Final Strokes

By Mark

Although there are is an almost infinite number more of brush topics, this will be the wrap up for us.  We have spent the last several weeks talking about how you can customize the brushes and even create your own.  Today, we are going to discuss the tool that really can unleash the inner artist in you.  If you are still using a mouse or a trackball in doing your masking or creative works, you are working with a distinct disadvantage.  Some NAPPster said that “Drawing with a mouse is just like painting with a brick”.  There is a much better and more natural way—a graphics tablet and pen.  The Wacom tablets have been designed to maximize your control of the Adobe Interface and specifically the power of the brushes.  The pen is both pressure and angle sensitive.  Just like with a pencil, a paint brush or pastel chalk, the harder you press on the pen the darker the result and the wider the swath. I am not going to spend a lot of time describing how you can customize the tablet buttons specifically for the things you do in each application.   

Wacom Controls.PNG

Nor am I going to dwell on how even the ring controls can be tailored.   

Wacom Control Ring.PNG

.   Nope, I am going back to the brush menu to cover the two icons we didn’t discuss.  The two circled icons tell Photoshop to let the pen controls override the settings.

Pen Menu.PNG

On the left, the globe tells PS to let pen pressure control the opacity.  Press lightly, and only a little color comes through.   The control on the right tells the pen that the harder you press, the bigger the brush size will be.

brush graphic.PNG

In addition to all that coolness, if you go back into the Brush preset menu (F5), all those controls can also be set to be controlled by the pen pressure or the angle.  The pen gives you very, very precise control.   Don’t forget that each layer can be adjusted separately and the specialized layer effects applied.  Now go out and create some cool art.

Brush Panel Pen Controls.PNG
Just playing with brushes and layer effects

Just playing with brushes and layer effects

Brushes with Greatness

We are almost done in our discussion of the power of brushes in Photoshop.  Today’s blog is going to cover two more topics: how you can find and add additional brush presets to your tool kit, and how you can even create your own custom brushes.

Out in the wild, there are a lot of really creative people who have spent a lot of time developing specialized sets of brushes with a wide variety of designs. Photoshop and the web make it pretty easy to find and share these tools.  Adobe offers a bunch of free and for sale brush sets on the Adobe Exchange site.

Once you have downloaded the file, open the C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CC\Presets\Brushes folder and drag the .abr file you created into it. 

Brush File location.PNG

Now you can open Photoshop and from the Brush menu, load that brush set and use them just like any of the default ones already installed. 

You can make your own brush shapes as well.  Take this picture of a building in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi sail.PNG

I just selected a piece of it and copied that to a new layer then removed the black background.


saudi sail shape.PNG

I then used a Levels adjustment layer to make the remaining information a gray scale image—brushes don’t contain color data.


Saudi sail dark.PNG

On the Edit menu, select “Define Brush Preset” and the shape can now be used over and over again.


Define Brush Preset Menu.PNG
New Brush created.PNG

Different Brush Strokes

By Mark

Last week while Roger was out wrestling kangaroos, we covered the basics of the Brush tool.  Today we are going to go a bit deeper and really look at what makes the tool so useful.  Starting from where we left off last week, open the Brush tool (B) from the tool bar, and then click on the little gear to open the brush manager. In addition to the default brushes you see, there is a whole listing of other choices available in the bottom section of the panel.  

Other Brushes.PNG

You can either append or add them to the ones already displayed or, you can replace the current set entirely with the new set, like these Special Effect Brushes.  To return to the default settings, just click on the Reset Brushes option.

special Effect Brushes.PNG

Now comes the magic.  All of the specialized panels are found in the drop down menu under Windows.  Opening the Brush Panel (F5) gives you a huge menu of variables which can be customized for each brush.

Brush Panel.PNG

Each of the subpanels opens to reveal specific controls.  Take for example Scatter.  When scatter is set at Zero, the default setting, your brush acts just like well, a regular brush.

Scatter at Zero.PNG

When you adjust the scatter settings, the brush tip can move in a random pattern as shown in the preview window of the panel


Scatter not Zero.PNG

The effects can certainly be combined; for example if you select fall themed foreground and background colors, adjust both scatter, size and color dynamics, and then choose one of the leaf shaped brushes…, you can create a dynamic border or graphic effect.

Scattered Leaves.PNG
Scattered Leaves Applied.PNG

Next time we are going to discuss creating and saving your own custom brushes as well as look at how using a graphics tablet adds even more awesomeness.


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.