Convert a Color Photo to Single Layered Stencil with Photoshop

Ok, I have had quite a few requests for this tutorial, so I thought I should explain the process I go through to create a single layer stencil from a color photo. Once you are familiar with this technique you will find creating stencils with multiple layers easier to master using a similar process. So here we go…

First simply open the color photo or image you will be using in photoshop (fig.1)

Now, once you have your photo opened we need to convert it into a greyscale image by using the ‘desaturate’ feature(fig.2)

Once you have your image desaturated we need to adjust its ‘brightness and contrast’ to make the job a little easier and to increase the contrast between the black and white areas of the image(fig.3)

This is one of the most important steps as the levels of contrast you create here are what will dictate the outcome and effectiveness of the single layered stencil image. Try and visualize the end result by understanding that only the most extreme areas of black will eventually be selected. Adjust the intensity of these black areas by sliding the 2 bars shown until you are happy that the image is still recognizable but there is a sharp difference between the colors(fig.4)

This is the part where there are a few ways to get a similar end result, but I think is one of the easiest and also most accurate. Select the ‘color range’ of your image(fig.5)

Basically what is happening here is that Photoshop will ‘select’ a desired color, highlight, midtone or shadow of your image. Because for this example we are creating a single layered stencil of the positive areas you will need to select ‘shadows’,'selection’ and ‘greyscale’ from the selection preview. Just set your Color Range palette up as shown in (fig.6)Click OK.

Now you will see photoshop has created a selection of the shadow or black areas of your image.

To separate your new selection from the rest of the image we are going to create a new ‘layer’. After locating your ‘layers’ pallete look for the ‘create a new layer’ button at the bottom.(marked in red in (fig.7))

After creating your new layer we now just fill the selection with a solid color. Either just use the ‘paint bucket’ and click somewhere within your selection or edit>fill>select black from the ‘contents’ dropdown.>ok.

Now to hide the background and make your new layer the only thing visible, simply unclick the little eyeball on the left of your original layer (marked in green in (fig.7))

Done! Now just remember the basic rules of a stencil still applies as covered in the ‘Basic Stencil Cut’ tutorial and you may be required to tweak the image slightly to remove any of those nasty ‘floating islands’ of white areas contained within any of your black areas.

Hope this helps. Enjoy.