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Painting with Style in Adobe Photoshop 6

Using layer styles in your brush strokes By Dave Nagel
This weekend I was working on a project in Photoshop and trying to figure out a way to apply a multi-directional motion blur onto a path. So I was busy experimenting with a bunch of filters and brushes, when all of a sudden I decided to play around with the styles palette. What I stumbled upon was a feature whose application was so obvious that I can't believe I haven't seen this discussed anywhere. It has nothing to do with motion blurs (at least not yet), but it's still pretty slick.

The feature? Painting with layer styles.

Don't get it? Well, look at all of your layer styles in your Styles palette. If you click on one of them, it will apply the style to your layer. But what if instead of applying the style to a layer, you applied it to a brush stroke?not after the fact, but as you brush? You can.

This is really just pre-applying a style to a layer, but it's a great trick for compositing and building effects and being able to view your progress as you go. Let's say, for example, that you have a picture of a face. You want to make it look like the face is made of brushed metal, but you want to leave the eyes the way they were. There's a few ways you could do this. First, you could mask off the eye and then apply the style. Or you could cut the eye, paste it on a separate layer and then apply the effect to the face layer. Neither one of these techniques is any good because the result is just a flat texture. Or you could create a new layer, airbrush the areas you want to affect, and then apply the style. But you don't get to see how it looks until it's too late.

But by pre-applying a style to a layer, you can then go in with any tool and simply start painting the effect onto the image with whatever size, shape and pressure dynamics of the tool you're using.

To do this, create a new, empty layer. Apply the style you want from the Styles palette to the new layer. Select your tool, and start painting. You'll see the results instantly. If you want to paint with a different style or work with your style on a new scale, just create a new, empty layer and apply the style, and you're good to go.

Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications. You can reach him at dnagel@digitalmedianet.com.

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