About the Author

Michael Doig is a science teacher, web developer, and avid traveler who lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Photoshop Tutorial – Spray Paint Overspray

When I first created the Graffiti Collection I kept running into problems matching text with the stencil images. The stencils had an overspray halo and I couldn’t seem to get the text to match it in Photoshop. After a bit of tweaking I think I’ve found a solution. To follow along you’ll need Photoshop, a stencil image to match, and some grunge brushes from The Design Bureau of Amerika (download them all, but we’ll only use set 01).

To start with I’ll be using this stencil of Einstein from the Graffiti Collection. I’ve cleaned up a lot of the overspray, but if you look around the outside and narrower parts of the stencil you will see the variations in the paint. This is what we are trying to match.


Create a new 500 X 500 file and drag the Einstein image into it while holding the shift and option keys. Next we’ll need to pick a font. I’m using Rafika 1.0 however there are lots of great stencil type fonts to choose from. Choose the type tool and type out Graffiti Collection using the settings below. Don’t forget to choose center text along the top.


Looking good, but this is where you begin to notice that the text looks out of place. We need to beat up the text, add the overspray, and match the color of the stencil and text.


Add a layer mask to the text layer and choose the brushes called dekonstruct_01 you downloaded from HowieZine. I used the two horizontal 570 pixel brushes, one faces up and one faces down.

Set your colors to black and white by pressing the d key. Grab the down facing brush and on the layer mask along the top edge of the word Graffiti click once. The brush should stretch along the whole word and you should only use the very edge of the brush to add some grunge to the edge of the words. Now add some more grunge to the rest of the text. Don’t go overboard, a little goes a long way.

Next command click on the text to make a selection and expand it by 2px. On a new layer fill it with black and move it below the text layer. Lower the opacity to 60% and add a 10px gaussian blur. Then add 12px of noise and blur again using a 1px gaussian blur. Using a vertical grunge brush go across the overspray layer and erase various parts. It should now look like this.


Now we need to adjust the levels and opacity of the layers to match. Add a levels adjustment layer to the Einstein layer and option click between the layers to link the adjustment layer to the Einstein layer. We want to make the stencil darker to match the text. Adjust the levels until the image begins to match. These are my settings.


Next drop the opacity of the text layer to 85% and the opacity of the overspray to 40%. Now we’re here.


The only thing left to do now is adjust the levels for the entire image. For the grunge/organic look to work there should be no pure blacks. If you group all the layers together into a layer set and add another levels adjustment layer you can adjust the levels until you get the desired look. For a final touch you can take one of the long brushes and add borders to the image, but be sure they are in the layer set so the levels adjustment affect them as well. This is my final image. It could use a little more tweaking, but you get the idea.


To wrap up, the lessons learned when dealing with matching real images with photoshop are that gaussian blur, noise, levels, and opacity are your friends. Sometimes it’s the basics that will make an image work. If you have any questions or comments, please post them.