Use the Brush Tool in Photoshop CS5 - dummies

By Jennifer Smith, Christopher Smith, Fred Gerantabee

Grouped together in the Tools panel of Photoshop Creative Suite 5 are the tools used for painting and retouching images. Painting with the Brush tool in Photoshop is much like painting in the real world. What you should know are all the nifty keyboard commands you can use to be much more productive when painting.

These shortcuts are truly outstanding, so make sure that you try them while you read about them. By the way, these keyboard commands work on all the painting tools.

Brush Keyboard Shortcuts
Task Windows Mac
Choose the Brush tool B B
Increase the brush size ] ]
Decrease the brush size [ [
Harden the brush Shift+] Shift+]
Soften the brush Shift+[ Shift+[
Sample the color Alt-click Option-click
Switch the foreground and background colors X X
Change the opacity by a given percentage Type a number between 1 and 100 Type a number between 1 and 100

If you’re really into brushes, you have lots of useful options available in the Brushes panel (choose Window→Brushes to open it).

Additional options are available for painting in the Brushes panel.
Additional options are available for painting in the Brushes panel.

You have several attribute choices, most of which have dynamic controls in the menu options that allow you to vary brush characteristics by tilting or applying more pressure to a stylus pen (if you’re using a pressure-sensitive drawing tablet), among other things.

A warning sign indicates that you don’t have the appropriate device attached to use the selected feature, such as a pressure-sensitive drawing tablet.

The following options are available in the Brushes panel:

  • Brush Tip Shape: Select from these standard controls for determining brush dimensions and spacing.

  • Shape Dynamics: Change the size of the brush as you paint.

  • Scattering: Scatter the brush strokes and control the brush tip count.

  • Texture: Choose from preexisting patterns or your own.

    Create a pattern by selecting an image area with the Rectangular Marquee tool. Choose Edit→Define Pattern, name the pattern, and then click OK. The pattern is now available in the Brushes panel’s Texture choices.

  • Dual Brush: Use two brushes at the same time.

  • Color Dynamics: Change the color as you paint.

  • Transfer: Adjusts the dynamics for the build-up of the paint.

  • Noise: Adds a grainy texture to the brush stroke.

  • Wet Edges: Makes the brush stroke appear to be wet by creating a heavier amount of color on the edges of the brush strokes.

  • Airbrush: Gives airbrush features to the Brush tools. Enable the Airbrush feature by clicking the Airbrush button and adjusting the pressure and flow on the Options bar.

If you click and hold the Brush tool on the image area, the paint stops spreading. Turn on the Airbrush feature and notice that when you click and hold, the paint keeps spreading, just like using a can of spray paint. You can use the Flow slider on the Options bar to control the pressure.

  • Smoothing: Smoothes the path created with the mouse.

  • Protect Texture: Preserves the texture pattern when applying brush presets.

In addition to the preceding options, you can adjust the jitter of the brush. The jitter specifies the randomness of the brush attribute. At 0 percent, an element doesn’t change over the course of a stroke; at 100 percent, a stroke totally varies from one attribute to another.

After reviewing all the available brush options, you may want to start thinking about how you’ll apply the same attributes later. Saving the Brush tool attributes is important as you increase your skill level.