Make yourself an Amazing Typographic Portrait

The tutorial is made after receiving a reader’s request. As we know, typographic portrait art takes a huge amount of work. Here is a much simpler version I made, which hopes to give beginners an idea on how to start. This tutorial will show how to create custom brushes and fill patterns. Also you will learn more about selection and posterize tool.

Preview of Final Image

The texts and images are copyrighted to 10Steps.SG and their respective owners. You CANNOT copy the whole tutorial, either in English or translate to another language.

Download a nice portrait image here. There is no need to create any document as we will be working on this image directly.

Using the Pen tool, crop away the black areas on both sides below the ears. Double-click on the Background layer on the Layers tab to unlock it and rename as Portrait. Create a new layer below the Portrait layer and fill it with #FFFFFF. Then go to Image > Adjustments > Posterize. Set the Levels to 4.

Hide the Portrait layer for awhile by clicking the Eye icon on the left beside the layer. Using the Type tool with your favorite font and color #000000, type in a few words as shown below.

Now we are going to create a Photoshop brush. To do so, simply make a selection around the first word like what I did below. Go to Edit > Define Brush Preset. There you have it! A new brush will appear under your Brush Preset window. Do the same for the remaining words too.

Next, we are going to customize a Fill Pattern. To do so, merge all your words together as one single layer. Go to Edit > Free Transform. Reduce the size of the words to very small like what I done below. Now hide all other layers except these words. Make a selection around them and go to Edit > Define Pattern. You can find your newly created pattern now in your Pattern Preset window.

We have not much use for the words layer anymore so you can hide it away. Unhide the Portrait and Background layers again. This time make a small selection around the black area like what I did on her neck.

With that selection, go to Select > Similar. This will select all the areas with that particular color.

Before I go on further, try to select the Brush tool and right-click on any part within the document. This is the shortcut for changing Brush sizes and its type. Hide the Portrait layer, leaving the selection loaded. Create a new layer and start to stamp around with the Brushes you created earlier. What you need to take note is to adjust the sizes before you stamp so it fits nicely within the selection. Do a few times with the right-clicking, size adjusting and stamping. Very soon you will get the hang of it.

Realize that there are some parts really small and will be troublesome to stamp into those areas. So what we can do is to fill those areas up with the Fill Pattern you made earlier too. Create a new layer below the stamps. Use the Paint Bucket tool and fill it with your preset pattern.

However, the Fill Pattern made our stamps less visible. So CTRL+left click on your stamps layer to load selections around the words, go to Select > Modify > Expand. Set the Radius to 1 pixel. Then follow by Select > Inverse. Select the Fill Pattern layer and create a Layer Mask with that selection. This will create a 1 pixel border around the stamped words.

Repeat these steps for the other two tones of grey color in the Portrait layer.

And we are done! This is roughly how you should get as your finished work.

Although the black-and-white style already looks great for me, you can also add a texture background and replace the colors to your personal preferences. Hope you enjoy this tutorial. Have fun!

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186 Comments | Write a Comment

  1. Zaara says:

    How to Create a new layer below the Portrait layer and fill it with #FFFFFF. Then go to Image > Adjustments > Posterize. Set the Levels to 4.

  2. Vegas says:

    Hey, I a real beginner when it comes to photoshop and this sounds really stupid but I can’t seem to even crop the image out with the pen tool. Not even with the magic wand! When I click “Crop”, the face just disappear instead of the selected area! Then when I click “Inverse” and then “Crop”, nothing happens! HELP PLEASE!

    • Yalda says:

      Just use the magic wand and “Cut” or “Ctrl Z” instead of “crop”, Crop action eliminates everything that is not selected.

  3. Nikhil says:

    I didn’t understand this line ‘Repeat these steps for the other two tones of grey color in the Portrait layer.’
    Please can someone explain it me.

    • Yalda says:

      It means: Go back to your portrait layer, click the “eye” icon and make it visible again, then select a grey area, then select similar, this way all the grey is selected, then click on the eye icon again and hide your portrait layer, create a new layer, and stamp the selected area with your brush, I recommend using lower opacity of black or a grey tone for this step to make sure you get the grey shades. That’s what I did πŸ™‚ I hope this helps.

  4. Nikki 6 says:

    How do you add color at the end if you want to? I like the black and white but want to see what it’s like in color. You mention you can but don’t give steps can you help??

  5. Nikki says:

    Hello, looks so cool, I like the black and white too but can you also tell me how to get a texture baground and add color. You just said it but didn’t put how to do it.


  6. Laura says:

    Hi, I got all the way to the end of the tutorial….but my words are not in the same grey scale tones….they are all the same tone.

    Can anyone tell me what I am doing wrong? πŸ™‚


  7. Majd says:

    I need help , I know this is kinda stupid but I just don’t know how to turn the picture from the original form to the black ,white and gray! can anyone help me? I mean I did the Posterize thing but I got a picture which was similar to this one but with colors not black and white and when i come to do the select> similar , it selects all the picture -not only the similar colors?!- so please help me, and thank you all !!

    • Nclusiv says:

      Step 1. Image>Adjustment>Black and white
      Step 2. Image>Adjustment>Posterize


    • Nclusiv says:

      Instead of Select>Similar, Try this: Use the MAGIC WAND Tool. Select the color, then hold the SHIFT key and continue to select with the Magic Wand Tool. ALSO make sure you are on the portrait layer.

    • Majd says:

      Thank you very much!! I really appreciate it !! πŸ˜‰

  8. Ganerc says:

    Very nice tut!
    Works good.
    But need some littel knowledge about working with Photoshop. It is nothing for real beginners.

    Will make me a picture for some accounts!

    Thx a lot for doing the work to teech me this :-))

  9. Bri says:

    In the process of making this but stuck on the step where we create a border around the stamp. When I CTRL+ LEFT CLICK and go to select> modify “expand” isn’t an option that is available to me. Please help!

  10. Yuki says:

    Mr. Johnson Koh I find your tutorial so great but then I can’t really do it.
    To anyone, can I use a help? Please?
    I’m stuck in the first step. Sorry, i’m kinda slow when it comes to following instructions.
    At my new layer at the bottom of the portrait layer, i filled it with #FFFFFF then posterized it as what was written but nothing happened. ._.
    I could use a some help. I want to do this to a photo of my dad. Thanks to anyone who’ll be concerned. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  11. Tim Maguire says:

    Great tutorial!!

    I was able to make it to the step where I have the full image made from text, but am having problems using “Replace Color” on the layers that were made with the pattern fill.

    I am able to pick the color, and select the new color, but when I hit OK, there is no color change. Also, the pic is in RGB.

    What am I doing wrong?


  12. Salma says:

    Hey! thanks for the great tutorial. I have a problem with the brush preset, though: when i select it, and click β€œdefine brush preset” it says nothing is selected. any help would be really appreciated. Thanks again πŸ™‚

    • Kitty says:

      Are you Ctrl clicking the layer? If so then it may not work that way. You’ll have to box the whole layer in order for it to work.

  13. Jon Larie says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I tried a different tutorial trying to teach the same thing, but I couldn’t get it right. I am just starting to learn Photoshop, but even I was able to produce a rather nice image using your tutorial.

  14. Monster Lamboghini beats says:

    with the first step i don’t why i can’t get the same result as u did. BTW: i’m working on another photo.

  15. Nicole says:

    That was amazing! =) I’ll give it a try… thanks for the tutorial.

  16. Hans Wong says:

    when i follow step 1, all i see is black.. πŸ™

  17. Amazing tutorial with awesome result! TenQ! πŸ˜€

  18. ketones says:

    This is really a great way to enhance a picture
    it can use to send message across while still having an eye catching image

    Thank for the tut

  19. Great tutorial
    Though the process is long, however the effect for the picture is just stunning
    Thank for the share

  20. EMILIJA says:


  21. bLAGABUM says:

    Is it just me? cos it didnt work. i try to went on create a new layer but all i saw on the list was new slice layer, new adjustment layer, duplicate layer. so i thought it didnt matter so i went on new slice layer and a “01” and a small small tiny image in blue came up!! this isnt working atall!!! πŸ™ this is for coursework today. i know a child age 10 can do better than me following this ABC tutorial but me?ugh. need extra help. im just 17 though…:( need a easier tutorial…something that a baby can follow.

  22. kckckc says:

    why when i follow step 1 my image is not in black&white

  23. Cando4you says:

    This is fantastic… Great tutorial, keep it up !

  24. Bradley says:

    Followed to a “T” but the text in the layers isn’t differentiated by grey tones when done. As of now this was a big waste of time. Why is the step missing to have the stamps and patterns be a different greytone to match the posterize effect? From the looks of things in this comment string I can’t expect a reply, but one would be nice to salvage this project.

  25. very good design. thanks.

  26. Awesome work ! Really charming images. Thanks for your wonderful hardworking.

  27. mohammad says:

    thank you for tutorial.

    • Adrien says:

      hi can you help me? how to obtain the difference between the different tones ? When i use the paintbush tool ihave any difference between the tones.
      Thanks for your answerd

  28. Adrien says:

    HI someone can perhaps help me .
    First : i utilise curve to have the different tones .Is the good soltion ?
    Two : i don’t arrive to change the colors at the last step as it is proposed
    Thanks for help
    sorry for my english

  29. The result is very beautiful. Thanks for this tutorial.

  30. Nice textable images. great design. really awesome !

  31. kharinda says:

    it’s nice tutorial. But I don’t understand what mean “fill it with #FFFFFF”. Is it white colour, how I fill it? Sorry, I’m just start in photoshop. Thanks before.

  32. Nice designable work. Really looking so attractive. Thanks for sharing it.

  33. It is a great design and a really great tutorial. Thanks!

  34. Amgalan says:

    it’s so nice.tnx

  35. Ragnhild says:

    Thank you for this AWESOME tutorial!!

  36. wow… its really amazing.

  37. Gladys says:

    WOW!! tnks for sharing!!
    I’m gonna try it!!

  38. Great taxation images ! Nice work. Thanks for sharing. I really like it.

  39. snfn says:

    thanks so much! this tutorial helped so much! i love my final image! very nice of u for sharing this tutorial! this can also be done on photoshop elements 4 =] im glad i got a decent tutorial for my old software lol thanks so much

  40. Steven Barrientez says:

    I seem to be stuck at the step where i am trying to get a border around the stamped words, Is the selection supposed to still be selected when modifying and inversed, and are you supposed to have both the stamp and bucket layers hilighted when doing that step?, if you could send me an email clarifying the steps at that point @ it would be appreciated, thanks


    • Charles says:

      I am having a problem with this step too. I can t seem to form borders around my stamps. Please help! Thanks!

    • Chizzy says:

      The control + left click works if you click the thumbnail of a layer as opposed to the title of the layer (left click the image, not the words) πŸ™‚

  41. hayyanah says:

    i lost using pen tool and crop something

  42. Puneet says:

    This is awesome, lov tis tut. Thanks for sharing this.

  43. San says:

    Thanks a bunch.. awesome tutorial πŸ™‚

  44. Dinesh says:

    WOW! its gr8. i love this tuts.

  45. ralu says:

    awsome tut dude…

  46. Red Devil says:

    Great tutorial!
    Thank you very much!

  47. Beo says:

    i tried to posterize from white layer and it doesn’t work, how come your image got an black and white after the posterize?

    • Amanda says:

      Did you ever figure out the issue here? I am having the same problem.

    • Chizzy says:

      Right after posterizing (Image>Adjustment>Posterize) I immediately turned black and white (Image>Adjustment>Black & White), thats all πŸ™‚

  48. CPO - Drupal says:

    That’s a great one, really thank you.

  49. cocaine addict says:

    this is good shiit

  50. Roei CPO says:

    Wow! real nice one, helped me alot on the website i just designing right now πŸ™‚ thanks!

  51. jurist says:

    i just dont get why the color of the posterized result isnt black and white

  52. Anuschka says:

    Hi, I am a beginner in PS, most helpful, clear tutorial. Thanks!
    My attempt:

  53. Opzolder says:

    Thx for the tutorial, my attempt can be found here;

  54. CK says:

    Awesome tutorial! I attempted it here:

    Will try again, once I find a better picture to go off of.

  55. faizle says:

    dude.. dude.. i love your tutorials!
    nicely done..

  56. patrobertson says:

    Effects looks super cheesy. Not at all like a real fitted-type effect. Why would you want to do this?

    • David Sm says:

      Because it’s arty?

      Could you post a link to a “real fitted-type effect” that you like or better yet have done? This is not an attack so please don’t take it as that (just to be clear). I’d just like to see where you’re coming from for style comparison.

    • Johnson Koh says:

      Thanks for the pointers, patrobertson.

      We are all here to learn and inspire, including myself. I am always trying out new experiments and sharing with the friends here. It may or may not be the best techniques available but i guarantee that it is original πŸ™‚

      This tutorial is meant as a basic to those who wish to try out within a short time. Of course we can add in much more details to make it even better with more time.

  57. David Sm says:

    Well, finally got a chance to do the colour version. Here’s my attempt at your effect:



    Thanks again Johnson. Had fun doing them.

    • Johnson Koh says:

      Hey David that looks pretty good! Personally prefer the effect to be in plain black and white. That is also why I ended the tutorial at that stage.

      Thanks for trying out. You have done great! πŸ˜‰

    • David Sm says:

      Thanks Johnson.

      I’m inclined to agree with you. The colour one is colourful and all but there’s something pristine-like about the plain black and white that I prefer too. Sometimes simplicity is best.

      Cheers and keep up the good work.
      Look forward to more of your tutorials.

    • Adrin says:

      h sorry for my english, i’m french…
      Can you help me : i do all this steps but there is no difference between the different tones when i use the paintbush tool on the different selection and i don’t know either how to colore.
      Thanks,and your work is wonderfull! i shouls like to succeed to do the same

    • Johnson Koh says:

      Hello Mari, you have done a fantastic job I must say. Great work!

    • David Sm says:

      OoOoooooo Mari, that IS an excellent rendition. It’s awesome.

      Johnson, I just want to say again how enlightening this tutorial is. I actually took a crack at it shortly after I posted on Dec 29,’09 and it gave me a lot of pleasure doing it. Did one in BW but held off on posting it cause I wanted to do one in colour too and post at the same time. Gonna see if I can do the colour one soon. Only thing is seeing how awesome Mari’s version is mine looks ordinary in comparison. *sighs*

      Hey, great job Mari.
      And Johnson, so wonderful of you to put up this great tutorial. Cheers.

  58. Mari says:

    Thanks for the tutorial here’s my pic.

  59. David Sm says:

    This is a really nice…matter of fact beautiful effect but I have to admit it lacks somewhat in instruction detail/ clarity. I’m a professional graphic artist so I could well understand others who may not be as experienced encountering some probs in understanding altogether.

    I got through stamping the black area (and filling rest of black with pattern). Proceeded next to stamping the dark gray area. However when I proceeded to fill the rest of the dark gray area with the fill pattern it’s filling with black type instead of dark gray. I’m stumped at this point.

    Gotta admit I hardly use the Paint bucket tool. Question is, how do I get, using the paint bucket tool as instructed, to fill the text with the saved pattern fill in any other colour (gray in this case) instead of black?

    I tried setting the foreground colour (default Black/White tool pallet) to green, before selecting the Paint Bucket tool, to test but when I try to fill the pattern (Edit>Fill>Pattern) it keeps filling the pattern fill in selected area with black type instead of other colour or gray type.

    Any assistance would be appreciated.

    • Jocelyn says:

      Try filling the whole pattern in black, locking the layer transparency, and filling the layer with whatever colour you want it to be. All you have to do is make sure you keep each colour on a separate layer.

    • David Sm says:

      Thanks for replying Jocelyn.

      Yup, that does work.
      Thought about doing it before but didn’t try it.

      So the only way to get a (black) fill pattern to appear in a colour other than black is to do it that way?
      Somehow I thought it could have been done by choosing a colour before applying. Guess not. That would have been better I think just in case you don’t have the area you want filled on a layer by itself. Fortunately I was using separate layers for each area.

  60. aRies says:

    WaaaHHH !
    Really nice…!
    I love it
    thanks for sharing knowledge.

  61. Mariya K. says:

    Neat-o. Simple and innovative.

  62. bklynstfc says:

    awesome tut, im getting suck on the first step though, i would really appericate a step by step explaination

    my email is

    thanks thanks thanks

  63. Anne Themmick says:
    Here is my version of this. Thank you for this tut.

  64. anjelle says:

    i’ll will try it bro..thanks, loveeeeeeeeett!!!!

  65. Saurabh Gupta says:

    Nice tuto bro… but u shud have explained the last step

  66. mehmet says:

    cool tut but please give us to textures link of your using in tutorial please

  67. ashwin says:

    nice tutorial, thankx man

  68. lj says:

    Thanks a lot, it is just beautiful πŸ™‚

  69. PhilLab says:

    Awesome technique! Although it doesn’t work well with every picture.

  70. Jen D says:

    I love this idea and keep trying to do it but I must be missing something. Are there steps missing? Please send me a step by step if you have one. I see others have asked. Thanks for this amazing idea.

  71. krys04rx8 says:

    good tut.. but im new to photoshop and would really like a step-by-step guide on how to do this. Do you mind sending me one?

  72. NoelA. says:

    thanks for the tutorial. loved it. here’s my take on it.

  73. bello says:

    I like this. If you could please send me a detailed tutorial would really appreciate.

    • piseth sok says:

      hi johnson koh im so happy when i saw ur teach. it very good. but can u make one more photo like obama’ photo. you know it the designer typography build text make obama’ face.
      i use to make like obama but no good can you show me?
      i’m sorry my english very poor

      thank u i will try do like u

      bye bey !!!

  74. Panchodh says:

    I think you forgot to say that before applying posterize you desaturated the image
    However, it is a great tut, it is very useful!

    • skald89 says:

      ya he did thanks a lot. I think a lot of the tutorials here are great but they tend to forget a step or two.

  75. thineash says:

    hi,its super man

  76. Amz.Spidey says:

    Really pro,
    I will try it
    Thanks a lot
    Keep going

  77. Baktash says:

    Hy, thanks for writing this tutorial love it πŸ˜€

  78. Israa says:

    Hey Johnson ty so much i’ve been looking forward to learn this typographic style. But i have a problem with the first step i don’t why i can’t get the same result as u did. BTW: i’m working on another photo.

  79. tanay says:

    could you please mail me a more detailed tutorial with screen shots im new to photoshop thanks

  80. c dog says:

    its sexy…wats ur numbuh girl

  81. teys says:

    i’ve been wanting to do this forever but i just didn’t know how… thanks for sharing!

  82. Vrabec says:

    Nice, but I thik quiete unfinished tutorial, coloring as a last step missing.

  83. pawelCover says:

    Great typhography effect πŸ˜€
    like it and use a lot πŸ˜€
    great piece of art ! πŸ™‚

  84. One of the best tutorial. Well explained. Thanks for sharing this nice tutorial.

  85. Inwebo says:

    Great ! love it!

  86. squab says:

    as an aspiring desidner i find this vewi helpful, if u don’t please could you possibly have another tutorial only this time be in coulor?

    squab south africa thanks

  87. aryf says:

    great tutorial….nice work

  88. Rafael Braga says:

    Hey …. amazing .. I’ll try it right now.

  89. edoluz says:


  90. Stuti says:

    very innovative idea

  91. JoyceB says:

    Love this effect, Johnson….Thank You!

  92. sriramkumarwild says:

    wow amazing

  93. Wow wow πŸ˜€ This ones awesome man. Keep up bro πŸ˜€

  94. dGjess says:

    yes!yes.i Γ’β„’Β₯ typography πŸ˜€

  95. Mars says:

    wooo, this is the one that i am currently working, post my result on this one

  96. Great tutorial! I will be adding this one to my favorites!

  97. Christian says:

    great tut man!

  98. tuananh says:

    stunning tutorial! I love it

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