117. Paint an Area of a Photo with the Airbrush
Before You Begin
110 About the Toolbox
113 Select a Color to Work With
116 Paint an Area of a Photo with a Brush
There is one subtle difference between using the Brush tool with the Airbrush setting and using it without the setting. It is an extremely subtle difference, but you can learn to use this subtlety to your advantage: Without the Airbrush option, the Brush tool applies paint to an image as you move the mouse pointer. With the Airbrush option turned on, the Brush tool applies paint to an image as long as you hold the mouse button down. You can move the pointer slowly to make the Airbrush deposit its "steps of paint" more closely together.
Despite what you might read from any number of sources, the effect of the Airbrush is not cumulative within the same stroke. If you hold the pointer down over one spot, for instance, the tool doesn't build up paint to any greater level than your Opacity setting. This is exactly the same behavior as the Brush tool. You can, of course, accumulate paint over an area by making multiple strokes of the Airbrush at low opacity. But you can do that with the Brush tool as well. So the reason for using the Airbrush is to "motorize" the tool, if you will, so that fast strokes are more thinly spaced than slow ones, therefore more closely approximating the effect you'd get from using a real motorized paint gun or a spray paint can. You might use the Airbrush to apply digital makeup, as explained in 135 Brighten a Face with Digital Makeup.
Select the Brush Tool
Open an image in the Editor in Standard Edit mode and save it in Photoshop (*.psd) format. In the Layers palette, select the layer you want to paint. Select the Brush tool from the Toolbox. You can click the tool's icon or press the keyboard shortcut B.
Enable the Airbrush Option
Click the Airbrush icon on the right side of the Options bar.
Select a brush tip, Size, Mode, and Opacity from the Options bar. No single stroke of the Airbrush can build up paint beyond the amount specified in the Opacity setting; single Airbrush strokes are not cumulative within themselves. From the Toolbox, set the foreground color to the color you want to apply.
To set brush dynamics options, including Spacing, click the More Options button on the Options bar. Here, the Spacing setting becomes relative, referring to the interval of time the Airbrush waits between steps (paint deposits). Descriptions for all other dynamics settings appear in 116 Paint an Area of a Photo with a Brush.
Test the brush size by passing it over the picture without pressing the mouse button. A circle indicates the area the brush will cover.
Apply the Color
Begin the brushstroke by clicking and holding the mouse button where you want to start painting. For a pen tablet, position the pointer by hovering the pen, then tap and hold the pen where you want the brushstroke to begin.
To paint a freehand brushstroke, continue holding the button down as you drag the mouse. The brushstroke you paint follows your pointer. Paint is continually applied for as long as you hold down the mouse button (for pen tablet users, as long as the pen touches the tablet). If you hold the mouse pointer over an area with the button still pressed, paint appears to spill outwards from the tip. This is a result of repeated applications of a soft tip, when several soft-edged steps are applied on top of one another over time.
To paint a straight line between points, release the mouse button. For a pen tablet, lift the pen. Move the pointer to where you want the end of the line to appear. Press Shift then click this point. Here, the Airbrush mimics the behavior of the Brush tool, so how much paint is applied between the two points is governed by the Spacing dynamics setting, just as it is for the Brush tool. You can continue painting from hereeither a freehand brushstroke or another straight line.
To paint a straight horizontal or vertical line, press Shift now and continue dragging the mouse. The Editor senses whether you intend for the line to move up, right, left, or down by the general direction in which you're moving the mouseit doesn't have to be exact.
View the Result
After you're satisfied with the result, make any other changes you want and save the result in JPEG or TIFF format, leaving your PSD image with its layers (if any) intact so that you can return at a later time and make different adjustments if you want.
In this example, I wanted the label to emulate the flame paint job of this hot rod from a local car show. I used a novelty typeface to create a text label and took the color from a light area of the car's fender (See 114 Select a Color Already in Your Image.) The Text tool created its own new layer; I then added a new layer on which to paint so that I could erase any mistakes and so that I wouldn't have to simplify my text before I could paint on the text layer. I selected the Airbrush tool and a soft brush and used it to apply a darker color from the fender over the type.