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Fantasy Art Tutorials in the FARP Section

Photoshop Hard-edged Airbrush, Page 1 of 3

By :-) Liz Chesterman


I don't often use the ultra-smooth technique of coloring with the airbrush in Photoshop, simply because it's too smooth. This technique uses the airbrush with a harder edge on it.

Page 1 (Page 2) (Page 3)

The character featured, Fyre Uni, is copyright/property of Kelly Meeks.


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I start with a simple sketch. First a quick pose, then refining that pose and adding clothing. Sketching is done with the pencil tool at 72dpi for speed. 1
2 3
4 5


Once I have a sketch I like, I blow the document up to 300 or 360dpi and ink it, often with Painter. 7
Next I'll use the pencil tool to block in an outline of the whole image, then fill it with the paint bucket tool. 8

I lock the layer, and using the pencil and paint bucket again I'll block out the various color sections.

I use the pencil tool because my next steps involve using the magic wand to select areas of color. If all my areas of color are aliased (ie, hard-edged) the wand has much less trouble selecting areas without mixing edge colors. The lines on an upper layer will easily cover up the hardness of the pencil tool edges.


With the airbrush tool on a low opacity (10-20%), and my tablet settings on vary opacity and size I sketch in the ring of fire. This I will use as a guide to lighting on the character, and overall direction for later when I finish the ring. 10


I use the magic wand with antialias unchecked to select the tail, then CTRL+J to promote that to a new layer, and lock (preserve transparency).

With the airbrush on vary opacity only, I use a medium sized brush with a hardness around 70% to sculpt in dark areas of the tail, then go back to 'sharpen' with a lighter color, then use screen to add highlights.



Alas, I do not like how the tail looks, so I start over, but with the brush a bit softer.

This time the tail looks to soft.. like clay or bad 3D modeling. My brush settings were softer this time, and I used the push tool. So I scratch this version too, and decide to move on.

I'll come back to the tail again later.



Next I move onto the creamy colored fur. I want this to be almost buttery-golden when I finish, but with some nice purple hues in the darker shadows for dramatic effect. Using the airbrush on a low opacity, varying opacity, I use the same add dark, soften edge with light technique of before.For the final lights I use the airbrush on screen.


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FARP Article Guestbook

29 Apr 200545 Person
Would have to agree with Ren, fine tutorial for any1 with any knowledge of photoshop and skill as an artist....sadly enough its not ment for people lacking such skills like anonymous
12 Sep 2005:-) Julia Doering
I really liked how you did the fire rings and tried the method on one of my comics. It turned out as an improvement, so thank you very much for the help!
4 Feb 200645 PyroBlitz
Wow, this is very helpful to use... makes CGing things a lot easier then it appears. Thank you very much for the tutorial!
25 Jun 200645 Anonymous
I was wondering what Photoshop version you used... because I can’t find ’airbrush’ anywhere in mine! does paintbrush work in the same way?
thanks for the awesome tutorial!

:-) Liz Chesterman replies: "Currently I use version CS1, but back then I was probably using version 7. There is indeed a little checkbox in the upper left corner by the opacity and size tools for the Airbrush, plus a Brush tab that has tons of great options to mess with."
29 Jul 200645 OB1Knobby <mrknobby@com...net>
I don't know about what version was used here. But in PhotoShop CS if you choose the Paint brush tool, Then, if you haven't changed your layout, in the upper-left corner you can click the down arrow and change your preset to airbrush. Also, on the right side you'll see "Brushes, Tool Presets, and Layer Comps" as tabs. There are a TON of brush styles in there.
20 Sep 200745 Anonymous
Tried to changed the hardness, but dont know why the Hardness bar disappeared under Master Diameter!

Can anyone tell me how to fix this?
2 Jan 200945 Chit Ahim
Where is hard-edged brush in Photoshop? ( I use soft ware no along)Please replay me!

:-) Liz Chesterman replies: "A hard edged brush has little to no feathering at the edge. It’s not as aliased as the pencil tool, but not super soft like the airbrushed tool."
1 Apr 2010:-) Teresa Ascone
Hello, I’m new to the site - are these tutorials archived or do they go away? I’d like to look this over more thoroughly but have to go into town. This is exactly the kind of advice that’s helpful to me, very nuts and bolts and step by step.
28 Aug 201145 Anon.
Absolutely cool! Also a beginner at the art and this tutorial stuff mesmerizes me. Thankful to the person that takes time to share. Few people have that gift too. Always looking out for more.
6 Mar 2012:-) LEE whitney HILLIARD
this is awesome ! i’m learning to use my tablet as we speak this is a major help . thank you 2
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