Photoshop - Brushes

With hundreds of brush types, sets, styles and variables, Photoshop's brush facility is truly awesome. Add to this the ability to create new brushes and the availability of thousands of free brushes over the internet and the possibilities are, literally endless.

It simply isn't possible to describe every single permutation - we recommend that you open a big, blank image and just play! You need never have picked up a real paintbrush in your life, although we would suggest that a graphics tablet gives greater flexibility as you can adjust such things as pressure etc. However if you don't have/like such a device, don't despair because a mouse will more than enable you to create effects that are infinitely pleasing.

So the purpose of this section of our site is to give a general overview of what's on offer, give guidelines and a good few tips along the way.

So start by choosing the Brush Tool (B) from the toolbar and going to the Options bar:

Brush options

Starting in the top-left corner - "Master Diameter". Forget it! This is an extremely cumbersome way of altering the size of your chosen brush. Instead, choose your brush and use the keyboard key [ to decrease the size and ] to increase it.

The main window gives a preview (and pixel size) of the default brushes on offer but, as is always the case in Photoshop, clicking on the arrow in the top-right (circled in red) offers up a whole host of possibilities.

Towards the bottom of the fly-out list (beginning with "Assorted Brushes") is a list of brush sets that are available. Choosing any of these will bring a dialog box asking if you want to replace the existing brushes. Say Yes to this (you can always use "Reset Brushes" in this list to get back to the default set.


With the introduction of Version 7, Adobe included the Brush Engine. This is accessed via WINDOW...Brushes and usually resides in the "palette well" at the top-right of the screen (often this well becomes overladen with palette tabs and makes the selecting of individual tabs difficult, so you may have to go the WINDOW...Brushes route.

Within this section is what we intend to cover in this section of our site - what all those magic terms such as Shape Dynamics, Jitter etc. actually mean.

Again ,we (or anyone else) cannot possibly go into each and every option means. We hope to give a brief overview and again ask you to try out some of the effects yourself. Most depend entirely on the type of brush chosen.

Within the Brush Engine is a section (surrounded in red in Fig. 1 ) - Brush Tip shapes. In the example to the right, "Brush Presets" can be clicked to give a preview either as seen or as in Fig. 2 .

Brush Engine

Fig. 1

To dynamically preview brush strokes, make sure the Brush Tip Shape option is selected as in Fig. 1 and position the cursor over a brush until the tool tip appears in the preview window. then move your cursor over different brushes and the sample area will give a black-and-white preview, including any

Clicking on the name in the left-hand pane (rather than just checking the tick-box), brings up Control Options (see Fig. 3). If you click on the word "Shape Dynamics", for example (rather than the checkbox) a number of Control options are available, letting you specify how you want to control the variance of dynamic elements. Some of these such as Pen Pressure, Pen Tilt etc. are only available if you have a graphics tablet connected, and a warning icon appears if you select a pen control but have not installed a tablet. mostly the "Fade" option is used with just a mouse - the rest of the options apply to the graphics tablet.

Finally (in this section!), the angle of elliptical or sampled brushes can be rotated from the horizontal by typing in degrees or dragging the horizontal axis in the preview box (surrounded in red in Fig. 2)

Brush Tip shapes

Fig. 2


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