Through a combination of Filters and different Blending Options in Photoshop, you can create an easy effect for any photo.
Tip: Try giving your photos a pixelated effect for free instead, if you’d rather not pay for creative software.
You might need:
- Software: Adobe Photoshop CS6 and above, and a free online tool like Pixlr X
- Difficulty: Beginner (anyone can do this!)
For the Mosaic Filter guide, I’m using this image of a happily dancing dude by photographer Dean Drobot on 123RF. Click the photographer link and you’ll find many more similar images on his portfolio.
You can use the same, or alternatively, an image of your choice. Let’s get right into it! Launch Photoshop, drag and drop to open your image, and duplicate your original image layer.
Select the duplicated layer. Go to Filter > Pixelate > Mosaic and enter a Cell Size of 6 Square.
But what if the cell size I used doesn’t work for your photo? Honestly, you can enter any number in your desired range, because every image is going to have a different outcome. Experiment away 🙂
There we go! How easy was that? If you like the pixelation effect as is, you can simply keep it this way, or lessen the effect a little. There are a few ways you can go about that, like adjusting the blend mode. Set the duplicated layer to Lighten for a softer effect. Alternatively, you could just double-click the layer with the mosaic effect and adjust the cell size again.
Add Layers of Pixelation
For the next effect we’re going to simply use the Mosaic filter more than once. Just like our previous effect, open your image with Photoshop and duplicate the original layer. I’m using this photo of a cheerful girl with confetti by photographer Dean Drobot on 123RF.
Select the duplicated layer. Go to Filter > Pixelate > Mosaic and enter a Cell Size of 15 Square.
Again, on the same layer, go to Filter > Pixelate > Mosaic and now enter a Cell Size of 10 Square.
What we’re gonna be doing now is creating one more round of the pixelated effect. Go to Filter > Pixelate > Mosaic and enter a Cell Size of 5 Square.
Now that you’ve diffused the effect a little, use the Eraser Tool (E) to softly erase away any details you would like to still show through. In this case I erased over the eyes, lips, and nose, making sure that the original layer is still showing through underneath the pixelated layer. You can definitely erase the areas you need to, which basically depends on your chosen photo.
For the third effect, let’s try creating a pixelated portrait using circular shapes. What you’re gonna want to do is create a new 100 x 100 px document in Photoshop. There are a couple of ways to create a circular shape in Photoshop. You can either:
- Use a large solid brush at a brush size of about 70 pixels to paint a colored dot.
- Use the Ellipse tool (U) to create a circle shape.
I’m using a light pastel purple hue to go as an overlay on my chosen image, but you can go with any color you like. Black or white would be the most neutral colors though. Next, on the top toolbar, select Edit > Define Pattern and name the pattern Spot.
Now, you can open an image of your choice in a new document. For this tutorial, I’m using this photo of a dancing couple by contributor Roman Samborskyi on 123RF. You can start by opening the photo as a new document in Photoshop. Select the original layer and right-click to go to Blending Options.
Select the dot you just created for the Pattern and adjust the following settings. Set the Blend Mode to Lighten or Hard Light (this depends on the color of your circle shape), and the Scale to 5%.
That’s basically it for making pixelation effects with Photoshop. Don’t have access to Photoshop, but need to pixelate a photo quickly? Check out no.4 below…
Use Pixlr X’s Pixelate Tool
Here’s a quick and easy tutorial with Pixlr X, a free alternative to Photoshop. There’s a video you can check out too. Basically, what we’ll be doing is taking this photo from its original state:
To this somewhat 8-bit style pixelated state right below:
Here’s how to replicate pixelation effects on your photos using Pixlr X:
- Click on Filter.
- Select Pixelate from the sidebar that appears.
- Adjust the slider according to your preference.
- Adjust the image exposure or add effects – entirely up to you!
While Photoshop has a steep learning curve, Pixlr X is completely free and easy to use online, in your browser of choice. Whether you’re using Photoshop or Pixlr X, have fun experimenting with pixelation effects!