Photoshop tutorial: Stylise a photo using colourful geometric shapes

Mart Biemans shows you how to turn a photo into a dynamic artwork with a bright colour scheme in Photoshop.

Mart Biemans’ artwork Feel It combines a neon-infused colour scheme with dynamic triangles and other shapes to achieve its eye-catching quality.

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Here, Mart explains the techniques he used to create this image for the online art collective slashTHREE. You’ll learn how to build up the image by tracing the photo and creating the shapes, then you will develop the colour schemes and apply the lighting effects.

These techniques can be adapted to a wide range of styles – so after completing this tutorial, repeat it and see how far you can push it beyond what you see here.

Time to complete

6 hours


Adobe Photoshop CS or higher


The first step in creating this style of artwork is to choose a good stock photo.

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My starting point was bought from, and if you’d like to use the very same image, you’ll find it at here. Alternatively, you can use any waist-up shot that’s largely in profile.

Place the image in a new A3 portrait Photoshop document, making sure you have some free space around the margins for the effects we will create.


Beneath the photo, create a new layer in a mid-tone colour to form the background of the artwork. Create another layer above the photo and trace the model’s outline very roughly with the Pen tool (P), filling it with a colour darker than the background layer. Hide this layer.

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Create a third layer at the top of the layer stack and trace the shadows, filling these with an even darker colour. You don’t have to include much detail.

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Unhide the outline layer and repeat the previous step with multiple colour variations, applied using a variety of blending modes to lighten up the work. Again, there is no need to incorporate much detail. Make sure that you lighten up the areas that are highlights in the original photo and that you darken the shadows.

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On a new layer, create a rectangle with a colourful gradient. Duplicate it a few times at different sizes and filled with gradients of different colours.

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Create a series of variations using Edit > Transform > Warp. Go crazy and make some weird abstract shapes. Now place the shapes over the highlights on your image and change the blending mode to Screen.


To bring out areas such as the arms that may be difficult to make out, we’re going to add some lines with the Pencil tool (B). Set the Size to around 19px, and ensure that ‘Simulate pressure’ is on if you’re using a tablet. Draw black lines on dark areas and white lines on light areas.

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I wasn’t happy with the colour scheme at this point, so I added add a red-green Gradient Map adjustment layer. If you do this, use a Lighten blending mode at 100% opacity.

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The artwork is still a little plain. To give it more depth, create a new layer and set its blending mode to Screen. Use a large round soft brush in a light blue colour and paint on the areas you’d like to brighten.

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Create another layer and set its blending mode to Soft Light at 58% opacity. With your brush’s colour set to black, paint on the areas where you want to darken the shadows.


Now we’re going to add a ‘shattered’ effect to our image with the Polygonal Lasso tool (L). Select small areas of the image, press Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + C to copy a merged version of all the layers below your selection, and then paste it to a new layer. Move this layer around and repeat this step as often as you like.

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Finish off by adjusting the colours and adding a few Pencil tool strokes to harden up the overall look. You could achieve a similar effect quickly with Filter > Stylize > Find Edges, but this can give patchy results. As luck would have it, it works rather well with this image as the pattern of shadows and colours chosen is easy for the filter to trace.

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