Articles, Blog

Photoshop: How to Create a Retro, 8-Bit Pixel Portrait from a Photo

August 28, 2019

Hi. This is Marty from Blue Lightning TV. I’m going to show you how to create a fun,
retro, 8-bit pixel art portrait from a photo. Open a photo of someone or something that
you’d like to use for this project. I downloaded this one from Shutterstock. Before we begin, I want to mention that I’ll
be moving a bit faster for more advanced users. The first step is to re-size it, to get the results we want. Open your Crop Tool. In the Width and Height fields, type in 500 pixels each and for its Resolution, type in 50 pixels per inch. Drag the crop’s bounding box, so your subject
is centered and sized to your liking. Then, press Enter or Return. To fit it back onto your canvas, press Ctrl or Cmd + 0. For this example, I’d like to crop the bottom
of my subject into a circular shape. If you’d like to do the same for your subject,
open your Elliptical Marquee Tool, go near a corner and press and hold the Shift key
as you drag a circular selection over it. We’ll cut out our subject inside the selection
by pressing Ctrl or Cmd + J. Click the eyeball icon next to the bottom layer to hide it. Next, we’ll delete the rest of the background
behind our subject. There are many ways to do this and your method
should depend on the characteristics of your photo. For this example, since the background is
pure white, I’ll use my Magic Wand Tool. I’ll make the Tolerance 10 and make sure “Contiguous” is checked. “Contiguous” will ensure that only the white
area outside my subject will be selected. I’ll click anywhere on the white area to make
a selection of it. After you make your selection, press the “Delete”
key on your keyboard to delete the background. To deselect it, press Ctrl or Cmd + D. To
check the brightness and contrast of your subject, open your Levels window by pressing Ctrl or Cmd + L. If the histogram starts to rise somewhere other then the ends, drag the Input Levels to the points where the histogram starts to rise. In this example, only the Input Highlight
Level needed to be slid over. Click the “fx” icon and click “Stroke”. The color is black, the Size is 5 pixels and
the Position is “Outside”. Then, click OK or press Enter or Return. We’ll convert our image into a Smart Object, so we can add filters and additional adjustments to it non-destructively. To do this, click the icon at the upper, right of the Layers panel and click “Convert to Smart Object”. Go to Filter, Pixelate and Mosaic. Make the Cell Size: 10 square. Go to Image, Adjustments and “Shadows/Highlights”. Check “Show More Options”. Make the Shadow Amount: 20, the Tone: 60 and
the Radius: 30. We’ll adjust the Levels again by pressing Ctrl or Cmd + L. I’ll make the Input Midtones: point 75 and the Input Highlights: 223, however, feel free to adjust these amounts. Next, we’ll add black and white squares to accentuate
certain features of our character. I’ll show you 2 ways of doing it. First, I’ll show how to do it if you’re using
a version earlier than CC. Then, I’ll show how to do it using CC or later,
which has a precise method. If you’re using a version earlier than CC,
create a new document by pressing Ctrl or Cmd + N or go to File and New. Make the Width and the Height 10 pixels each
and the Resolution, 50 pixels per inch. The color is black. Then, click “Create” or “Open”. To see it onto your canvas at its maximum
size, press Ctrl or Cmd + 0. Go to Edit and “Define Brush Preset”. When this window appears, just click OK. Open back your pixel art document. Irrespective of the version you’re using,
let’s remove the lightest squares along the edge of your character. Go to Select and “Color Range”. Choose “Highlights”. Make the Fuzziness: 0% and the Range: 1. Click the Layer mask icon to a make a layer
mask of the selection next to the active layer. We’ll make a new layer below the active layer,
by Ctrl-clicking or Cmd-clicking the New Layer icon. We’ll use this layer as the background. For now, let’s fill it with white and since white is our background color, press Ctrl or Cmd + Delete. Click the top layer to make it active and
make a new layer above it. For versions earlier than CC, open your Pencil
Tool and Pencil Picker. The last thumbnail is the preset we saved earlier. Click it to make it active and make sure its
Opacity is 100%. For this example, I’ll add black squares to
my subject’s mustachio and beard, however, this first method requires great care in aligning
it directly over the square under it. If it’s not aligned exactly, press Ctrl or
Cmd + z to undo the last step and try again. To make your brush white, press “x” on your keyboard to invert your foreground and background colors. For those who are using CC or later, go to
View and “New Guide Layout”. In the Columns and Rows, type in 50 pixels
each and keep everything else unfilled and unchecked. If you don’t see the guidelines, press Ctrl or Cmd + H. Notice our guidelines perfectly align with the character’s squares. Open your “Rectangular Marquee Tool” and make
sure the “Add to Selection” icon is active. This adds additional selections to our image
as we make them. Go to View and make sure “Snap” is checked,
a well as, “”Guides”. This will ensure that the selections we add,
will snap to the grid. After you’ve made a cluster of selections,
fill it with black and deselect it. If you want to see your character without
the guidelines, press Ctrl or Cmd + H. To make them visible again, repeat the same keystrokes. To replace the white background with another color, make the background active. Click the foreground color and pick a different color. Then, fill it with that color. This is Marty from Blue Lightning TV. Thanks for watching!


  • Reply Solve Everything May 9, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    Someone needs to make a photoshop-action for this.

  • Reply ivan hernandez May 9, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    im learn english whit this turorial

  • Reply Byffon June 5, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    я 1 тут дурак ясн

  • Reply Oliver Ps June 14, 2018 at 3:06 am

    he's mexican now

  • Reply Camille Butac June 21, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    How can I open the levels after adjusting the shadows and highlights? I'm clicking ctrl + l, but it doesn't appear.

  • Reply Ph B July 1, 2018 at 2:47 pm


  • Reply EPICspy 380 July 6, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    La version española

  • Reply Braaan July 7, 2018 at 4:09 am

    close ur eyes at the beginning:

    hi, this is bard ie from bluud lightning tv!

  • Reply Gui Carvalho July 12, 2018 at 2:34 am

    Have another option to cntrl L ? In my pc dont funciona

  • Reply Candra Ramdani July 18, 2018 at 2:09 am

    Nice 👍

  • Reply стив игро обозреватель312 July 19, 2018 at 8:22 pm

    Press the enter key on your keyboard you hae the right answer!

  • Reply Ronel R Capunitan July 22, 2018 at 1:00 am


  • Reply Ronel R Capunitan July 22, 2018 at 1:00 am

    Ako ng

  • Reply Enmieron pistan July 25, 2018 at 10:40 am

    give me please a intro

  • Reply ッoOMEAWOo July 25, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    Jesus…Super creative.

  • Reply Spoundless August 25, 2018 at 5:05 am

    I can't tell if this is a robot voice or a real guy's voice lol

  • Reply SatwaID August 31, 2018 at 8:07 am


  • Reply Rayan Abid September 3, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    I thought it was stan lee speaking 😂😂

  • Reply Jubei Kibagami September 9, 2018 at 9:59 am

    The frequent little shortcut tips that many other instructors just blow over makes this the best of its kind on YouTube.

  • Reply Marilyn Williamson September 23, 2018 at 1:28 am

    A VERY comprehensive tutorial .. thank you!

  • Reply vertitis October 1, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    General rule if you're going for the NES 8-bit you're gonna be limited to 4 colors on each sprite.
    3 of which are colors and the 4th one is transparent. Now a few games did some tricks to get
    a few more colors for each sprite by doing overlapping sprites and patterns.

    This.. wouldn't be considered pixel art at all..

  • Reply Sai October 15, 2018 at 2:16 pm


  • Reply sean paul lampon October 24, 2018 at 4:10 am

    my color range highlight fuzz and range are grey out and can't be selected

  • Reply afrodita077 November 1, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    gracias esta fantástico

  • Reply BFB_Fan 2019 November 29, 2018 at 1:39 pm


  • Reply Kelly Lambert December 11, 2018 at 2:32 am

    Go to 7:13 if you are using CC for the final eyes and detail touches.

  • Reply HERO-ZUKI January 1, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    Just skip to 3:21 if you want to get to the point

  • Reply Joshua Mason's Eight-Bit Bastards January 6, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    when i go to fill my outline selections at the end it wont let me. says its uneditable.

  • Reply Jimmy Jimmy January 10, 2019 at 8:14 am

    tks you. good lesson. But it is too complicated . hahaha

  • Reply TheGuyFrom89 January 11, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Very cool this i will try!

  • Reply Tampon_Jon January 16, 2019 at 1:38 am

    Just a few weeks back i learned how to code my own game with the engine Godot. Would any pixel art designers like to team up with me in making a game?

  • Reply alireza taleghani February 1, 2019 at 12:24 am

    what if the back ground of our pic is not white?

  • Reply Creative Media Tutorials February 1, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    Nice video, pretty good technique for creating retro 8 bit graphics. You can also use software called Piskel to draw your own sprites

    I added this video to my blog, check it out here:

  • Reply аоаоао ъеь February 4, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    ничево не понятно я русский

  • Reply brendan fastolfe February 11, 2019 at 3:48 am

    I can't wait to try this!

  • Reply NathanSifuGaming March 1, 2019 at 3:43 am

    Hmmm not quite sure if I'd use it for a photo, but this might work GREAT for illustrations that I'd like to turn into pixel art 😀

  • Reply Noodlez Joji March 6, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    Great tutorial, thank you so much!

  • Reply Sonny12681 March 12, 2019 at 10:29 pm

    Can I use Krita to do this?

  • Reply Zoltar Dreamusic March 25, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    amazing! thanks!

  • Reply Ta Meri March 26, 2019 at 4:19 am

    Thank you so much for your tutorial! It is exactly what I was looking for. I've got one question: I don't know why but I cannot set fuzziness and range because they're not avalibale for changing – I can't even click on them. Does anybony have a clue what am I doing wrong? The PS version is CS 6. I'll be really grateful for your answers.

  • Reply Smallhum Animations March 29, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    that not 8 bit
    очередной разпиздяй короче

  • Reply Smallhum Animations March 29, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    maximum – 3 (4 colors)

  • Reply Noel Sandoval-Landeros April 24, 2019 at 4:45 pm

    I'll clap yo ass so hard that the Chinese will think an explosion just happened next door.

  • Reply Mark Bryan Ramores May 30, 2019 at 4:22 am

    Hi Marty, I used to watch your videos wayback in 2012 when I was newbie in Photoshop. Now I'm working as a graphic artist without a diploma or certification just skills. Thanks for everything Marty.

  • Reply The gaming fans June 21, 2019 at 11:01 am

    This is amazing!!!!!!!

  • Reply Ghost of Cyfair July 1, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    Whenever I try to remove the background around my picture, my computer says I need to make more space on my startup disk. I don't understand why it does this each time I try. Photoshop still allows me to edit other photos freely…?

  • Reply asta 15 July 3, 2019 at 2:37 am


  • Reply LuigiXGamer July 9, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    This Was Sooooo Helpful For My Channel Art!!!

  • Reply Kaeti July 16, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    I want this stock photo so bad

  • Reply roflolwtfomg July 29, 2019 at 10:07 am

    Thank you!

  • Reply Puke & Gonzar Tops August 6, 2019 at 2:57 am

    Ariel Camacho xdxd

  • Reply Just Ring - Simone777 August 13, 2019 at 8:12 am

    Not really 8-bit to be honest

  • Reply Nick Tophilia August 20, 2019 at 12:46 am

    I am really confused. I have tried this and I cannot get the same effect. What size does the image need to be as a starting point? 🙁

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