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Drawing with the Pencil Tool in Photoshop Elements 4

Drawing with the Pencil tool in Photoshop Elements 4 creates hard edges. You can't get the soft, feathery edges that you can with the Brush tool. In fact, the edges of a pencil stroke can't even be anti-aliased (where edges are softened). So keep in mind that if you draw anything other than vertical or horizontal lines, your lines will have some jaggies when viewed up close. But hey, don't diss the Pencil just yet. Those hard-edged strokes can be perfect for Web graphics. And what's more, the Pencil tool has the ability to erase itself, and it's great for digital sketches, as shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1: The Pencil tool can be used for digital drawings.

The awkwardness of trying to draw with a mouse disappears if you use a pressure-sensitive digital drawing tablet — the Pencil tool will behave much more like a real lead pencil.

Follow these steps to become familiar with the Pencil tool:

1. Select the Pencil tool from the Tools palette.

You can also press the N key. By default, the Pencil tool's brush tip is the 1-pixel brush. (Yes, even though the Pencil tip is hard-edged, it's still referred to as a brush.)

2. On the Options bar, choose your desired pencil options, beginning with a brush preset.

3. Click the arrow and select your desired brush from the Brush Preset Picker drop-down palette.

To load another preset library, click the Brushes menu at the top of the palette.

Remember, you aren't limited to the standard old brush strokes. Check out the Assorted and Special Effects brushes. You'll be surprised at some of the interesting brushes lurking in these palettes. Use them to create stand-alone images or to enhance your photographic creations.

Access the pop-up menu on the drop-down palette to save, rename, or delete individual brushes and also save, load, and reset brush libraries.

4. Choose your brush size.

A preset brush's pixel diameters are shown as text below a thumbnail image of the brush shape. If you want to change the size of that brush tip, drag the slider or enter a value.

5. Select a blending mode.

6. If you want the background to show through your strokes, adjust the Opacity by dragging the slider or entering an opacity percentage less than 100 percent.

The lower the percentage, the more the background images show through.

Your strokes must be on a separate layer above your images for you to be able to adjust the opacity and blend modes after you've drawn them.

7. Select Auto Erase if you want to enable that option.

This option removes portions of your pencil strokes.

8. Click and drag with the mouse to create your freeform lines.

To draw straight lines, click at a starting point, release the mouse button, and then Shift+click at a second point.

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