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A Great Way to Airbrush [Image heavy]

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This tutorial is available as a PDF. Click here to view or download it


Airbrushing is a use of this program many may underestimate. Many think of photoshop.... but there is a simple and easy way to edit on paint.net!

Some of my favorites that I've done with these methods:







Today, we are going to do this transformation:


The two images are separate so you can follow along with just the original, however if you prefer to use your own images feel free as the steps can be applied to many different images.

I like to keep a separate copy of the original in either another layer kept invisible or in a different image so I can check my progress throughout. This is entirely up to you.

So we begin with using the clone stamp tool. I like to set my transparency to about 127, maybe less and just click a little at a time with a small brush width (about 5 with this size image) to just cover a little at a time. You want to take your sample area from a similarly textured/colored area and you may need to take multiple sample areas to blend. Aim for wrinkles and disfigurations or any other small mark you may want to remove. You should get something like this:


Ok so you may have noticed that the facial shape between the two images is different! If not, then now you know. This next step is entirely optional, but often produces a more amazing result. So the tool we now need to turn to is smudge in Effects>Tools>Smudge. Using the defaults, slowly push the face into a shape that you think is better or more appealing. Remember to keep it looking natural & avoid the dreaded over-blur on the edges & skin! I like to keep the setting on default because I feel it pulls just enough but feel free to experiment to your liking. For this tutorial, I chose to keep the smudging to a low amount, but as you can see from the samples, some images can be extremely manipulated to a new face entirely. My result came out to this:


My next step is usually to go to the eyes. Create a new layer and set your blend mode to overlay. Open the color palette and set your Value (v) to around 62. using a brush width just smaller than the distance between the edge of the iris (for those that may not know that is the colorful part) and the edge of the pupil (the dark spot in the center), draw a curved line on the bottom half of the iris following the shape of the circle. Now change your (v) to about 75 and draw over about a third of the bottom of the curve, leaving the ends the darker line. If you wish, you can take an even brighter (v) and put a smallish spot on as well on the line for more luminosity. Using a smaller brush (about 4) and a (v) of 37, cover about a quarter of the iris (at the top of the circle!) with the dark line. For a stronger contrast use a (v) of 25 and a brush with of 3 to draw even closer to the top eyelid. Use a gaussian blur in Effects>Blurs>Gaussian Blur at about one or two, just enough where you cannot see the edge of the high/lowlights and flatten. Your image should look something like this:


Still working on the eyes, the next step is to lasso ONLY the iris. Make sure that the pupil is not selected. If you wish, you can use a sharpen (Effects>Photo>Sharpen) with a value of one or two to add some definition and intensity. The next step is to go to Adjustments>Hue/Saturation. This next step is all experimentation. Increasing saturation and putting a better hue is often my choice. For example blue eyes, when you increase saturation, turn a yellow color. You have to adjust the hue to get a better blue and perhaps lower the saturation to look more natural. You can even change the eye color, to green or brown for instance. Try to stick to a natural color and saturation unless you want an unnatural look to them. My results look like this:


Looking at the subject, we can see she looks a little pale. Use the eyedropper tool to select the natural skin color. Set your (v) to 50 and saturation to about 10 or 15. Cover all of the skin you can see, avoiding lips, eyes, and hair. If you do not like the resulting color or it is too strong or not strong enough, you can use the hue/saturation adjustment to increase or lower saturation or brightness, but try not to change the hue. This keeps it from turning orange (because we don't want any Oompa Loompas!). Use a gaussian blur, setting the value to when it perfectly blends into the hairline and looks like it was always part of the picture. My result looks like this:


Turning back to the eyes, she could have some makeup! Make a new layer and set it to overlay. Pick a hue you like and set the saturation at about 20. You can increase or decrease it much like you did with the tan color after you apply it but before you flatten. Apply the 'eyeshadow' as you see fit. If you want to apply 'eyeliner,' take a dark grey and a line just thinner than the width of the eyelashes and trace where you want the makeup. Apply a 1-2 or more if you prefer gaussian blur and flatter or adjust as you like and flatten. I did my makeup like this:


Now I go to the hair. Using the clone stamp again with the same low transparency and techniques, you can edit out minor frizz and flyaways. You can also fix any thinness near the hairline or thicken hair to look fuller by filling gaps. This can give you that magazine perfect hair style! My result looks like this:


How about the awesome shine? Make a new layer and set it to overlay and using the values you used for the eyes, draw lines like the ones on the picture below, accenting the higher and lower parts of the hair's shape:


Use a gaussian blur with a value that completely blends the lighting to look unadded, like in my example:


If you want, you can tint the hair with some more color or even a different color if you feel like experimenting. In this example, I use a yellow hue with a low saturation, (about 20 I believe? Maybe less.) and a value of 50. Color the shape of the hair and blur it to look natural much like you did with the shine. My example looked like this:


Now for that amazingly highlighted magazine skin. Much like with the hair, make a new layer and set it to overlay. Map out your lighting in a way you like. I lay mine out in a layout similar to this:


Blur it much like you did for the hair, toying with the value until it blends nicely with the natural lighing. My result looks like this:


Next I decided to add a light blush and some lip makeup. Using the eyedropper tool, select the color of the skin near the apples of the cheeks. Lower the hue by 10 to 15, or more if you want a redder blush. Set a low saturation level and a value of 50. Make a new layer and set it to overlay. Draw on circles on the apples of their cheeks. Blur it until there is a seamless blend. You can use the hue/saturation value to fix it to your liking. Now you can select the shape of the lips on the image but do NOT get the teeth! Use sharpen until it looks shined & has some definition but do not over do it then deselect. You can then, on the same layer as the blush, put some red on a very low saturation and a value of 50. Draw on the shape of the lips then you can select the area surrounding them and using h/s adjustment again alter it to your liking, and if needed blur to blend then flatten. It is hard to see the difference so it looks natural, but this is my result:


You can stop here if you like your result, but if you want more of a dramatic affect.

Using h/s again, you can change the hue to a few points to either side to correct the color if you are not satisfied and increase or decrease saturation to your liking as well. Then using brightness/contrast under adjustments, you can also fix the image to make it look better and to your liking. This is the final result I came to:


Remember to have fun with it and experiment!! Please post your results, even if you go wrong somewhere, since me or another fellow forum dweller can put you on the right track! Good luck! :D

:music: ~Epic :music:

  • Like 1
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Previously dgirl555, but now you can call me epic

Oh, and I really like airbrushing photos

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  • 2 weeks later...
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  • 10 months later...

It's not a tool, it's a technique. You need to read the tutorial again.

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  • 2 months later...

Amazing tutorial, seriously! It looks good and first and foremost natural. I'm closely done with my try which I'll post.

The explanation is really good so I don't really have questions about the tutorial itself. Nevertheless I have dark rings under my eyes on my pic. Any technique to remove it better than simply clone stamp?

Edited by Hitboy
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Ok here is the result! First time I do serious retouching it and I'm pretty proud of the result.

I did the whole tutorial but also lowered the dark shadow below my left eye, and fix the lips (kicked the white circle around it and put more red on it).

Thanks to epic epiphany, really good tutorial :)

Before :


After :


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  • 2 months later...

cool, but how does the stamp get rid of wrinkles? I used it, but it doesn't work... :P

EDIT: nope, I know how to use it now, so don't reply to this post.

Anyways, great tut. (stamp o' approval) :D

Edited by CrazyPainterz


Paint with PDN like there is no tomorrow!

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