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Halftone Explained: What Is It and How to Make These Dotty Images

Halftone is a graphic technique that is widely but we rarely notice it. Many printed images are actually halftones, which use the precisely located dots to simulate the continuous tone of a picture. However, in 2020 it is still not so easy to find a clear, understandable guide on halftone illustrations. This article might come in handy for anyone who wants to learn about halftone images in simple words. It explains the basics of halftone, where it is used, and how you can create the halftone patterns yourself.

What Is Halftone?

Take a close look at any picture in a printed newspaper or magazine. If you look close enough, you might notice that it’s different from images with continuous tone, such as digital photographs. Instead, these images consist of thousands of very small dots that make up parts of the whole image. Halftone is a technique used in printing and graphic design. It uses dots of ink to create some sort of optical illusion. Halftone images consist of thousands of small color spots or dots varying in size. With just the right distance, these dots simulate the continuous tone of a picture or add the gradient effect to it. what is halftone? - Example

Where Is Halftone Used?

Halftone illustrations are used in print media to display images more effectively by saving costs on the ink. Instead of printing a picture in its entirety and using a lot of ink, a halftone image helps to make an illusion of solid colors and hues with the specific location of its dots. However, halftone as a technique is widely used in digital media and graphic design these days for artistic purposes. You’ve probably seen it in comics, postcards, web design, or anywhere else. Such images have their dots pretty visible straight away, but at the same time include color and hue gradients that make them appealing to the eye.

How to Make a Halftone Image

You can experiment with halftone textures in different photo editing programs. You can even try the halftone technique with the use of some free programs such as GIMP. Nevertheless, the easiest solution for designers and photographers who want to try some halftone patterns for their projects is to use Photoshop. With the program, you can actually create different types of halftone illustrations with varying tools, depending on whether your image is colored or black and white. how to make halftone in photography

Color Halftones in Photoshop

If the photo you want to create a halftone from is initially in color and you plan to keep it this way, you can make your halftone vector in just a few clicks. For a color halftone image, go to Filter, select Pixelate, and then choose Color Halftone from the list. When you click on it, a window will appear and you will be able to set the size of the dots there. A bigger number means bigger dots. Try out several options to see what effects you want from your halftone pattern. Note that the look of the halftone dots varies with the color modes of your images, and you will have to convert your file if you want to experiment with this. While an RGB image makes dots using three colors (red, green, blue), a CMYK image uses four colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black). Black and white halftones in Photoshop

Black and White Halftones in Photoshop

Unfortunately, the technique above doesn’t work very well with black and white photos, so you will have to take some more steps for achieving interesting halftone patterns. First of all, you should change the color mode of your image by selecting Image > Mode > Grayscale. Then you will have to go back to the Image section, click on the Mode again, and select Bitmap. In the pop-up menu you will see the Method line in the bottom half of the window. There, select Halftone Screen. After you’ve done this, the new window for Halftone Screen will show up, where you can choose the parameters for frequency, angle, and even shape of your halftone patterns. Apart from the traditional round shape of the halftone dots, you’ll be able to play with structures and select something slightly more unusual.

An Afterthought

Whether you are just starting with design and photo editing, or are simply looking for some new ideas for your projects, it’s good to learn and research. This simple guide on halftone illustrations will help you experiment with your own dotty structures and create various design projects with the technique.