Emulating the Sin City Look with Photoshop

Last week I posted an image up on flickr as part of the 365 Days project. Justin suggested I take the photo and mess with it in Photoshop. “It’s screaming frank-miller-filter of something,” he said.

Hmm. Frank Miller filter. Sin City. Cool posterized-yet-not look. Sure!

So I opened up my trusty Photoshop CS3 Beta and got to work.

Breaking it down

So if you look at Sin City, you have super contrast on all the characters, but there’s a little bit of gradient. Just the posterize filter isn’t enough. It’s that micro detail that makes it shine.

Original Image

!{border:1px solid black;}http://farm1.static.flickr.com/185/428993308_d2abe28e7e.jpg (Original color photo)!

The first step is to get rid of the color and set yourself up with a good black and white clean plate. To do this I used Image > Calculations. This lets you do a variety of layer operations by juxtaposing two channels as layers. I played around with them until I found something I liked. My settings (your milage may vary) were Blue in Channel 1 and Red in Channel 2 with the Overlay transfer mode at 100%. Remember that the blue channel will always have the most grain in it, even on a digital shot.

Black and White

“!{border:1px solid black;}http://farm1.static.flickr.com/163/431008821_3f425d76ee.jpg (Photo translated to black and white via Image > Calculations)!”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/boboroshi/431008821/

From the base black and white image, I created three layers. The first I left alone, the second I applied the “stamp” filter to (tweaking the settings to get the lines where I wanted them), and to the third, the “torn edges” filter, again tweaking to taste.


!{border:1px solid black;}http://farm1.static.flickr.com/182/431008828_2090b81e3b.jpg (Photo + Stamp filter)!

Torn Edges

!{border:1px solid black;}http://farm1.static.flickr.com/162/431008829_bc0ced3ffb.jpg (Photo + Torn Edges filter)!

Now all that was left was to mix them up. Turn both filtered layers to overlay and bam: You have yourself the comic book look. Tint skin to yellow at your discretion.

Final Image

!{border:1px solid black;}http://farm1.static.flickr.com/161/431008830_f17dbb89fb.jpg (Finished Frank Miller Style Photo)!


  1. chris says:

    I ought to Digg this, just to stress test Castro/Kennedy.

  2. chris says:

    oh, and dang you and your CS3 b3+4!~~11111eleventy-one!111

    One of the things I really like about PS is the ability to use multiple filters/techniques to similar ends, so I'll just chime in for my own self-aggrandizement and say a 2-channel 'posterize' gives similar results to torn edges, fyi, ftw.

  3. John Athayde says:

    Torn Edges has been around a while. I've used it before CS3 Beta.

  4. Justin says:


  5. mathews says:

    I need your help.
    if you google the wallpaper from the movie 'Death Sentence', you can see a a wallpaper of Kevin Bacon....(not like Frank Miller), more like Max Payne and Hitman look......Could you mail me the process to do that in PS 7.0.1


  6. Tola says:

    Jenny & Mike: Sounds great! I'm sure the shower was MOST rfsheering! I can vaguely recall my first one after the major medical event 6 years ago it was WONDERFUL! Gini and I certainly hope (and expect, actually) that all will continue to go very well. We got home from AZ late yesterday. Had an excellent 2 weeks visiting with Nancy & Ed Owen (Gramma's next door neighbors). We spent a couple of days in Sedona in their time share, went to the Body World exhibit at the Phoenix science museum (where we could see exactly where your disk went and where Gini's recent shoulder surgery was done) as well as having dinners in some excellent restaurants. We also spent a few days South of Tucson visiting Gini's best friend Annie and hubby Jim. Another excellent time. We'll try to activate Skype on one of our computers and contact you at an appropriate time tomorrow. Love you guys!!

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