Posterize An Image

Posterize An ImageTechnically, the Posterize adjustment in Photoshop is designed to analyze the pixel colors of a selected area of an image and reduce the number of colors—while maintaining the “look” of the original image. Creatively, you can apply this adjustment to make photos look like wood-block color artwork.

11. The Posterize adjustment is easy and fun to use. Let’s take a look at how the adjustment affects one of my favorite iceberg pictures.

22. To find the Posterize adjustment in Photoshop’s menu, go to Image > Adjustments > Posterize.

33. When selecting Posterize, you’ll see this simple dialog box. You can change the effect by typing a different number in the Levels window. Here, I’ve selected 4. The more you increase that number, the less the image looks posterized. At first, you may be thrilled with the default setting, but I encourage you to play around with the different settings. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you’ll come up with. Also, even after you’ve chosen a setting, experiment with Curves, Levels and so on to see how you can further enhance a picture.

44. This is the effect of Posterize, set at level 4, applied to my full-color image. 

55. Now try this: Convert a photograph you want to posterize to a black-and-white image first. Changing the color mode to grayscale (Image > Mode > Grayscale) is an easy way to go, but it’s not the best way to get black-and-white from color. If you do use the grayscale conversion, try boosting the Contrast (Image > Adjustment > Brightness/Contrast) a bit for a more dramatic image. For more control, however, use Channel Mixer (Image > Adjustment > Channel Mixer) and check the Monochrome box. With Channel Mixer, you have—that’s right—control over the tones in the different channels.

66. Here’s how the Posterize adjustment set at level 4 affected the black-and-white image.

77. As always, it’s fun to experiment with the options that Photoshop CS2 offers. Here’s how a level 7 setting affected the image. I prefer level 7 to level 4.

11. I took this picture of a camel and rider at sunset in Rajasthan, India. I like the “straight” shot, but I thought you might like to see how the image looked when posterized.

22. Here’s the effect of Posterize, level 4, on my color image. Hey, I’m sure some readers prefer the nonposterized image. I like it, too! But I also like the cool effect of posterization, basically, because it’s fun, and I like to have fun in Photoshop.

33. Finally, this is the effect of level 4 on a black-and-white version of the same image. Again, play around with Curves, Levels and Contrast after you choose a posterization effect to see what other creative enhancements you can apply to your image.

When applying the Posterize adjustment to an image, remember to keep a playful attitude. In most cases, you may prefer the original color image. The Posterize adjustment can make a picture look more creative, however, and using this technique can add an artistic touch to a favorite photo. Just ask the artist Peter Max (, who gained fame in the 1960s with his colorful posterized pop art.


Rick Sammon has published 27 books, including his latest works,
Rick Sammon’s Complete Guide to Digital Photography, Rick Sammon’s Travel and Nature Photography and Rick Sammon’s Digital Imaging Workshops. He has produced a DVD for Photoshop Elements users, 3-Minute Digital Makeover, and three DVDs for Photoshop CS users, Awaken the Artist Within, Close Encounters with Camera Raw and Photoshop CS2 for the Outdoor and Travel Photographer. Meet Rick at the PCPhoto/Outdoor Photographer seminars. Visit for more information.


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