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Photoshop 8-bit dither workflow

I recently watched the GDC presentation from the great Mark Ferrari. That guy does amazing things with 8-bit palettes. But a little thing struck me. When talking about his dithering techniques he stated that he hasn't found a better way to dither than either paint single pixels or use pre-defined dither masks with the "hue/satuaration"-adjustment. Very tedious! So i went out to find a better way and i might have found one.

The dithering technique i'm showing here is far from perfect and will need some handwork, but it's a great point to start from. Also it's non-destructive, dynamic and highly configureable. As such i think it's a great tool to have in any game artists toolbox.

To understand how it works you should have a good understanding of adjustment layers, precisely "posterize", "gradient map" and "pattern". And here we go:

Create dither pattern

Start with an empty image, white background. We only need a 4x4 pixel pattern with the colors black, white, 66% gray (#a8a8a8) and 33% gray (#545454) setup in this layout:

pattern

Select it, define a new pattern (Edit => Define Pattern) and call it "Dither" or something similar. This will define the dither style.

Create some black/white image to dither

We will change the colors later on, so the source image is best set to grayscale. I'm using just a demo image here, but you can use whatever you want: Shapes, paintings, etc.

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Dither Setup

Now the magic starts. First add a pattern layer with our dither pattern right above the image and set it to something around 18% opacity.

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Then add a posterize layer above that:

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That already creates a nice black and white dither effect:

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Finally we need to set a color, which can be easily done with a gradient map layer:

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By defining a gradient, we're now able to create all kinds of dithered color variants.

imgimgimgimg

This technique is pretty versatile, as all the layers react dynamically to whatever they are superimposed on.

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Also, by changing the opacity of the dither pattern layer, the amount of dithering can be manipulated:

imgimgimg

And by setting the levels of the posterize layer, it's possible to add more or less color levels:

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It might also be interesting to experiment with other dithering patterns:

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All in all this is a great technique to get a quick dithering idea. To finish up you'll still have to go in and pixel a little, but i'm positive this will spare you a lot of time. Thanks for reading and have fun creating art!