Create pop art effect: a Photoshop how-to.

Give photos extra pow and pop with color effects in Adobe Photoshop.

Popularized by artists such as Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, pop art became an iconic sensation from the 1960s. Now you can embrace this unique style of bold colors and dramatic contrasts, even if you’re not a painter — all you need is good photo editing software and some creativity. Go back in time and add some pop to your photos today.

Add some “POW!” to your photos with the pop art effect in Photoshop.

To create this special effect, you’ll need to separate your subject and background and work in various layers along the way. Here's how to make a pop art effect in Photoshop.

  1. Open your image in Photoshop. Name this layer “Background.”
  2. Separate your subject. Use the Pen tool to trace your subject, then copy it onto a new layer. Rename this layer “Subject.”
  3. Add color fill to your background. Select the Background layer and tap New Fill to change the background to a solid fill color.
  4. Remove detail from the subject. To select your Subject Layer, go to Menu Image > Adjustments > Threshold and open the Threshold dialog box. This will make your subject black and white. Adjust the slider to remove most of the detail, consistent with the pop art style.
  5. Prepare for color. Experienced users like the Pen tool to select and separate different portions of the subject where they want to add color — such as the hair, skin, and clothing. Those newer to Photoshop might want to use the Lasso tool or the Magic Wand on the original image to adjust the tolerance. Another beginner option is to use the Quick Selection tool on the original image, create a new layer, and fill with a color using Edit > Fill. This is a fast way to select items such as a shirt or hat, or other well-defined areas. For every different area of color, you’ll want to create a new layer.
  6. Add color. Once you’ve made your selection, you’ll need to click on that layer to add color. If you use a Selection tool, click new layer, and then Edit > Fill. If you’re using the Pen tool, you’ll want to add a new layer, create the path, go to the path tab, and right click on it. Choose Fill Path, select a color, and click OK. You can then return to the Layers tab. Repeat for every individual layer, including the Subject and Background layers.
  7. Finish with Blend. After selecting a color for an area, tap on that layer’s Blend mode pop-up menu and change the selection from Normal to Multiply. This will bring back black threshold details from earlier to finish the pop art effect.

It can take some practice to get it just right, but once you have the basics down, the sky is the limit with your creativity. When you’re ready, discover even more tips and tricks to make your photos stand out.

Explore what else you can do with Adobe Photoshop to create dazzling edits like pop art and other special effects.