Brush On

By Mark

Having just returned from Photoshop World, I was looking through my notes and my workbook trying to decide which class was my favorite.  I realized that my favorite classes, which were taught by Adobe Evangelist Julianne Kost, were not the ones which caused me to think the most about how I have been using my Photoshop tools.  It was the class on Brushes, taught by Pete Collins that made me say “I really need to learn and use them more”.

Brushes are one of the most powerful, but least understood Photoshop tools.  For the next few blogs, I am going to share my relearning process.   We use the brush tool in a lot of different ways; creating new effects, restoration and retouching, and in working with masks.  The Brush tool can be found on the left hand tool bar.  It uses the keyboard shortcut of B—go figure.

Brush Tool.PNG

It actually controls four tools, which can be seen if you click the little triangle in the bottom right corner of the icon. For our purposes we are just going to stick with discussing the basic brush. 

Brush tool options.PNG

When you select the brush tool, it opens up a variety of options across the top part of the menu screen.

Brush Top Bar.PNG

First and foremost, you get to select what type of brush you want to use.  PS has continually added a variety of tools to replicate the choices needed by artists.  Starting on the brush panel you can choose the regular round brush, which is the default choice, but now have options which include realistic bristles, charcoal sticks, airbrushes and a wide variety of patterns.

Brush Menu.PNG

It is sometimes hard to visualize how they will look in the standard view.  If you click on the little gear symbol, it will open up a bigger panel.  You can change your view to “Stroke thumbnail”, which helps you see how they will look on screen.

Stroke Thumbnail.PNG

There are four key options you need to become familiar with for controlling your brushes: Brush size, Brush Hardness, Opacity and Flow.  Here is a little guide for what we are going to talk about.

Brushes Illustration Basic.png

Brush size is pretty self-explanatory, but I am going to explain it any way.  You can select a brush size from the menu directly, or you can use the slider to adjust it. Even better you can learn the keyboard short cuts— the right bracket] increases the brush size while the left bracket [makes it smaller.

Brush hardness ranges from 0 to 100%.  It is just like feathering in a selection.  A hard (100%) brush will have clearly defined edges, while a soft brush will fade towards the outside edge.

Opacity works just like it does in a layer.  It controls how “see through” your color will be.

Flow controls the rate at which the color is applied to your image.  If you have flow set to a low figure, say 10% you will have to paint over that section 10 times to get 100% coverage.


special Effect Brushes.PNG

Whew, that is a lot of stuff to cover just for the basics.  In later blogs we will cover specialty brushes, creating your own brushes, the power of the brush panel and then talk about how using a tablet can really unleash this tools full potential.