Photoshop Tutorial: Brush Tool Essentials

Martin Perhiniak
A free video tutorial from Martin Perhiniak
Yes I'm a Designer
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13:50:50 of on-demand video • Updated October 2020

  • Learn all the different kind of Selection techniques
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English The Brush Tool is a very important tool in Photoshop especially for concept artists or any type of digital artists who use Photoshop for their work. The Brush Tool is here in the Tool Bar or you can of course press B as well to access it. And once you have the tool you have to make sure you are on a layer that supports painting. This is any layer that is a normal layer a raster layer and even the background layer will do for that. So all you need to do is to start painting with it. Now if you want to change the way the brush looks you will have to use the Options bar for that. So here you can see the size of the brush and if you click on this little drop down you will be able to decide what size and hardness you wish to use. Now there are some default brushes, I'm currently having some custom brushes here, which I will show you later on how to set up but first, let's see how we can change the size and hardness without coming to this menu every time. So there are different shortcuts. First of all you have the square brackets. Pressing the square brackets on the keyboard you can increase and decrease the brush size you can even press and hold these shortcuts to increase and decrease the size and then once it's increased you can start drawing with a bigger or smaller brush. The same way to change the hardness of the brush. You can hold down Shift square brackets and with that you will only see the preview changing here in the Options bar. So when I use Shift left square bracket, I could soften the edge of the brush and that way I can get a softer brush like this. Now both of these features of the brush the hardness and the size, can also be changed with another very smart technique and that is using, Ctrl Alt right click on PC or Ctrl Alt and left click on Mac. So if you do that just press and hold the mouse you can let go the modifier keys and then dragging right and left will change the diameter or size of your brush and dragging up and down we'll change the hardness of your brush, so you can see all the values there next to the brush, plus this shortcut actually gives you a preview of how your brush is going to look like. So you can actually see the hardness changing and the size changing on the fly and once you let go you can start drawing with that new brush size and hardness. There are a few settings for brushes, which I would like to show you if we go to the Preferences, Cursors, which you will find if you are a PC user under edit Preferences, Cursors. Here these are the options and I prefer to use whenever I use the Brush Tool or to be honest any painting tool will use the same settings. So instead of Standard, which would show the tool, whenever you switch to Brush Tool you would see like a little brush. Instead of that I prefer to use the Precise mode, which just gives me a target and then I use Normal Brush Tip, but having these two options selected, makes it easier to paint. So first of all when you paint, it will only show the center the crosshair of your brush but not the full brush circle. So when I start drawing you can see what that means it will only show the center of the brush, but not the outline of my brush. But the outline is there whenever I'm not painting, so I can see exactly how big my brush is. If you want to temporarily hide that circle, which represents the size of the brush you can press Caps Lock on the keyboard and while Caps Lock is on, you will be able to just work simply using the crosshair, and then when you press Caps Lock again you can see your round circle around the brush once more. You can also use either the numeric keyboard or the numbers on the keyboard to change the Opacity of your brush. So if I press for example five you see here in the options bar my Opacity dropped down to 50%. Which means now, I'm going to draw with a lower Opacity. If I draw over a previous line a couple of times you can I can build up the 100% Opacity. But I started with less so it needs a gradual buildup to reach the maximum 100% intensity. If I press one that would switch to 10% and then I have a much lighter brush and pressing zero for example would go back to 100%. Is the same shortcuts that you would normally use to change the Opacity of your layers, but remember that the shortcut will apply to the tools Opacity, if a tool has that attribute and in case the tool doesn't have that attribute, then it will apply to the layers Opacity. So for example if I have an image layer here, I'm just going to turn this on and then I use the shortcut, let's say 5 while having the Brush Tool selected see that still changes the Opacity of the tool. But if I then switch to the Move Tool, which doesn't have an Opacity attribute, then I can press 5 and that will reduce the Opacity of the layer to 50% you can see that here. So the same shortcuts actually have multiple uses either changing the Opacity of tools or layers. Now let me switch back to the Brush Tool and the background layer. Because I would like to also show you another interesting feature, Pen Pressure. Now this is something that you can't use with a mouse, you have to have a Pen Tablet. And this is something that you might consider to invest in because this actually works really well with Photoshop, either you do drawing or retouching or all kinds of different things will be actually much easier with a Pen Tablet than using a mouse. So to access the Pen Pressure for example for the size of the brush all you need to do is to click on this icon here. But unfortunately if you only have a mouse you won't see anything changing. While if you have a pen tablet, you can see that already uses that Pen Pressure option, which means the harder I press on the screen the bigger the size of my brush gets. And that can happen within one a brushstroke, so let me just clear my background layer. I press Ctrl or Cmd backspace, which fills in the layer with white because that's my current background color and then I'm going to make my brush a little bit smaller and also, I change the hardness to 100% hardness. So if I'm now drawing with this you can see I can draw very thin and at the same time stronger lines as well, without ever lifting the pen. My favorite pen tablets are Wacom tablets, I have been using their products for more than 10 years and I have a big range of their products from the cheapest to the most expensive. I highly recommend to try these products out. The cheapest options from their products are just as good and professional, so give them a try if you feel like this is something you would like to get into. So apart from being able to use Pen Pressure to change the size while drawing you can also turn on Opacity to be affected by the Pen Pressure as well and that's the other little toggle there on the Options Bar, so now if I start drawing you can see not only the size of the brush but also its Opacity is affected by the Pen Pressure. Of course you can have it only on Opacity, so I'm going to remove the size, and now you see the same size and just the Pen Pressure is changing, how intense the Opacity is. But don't worry, this is all I'm going to talk about the Pen Tablet features because I'm going to have a separate course on painting in Photoshop, where I'm going to explain everything in much more detail. But just to give you an idea of what a professional can achieve in Photoshop by using the Brush Tool. Let me show you the work of one of my favorite artists Patrick Brown whose recent painting of Star Wars, shows an epic battle and we can see the line work here so I can zoom closer and we can see every brush stroke, and these are all done in Photoshop, so this is just purely using the Brush Tool, but then we can also see the final version, which has full colors and effects on it. So once I switch to that you can see this and this is also all done in Photoshop by painting and using brushes. So if I zoom out you can see the full image. Again with all the background and everything there, so once again switching back to the original drawing and the finalized drawing there with all the colors painted in, so once again as Patrick Brown. I highly recommend to check his work out because he's I think one of the best digital artists, creating really dynamic poses and really epic compositions. And this also just shows how many professionals use Photoshop and make most of all these tools techniques and shortcuts, that we are talking about. So seeing this I hope you are more inspired to learn even more about the Brush Tool. So let's switch back to our document and let me show you another very cool feature. So coming back to the other settings that we have for the brush, there is actually a very useful shortcut first of all the Shift key. Now if you hold down the Shift key when you are drawing, you can draw straight lines horizontally or vertically, but you can also connect dots. So for example if I click here and then I hold down Shift and click there, I can connect lines. And holding down Shift I can actually draw straight lines very quickly and create a custom shape for example. So that's just simply holding down the Shift key. The Brush Tool has also lots of other options as well, which you can access from the Brush Panel. So if I click on this icon here it opens up the Brush Panel where you can see so many other options. So we have Brush Tip Shape options than Shape Dynamics, Scattering, Texture so on and so forth. Once again, these are all features I'm going to explain in a separate course about drawing in Photoshop. So this is just something you can explore yourself if you want to go more into detail. But what's important to know is how to change colors. So I would like you to first of all have a look at the Toolbar where we two swatches the foreground and background swatch. Now if you click on any of these you can change them. So from the color picker, which I already showed you in the previous video in the color mode video. Here you can first of all click on the hue option and then pick Saturation and Brightness, from the square and once we have one of these color selected we can click on OK. And then we can start drawing already with that color. I can choose another color for my background color let's say red. And then I can also draw with that if I press X on the keyboard. So X will swap the two colors or you can also use this little arrow here to swap between your foreground and background colors. And if you have the red on top, that means you can start drawing already with that color. Of course you can sample colors from other images, let's say we turn this image on here and if I hold down the Alt key, and then click on any of these colors I can quickly pick that color and start painting with it. Holding down the Alt and clicking again will give you this preview of the color picker, so you can see your previously or currently selected color at the bottom, and you can see the new color selected on the top. That's also a very useful preview, so I selected this new orange color and we can see how that works. So whenever you are painting, you are temporarily switching to the eyedropper by holding down the Alt key. Another feature which was introduced in Photoshop CS5 is called HUD color picker or Heads-up display color picker is also useful. Now that has a quite tricky shortcut its Ctrl Alt Cmd and then click on Mac or Alt Shift right click on PC. So this is going to give you a color wheel by default from which you can first select the colors from the hue wheel and then within that you have the brightness and saturation, which you can choose. So this is also another you for technique and for this you also have some Preferences under General options. So it's edit Preferences, General on PC or Photoshop Preferences, General here on Mac and there you will find a HUD color picker option, which can be customized so you have the hue strip options and different sizes for that and also different sizes for the hue wheel. Now let's try this hot color picker on an actual example of some drawing, that I scanned in and I placed here into Photoshop. So that's a scan drawing, and I would like to add some color to it. So I'm going to use the HUD color picker option the same shortcut I explained and I'm going to pick a red color for this dragon, let's make the dragon red. Now if I would just simply start drawing over this. I will completely lose the line art. But remember what I told you before about Blend Modes and layers in general, that we can actually blend things together. So let me just undo this last step and instead of drawing on the layer where I have this drawing. I'm going to create an additional layer. I can even call this one coloring. And then if I paint on this layer first it will seem like it this does the same thing the only difference is I can move this layer around, without affecting the image underneath. But if I change the Blend Mode which we already discussed in a video before. I can choose an option called color. Which will just change the colors of my line art or I can also choose another one the multiply which I told you is a very useful Blend Mode. Which is brilliant in this case as well because that exactly does what I wanted to color behind the line art. So if I would continue painting with this you can see that every detail, will show behind the dragon and then we can use the shortcut for switching to a gold color, paint over the gold, we can pick another color for the knight and so on and so forth so you can see and everything goes behind these details of course it would take time to finish the whole painting but still it's a very flexible and easy way of adding colors to a line art. And the line art could be either scanned or created directly here in Photoshop. There are many artists who still prefer to do their line art on paper, and then work over that in Photoshop. But there are also many artists who directly start the painting or sketching within Photoshop. But to summarize what we learned in this video, let's recap and switch back to the previous document so I can show you the difference between, the basic attributes of the Brush Tool. So we have first of all the Soft Edge Brush. Which either can be selected from here in the options or using the shortcuts. I'm just going to draw with this quickly. So that's a Soft Edge Brush, then I'm going to use the shortcut Ctrl Alt click and drag or Ctrl Alt right click and drag on PC to change the hardness of my brush to have a full, Hard edge on the brush, and then we have the Pen Pressure option Which we can apply, that way we can change the size of the brush we can have only the Opacity Controlled by the Pen Pressure and then we can have both of these options on. Okay, so these are the different, settings the basic settings that you will use with brushes, but in the next video I am going to show you something very exciting how to create a Custom Brush.