Home  >  Tutorials  >   PSP 8 Tutorials  >
Airbrush Painting
E-mail this tutorial to a friend Email to a Friend

Airbrush Painting
Created by: Prof

In this tutorial, we will explore a very simple and quick technique using the Airbrush to create paintings from photographs. Although the tutorial is written for PSP 8 the technique can be used in any version of PSP.

Download File Download File
You are welcome to use the photographs I am using for this tutorial, just download them with the file on the left. (These photos are from the Blaikiewell Animal Sanctuary and from the http://www.pdphoto.org web site maintained by Jon Sullivan.

The Objective(s)

When working with photographs (or any set of images) there are times one wants to create effects that accentuate parts of a photograph or to create a collage from multiple photos. In this tutorial, I will show you how to use the Airbrush to create effective and interesting paintings (or "photographs from photographs").

The Technique

A powerful feature of PSP is that one is able to set the Materials palette to a pattern. Any image or photograph that is already open in the workspace will be available as a pattern.

Using this feature, the images that one wishes to use are opened first, then a canvas is set up with a solid color background. On a new layer or new layers one uses the Airbrush to paint and, setting the Airbrush options, one is able to create very effective paintings.

Some Considerations

  • The size of the opened photo or image will also be the size of the pattern. Thus, dependent upon how one uses this photo in the painting, one may resize it first. However, test out the painting technique to determine if the photo needs to be resized.
  • The painting is done on layers so that the final image painted can be moved with the Mover tool if need be.
  • Some experimenting is necessary when painting to find the area of the photo(s) wanted in the final painting, thus extensive use of the Undo Tool (Ctrl+Z) is most helpful.
  • Even though in the final enhancements one might use textured backgrounds, it is desirable to begin with either a solid white or solid black background as they are easily changed when necessary.

Open Image

New Image

Let's Do It!

Step 1:

Choose the photograph or photographs to be used. In this example, to illustrate the technique, I will just use a single photograph.

Step 2:

Open the photo in your PSP workspace and minimize it (the photo I am using is displayed on the left).

After experimenting with the technique I decided to leave this photo at full size in the PSP workspace but create a smaller canvas.

Set up a new image with a white raster background. Mine is a canvas of 400 x 300 pixels and 16M colors.


Materials Palette - Materials Box  Materials Pattern Option

Step 3: Set the Pattern

In the Materials palette, click on the Pattern option (below the Materials box there are three buttons. The left icon will bring up a fly-out from which you select the last one, 'Pattern'.) Then click into the Materials box and choose your photo from the pattern drop-down list.

It does not make any difference whether you use the Foreground or the Background Material as the pattern. Just set the other one to a solid color. (My Foreground Material is the pattern and my Background Material is the white solid color.)


Airbrush Tool  Preset: Reset to Default Option

Step 4: Set the Airbrush

Activate your Airbrush tool and reset to default (in the presets, click on the 'Reset to Default' button).

At this point you will need to experiment to find the values you want to use with your Airbrush. The following are the values I am using in these illustrations:
– Shape = default circle
– Size = 75
– Hardness = 0
– Step = 25
– Density = 100
– Thickness = 100
– Rotation = 0
– Opacity = 50
– Blend Mode = Normal
– Rate = 5

Note: Often I will use Hardness set to 0 (zero) as it allows better blending into the background.

New Raster Layer

Step 5: Let's Paint

When painting you will most likely need to experiment with the painting to get positions for parts of the photograph and for the effect or effects you are seeking. Thus, when you paint and don't like the result just use Undo (Ctrl+Z) and start again.

First create a new top layer. Paint parts of the photo to create the effect you wish.

And, voilą, you are finished. At this point you could enhance the background, add a frame, add another photo or part of a photo to create a collage, or enhance the painting as you wish.


The second illustration (bottom image) is using the first and adding a portion of the second photograph. Since I found the original picture of the two boys a bit large I first resized it from 640x480 to 400x300 to match my canvas.

I used the same settings for the Airbrush and very quickly clicked to keep the image as transparent as possible using a new top layer. I wanted just the two boys playing in the puddle.

Once I had the effect I wanted, I used the Mover tool to position them. I found the image of the two boys still a bit large so I resized that layer by 80%.

Enjoy this technique as it has many possibilities. In my accompanying tutorial on using Masks as Frames, I have enhanced this photo and illustrate some addition and quick techniques for creating outstanding photographs.

– Prof –