Halftone Screen Effect in Photoshop


Commercial printing and printers use the halftone screen pattern to print images and text. All printed colors, visible to the human eye, can be divided into four constituent subtractive colors; these colors are cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y) and black (K). Printer ink is divided into these colors and is combined to create any hue or shade. Light bounces off of the printed page, the ink removes selected colors from the reflected light, and the resultant light is perceived by the human eye. Photoshop can easily set up an image for halftone screen printing.

Purpose of Halftone Screen

  • The halftone screen effect is necessary in printing to allow the ink to be perceived and recombined by the human eye controlling the overlapping of the four inks without muddling the color. The pattern creates rosettes of inks that are perceived by the human eye as certain colors. The inks cannot overlap excessively because the overlapping cyan, magenta, yellow and black will only create shades of gray, canceling the effects of color.

Directions of Screen Patterns

  • Each of the four inks is printed in a different direction to allow the combination of all inks to create the rosettes of color. For example, cyan may be printed at an angle of 105 degrees, yellow may be printed at 90 degrees, magenta may be printed at 75 degrees and black may be printed at 45 degrees. This example of printing directions creates small hexagonal rosettes. Other angles and densities can be used for different printers, but it is important to be careful in selecting directions and densities to avoid more patterns when printing.

Halftone Screen Pattern With Filter

  • You can imitate the halftone screen pattern with the Color Halftone filter in the Pixelate filter directory on Photoshop. Similar to the printed halftone screen, the filter divides the image colors into cyan, magenta, yellow and black and displays the halftone pattern with predefined dots of color, described by the number of pixels in the radius.

CMYK Halftone Screen Effect

  • You can apply the CMYK halftone screen in Photoshop under the "Print" menu. Select the "Output" menu, and click on the "Screen" button. Apply the appropriate halftone settings, including dot shape, frequency and angle. After choosing the settings, click "OK." As stated before, it is important to choose a dot pattern that will work well with a given commercial printer. The printer can provide proper settings for optimal performance.

Black Halftone Screen Effect

  • The black halftone screen effect is exactly the same as the CMYK halftone screen, but the only ink used is black. Nevertheless, you can define the dot shape, frequency and angle. To use the black halftone screen, change the color mode to grayscale in the "Image" menu.

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  • Photo Credit halftone pattern, dots image by Suto Norbert from Fotolia.com
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