How to Convert a Photo into Pop Art

Written by noelle carver
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How to Convert a Photo into Pop Art
Turn a photo portrait into a work of pop art on canvas. (Portrait image by Nenad Djedovic from

Pop art satirises the modern world on a singular plane. An art movement that emerged in the mid-1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States, the movement uses mass-produced visual icons, texts, brand names and other daily images from popular culture into fine art. It is considered "art" because it is layered with meaning and delivers a message to the viewer.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Photograph
  • Scissors
  • Magazine clippings
  • Additional photographs (optional)
  • Photo editing software (optional)

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  1. 1

    Isolate pop icons and texts. Clip magazine advertisements, fashion pictures, common phrases, popular texts, prices and any other modern images. For example, when converting a portrait photograph into pop art, fill the empty spaces in the face with advertisements, coupons and modern architecture. Focus on your perception of pop culture and less on the individual face to help a viewer "read" the entire image.

  2. 2

    Select a photograph you would like to work with. Ideally, pick one with at least one subject like a person or animal. Or choose a landscape like a city street scene.

    How to Convert a Photo into Pop Art
    Design a colourful pop art photo collage using your own photographs and layout techniques. (Collage image by volpeshop from
  3. 3

    Lay the cut-out pictures, words and other images across your photograph. Organise the clippings, so they accent the elements in your photograph, but also work well together. Consider working from top to bottom or from one side to the other, so a viewer can "read" the image in a logical way.

    Or cut out objects and elements in your own photograph. Mix and match your photo cut-outs and the pop-culture cut outs into an whole new collage.

  4. 4

    Add colour. Using photograph pencils--oil based markers--fill in white or grey spaces with bright colour. Choose hot pinks, greens, blues and hot oranges for pop-art effect. Because pop-art artists in the 1950s took a lot of inspiration from comic books, select colours that reflect loudly coloured and pixilated images found in comic book pages.

  5. 5

    For a final touch, mat your pop art photo collage on a mat board, a thick smooth cardboard base. Laminate the image with plastic or paint with a clear shellac. Or transfer the print to a canvas. Send the image to a company that can create a canvas silkscreen print for you or use your own silk-screening process to transfer the pop art to a big canvas.

  1. 1

    Upload a photo you want to use a photo-editing software system. Canon Digital Studio, Portrait Professional, Photoscape and Adobe Photoshop are a few software examples. Portraits tend to convert to pop-art best, like Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe portraits. Or select a landscape you can fill with pop culture icons and layered images. Open the photograph in the software program.

  2. 2

    Duplicate the layer called "Background" or “second Layer.” Click this background layer. Drag it to the "layer" icon, like a dog-eared sheet of paper or labelled as second layer, at the bottom of the software screen. Rename the new layer as “background” or an informative name like “hot pink background” or “stripes.”

  3. 3

    Create another new layer. Click on the "paint bucket" icon or colour tool option. Choose a colour to pour into the photograph. Choose a bright colour like blue, yellow, hot pink or neon green for a loud, pop art effect. Fill in the face, eyes, grey or other empty spaces with bright colours.

  4. 4

    Drag the new layer between the two existing layers. Rename the layer with another helpful name like "Toyota" if you filled in the picture with Toyota logos. Check that the palette shows up at the bottom of the screen with the newly added layer.

  5. 5

    Select the second layer which acts as your background. Clear away all the unwanted parts of the photograph superimposed on this background colour. For instance, erase a distracting tree in the merging with the subjects head. Use the “pen,” “market,” or “knife” tool to isolate a singular object.

    If this is your first time using the tool, which is like a digital graphic knife, watch a tutorial first if the software provides one.

Tips and warnings

  • Remember to keep pop-images like texts, billboards or little objects in the picture to create a pop-art effect. For portraits, for instance, isolate only the face. Delete the background and any texts for a clear, Warhol- or Roy Lichtenstein-like print.

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