Photoshop tutorial: Create an surreal portrait mosaic illustration

If you thought mosaics were another boring Photoshop cliché, think again – and learn how to create incredible new spin on an old style.

Intro


Mosiacs generally make you think of the Roman villas you visited on school trips, or those pictures-within-pictures that appeared on every student’s bedroom wall after the craze for Magic Eye images died. They don’t automatically conjure visions of stylish artwork, but Fabio Sasso has found a way to create truly striking visuals with a very simple, swift process.

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In this tutorial, Fabio will show you how to create a deconstructed image using a pattern made out of cubes.

The idea is try to simulate a mosaic but with a more abstract and up-to-date interpretation.

The technique is pretty simple and the whole tutorial can be done in less than one hour – though feel free to keep experimenting in order to create your own realisation.

Time to complete

1 hour

Software

Adobe Photoshop

Step 1

Step 2

STEP 2

Import a photo that you want to use for the abstract mosaic effect. The one I used is available from Shutterstock here.

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Step 3

STEP 3

To create the base for our mosaic, open a new document in Photoshop and then with the Polygon tool (U) create a hexagon.

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Duplicate the hexagon and move it up so the base of it matches the top of the other hexagon. Then with the Direct Selection tool (A), delete vertices 1 and 2. Now move down vertice 3 to create the top part of the cube.


Step 4

STEP 4

Repeat the process to create the final side of the cube. As you can see, I’ve used different shades of grey to create the 3D effect.

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Step 5

STEP 5

Group the cube elements and duplicate them twice to start to create the pattern. Start duplicating them until you filled the screen with cubes.

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Step 6

STEP 6

Carefully select an area that will be used to define your pattern. Bear in mind that it has to be tileable, so use the image above for reference. Once you have selected the area, select Edit > Define Pattern. Name your pattern and go back to the design.

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Step 7

STEP 7

Add a new layer and fill it with the cube pattern you’ve just created. Duplicate the girl layer and apply Edit > Transform > Skew to this. Distort the image so it follows the angle of the cubes – for this image I used the left sides for reference. After that go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Use 10px for the Radius.

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Step 8

STEP 8

For the next step, you’ll want select the left sides of all the cubes. To do this, select one with the Magic Wand tool (W), and go to Select > Similar. With the marquee selection active, click on the distorted girl layer and go to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal Selection.

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Step 9

Step 10

STEP 10

Raise the full photo of the girl up through the layer stack so it sits directly beneath the two layers you created in Steps 7 to 9. You’ll have a pretty crazy effect, mixing mirrors and deconstruction.

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Step 11

STEP 11

Select all layers and duplicate them. Select the uppermost set of layers, and go to Layer > Merge Layers. With the merged layer selected, go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Use a Radius of 20px.

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Change this layer’s blending mode to Screen, with at 80% opacity. After that go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map. Use the default black and white gradient, but change the blending mode to Soft Light. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Hue and Saturation. Reduce the Saturation to -30.

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Step 12

STEP 12

Group all the layers except the cube pattern background. Using that background layer for reference, select some areas to hide. Once you have selected the areas, ensure you have the grouped layers selected as well, and go to Layer > Layer Mask > Hide Selection.

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Step 13

STEP 13

Now let’s add a paper texture on top of everything to give a retro feel to the image. The image I’m using is from Shutterstock and you can get it from here. Place the image on top of the others and change the blending mode to Multiply.

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Step 14

STEP 14

Duplicate the paper texture layer and rearrange it so that it’s right on top of the cube pattern layer, and beneath all the other layers. Then change the blending mode of the cube pattern layer to Color Burn.

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Step 15

STEP 15

Add a new layer on top of the others and fill it with black. Change its blending mode to Multiply. With the Brush tool (B), select a very soft brush, and choose white for its colour. Start painting in the centre of the image so the white will be transparent. The aim is to create a vignette effect.

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