SadMonkey’s Photo Stencil Tutorial

The following tutorial will cover in brief detail, how to create a 2 layer “photo” stencil in Adobe Photoshop.  The tutorial is meant for at least intermediate knowledge of Photoshop.

Step 1

First, you will want to completely desaturate your image giving you a monochromatic image. Next, for a two color stencil, you will want to create two separate layers. The top layer will be the darks, the second layer will be for the midtones. You can easily do this by putting your magic wand tool to use on the grey-scale image. Select the darks. With an active selection, activate your dark layer in the layers palette, and fill with black. Repeat the step for the midtones.

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Step 2

Now you will want to clean that dirty selection up. Using the pen tool outline your dark colors. The pen tool gives you sharp, clean edges and leaves you with the flexibility of adding your personal style. The amount of detail is up to personal preference. To may make it easier, when outlining, lower your opacity level so you will be able to see exactly what your doing and where you are going around the image.

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Step 3

You will want to continue using your pen tool and outline your midtones. Be nice to yourself, change the color to something different from what you used for the darks. It also helps if your midtone pen/shape layers begin underneath the dark pen/shape layers. (It’s not necessary, but it helps) For the final effect later on, you want to be sure that you create your midtones to where there is not a dark layer that will not have a midtone layer underneath it.

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Step 4

Okay, before we do anything else, hide the magic wand filled layers, only leaving your pen selections and solid white background. Go back, and make sure all your opacity levels are now back to 100%. Rasterize all layers. Making sure all your dark layers are on top and in order, merge all the dark layers onto one layer. Next, merge all your midtone layers into one layer. You should now have, one dark layer, one midtone layer, and your white background. If you are happy with the results, you can now delete your magic wand layers.

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Step 5

Now you are going to want to go image hunting. Feel free to use whatever you wish. I like to use images that tend to me synonymous with my characters. For example, with this James Bond image, I am using a hand gun, a wrist watch, a bow tie and a martini glass. Once you’ve found your images, open them in Photoshop, isolate them, and bring them into your stencil document. Make several copies of each item varying the size and orientation of each image to help randomize our coming effect.

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Step 6

Next, make a mess with the images. Go crazy making copies all over until the entire canvas is covered. Make sure the ENTIRE canvas is covered and there are no peepholes showing through. Once the entire canvas is covered, merge all those layers into one. (Be mindful not to merge your background, or stencil layers… only the new images you brought in.)

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Step 7

This will be what we use for our dark layer. In your layers palette, with this new layer selected, CMD-click on your dark stencil layer. This should make a selection of the entire dark layer. (Little ants should be marching on your screen) With the ants marching, and the new layer still selected, click on the quick mask button on the bottom of your layers palette. (It’s the grey little square with the white circle in the middle of it)

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Step 8

You will want to repeat steps 5, 6, and 7 for what will become your midtone layer. (Be sure to pick new images and maybe change up your pattern for this to be layer)

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Step 9

Now you should have two new layers. Your new collage dark layer and your new collage midtone layer. Feel free to hide your pen/stencil layers now. (You may not want to delete them. Beginning off, you may want to reuse them for recreating your clipping mask if you are unhappy with your results in the following steps)

We are now going to want to make our dark layer “dark” and our midtone layer ” a midtone.” Beginning with the dark layer, click on the preview thumbnail in your layers palette. Make sure your thumbnail is selected and not the clipping mask. Bring up your hue/saturation dialog box by hitting the CMD key and the “U” key. Check the box marked colorize. (This will give the entire layer a nice and clean mono-chormatic touch) Then move the sliders around making this layer all dark and pretty. sadmonkey-bond-tut-09

Step 10

Repeat the step for your midtones on the collage midtone layer.

Step 11

Now your dark layer and your midtone layer are ready for some fun. It’s time to break out the brushes. If you don’t already have a sweet collection of spray paint, watercolor, and splatter brushes the world wide web is full of them. For starters, try visiting Brusheezy.com or QBrushes.com and see what you can find.

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Step 12

Okay, we’re just about finished. Only a few final touches and we can call this baby done. Once you have made a mess that you’re happy with, we’re gonna want to merge all the visible layers. You can flatten the entire image, but I prefer to merge all visible layers by pressing Alt-Cmd-Shift-“E” This still allows you the ability to go back and edit your file without having to hit the undo button a gazillion times or having to save and open a new document.

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Step 13

Now, we’re gonna duplicate this new layer by pressing Cmd-“J” and run the high pass filter on it. With the new layer on top in the layers palette and selected, go to Filter-Other-HighPass. For this one, I ran the filter at 5.3. Then I changed the layers transparency mode to soft light and changed the opacity level to 85%.

Next I went back to the all merged layer, duplicated it again, ran the high pass filter on it again, but instead of using 5.3 as the setting, I changed it to 1.6. Then I set this layers transparency mode to hard light at 100% opacity. I duplicated this layer 2 more times.  This gives us a base layer of the all merged image, with one 5.3 highpass layer set to soft light 85% with three more high pass layers each set at 1.6, hardlight, 100% opacity.

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Step 14

For our final touch, under your adjustment layers, we will want to use the selective color option. This will allow us to fine tune our colors, darken the darks, lighten the lights, adjust the hues and saturations, so on and so forth…

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And that’s pretty much it. Depending on your file size, colors, image, layout and all your other variables… EXPERIMENT. There are no “one size fits all” setting or settings. Keep modifying your document until you get the results dialed in just the way you like.

SadMonkey Design-bond

Well there you have it. Let me know what you guys think.

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27 responses to “SadMonkey’s Photo Stencil Tutorial

  1. Richard Williams

    One of the most unique tutorials I’ve ever seen. Results are quite remarkable and also relatively easy to replicate. Thanks you for sharing your talent!

  2. Hey, that was pretty neat. Was a bit worried at the start where it’s going, but turned out great!

  3. Wow, I totally love that piece of art and in fact I managed to replicate. It took me about 16 hours in total but I managed and I think it turned out great! :o))

    This is just fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing your talent with us.

  4. great tutorial! thanks for sharing…i love you texture collections as well 🙂

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