photoshop creative

How to create a retro poster using the Shape tools, part 1

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
October 24, 2013

Discover how to create a retro-inspired poster graphic in Photoshop – part 2 goes up tomorrow!

Download all the files you need for this tutorial here

Retro poster design in Photoshop



Set the Pen tool to Paths and carefully isolate the van – remembering to use the Option, Ctrl/Cmd and Shift modifier keys as you work. When you’re done double-click your path thumbnail to name it ‘Path 1’. Ctrl/Cmd-click the path thumbnail to generate a selection, then add a new layer and fill the active selection with white.


Duplicate the ‘Background’ layer and position at the top. Apply Filter>Noise>Median = 2px. Choose Image>Adjust>Threshold = 126. Generate a path-based selection and hit Shift+Ctrl/Cmd+I to Inverse. Use a large, hard-edged Eraser to remove the background apart from the van’s shadow (don’t worry about any remaining white areas). The visibility of the ‘Background’ layer in the screenshot below(??) has been disabled for clarity.


Grab the Magic Wand tool, uncheck Contiguous then click on the image to select all the black areas. Now switch to your Paths tab and choose Make Work Path from the fly-out menu located top right. In the next window enter a Tolerance value of 0.5 and hit OK. Name your second path ‘Path 2’.


We now need to store both these paths as Custom Shapes. Highlight your first path thumbnail, choose Define Custom Shape from the Edit menu, then repeat for the second path. Select the Custom Shape tool, then click the drop-down menu in the Options bar and you’ll see both thumbnails appear the bottom of your current list.


Open the first flower (978317_95592524.jpg). Because this subject has a contrasting background, we’ll apply a different technique to isolate it. Switch to your Channels tab and duplicate the Red channel (this one holds the most contrast). Now modify with a Levels adjustment: Input shadows = 33, Input highlights = 70, then fill any remaining background using a black hard-edged brush.


Ctrl/Cmd-click the channel thumbnail to make a selection. Target the top composite channel and switch to Layers. Use the selection to add a new layer filled with white, with the selection still active, target the ‘Background’ layer and hit Ctrl/Cmd+J to copy a new layer. Position at the top, then apply a small amount of Median, then a Threshold adjustment. Create paths, then save as Custom Shapes as Steps 3-4.


Apply the workflow we’ve covered to the remaining images. But remember, as each one is different, you’ll need to employ a combination of techniques to isolate them successfully. For images not requiring a separate inner fill such as the trees and birds, just create a single silhouette path and skip the Median filter. When you’re done, convert all paths to Custom Shapes.

Continue to part 2 of this tutorial…