It's the little details that bring impact & photorealism to your artworks, but with so much detail how can you possibly know where to start?
This page looks at a range of airbrush textures that you can use in your artworks to help bring them to life!
Click on the link you are interested in learning about:
Airbrushing for realism
Can you spot the difference?
It's important to realise that there are two ways of creating textures each of which can be found by asking yourself the following question;
Is the texture you're creating light over dark, or dark over light?
For the sake of learning more rapidly we are going to abbreviate these.
DOL texture = Dark over light
LOD texture = Light over dark
The easiest way to tell the type of texture that you need to create is to look at the shape that you are to blend your texture out of & ask yourself;
Is it a DOL shape or LOD?
When creating your airbrush Textures, focus on your height and intensity of paint flow to ensure you are recreating the texture exactly as you see in your reference.
- Increased height will soften textures.
- Decreased height will sharpen textures.
- Increased intensity will sharpen textures.
- Decreased intensity will also soften textures.
Like any of the textures in airbrushing, you should first lay down the shape that you see, only then should you begin blending your textures out from that.
All of the textures pictured within these tutorials are DOL.
The figure 8 texture - The most commonly used of all airbrush textures
The most widely used airbrush texture!
The figure 8 texture was taught to me by a man named Paul, a movie makeup professional and one of the founders of MEG Make up Effects Group, Australia's leading movie make up company.
The idea of the texture is to imitate skin & for best results it is used on a 3D surface, however it is extremely common in artworks using both LOD & DOL textures.
This texture is created very easily but can be a little tricky to get the hang of.
While holding the airbrush around 2.5 inches (7cm) from the canvas, relax your wrist and begin moving the very tip of the airbrush in a figure 8 motion - but only a small motion, you want your figure 8 to be be able to fit on a dime!
As you continue to repeat this figure 8 motion, pull back very slightly for paint.
The opacity of the texture you're creating determines how far you pull back for paint.
As you see the paint hit the canvas, offset the next figure 8 to one side & continue to offset each consecutive figure 8.
When you feel comfortable enough doing this motion, begin to speed up your movement, concentrate more on the texture that you are creating and let your wrist relax. Increase your speed until the result that you are getting looks exactly the same as picture above.
Remember - the size of the texture you're airbrushing is determined by your height and intensity of spray (how much you're pulling back for paint).
The lateral texture - Used for creating directional textures
The lateral texture is best suited to areas of an artwork that appear to have direction.
A good example of this is highlighted in the leopards face on the slideshow to the right.
Lateral textures appear to be moving in a given direction & tend to have some small lines incorporated.
First mastering the figure 8 motion will make airbrushing this texture a piece of cake.
Before you begin, take note of the direction in which your texture appears to be moving & slightly angle the airbrush to encourage overspray in that direction.
Now repeat the same action that you used to create the figure 8 texture but make a little addition to the movement;
Every now and then, flick off in the direction of the texture - like a miniature dagger stroke!
The linearity of the texture in the reference (if it looks like a bunch of lines) will determine how often you create the little flicks. The more often you flick off, the more lines you create, the more directional your texture becomes.
Hair texture - Create realistic looking hair instantly with this texture
It is easiest to think of hair textures as a series of dagger strokes - moving backwards and forwards in one direction.
Before beginning, have a good look at the type of hair you are trying to create - is it beautiful, flowing, neat hair? Is it short and messy? are you creating stubble?
Airbrushed hair textures are simple to create, but there's a few tips on how to get the best looking result, faster;
- For long hair, messy or straight, always begin by airbrushing with flowing movements.
Whether you're airbrushing the hair using lines or dagger strokes keep them long and slender.
Never overlap two lines if it is neat hair that you're creating - unless the reference calls for it. The reason for this is explained in the next point.
- Hair textures are easier to make messy than neat. For long messy hair airbrush exactly as you did in the previous point, but overlap only 3 or 4 out of all the lines you've airbrushed.
How messy is the hair looking after only these couple of overlaps?
- Short hair textures are airbrushed using short dagger strokes. Pay attention to the thickness of the hair & how long you are to create your textures.
If the stubble is messy then have your baby dagger strokes airbrushed in slightly different directions.
Wrinkle texture - Discover the secrets of micro shapes
Airbrushing micro shapes..
Some textures can't be created using just one movement.
If this is the case then it is likely you are going to have to use a series of micro shapes.
The picture here demonstrates an area packed with wrinkles.
Examine their shapes closely.
Are they made up of one dominant effect that we have already covered?
How would you go about recreating these little lines using only an airbrush?
After careful examination it becomes clear that the micro shapes are little blending lines, however depending on their size you probably won't have to use a blend.
So let's introduce hand stenciling.
When you airbrush using your hand as a stencil you can create some pretty interesting effects!
For the micro textures here, let's go in and use our index finger to shield the side of the wrinkle we don't want any paint to get onto. This creates a highlight.
Now let's see what happens when we create a series of these stenciled lines?
Voila! You now have a series of shadows and highlights.
Not all wrinkles can be airbrushed in this way, but it's important to know that if you're confused on how to airbrush an area - have a closer look and use the micro shape that you see to recreate the effect.
As you improve your airbrush texturing technique you may find that you no longer need to use your hand as a stencil but instead can pull off the whole artwork using only the airbrush. This gives a much cleaner look at the end of the day and adds to the realism of the finished piece.
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