5 Things to Know About Photoshop Brushes

5 Things to Know About Photoshop Brushes

5 things to know about photoshop brushes opener

Brushes are used a lot in photo editing from removing blemishes and smoothing skin to dodging and burning and painting on masks. Here are five important features of the brush tool in Photoshop.

1. Adjust Size, Opacity and Hardness from the Keyboard

When a brush is selected you can adjust its size without having to open the Brushes palette by clicking the [ and ] keys on your keyboard.

Provided a brush is selected you can change its Opacity by typing a number. For example, type 5 to set Opacity to 50%, type 1 for 10% and 0 for 100%.

To adjust the hardness of the brush hold the Shift key as you tap either the [ or ] keys on the keyboard. Each tap increases or decreases the hardness by 25% in the range 0%-100%. The results of doing this are harder to see as there is no hardness indicator on the tool options bar. However, if you have the Painting Cursor set to Normal Brush Tip in preferences you will see a difference in the brush size as you do so

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2. Save the Brush

When you have a brush configured with your preferred settings, save it as a Tool preset. To do this from the Brush Preset list in the top left of the screen click the Create New Tool Preset button and type a name for the preset. Click Ok.

In future you can select this saved preset from the list and just start painting with it.

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3. Disappearing Brushes

One of the very annoying things that will happen to most of us at one time or another is to have the brush appear to disappear. Instead of the regular brush cursor which shows the size and style of the brush you will see a crosshair cursor.

The issue is not with the brushes themselves but is with the Caps Lock key. If you disable Caps Lock on your keyboard the more visual brush cursor will reappear.

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4. Paint a Straight Line

To paint in a straight line, click at one end of the line, hold the Shift key and click at the other end of the line. This draws a continuous brushstroke between both points.

If you adjust the spacing of your brush by using the Brush panel Spacing option to make it more than 100% you can create a line of dots this way.

This can also be used to remove power lines with the Spot Healing Brush Tool. Click at one end of the power line, Shift + Click at the other end to paint a straight line over the power line and it will be removed automatically.

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5. Quickly Show the Brush Panel

You can quickly show the Brush panel so you can choose a brush to use by first selecting a tool that uses a brush such as the Brush Tool, Dodge, Burn, Eraser tool and so on.

Then right click on the image and the brush panel appears automatically. To select a brush and exit the panel in one step, double click the brush to use.

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And now it is over to you. What other features of Brushes do you think are valuable for photographers to know?

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Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

Some Older Comments

  • Helen Bradley November 25, 2012 03:31 am

    @Fred, the brackets have not been replaced, rather the Alt drag feature has been added. Thanks for posting that tip, lots of people find it very handy.

  • Fred November 20, 2012 07:39 am

    I believe the square brackets have been replaced in CS 6. Hold the alt key and right click. Moving the cursor horizontally adjusts brush size. Moving vertically adjusts hardness. (You can go to preferences and change hardness to opacity if you prefer.)

  • Hans November 17, 2012 03:47 am

    CapsLock !!! You made my day. Don't remember how many times I restarted the computer to get rid of the cross-hair cursor.
    Thanks for this article with all these tips (powerline is a great one)
    Like to hear more.

  • Chris November 16, 2012 04:50 am

    The straight line tip is great, but if you're using a Wacom tablet then you have to turn off the pressure sensitivity recognition or use your trackpad / mouse to make the line, otherwise you get a tapered line!

  • Tim November 15, 2012 10:44 am

    The 2nd part of tip 4 is really cool. I never knew about the spacing option on the brush tool, much less that you could use it to draw dotted lines.

  • Chitra Sivasankar Arunagiri November 15, 2012 01:47 am

    Thank you for the info Helen. It helps!!!

  • Amarie November 14, 2012 12:46 pm

    I have had my entire brushes folder disappear in Windows 7 (using CS3) and could not find it anywhere. Any advice on that particular issue? Thanks!

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer November 14, 2012 04:57 am

    Helen thank you for the CapsLock tip! I was just actually teaching an intro Photoshop lesson to a photography student last week and this happened and I could not figure out why. I long ago disabled the caplock key on my Mac for the entire system in keyboard preferences as it only ever causes trouble.

    I knew some of the other tips, but the straight line tip is new to me and will be a welcome addition to my PS toolbox.

    I hope you do another set of these PS tips in the future, thanks.