Explore the history of pop art design, see examples, and learn how to easily make your own pop art wonders.
Pop art design popped into existence during the post-WWII consumerism boom in America and Britain. Artists behind the movement had a shared goal—take sledgehammers to the supposed long-standing pillars of fine art.
In other words—down with elitism (and . . . hello soup can collages?).
Pop art’s peak might’ve been in the ’60s, but it remains one of the most talked about and recognizable art movements in history. Which is why (spoiler alert), we’re going to dish out some more information about pop art design and its uber-familiar characteristics.
Don’t be shy about clicking on any of the pop art examples we share—they’re all Shutterstock images that you can use in your own designs.
Plus, we’ll show you how to easily turn your own images into Warhol-inspired works of art!
What Is Pop Art?
While pop art seemingly exploded in the States during the ‘60s, it began in the ‘50s with a group of rebellion-minded artists in London who called themselves the Independent Group.
Hell-bent on fighting the status quo and, as we mentioned earlier, taking metaphorical sledgehammers to what constituted “real” art, the group frequently found itself discussing advertisements, movies, comic strips, science fiction, etc.—all from American popular culture.
Still, despite British pop art (which, by the way, is a term said to have been coined during one of the Independent Group’s meetings) taking inspiration from the American pop culture zeitgeist, it did so from a distance. That’s why a lot of pop art examples from Britain tend to be more sentimental, or humorous.
In contrast, well-known American pop artists like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and James Rosenquist lived in the middle of America’s mass media overload, which explains a notable difference from British works—mainly, art that’s a bit bolder and louder.
Characteristics of Pop Art
If you’re thinking about making your own pop art design and looking for some inspiration, here are a few of pop art’s most common characteristics:
1. Vivid Color Schemes
Perhaps one of pop art’s most recognizable traits is its vibrant color schemes. Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, America prospered from an optimistic post-war mentality. Vivid colors pervaded its products, helping them stand out on shelves and eye-catching ads.
2. A Focus on Everyday Subjects and Objects
Some of the most notable pop art works take banal, everyday objects and pump them full of color and intrigue. The reason? Subversion.
Artists like Andy Warhol wanted to comment on everyday life and give common subjects or objects a place on museum walls.
It worked out well.
3. Mixed Media Types
You’ll find a lot of pop art that revolves around themes of materialism and consumption. Makes sense, given the American consumerism boom.
Moreover, artists would incorporate mass media into their work. Take British artist Richard Hamilton’s 1956 collage, Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?, for instance.
4. Illustrative or Hand-Drawn
Since artists often pulled from various media influences, you’ll find a lot of pop art that features bold lines, hand-drawn images, and comic book-style design elements.
5. Incorporates Unique Typography
Given the comic book influence, you’re sure to find a lot of eye-catching typography when words are used in pop art designs. Not to mention, typography art has taken on a movement of its own, with modern artists creating stunning designs that take typography to new heights.
If you’re using typography in a pop art design, think about what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. In pop art’s case, the how is what will give it the authentic, eye-catching look.
Two Ways to Make Your Own Pop Art Designs with PicMonkey
For a TON more inspiration, be sure to check out Shutterstock’s full pop art collection, or use the search bar to find artist-inspired images. Just type in names like “Warhol” or “Lichtenstein.”
If you have an image of your own that you’d like to turn into a pop art masterpiece, we’ll show you two ways to do so lickety-split, using PicMonkey!
1. Make a Pop Art Collage with the Warhol Effect
1. In PicMonkey, open a blank collage template and select your layout.
2. Click Add image on the top toolbar and upload your image, or choose one from Shutterstock’s library—you’ll find our images integrated with PicMonkey!
3. Click your image and drag it into the first cell.
4. With your cell still selected, open the Effects tab on the left and apply the Warhol effect.
5. Click the color swatches to choose your colors, then adjust your overall look using the Brightness, Contrast, and Fade sliders. Be sure to click Apply to save your changes.
6. Repeat steps 3-4 for your other collage cells.
7. When you’re done, click Download on the top toolbar to export as a JPG or PNG, or share to social media directly from PicMonkey.
Pro tip: If you don’t want to go the collage route, just upload your image to PicMonkey first, then add the Warhol effect, customize, and download!
2. Add Illustration and Comic Elements to Your Image
If you’d rather opt for something reminiscent of a comic book, you can do so with a single photo and just a few clicks.
1. Upload your own image to PicMonkey, or choose one from Shutterstock’s collection.
2. Open the Effects tab on the left and click Edge Sketch (under Artsy). This makes your photo look like it’s been traced over in pencil.
3. Just below Edge Sketch is Posterize. This gives your photo a painted feel. Click the Posterize effect, then use the sliders to adjust your look. If things look washed out, that’s okay. We’ll adjust in a second.
4. Open the Edits tab on the left, then use the Exposure and Colors menus to get the exact look you want. For quick editing, you can also click Auto adjust colors. If you don’t like the look, just click the Undo arrow on the bottom toolbar.
Pro tip: Lean into the Saturation and Vibrance sliders for a pop art look.
5. Lastly, bring on the comic elements. Click Themes on the top toolbar, then select the Comic Heroes! theme. Customize your design with graphics and text.
6. Use the Download button on the top toolbar to export your final design and share!
From pop art to other long-living design styles, there’s plenty more for you to peruse on the Shutterstock blog:
- 100 years of Art Deco: The Enduring Appeal of Jazz Age Design
- What Does Vintage Really Mean in Pop Culture and Design?
- From Easy to Advanced: 4 Ways to Make a Digital Collage
- Oscar Pop! 2021’s Best Picture Nominees as Original Pop Art Posters
- Tips from 6 Popular Artists on Creating Minimalist Illustrations
Cover image via Yudi Sarif Mukti.