Many working artists nowadays use Adobe Photoshop to create digital paintings and illustrations. This week, we will be exploring the Brush Tool and its various options.
Photoshop’s Brush Tool seems simplistic at first glance. You choose a color for your brush using the color palette or color picker. As for the shape of the brush, Photoshop provides plenty of brush presets for shapes and effects that you can choose from in the Brush Preset Picker. You could also make your own brushes or download brushes online, but we will not be covering this right now.
In the Brush Preset Picker window, you will notice two sliders. One is to adjust the brush size. The other is to adjust the hardness of the brush. Changing this slider determines how hard of an edge the brush has. A hardness of 0% gives your brush a soft, feathered look.
Next, we will discuss Mode. The Mode works just like your layer Blend Modes; changing the bMode makes the brush apply color using that mode. For example, if you change from a “Normal” mode to “Multiply”, your brush will apply a “Multiply” effect to the canvas.
The Opacity and Flow sliders sit next to the Mode menu. Opacity is self-explanatory - the less opacity, the more see-through the brush will be within a stroke. Changing the Flow effects the rate at which your brush produces color during the stroke. It can be difficult to differentiate Flow from Opacity, so it’s best to think of Flow like you’re applying multiple layers of thin paint within a stroke as you go over already painted canvas.
You will notice a button next to the Flow slider that looks like an airbrush. When activated, the brush will slowly produce color while you hold down for a stroke - just like an airbrush! You can use the Flow slider to help control this.
PRO TIP: The Brush Size, Hardness, Opacity, and Flow options can all be change using keyboard shortcuts! The use of these shortcuts allows you to complete your work quickly and efficiently. Use the square brackets [ ] to change Brush Size. Hold down the Shift key while pressing the brackets to adjust the Hardness. The number keys will change your Opacity to that percentage (Press “5” to get “50%.” Press “5” twice quickly to get “55%.”). Hold down Shift while pressing the number keys to adjust the Flow. If you are in Airbrush Mode, the Opacity and Flow shortcuts will change so Flow is changed without use of the Shift key. The Brush Tool grows in complexity with even more options in the Brush Window. Here you will find a bunch of additional adjustable qualities, including roundness of the brush, the angle of the brush, cool effects like Noise and Wet Edges, and more. If you have a pressure sensitive tablet, this is where you can make these qualities react to the pen pressure.
I will not go over all of these options here, but it is worth playing around with them yourself to get a feel for how they all work. Here is a showcase of some different brush effects:
If you are interested in learning more in-depth information about the Brush Tool, leave a comment! We’d be happy to hear from you! Until next time, Jackie