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How To Create Pop Art Photoshop Effects That Will Make Your Eyes Pop

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The ’60s pop art movement is known for its strong shapes and vibrant colours. In this 10-step Photoshop pop art tutorial, you will learn how to create an Andy Warhol-style pop art Photoshop effect. You’ll also learn to use adjustment layers and layer groups in 10 additional steps to make a pop art poster in Photoshop.

yellow and pink pop art portrait in photoshop

Making a Pop Art Effect in Photoshop

You don’t need a pop art plugin for Photoshop to get that cool retro look. Use these steps to Photoshop your photo into a print-worthy pop art picture.

Step 1: Open your Image in Photoshop

It can be a picture of a can of soup, a celebrity, or someone you know. High-contrast images work best for a pop art effect because they have clearly-defined dark and light areas. We are going to make a pop art portrait of this girl wearing headphones.

step 1: screenshot of your image opened on photoshop to create a pop art effect

Step 2: Select your Subject

Choose the Quick Selection tool from the Tools palette. Click on the ‘select subject’ button at the top of the window. A line of marching ants will appear around your subject. You can refine the selection using the Quick Selection tool. Just click to add areas or option-click to take them away.

pop art in photoshop step 2: using the object selection tool to select your subject in photoshop

Step 3: Duplicate your Subject to a New Layer

With your subject selected, press Command+J to duplicate your selection on a new layer. Or go to Layer > New > Layer Via Copy. You can name it ‘new layer 1’. You should now have your original layer and a ‘new layer 1’ with your subject.

 pop art in photoshop step 3: screenshot of Duplicate Subject to Layer 1

Step 4: Hide Your Background Layer

Click on the little eye icon to the left of your background layer. This hides it without getting rid of it, in case we need to go back to it at any point.

pop art in photoshop step 4: screenshot of Hiding the Background Layer

Step 5: Apply the Threshold Filter

The pop art effect requires us to convert our photo into a two-tone image. With ‘layer 1’ selected, go to Image > Adjustments > Threshold.

pop art in photoshop step 5: screenshot of Applying Threshold filter

This will open a pop-up window showing a histogram of your picture. Use the slider to choose the level of brightness to expose the image properly.

screenshot of Threshold Adjustment window

Step 6: Create a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer

Click the ‘gradient map’ icon in the Adjustments panel. This will create a new ‘gradient map adjustment’ layer above your subject on ‘layer 1’. Adjustment layers affect how you see the layers underneath them without actually changing the layers themselves.

pop art in photoshop step 6: selecting Create Gradient Map on photoshop

Step 7: Select Colours for the Gradient Map

Click the ‘graduated’ bar in Properties to open the Gradient Editor. The squares underneath the gradient bar are called ‘colour stops’. A gradient can have lots of colour stops, each with a different colour. We are going to stick with two. Click the black ‘colour stop’ on the left-hand side, and use the ‘colour selector’ to choose a colour.

Click the right hand ‘colour stop’ and use the ‘colour selector’ to choose a different colour. Any black areas of your subject will now show as the first colour you selected. Any that are white will show as the second colour.

You can re-visit your gradient map controls at any time to change your colour selection.

pop art in photoshop step 7: selecting gradient colour on photoshop

Step 8: Append the Gradient to the Subject Layer

Hold the option key and hover the mouse over the line between the ‘gradient map layer’ and ‘layer 1’. When the cursor changes to a square with an arrow coming out of it, click to append (or attach) the ‘gradient map’ to ‘layer 1’. This means any changes you make to the ‘gradient map adjustment’ layer will only affect ‘layer 1’.

You can also right-click on the ‘gradient map adjustment’ layer and choose ‘create clipping mask’.

pop art in photoshop step 8: Appending the Gradient Map on photoshop

Step 9: Create a New Layer

Now that we have coloured our subject, we need to add a contrasting colour background. Select the ‘background’ layer and click on the ‘new layer’ icon. This will create a new blank layer above the ‘background’ layer and below your subject on ‘layer 1’.

pop art in photoshop step 9: Creating a new layer in photoshop

Step 10: Fill the New Layer

Select your Paint Bucket tool from the Tools palette. Select a colour for your background and click anywhere on the empty ‘layer 2’.

And that’s it! You have just used Photoshop to make an Andy Warhol pop art effect. You can use these steps to record your own pop art Photoshop action and apply it to any images you want.

filling the new layer in photoshop to finish the pop art effect

Making a Warhol-Style Pop Art Poster in Photoshop

To create our Andy Warhol pop art poster, we will duplicate our image four times.

four Portraits combined to create Andy Warhol-style pop art image in Photoshop

Step 1: Select the Active Layers

Select the ‘gradient map’ layer, hold shift and click on ‘layer 2’. This will select three layers at once. To keep our layers panel from getting cluttered, we are going to group these layers together.

Selecting layers for your pop art image in photoshop

Step 2: Group Layers into a Folder

With the layers selected, click the ‘folder’ icon at the bottom of the layers panel. This will create a new group folder with your layers inside. We can now edit all the layers together as one image.

Grouping Layers together to create your Andy Warhol-style pop art image

Step 3: Duplicate the Folder

Because we want four image on the page, we will duplicate our group three times. With the ‘group 1’ folder selected, press Command+J.

You can also right-click on the ‘group 1’ folder and select ‘duplicate group’. Repeat this until you have four folders.

screenshot of the Duplicate Group folder in photoshop

Step 4: Resize Each Group on the Page

We now have four copies of our image, but they are stacked on top of each other. Select the top folder in the layers panel. Press Command+T or right-click on the image and select ‘free transform’. Drag one corner of the bounding box to the centre of the image, then press enter.

Repeat these steps for the other three folders until you can see all four on the page.

Transforming each Group in photoshop to create pop art effect

Step 5: Create Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer

Select the topmost group in the layers panel. Go to the Adjustments panel and add a ‘hue/saturation adjustment’ layer. This will appear above your selected group and will affect all layers and groups under it.

Creating the Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer

Step 6: Append Adjustment Layer to Group

Just as before, hold the option key and hover your mouse over the line between the ‘hue/saturation adjustment layer and the group beneath it. When the cursor changes, click to append the ‘adjustment’ layer to only that group.

Or you can right-click on the ‘hue/saturation adjustment’ layer and choose ‘create clipping mask’.

Appending the Adjustment Layer in photoshop

Step 7: Change the Colours in Your Photo

Move the arrow along the Hue bar in the Properties panel and watch the colours change in your image.

Changing colours of each of your four images to create an Andy Warhol-style portrait in Photoshop

Step 8: Create Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers

Create ‘hue/saturation adjustment’ layers for the other group folders. Use command-click or choose ‘create clipping mask’ to append them to the groups.

creating more hue saturation layers in photoshop

Step 9: Choose Your Colours

Select each of the ‘hue/saturation adjustment’ layers in turn. Move the Hue sliders until each version of your image is different from the rest. You can always go into your groups and edit your gradient mask to further alter the colours in a specific image.

choose the colours you want for each of the four pop art images

Step 10: Save your Multi-Layer Pop Art Poster

Make sure you save your work before you print your poster. Saving in Photoshop format will let you go back and edit your colours anytime. If you want to email or post your image on social media, save a copy as JPEG or PNG.

Saving your final pop art File in photoshop


Creating a pop art Photoshop effect is as simple as it is fun. Now that you have learned to use and append adjustment layers, you can apply this technique to any type of photo.

Experiment with different colours to get different looks, or add text and other images to create pop art adverts, posters, and cards. You can use patterns like polka dots as cool cartoon style pop art backgrounds. Record any changes you make to a Photoshop action to save you time in future edits.

If you like creating images with fun effects, check out The Magical Photography Spellbook course for even cooler effects!

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