Photoshop Tutorial: Airbrush/Paintbrush brush tool

Adobe Photoshop CS to CS5 basic Photoshop painting techniques.

Tutorial on Painting with Photoshop Brush-Tool

Adobe Photoshop CS-CS5 Painting Tutorials

Photoshop Paths | Airbrush/Brush Tool | Basic Painting | Layer Masks | Color Management

All Tutorial Text & Images - Copyright © 2011 KHI, Inc.

In this demonstration we will be approaching the entire illustration process in much the same way as was done before Photoshop or any other computer graphics programs where created. In the non-digital world, you would start with an inked line drawing on illustration board. Using Frisket or a similar masking material, you would paint or airbrush one section at a time. The word "frisket" is a term for a transparent self-adhesive plastic film used to mask areas in airbrush illustrations. The film was put on top of a line drawing and an X-Acto knife was used to cut a windowed area to airbrush through. Note: Click here for more information on traditional airbrush techniques.

Creating a Photoshop Illustration

The first step in the Photoshop illustration process is to create the line art in Adobe Illustrator (below). For this demonstration the subject will be a small section of the chrome tubing in a mountain-bike fork assembly cut away illustration. All illustration work in these tutorials was created using a Wacom Intuos drawing tablet in conjunction with a properly calibrated monitor.

This line art phase is done before any painting and color work takes place. Once you have completed the entire image in vector line art, you will export the layered file from Adobe Illustrator into Adobe Photoshop and convert it to CMYK format (see section 2). Then you are ready to start the painting process. Make sure you retain the layers when exporting to Photoshop by choosing the .psd export format.

Note: For more information on line art and perspective drawing techniques, go to the: Lessons and Tutorials section of our "Technical Illustration Students" page.

Photoshop Tutorial Line Art

It order to use the following Photoshop painting and erasing techniques successfully, you will need to use a good quality drawing tablet (Wacom Drawing Tablet or similar). Before we start the painting process, the "Painting Cursor" should be set to "Brush Size" in the "Display & Cursors" window of "Photoshop Preferences." This will give you a round cursor that is roughly the diameter of the pixel dimensions for the selected brush size. Having this visual aid will help you to imagine how large an area you will affect with each stroke.

Setting Cursors in Photoshop Preferences

During this drawing tutorial, you will learn how to illustrate a simple piece of chrome tubing. Keep in mind that the same techniques that we apply to the execution of this simple subject matter are used to illustrate the most complex object.

Photoshop Color Picker & Eyedropper Tool

We start with the premiss that any reflective object mirrors the world around it. If a reflective object is outdoors, it will reflect the sky above it (represented as a cool color such as blue), and the ground below it (represented as a warm color such as brown). This is the psychological cue that fools our brain into thinking that we are looking at something reflective. Start by creating a new Photoshop "Swatches" palette (first save your present palette). In this palette we need four colors (blue C: 50 M: 15 Y: 2 K:0, brown C: 5 M: 35 Y: 80 K: 40, black K: 100, and white). With these four colors, we can create just about any mechanical object form chrome to rubber and plastic.

Photoshop Color Picker Swatch Palette

Note: You can also use Photoshop's Color Picker and 'Eyedropper Tool' (I) to sample color from a photograph. If you are going to use the sampled color over a long period, save the color to your "Swatches" palette window.

Photoshop Layers Palette

Create a new layer in the Photoshop "Layers" palette and label it "tone" or "paint layer". Place it below the "line" layer. Set the line layer to "multiply" in the Layers palette and leave the Tone layer set at "Normal". Click on the "Line" layer to activate it, then click the "Magic Wand" tool in the area surrounding the object (A). Make sure to click inside trapped areas (B) as well.

Go to the desktop menu bar and scroll down from "Select" to "Inverse" to invert the selection. (Note: The outermost line must be continuous and have no leaks. Even a 1 pixel gap will cause the selection to enter enter unintended areas.)

Photoshop Magic Wand

Next click on the tone layer to activate it. Make sure your background color is set to white and scroll down from "Edit" to "Fill > Fill Background" to fill the selection with the background color (white). You now have a solid white background to paint over.

Photoshop Paint Brush

To create an airbrushed effect, use Photoshop's "Paintbrush" tool exclusively. Click on the "Paintbrush" tool and set the "Mode" to "Brush" in the options tool bar. While still in the options toolbar, set the "Opacity" to a low percentage (25% or less). This makes any alterations very subtle. If you go too far, you can undo your strokes or revert to a previously saved version.

Photoshop Painting Selection of Background

In the Photoshop "Brushes" palette, select a brush size that covers a large area and use a brush with a soft edge. In the example below, we have chosen a 50 Pixel brush. This soft edged brush will give your stroke an "airbrushed" or "feathered" effect.

Photoshop Paintbrush Tool Mode

Click on the line art ("Internal Parts LINE") layer to activate it. Using the "Magic Wand" tool, select the inside areas of the chrome tube. Use the key command Ctrl-H (Windows) or Command-H (Mac OS) to hide the selection "Marching Ants." This is an important step in the painting process as hiding the selection make it much easier to see the subtle differences in tonal variation that occur when two areas butt up against eachother.

Selection of Paint Area

Once the "Marching Ants" in the chrome tubing's selected area is hidden we are ready to start painting this selected area. Now we will click on the tone ("Internal Parts TONE") layer to activate it. Then click on the "Paintbrush" tool to activate it in the tool panel and continue to page 2: Basic Painting.

Note: The following hardware and software was used in this tutorial: An Apple Mac Pro desktop computer, a Wacom Intuos 6x8 drawing tablet, Adobe Photoshop CS-CS5 photo editing software and a properly calibrated monitor.

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