PFB: Brushes

Hello and thank you for joining me for another tutorial.

Today Brushes:


The brush option in Photoshop is an immense topic, in that it can lead into many others but today we will go over the basic function of the brush and it’s counterparts: Pencil, Color Replacement Tool and Mixer Brush Tool.

So what is the brush tool? It is the tool that is used to do everything from adding color, texture, pattern, highlight, shadow and just about anything else you can think of, to your pictures. It has the scope of your imagination and ability to use it.

First things first> Where is it and what does the icon look like? Brush Icon Yup you guessed it. It looks like a brush. It’s found on the tools palette which should be on the left hand side of your screen. If not then it is located under; Windows>Tools in Photoshop or by simply pressing the Hotkey B.

If you click and hold your cursor over the brush icon you get the drop down menu with four options, Brush, Pencil, Color Replacement Tool, and Mixer Brush Tool and it looks like this:

Brush Dropdown

Note: Each of the four option can be accessed by using the B hotkey but it will only access the last tool selected by you in the drop down menu.

Brush Tool: The brush tool is used to add color, shapes, texture, and other effects to your photos and art. It is by far one of the most useful tools once you have mastered it, or so I’m told as I am No Master, but I do know its ability to be molded into just about whatever you want. This is the option panel for the Brush Tool.

Brush ToolMenu Descip


As you can see there are a few options that are represented by icons or drop down menus.

The Presets Menu allows you to load or save any pre-made brushes with all of the settings already input for that brush. I would encourage you to play around with this to see some of the brushes made by Adobe. Simply open the drop down menu and select one of the presets.

Brush Presets

(The rest of the presets are found by clicking on the small arrow.)

The Brush Shape menu works much the same way. It allows you to adjust the pixel size and hardness of the brush. The hardness refers to how blurred the edges of the brush are. There is an example below.

The brush is the same size but at differing hardness levels

Brush Hardness

Next is the Brush Options Menu, this could have its tutorial just one its own. It allows you to adjust the direction, spacing, axis, and even layer brushes on top of each other. At this point I would say it’s best to experiment with this menu until I can do up a tutorial.

Experiment with the next option as well, Blending Mode. This basically changes the way in which your brush interacts with the other layers, creating shadow or highlight, deepening the color and so on. Again this could be another tutorial on its own and a lengthy one at that. The best way I have learned to use the blending modes is through trial an error. Once I learn more about them individually and what they all do I will pass on that info in a tutorial.

The Opacity and Flow sliders allow you to control how transparent and how much “ink” comes from the brush while you are using it. Opacity first: This slider allows you to control how transparent the brush is, meaning how much of the background you can see through it once you have made your stroke. Flow: on the other hand controls the amount of “ink” or colored pixels that flow from the brush tip at any one moment. The difference between the two is better noticed when doing sweeping strokes as the flow can build up and become darker whereas the opacity always stays constant. Example Below

Brush Flow Notice the difference?  Brush Opacity

To make it a little more obvious I went back over the tail end of the flow 10% to show how it can be built up with repeatedly going over the same area. Now you can build up the Opacity in a similar way but each time you have to click and stroke again instead of just dragging over the same area like with flow.

(If you want a better explanation just leave a comment at the bottom and I will try to answer it for you.)

Moving on; Airbrush mode. This is best used in conjunction with the flow slider. This mode emulates the effect of an airbrush meaning that the longer you hold down a stroke in a spot the more dense the color will be.

Brush Airbrush

Last of all are the Tablet Pressure Controls. Now if you do not have a drawing tablet then you can ignore this section as they do not work with just a mouse. If you do have a tablet then I am surprised you are reading this as you probably know more than me anyways, but I will say it just the same. The Left most button Brush Leftmost allows the tablet to control the Opacity of the brush based on the amount of pressure you are using, this also overrides the Opacity slider. The other button Brush Other Button allows the tablet to control the size of the brush again based on how much pressure you use when drawing.

Pencil Tool: Oooo I hope you’re ready for this.

It’s almost exactly like the brush tool … I know who would have thunk?

Actually it does have some minor differences. The pencil tool is more harsh than the brush tool meaning that with the brush you have soft edges and the pencil all the edges are hard. As you can see in the picture below the same fancy brush (provided by Mels Brushes, Link at the bottom) looses all of its finery with the pencil tool as it doesn’t support pixels that are not strictly white or black.

Brush vs Pencil

Color Replacement Tool: At its heart this tool does exactly what its name suggests, it takes one color and replaces it with another color of your choosing. It has some other options that differ from the brush tool. There are no presets for this tool and the bar looks like this.


Brush Color Rep Tools

As you can see there are some familiar icons, but they don’t have all the same options as before. For instance, the brush selector no longer has all sorts of different brushes, it now just has a round brush that you can change the size, hardness, spacing, angle and roundness on. The Mode drop down menu also has a limited amount of options: Hue, Saturation, Color and Luminosity. Next are the sampling buttons, refer to picture below, they determine how you sample the color to be replaced.

Brush ColorRepButtons

The Limits drop down determines the spread of the replaced color and the Tolerance slider sets the sensitivity for the tool to choose related colors to the one that you are wanting to replace, this means that the faded edge of the color will also change to your replacement color but still maintain the faded edge. Another great thing about this is that you can simply paint over what you want changed and only that color will change great to intricate pictures like the one below.

Brush ColorReplace

One of the last options for this tool is the anti-alias check box. This concept of anti-aliasing is better demonstrated then explained but basically it helps your edges fade more with the background and therefore look smoother. Below is an example of an Aliased Line Vs. an Anti-aliased line.

Brushes Aliasing

This Option comes up in numerous different places throughout Adobe and other graphic editing software so it is important to know the difference. Anti-aliased lines look better but can be harder to select fully due to the fading around them.

Mixer Brush Tool: This handy tool helps with the blending of colors, much the same way painters mix on the canvas to create subtle tone change and new colors. The menu bar for this brush is the longest of the four but all very basic if you keep in mind that when using this tool you think like a painter. That is to say that the pixels on the screen act as if wet paint.

Brush Mixer

Brush Mixer Menu

As you can see above we still have some of the old options from the brush tool, including the Brush Shape Menu, and the Brush Options Menu. The others break down like so. The first two buttons next to the color picker are the options to Load Brush after each use and Clean Brush after each use, that refers to the color in your color picker and the colors you are mixing on the picture. Next is a small preset menu for the setting of: Wet, Load, Mix, and Flow.

Brush Mixer Type

The options for Wet, Load, Mix, and Flow control how the mixing brush interacts with the canvas or the picture you are working on.

Brush WLMF

Lastly, in the realm of options that we have not seen yet is the “sample all layers” check box. This will come in handy when you get to using multiple layers for color, shadow, and highlights. By clicking this box you will be able to mix all the colors as if they were on one layer instead of multiple ones. You may also want to change the colors on the current layer you are working on and not blend all the layers colors together, in which case your would un-check the box.

Well thank you for going through another tutorial with me, I hope you learned something.

Thanks for the Brushes:


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