Screen printing is one of the nicest and most versatile printing methods out there. It’s used for everything from mass production to fine art. In this tutorial I will be showing you how to take a photograph and give it a vintage screen printed look.
The image I’m using is a photograph I took of a dry cleaning building in my town.
This effect will of course work best if you start with a nice high-resolution photograph. Start by opening your image in Photoshop. I don’t want any of the surrounding buildings or background in my image so I made a selection around the outline of the building using the pen tool.
Once the outline is complete, right-click on the path and click on MAKE SELECTION in the menu that appears. I added a 1 pixel feather just to soften the edge very slightly. Click okay and your path will become a selection.
Move over to the Layers panel and click the ADD VECTOR MASK icon located at the bottom of the window. This will hide all the unwanted background.
To create the screen print effect we will be using a very limited color palette. Since this is a color photo we will need to convert it to grayscale. Go to IMAGE > MODE > GRAYSCALE and click discard to confirm.
The windows in the image are a little too busy to work. To simplify them select the window outline with the pen tool, and again Right Click > Make Selection. Now go to EDIT > FILL and change the “Use” drop down to whatever color you want. I chose Foreground Color which was a medium grey.
Here is the Result.
For the next step go to FILTER > FILTER GALLERY. Once that opens up, select ARTISTIC > CUTOUT.
Use the sliders on the side to adjust the number of colors and detail. The lower the Edge Simplicity, the more detail will show up.
The Effect should look something like this. You want as much detail, with as few colors as possible.
Find any small details that were lost during this process and touch them up using the Brush Tool. Be sure to use only the colors now found in the image. (Use the Eyedropper tool to select colors.)
When you have finished editing, save the image as a .jpg at full size.
Open the .jpg in Illustrator. Click the image to select it and go to OBJECT > IMAGE TRACE >MAKE. Once the image is traced, click on the Image Tracing Options panel. Select preview and then change Mode to Grayscale and match the number of colors you used in the Photoshop filter. Adjust settings until you get the cleanest look and then click trace.
Once image is traced select OBJECT > EXPAND and click okay.
Now that you have an expanded vector you want to group the colors together. Select part of the image and then go to SELECT > SAME > FILL COLOR
You now have everything that is the same color selected. Group it together with OBJECT > GROUP (CMD+G)
I added a new layer for each color and separated them. This step isn’t necessary but it keeps things nicely organized.
I should note here that once you have the image color separated like this in vector format it is basically set up for an actual screen print.I printed the separations out after this step and used them to make a real screen print of the design. It’s available to view and purchase here.
I wanted to change the text here to only one color so I have locked all the layers except the light blue and used the eraser tool to get rid of the second color.
Change to the dark blue layer and select the outlines from the letters and copy them. (CMD+C)
Back to the off white color layer and go to EDIT > PASTE IN FRONT (CMD+F)
The letter outlines now paste on that layer. Change the fill color to the off white. Make them a compound path again by going to OBJECT > COMPOUND PATH > MAKE.
Add a little texture to your work and your vintage screen print is all done!
Let me hear from you!
Leave a comment and let me know your questions, tips, or suggestions you have for future posts.