Steps for creating colorful graphic silhouettes from your photographs

Final Silhouette

One of my recent projects for Project 52 was to create graphic silhouettes.  During this project I realized my typical workflow would not work so I created a new one.  I’ll describe my basic steps after photo capture (all in Photoshop).  Fair warning – I love plug-ins and I use a couple of them in this workflow.

Step 1:  Use a Curve adjustment to whiten the background and darken your objects

Original Capture – Before
After Curve Adjustment

Step 2:  Run the image through Topaz Lab’s Simplify filter (BuzzSim) to remove small imperfections on and around the objects.  Run through Nik’s Silver Effects Pro (Silhouette preset) to get a vibrant black and white image.

After filters

Step 3:  Smooth the edges.  At first I thought I needed to sharpen them – but I found smoothing them better.  This video on Youtube (less than 1 minute) taught me how.

Remember to flatten the layer, even though there is only 1, to combine the background and transparent layer mask.

Step 4:  Now clean up any imperfections around the objects’ edges. I usually do this as my first step in the workflow.  But found the previous adjustments reduced the number of imperfections that were left.  I used the clone stamp tool with a hard edge.  My Wacom tablet was very helpful.  Settle in with some music and a beverage – you may be at the step for awhile.

After smoothing and cleaning edges

Step 5:  Add the colorful background.  Create a new transparent layer (Shift + Control + N),  select Edit -> Fill -> Color from the menu.  Pick your color.  Now change your blend mode to Darken (for this layer).  Sometimes I will also add a brightness/contrast adjustment layer and tweak things a bit.

Final Silhouette

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