Paint with Photoshop Elements' Brush Tool - dummies

Paint with Photoshop Elements’ Brush Tool

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

The Brush tool in Photoshop Elements creates soft-edged strokes. How soft those strokes are depends on which brush you use. By default, even the hardest brush has a slightly soft edge because it’s antialiased. Antialiasing creates a single row of partially filled pixels along the edges to produce the illusion of a smooth edge. You can also get even softer brushes, which use feathering.

The Brush tool shares most of the options found in the Pencil tool, except that the Auto Erase feature isn’t available. Here’s the lowdown on the unique Brush options:

  • Airbrush: Click the Airbrush button in the Options panel to apply the Airbrush Mode. In this mode, the longer you hold down the mouse button, the more paint the Brush pumps out and the wider the airbrush effect spreads.

  • Tablet Settings: If you’re using a pressure-sensitive digital drawing tablet, check the settings you want the tablet to control, including size, scatter, opacity, roundness, and hue jitter. The harder you press with the stylus, the greater the effect of these options.

  • Brush Settings: These options, referred to as brush dynamics, change while you apply your stroke.

    See the figure for an example of each one. These options include the following:


    • Fade: The lower the value, the more quickly the stroke fades. However, 0 creates no fade.

    • Hue Jitter: Vary the stroke between the foreground and background colors. The higher the value, the more frequent the variation.

    • Scatter: The higher the value, the higher the number of brush marks and the farther apart they are.

    • Spacing: The higher the number, the more space between marks.

    • Hardness: The higher the value, the harder the brush.

    • Roundness: A setting of 100 percent is totally circular. The lower the percentage, the more elliptical your brush becomes.

    • Angle: If you create an oval brush by adjusting the roundness this option controls the angle of that oval brush stroke. It’s so much easier to drag the points and the arrow on the diagram than to guesstimate values in the text boxes.

    You can lock in these brush dynamics by selecting the Set This As a Default check box; this ensures that every brush you select adopts these settings.

As with the Pencil tool, you can load additional Brush libraries from the Brush drop-down menu at the top of Brush Preset picker panel. Additional features for the Brush tool also appear in the menu on the Brush Preset Picker panel. Here’s a quick description of each:

  • Save Brush: Allows you to save a custom brush as a preset. See the following section for details.

  • Rename Brush: Don’t like your brush’s moniker? Change it with this option.

  • Delete Brush: Don’t like your entire brush? Eliminate it with this option.

  • The display options: Not a single command, but a set of commands that enable you to change the way your brush tips are displayed. The default view is Stroke Thumbnail, which displays the appearance of the stroke. These commands include Text Only, Small and Large Thumbnail, and Small and Large List.

  • Reset Brushes: Reverts your current brush library to the default.

  • Save Brushes: Saves custom brushes in a separate library.

  • Load Brushes: Loads a preset or custom brush library.

You can also manage brush-tip libraries by using the Preset Manager.