Mastering a few unique image conversion techniques is the key to creating urban, gritty, lowbrow art in Photoshop. In this tutorial, illustrator Derek Lea explains the process, and proves that not all prefab filters are pure evil.
In this tutorial you'll take a virtual trip to east Los Angeles and gather some inspiration for a stunning Photoshop lowbrow masterpiece. Low-rider cars, dime store religious iconography and gangland tattoos provide everything you'll need to produce this urban pop-art composition.
As you work your way through the tutorial, you'll notice many real world resources. When a dripping paint effect is required, you'll use a photo of exactly that. An appropriate paper scan is used to create an authentic unbleached parchment background, and all the primary elements are converted drawings or photos. But it's the conversion process used here that gives the final image its signature appearance.
All of the photographic or illustrated elements in this composition are converted to high contrast black-and-white imagery before they're added. Using the Bitmap mode is effective, because when you choose the Threshold method a pixel can only be either black or white.
Another method for achieving high contrast is to use a couple of native filters that reside within Photoshop. The Stamp and Photocopy Sketch filters can prove very useful when it comes to converting colour and greyscale images, and will help preserve a little detail where the bitmap conversion method will not.
In addition to Layer Blending Modes, you'll also be using Alpha Channels. These areas, for storing and creating selections, understand black and white all too well. By default, white areas are selected and black areas are not. Alpha Channels provide unparalleled control and flexibility when it comes to creating custom selections from black-and-white data, as you'll see.