Graffiti Spray Paint

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To create realistic graffiti art, you no longer have to hit the streets with a backpack full of spray cans, looking for that secluded area where you won't get caught. You don't need to place yourself at the mercy of the elements, and you don't need to break the law. All that you need these days is a digital photo, a scanned drawing of your plan, and a little Photoshop know-how.

Photoshop offers all of the tools necessary to add innovative digital graffiti to any photographed scene. Brushes, selections, and layer blending modes are essential Photoshop tools to get the job done. In this chapter, the standout features are the brush tool's airbrush option and flow settings. Above all other features, these are key ingredients in producing convincing graffiti art. These two features give the brush tool its authentic spray paint feel and allow you to produce convincing spray paint results.

However, in order to make things feel real, you'll also need to incorporate some real world imperfections. While producing real spray paint art, you get annoying drips littering your masterpiece when you apply too much paint to a single area at once. And although this imperfection is something you'd try to avoid in the real world. Here, in the digital realm, that imperfection is required to lend authenticity to your art.

For the authentic spray paint look, you'll need to incorporate the real thing. In this particular case, I've incorporated some basic paint drips, done traditionally, into the digital composition, giving it an authentic feel. And rather than creating a digital backdrop for the graffiti art, it is painted directly on top of a photo of a bare wall, using layer blending modes to make it look as if it really belongs there. So remember, when creating realistic graffiti in Photoshop, it is not just paint techniques that you'll need to employ, but innovative image composition methods as well.

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Project files

All of the files needed to follow along with this chapter and create this urban masterpiece are available on the accompanying CD. Files for this chapter can be found in the folder entitled: chapter_03.

1 I Open up the wall.jpg file. This will act as your background for the image and this file will become the bottom layer of our multi-layered working file. The first thing you notice about the wall is that the darker details are not pronounced enough. Perhaps the original photograph was a little overexposed. To remedy this, drag the background layer onto the create a new layer button at the bottom of the layers palette to duplicate it. Target the duplicate layer and change the blending mode of the layer to linear burn. Reduce the opacity of the layer to 67% so that the burn effect isn't overpowering.

2 I In order to make the painting stand out even more, let's reduce the amount of color in this already very neutral feeling background. Click on the create new fill or adjustment layer button at the bottom of the layers palette to access the pop-up menu of adjustment and fill layer options. Choose hue/saturation from the list to create a new hue/saturation adjustment layer. Reduce the saturation by around 28 to remove color from the underlying layers. Click OK.

3 I Open up the drawing.jpg file. Choose Image>Adjustments>Invert from the menu to convert the artwork to a negative. Type control(PC)/command(Mac)-a to select all and then type control(PC)/command(Mac)-c to copy the selected image. Return to your working file and navigate to the channels palette. In the channels palette, click on the create new channel button at the bottom of the channels palette to create an empty alpha channel. Target your new alpha channel and type control(PC)/command(Mac)-v to paste the copied art into your new channel.

Go your own way

The black and white art here is a very sharp and finely tuned piece of artwork. However, what makes every graffiti artist unique is his or her style of drawing. Feel free to carefully draw your own black and white artwork and substitute it for the one used here. There is no part of the process more appropriate to express your individual style than the black and white art stage. You can create any subject you like, but try to make it a nice, sharp piece in solid black and solid white. This will help to keep the channel clean, resulting in a nice, clearly defined selection border.

4 I Ensure that the new channel remains targeted and then click on the load channel as selection button at the bottom of the channels palette. Return to the layers palette and click on the create a new layer button to create a layer at the top of the stack within the palette. Press the 'd' key to set your foreground color to black. Then, ensure that your new layer is targeted and type alt(PC)/ option(Mac)-delete on the keyboard to fill the current selection with black on the new layer. Type control(PC)/command(Mac)-d to deactivate the selection.

Creative Photoshop

Part 1: Drawing and Painting

Inverting images

Because you are pasting black art on a white background into an alpha channel, it needs to be inverted first, so that the art is white and the background is black. A quick way of inverting your art is to type control(PC)/command(Mac)-I on the keyboard. Or, you can leave your art in its positive state and double click your alpha channel in the channels palette. Then, from within the channel options, change things so that color indicates selected areas rather than masked areas before you paste your copied art into it.

6 I Now, as mentioned in the introduction, sometimes you need to resort to the real thing to achieve authenticity in your digital art. Here, a series of black paint drips were painted on a white piece of paper. Holding the can in one place while spraying allows you to build up enough paint in that spot so that it begins to run. Black and white were used because these paint drips, after being scanned, are destined to be used to create custom selections within a series alpha channels.

5 I Use the move tool to position the layer contents a little higher on the canvas. Change the layer blending mode to multiply and then reduce the opacity of the layer to 75%, providing a hint of transparency. With your black outline layer targeted, choose Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur from the menu. Enter a radius setting that softens the edges of your black line work. Softening the edges, combined with the layer blending mode of multiply, is what will give the art on this layer the appearance of being sprayed onto the wall. Be careful not to soften the edges too much, you still want your artwork to look like something.

Chapter 3

7 I Go ahead and paint your own drips if you like. If you're doing it on your own, be certain that the paint is completely dry before you scan it. Spray paint is difficult to remove from any surface, that's what makes it so appealing for outdoor art. If you'd rather focus on Photoshop instead of making a mess, the dirty work here has already been done for you. Open up the drips.jpg file. This is a desktop scan of a group of spray paint drips. Invert the file and then use the lasso tool to draw a rough selection that contains one entire drip.

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