How to create a Vibrant Retro Pop Art Poster in Illustrator and Photoshop

After watching a few of Lobo’s Artwork I just sat there in front of my computer screen, in awe, thinking how could I have missed this guy for so long? Some of his creations are absolutely stunning, and to think that he paints these with such ease is quite impressive. Anyways I was experimenting with his style in Illustrator and obtained, in my humble opinion, a decent result. That’s when I decided to show you guys how I went about producing some original artwork using Lobo’s unique style.

The inspiration

Here are some examples of his artwork :

Lobo - Marilyn Monroe

Lobo – Marilyn Monroe. Photo Source: Flickr.

Lobo - The Beatles

Lobo – The Beatles. Photo Source: Flickr.

Lobo - Homer Simpson

Lobo – Homer Simpson. Photo Source: Flickr.

If you’d like to see more of his artwork, you can drop by his site or his Flickr Photo Stream.

Here is what we’ll be recreating…

Tutorial Pop Art Poster Final

Before starting out we have to choose our model wisely to have a satisfying result. You can obviously take a picture of yourself and apply the techniques we’ll be discussing afterwards to obtain an appreciable result, but, if you’d like a more authentic Pop art result, then an iconic figure is a must have.

Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Bardot. Photo Source:

I chose to use “Brigitte Bardot” which is a former French fashion model, actress and singer. She was one of the best-known sex symbols of the 60’s, so it’s a pretty decent idea to include her notoriety in our artwork.

Step 1

Pop Art Poster Step 1

After methodically choosing your picture, let’s import it into Illustrator.

Step 2

Pop Art Poster Step 2

Using the Pen Tool [P] We’re going to outline the hair of our model. I temporarily gave it a high contrast color as to highlight the part we are editing.

Step 3

Pop Art Poster Step 3

In this step we’re just going to cover the rest of the model by respecting the left edge, in this case being the arm, and just overlap the first shape.

Step 4

Pop Art Poster Step 4

Right click on the shape we’ve just created and select Arrange->Send Backwards.

Step 5

Pop Art Poster Step 5

After completing this step you’ll understand why we didn’t bother to refine our edge with the second step. We are going to use the first outline to create our second shape. First select the the first shape we created (hair outline) and duplicate it by using the shortcuts [Ctrl + C] and [Ctrl +F]. Select the duplicated shape and the body outline. Now with the Pathfinder Tool click on Minus Front.

Step 6

Pop Art Poster Step 6

We now have our two shapes representing the different outlines we were looking for. I reduced the opacity of each shape to facilitate the following steps. As you can see we’ve got an empty space on the left side of the model’s neck. Let’s use the previous technique to obtain our desired effect. sing the Pen Tool again draw a shape (represented in red on the picture) to fill in that gap.

Step 7

Pop Art Poster Step 7

Now select the underlying shape (green) and the overlying shape we’ve just created. Use the Pathfinder Tool and click on Minus Front.

Step 8

Pop Art Poster Step 8

Let’s now grab our nifty Pen Tool and start by outlining the outer part of the lips and do the same for the mouth’s opening. Now you can draw the model’s teeth and overlap on the top of the mouth’s opening as you please. Once that’s done duplicate the underlying mouth’s opening shape using the shortcuts [Ctrl + C] and [Ctrl +F]. Select each teeth and the duplicated shape, and using the Pathfinder Tool click on Divide. All you’ve got to do now is delete the extra shapes created in the dividing process.

Step 9

Pop Art Poster Step 9

Let’s now attack the the rest of the facial features including the eyes, the nose and the eyebrows. The eyebrows and the nose are the easiest features to replicate in this case,s you can see they are basically made up of a thin stroke or a circular shape for the nostrils. For the eyes create two almond shapes and an oval for each eyes, as represented on the picture above.

Step 10

Pop Art Poster Step 10

Using the Pen Tool draw shapes (here represented in green) to cover the shadowed areas of our model. Make sure to overlap over to the left side of the arm as we’ll be using the underlying shape in the next step.

Step 11

Pop Art Poster Step 11

Once you’ve replicated the shapes figuring on the picture above, select the underlying shape (red in the picture) and the ones we’ve just created as well. Now using the Pathfinder Tool select Divide. Delete the leftover shapes as to show the shadowed parts of our model only.

Step 12

Pop Art Poster Step 12

Let’s zoom in on the face of our model to finish up the eyes. With both almond shapes highlighted, use the Pathfinder Tool and click on Minus Front. Re-size the pupils as you please to make sure they’re kept within the boundaries of the eyelids.

Step 13

Pop Art Poster Step 13

For the eyelashes we’re going to create a custom art brush to facilitate our workflow. Create a thin triangle and with the shape still selected add this to the Brush palette as a new brush and select the Art Brush option. Make sure the direction of the brush is correct.

Step 14

Pop Art Poster Step 14

Draw some strokes to represent the eyelashes and apply the custom brush we’ve just created to them. I don’t own a tablet but I believe this step could definitely be easier with the help of one. Nevertheless, this is easily achievable through the use of our beloved Pen Tool. Once you’re happy with the result, select all of them and expand the strokes to objects, by clicking on Object->Expand Appearance. That way we won’t have to worry about the shapes maintaining their stroke width when resizing later down the road.

Step 15

Pop Art Poster Step 15

In this step all we’re going to do is create two circular shapes for each eye and use the Pathfinder Tool, as we’ve seen before, to clip them away from the underlying shape illustrating the pupil.

Step 16

Pop Art Poster Step 16

Select all the teeth and use the Pathfinder Tool to Unite them.

Step 17

Pop Art Poster Step 17

You can now delete the shape that was previously used to shape the mouth’s opening, if you hadn’t done before.

Step 18

Pop Art Poster Step 18

Highlight the teeth and the underlying shape used as the mouth with the Selection Tool. With the Pathfinder Tool click on Minus Front.

Step 19

Pop Art Poster Step 19

With our relentless Pen Tool, let’s draw strokes of hair. Try to follow the main direction of the hair you see on the actual picture of the model underneath. It’s obvious to say that the more time you spend on this, and the other steps above, that the end result will be all the better. Once you’re done with your strokes select them all as well as the initial shape representing the hair and, with the Pathfinder Tool yet again, click on Minus Front.

Step 20

Pop Art Poster Step 20

Clean up the final vector object by removing any unnecessary shapes, expanding all the strokes into objects and giving them all black fill colors. Finally group all the shapes into one final object, by selecting them all and using the keyboard shortcut [Ctrl + G], for easier manipulation.

Step 21

Pop Art Poster Step 21

Now that we’ve got our model fully vectorized and ready for export, let’s take care of the pixel effect in the background. The first step is to create a new Art Board by using the shortcut [Ctrl + O] and giving it dimensions of 1000px by 800px. Re-size the model object as necessary and align it to the right of your newly created Art Board.

Step 22

Pop Art Poster Step 22

Create two squares, both 50px by 50px, and align them to the left, right and top of the Art Board as seen on the picture above. With both of them highlighted, click on Object->Blend->Blend Options. Choose Specified Steps in the drop down box and give 18 as the number of steps. Why? well, 1000px / 50px = 20. Twenty squares are therefore necessary to go across the Art Board entirely, and we already have two, so, you do the remaining math!

Step 23

Pop Art Poster Step 22

Once you click on OK, the dialogue box will disappear and nothing will have changed. That’s because Illustrator has taken into account your parameters and now you have to execute the command, either by going to Object->Blend->Make or by using the very useful keyboard shortcut [Alt + Ctrl + B].

Step 24

Pop Art Poster Step 24

Now that that’s done, with the object highlighted, Expand it by going to Object->Expand, as to have 20 distinguishable squares.

Step 25

Pop Art Poster Step 25

All that’s left to do now is duplicate rows of squares until you fill up the Art Board.

Step 26

Pop Art Poster Step 26

Let’s add some color to this dull piece. I must admit that I called upon my ever so loyal, last minute friend, “Kuler”, to help me out with color choices. I just typed “Pop Art” into the input field and used a variety of colors from the proposed palettes. I also used a Skin tone palette by typing, guess what? Skin Tone… See how invaluable this tool can be! Anyways, you get the picture here, just have fun attributing different fill colors to all the squares and give the squares directly behind our models face, colors picked from the skin tone color palette. Nothing too technical, but time consuming.

Step 27

Pop Art Poster Step 27

Let’s just add a few smaller squares of different colors in random places around the model to give a bit more depth to our background. Once done, you can select all the objects on your Art Board and group them by using the keyboard shortcut [Ctrl + G] to prepare the final smart object for export.

Step 28

Pop Art Poster Step 28

We’re done with Illustrator and now it’s time to jump in Photoshop. The canvas I chose to use is 1000px by 800px. The dimensions aren’t of much importance as we’ll be dealing with a smart object who isn’t constrained to any particular dimensions. I did, however, make four guides to give 150px padding on the left and right, and 100px padding on the top and bottom.

Step 29

Pop Art Poster Step 29

Download this White brick wall texture by clicking here, and place it onto your canvas. Re-size it as you please so that it fits in the best possible way on your canvas.

Step 30

Pop Art Poster Step 30

Grab the Rectangle Tool by pressing [U]. Now draw a rectangle contained within the boundaries of the guides. Give it a fill color of white.

Step 31

Pop Art Poster Step 31

Let’s give it a drop shadow effect and insert the following values:

  • Blend Mode = Normal
  • Opacity = 35%
  • Angle = 45° use global light ON
  • Distance = 5
  • Spread = 0
  • Size = 30

Step 32

Pop Art Poster Step 32

With the same layer still selected, go to Filter->Texture->Texturizer and insert the following values:

  • Texture = Canvas
  • Scaling = 100%
  • Relief = 2
  • Light = Top Right

The reason for the light to come in from the top right, and the angle used for the drop shadow effect, is because the light source of the brick wall texture emanates from the top right, nothing more nothing less.

Step 33

Pop Art Poster Step 33

Head back over to Illustrator and copy the artwork created with the shortcut [Ctrl + C]. Jump back into Photoshop and paste it using [Ctrl + V], then, choose Smart Object in the pop up box so that we’re able to re-size it as we please.

Step 34

Pop Art Poster Step 34

If it overlaps, because the aspect ratio is different (the case here), all you have to do is apply a new layer mask to the smart object, respecting the size of the inner rectangle created by the smart guides.

Final note

You can get really creative with these and you’ll notice that altering the background motifs in Illustrator or playing with edges and/or other effects in Photoshop, can give you some really interesting final results. Below are just three other examples using different approaches.

Pop Art Poster Example #2

Pop Art Poster Example #3

Pop Art Poster Example #4

For those of you interested I’ve included the Illustrator source file, make sure you follow the “Terms and conditions” in order for all files distributed on this site.

Download .EPS file

Well this concludes our tutorial! I hope you enjoyed it and bid thee farewell until next time.


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