Smart Brush Tool in Photoshop Elements 10 - dummies

Smart Brush Tool in Photoshop Elements 10

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

The Smart Brush tool enables you to selectively apply an image adjustment or special effects that appear on all or part of your image. What’s even more exciting is that these adjustments and effects are applied via an adjustment layer, meaning that they hover over your layers and don’t permanently alter the pixels in your image.

It also means that the adjustments can be flexibly edited and deleted, if so desired.

Follow these steps to use the Smart Brush tool:

  1. In Full Photo Edit mode, select the Smart Brush tool from the toolbar.

    The tool icon looks like a house paint brush with an adjacent gear. You can also press F, or Shift+F, if the Detail Smart Brush tool is visible.

  2. Choose your desired brush attributes, such as diameter and hardness, from the Brush Picker drop-down panel.

  3. Select an adjustment category and then your particular preset adjustment from the Smart Paint drop-down menu on the Options bar.

    Note that you can tear off this panel from its place by grabbing the grip area in the upper-left corner of the panel and dragging it anywhere in your application window (Windows) or on your screen (Macintosh). In the Smart Paint menu, you can find adjustments ranging from photographic effects, such as a vintage Yellowed Photo, to nature effects.

    Elements 10 has added a new category, called Textures, which has 15 presets such as Broken Glass and Old Paper. Use these textures with your smart brushes to jazz up backgrounds and other elements in your images.

    For example, if that white wall in your shot is less than exciting, give it a brick texture. If added a drop cloth behind your portrait to reduce background clutter but find it a tad boring, give it a satin ripple.


  4. Paint an adjustment on the desired layer in your image.

    Note that while you paint, the Smart Brush tool attempts to detect edges in your image and snaps to those edges. In addition, while you brush, a selection border appears.

    A new adjustment layer is automatically created with your first paint stroke. The accompanying layer mask also appears on that adjustment layer.

  5. Using the Add and Subtract Smart Brush modes, fine-tune your adjusted area by adding and subtracting from it.

    When you add and subtract from your adjusted area, you’re essentially modifying your layer mask. Adding to your adjusted area adds white to your layer mask, and subtracting from your adjusted area adds black to your layer mask.

  6. Select a different preset adjustment for your selected area, if you want.

    In fact, try them all out before you settle on your final choice.

  7. If you feel you need to refine your selected area, select the Refine Edge option on the Options bar.

    If you’d rather apply the adjustment to your unselected area, select the Inverse option on the Options bar.

    If you want to modify your adjustment, double-click the Adjustment Layer pin on your image. The pin is annotated by a small, square, black-and-red gear icon. After you double-click the pin, the dialog box corresponding to your particular adjustment appears. For example, if you double-click the Shoebox photo adjustment (under Photographic), you access the Hue/Saturation dialog box.

  8. Make your necessary adjustments in the dialog box and click OK.

    You can also right-click (Right-click or Control-click on the Mac if you’re using a one-button mouse) and select Change Adjustment Settings from the contextual menu that appears. Or you can select Delete Adjustment and Hide Selection from the same menu.

  9. After you finish, simply deselect your selection by choosing Select→Deselect.