In addition to painting landscapes and portraits (which you certainly can do in Photoshop, if you have the talent and training), you can use Photoshop’s painting tools for a variety of other tasks. For example, you can paint to create masks and layer masks, adjust tonality or sharpness in specific areas, repair blemishes and other damage in an image — even to create graphic elements and special effects.
Add color with the Pencil toolThe Pencil tool differs from the Brush tool in one major respect: Regardless of the Hardness setting in the Brush panel, the Pencil tool always uses a hardness value of 100%.
With the Pencil tool active, the Options bar offers the miniature Brush panel, a choice of blending mode and opacity, the somewhat-misnamed Auto Erase option, and a symmetry option, which enables you to mirror your pencil stroke with one of several presets such as Vertical, Horizontal, Wavy and much more.
When you choose the Symmetry option, you choose a preset, and then adjust it to create the type of symmetry you need for the lines you’re drawing with the Pencil tool.
When selected, Auto Erase doesn't actually erase, but rather lets you paint over areas of the current foreground color using the current background color. Click an area of the foreground color, and the Pencil applies the background color. Click any color other than the foreground color, and the Pencil applies the foreground color.
Remove color with the Eraser toolThe fourth of your primary painting tools is the Eraser. On a layer that supports transparency, the Eraser tool makes the pixels transparent. On a layer named Background, the Eraser paints with the background color.
On the Options bar, the Eraser tool's Mode menu doesn't offer blending modes, but rather three behavior choices. When you select Brush (the default), the Options bar offers you the same Opacity, Flow, and Airbrush options as the Brush tool. You can also select Pencil, which offers an Opacity slider, but no Flow or Airbrush option (comparable to the actual Pencil tool).
When Mode is set to Block, you have a square Eraser tool that erases at the size of the cursor. (When you click or drag, the number of pixels erased is tied to the current zoom factor.)
Regardless of which mode is selected, the Options bar offers one more important choice: To the right of the Airbrush button, you’ll find the Erase to History check box. When selected, the Eraser tool paints over the pixels like the History Brush, restoring the pixels to their appearance at the selected state in the History panel.
A couple of variations on the Eraser tool are tucked away with it in the Toolbox, too. The Background Eraser tool can, in fact, be used to remove a background from your image. However, it’s not limited to something in your image that appears to be a background.
Remember that digital images don’t really have backgrounds and foregrounds or subjects — they just have collections of tiny, colored squares. What does this mean for using the Background Eraser? You can click and drag on any color in the image to erase areas of that color. You can also elect to erase only the current background color and designate the foreground color as protected so that it won’t be erased even if you drag over it.
The Magic Eraser, like the Magic Wand selection tool, isn’t a brush-using tool, but this is a logical place to tell you about it. Click a color with the Magic Eraser tool, and that color is erased, either in a contiguous area or throughout the image, depending on whether you have selected the Contiguous option in the Options bar.
And, like the Magic Wand, you can set the tool to work on the active layer or all layers in the Options bar, and you can also set a specific level of sensitivity (Tolerance). Here is the one difference between the two: The Magic Eraser is, in fact, a painting tool in that you can set an opacity percentage, which partially erases the selected pixels.