Photoshop tutorial: Paint digital graffiti onto photos

Mark Mayers shows you how to mix pixels and spray paint to create edgy urban art.

Graffiti has influenced many of today’s graphic designers and illustrators: skateboard graphics, clothing, and the music industry have all drawn on it heavily, while the distinctive graffiti style pops up in ads, magazines and elsewhere.

From modest beginnings in the 1970s as simple tags in New York subways, to the modern-day hip hop behemoth, graffiti art has gone global, as likely to crop up in chic art galleries as on the streets.

Here, you’ll learn how to add some chaotic, urban grit to your artwork using selection and layer blending techniques. You’ll also learn how to replicate a three-colour graffiti stencil using Photoshop’s filters and channels – then you’ll get the chance to get your hands dirty by adding some overspray and drip effects.

Finally, to pull off the effect, you’ll apply blending modes, as well as using Photoshop’s lesser-known Displace filter to map your graffiti to the contours of the wall.

The skater image for this tutorial is kindly provided by Paul Frost, Some other images for the tutorial can be bought online for a small cost.

Step 1
In Photoshop, create a new RGB landscape canvas measuring 29.7 x 21cm at 300dpi. Download the wall image from iStockphoto, or use a similar image of your own. Import the wall image into your document as a new layer, then use the Clone tool set to All Layers to extend the plaster on the left-hand side plaster. You might also like to clone out the black paint area in the top right corner of the image. When you’re happy with your wall merge the layers (Cmd/Ctrl + E).

Step 2
Save the image as Graffiti Tutorial.psd. Next, desaturate it (Cmd/Ctrl + U), then give it a Gaussian blur of 2.5 pixels (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur). Now hit Shift + Cmd/Ctrl + S to Save As, check it’ll save in Photoshop format, and label it Bumpmap.psd. You can now close the image – we’ll be using it in the final step as a displacement map for the graffiti.

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