When grouped together, the dots appeared to mix and form other shades. Using just these four colors, together with variations in dot spacing, pattern, and size, printers mixed and matched halftones to produce all of the colors that could be printed.

Halftone effect dots

How to achieve a halftone filter effect in Adobe Photoshop.

Follow this quick and easy tutorial to add a halftone pattern in Photoshop.

1. Add your images.

Select the images you want to add a halftone effect to and add them to Photoshop.

2. Find your Filter.

In the top navigation bar, go to the Filter drop-down menu.

3. Choose Pixelate.

From the options in the Filter menu, select Pixelate.

4. Select Color Halftone.

Choose Color Halftone in the Pixelate menu. From here, you can further adjust two other variables, Radius and Channel, to affect how the halftone texture appears.


The Radius setting affects the size of the halftone dots and the spacing in between. Adjust the size of the dots to change the gradient and blur of the color and image. Smaller dots will look smoother and subtler, while larger dot sizes will evoke lower-grade print material like vintage comics, old advertisements, or DIY grunge ‘zines.


The Channel setting adjusts the way the dots are placed and how they overlap. Each Channel is controlled by a Screen Angle setting. The value is listed in degrees. Adjusting the value changes the angle at which the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black dots are added to the pattern. Where the dots overlap, they can form new colors, depending on how they combine.


The Adobe Photoshop halftone effect menu superimposed over a split image of a van, part of which has a halftone effect applied to it

Halftone effects in the digital age.

Halftone images are a staple of pop art, screen printing, and graphic design, referencing printing styles of a bygone era. Give halftoning a try to evoke nostalgia, make something look aged or vintage, or reference the first decades of color printing.

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