In Class 01, 02, and 03 we’ll be focusing on Photoshop and its possibilities for creative work.
Before we start we’ll create a new clean workspace in Photoshop with only the windows needed.
Setting up your workspace
Important: If you have set up another personal workspace you should save it before continuing.
To have a good starting point where you can see ALL tools go to window → workspace → essentials and then window → workspace → reset essentials
INFO: Some of the other workspace settings, like Photography, Painting, etc. are hiding some of the tools.
Adjust your workspace by hiding or showing windows and rearranging them, so all these windows are next to or under each other. Have a look at adobes Help site for setting up your workspace.
We will mainly work with the following windows/panels:
Layers, Brushes, Brush Settings, Color, Swatches, (Channels)
Also switch on window → application frame
In the Colors window click on the burger menu and select CMYK sliders. Althoug we’ll work with RGB color mode, the sliders are more practical in CMYK.
Save your workspace: window → workspace → new workspace
Your workspace then should look like the following:
Before we start
Here are some videos that you might want to look at before continuing if you don’t know this yet or want to freshen up on some knowledge.
Image Size vs. Canvas Size
Selection Tools – Essentials you should know
Selections in Detail
Quite long but very detailed look into selections:
Fill vs. Opacity
New in Photoshop 2021
The Brush Tool
Choosing the Brush Tool:
Press B on your keyboard to choose the current Brush Tool
Press shift + B to shuffle through the different Brush Tools
Windows → Alt + right-click in the document
Mac → Control + Option + click in the document
Drag left and right for Brush Size and up or down for Hardness
Foreground and Background Color
Press X to switch between them
Press D to set them to 100% Black and White
Fill with Foreground or Background Color
To quickly fill an entire layer or an existing selection with a color:
Option + ⌫ (Backspace) → fill with foreground colour
Cmd + ⌫ (Backspace) → fill with background colour
Add Shift to these combinations to save transparency and only fill existing pixels.
You now never ever need to use the Paint Bucket Tool again. Yay!
While using the brush tool you can sample any color on your canvas by pressing Option (Alt) an clicking on a pixel in the image.
TIP: In CC2019 and lower take care your Foreground Color is activated (click on it, it has a frame around it), otherwise PS will sample into the Background Color.
The Brush Tool Top Bar
Photoshop Brushes have a lot of possibilities. The most essential things you can change for brushing are visible in the top bar while using the brush tool
Brush Settings Picker
Lets you quickly select brush, size, angle, hardness. In the little settings menu you can select how things should be displayed and some other useful brushy things.
TIP: You can also get to this Picker if you control + click / right mouse click somewhere on the canvas.
Sets the method for blending the color you paint with the underlying existing pixels in the same layer. If you choose to paint in different layers you can also opt for the more flexible layer blending modes.
Sets the transparency of color you apply. From 0, transparent to 100 percent, opaque. As you paint over an area, the opacity does not exceed the set level no matter how many times you move the pointer over the area, until you release the mouse button/lift your pen. If you then stroke over the area again, you apply additional color, equivalent to the set opacity.
Sets the rate at which color is applied as you move the pointer over an area. As you paint over an area, while holding down the mouse button/with your pen down, the amount of color builds up based on the flow rate, up to the opacity setting.
For example, if you set the opacity to 50% and the flow to 20%, each time you move over an area, its color moves 20% toward the brush color. The total will not exceed 50% opacity unless you release the mouse button and stroke over the area again.
Shortcut: a single number key to set a tool’s opacity in multiples of 10% (pressing 1 sets it to 10%; pressing 0 sets it to 100%). Press two number keys to set a specific opacity. To set Flow, press Shift and number keys.
Toggle Airbrush build up
If you activate this, paint builds up if you hold down the mouse button/pen even if you don’t move it. Brush hardness, opacity, and flow options have an influence on how fast and how much the paint is applied.
Tablet pressure buttons
for opacity and size will override opacity and size settings in the Brush Settings panel.
This let’s you create smoother strokes. Photoshop will drag a litte behind the higher this value is. Keep it low to get more accurate strokes. Turn it up to make sure that your brushing gets smoothed out.
TIP: If you have the feeling that your actual brush stroke lags, drags and “follows” you, which can be uncomfortable, have a look at Smoothing. If it’s too high it can produce this effect.
The Brush Settings panel
Here you can set a lot of different brush characteristics. Let’s have a look at them individually.
Brush Tip Shape
The rest of the Settings
options let you achieve Pen-like effects and let you control the angle and position of the brush.
Adds (unnecessary) pixelated noise to individual brush tips.
Causes paint to build up along the edges of the brush stroke, and leaves the middle transparent creating a watercolor effect.
Same as in Top Options Bar.
Same as in Top Options Bar.
Applies the same pattern and scale to all brush presets that have a texture.
Locking the Settings
All Settings can be locked, retaining them if you select another brush preset, by activating the lock icon next to them .
Saving your brush
If you are satisfied with your settings you can save your Brush Preset by clicking on the “new” icon in either the “Brushes” or the “Brush Setting” panel. Note that in CC2019 and below the symbol was different:
You can give it a Name and capture the current brushes size. This will set the brush size to the captured one every time you choose this brush. Include Tool Settings will save the current tool with the brush (brush, mixer brush, eraser, etc.) and also will give you the opportunity to save the current color.
Note: If you select Include Tool Settings, the brush will only be available for the tool chosen (f.e. you wont be able to use the eraser with it if you save it with the brush tool)
Exporting and Importing Brushes
You can export your brushes, so you can send them to somebody else or use it on a different computer. Click on a brush you want to export (or cmd click for more) then go to the Burger Menu in the Brush Settings panel and select Export Selected Brushes…
Your Brush(es) will be saved as an Adobe Brushes File → .abr. If you want to install .abr-Files in Photoshop, either drag it into the PS icon in your Dock on a Mac or go to the Burger Menu in the Brush Settings panel and select Import Brushes…
Installing the “Megapack” and other brushes from Adobe
To get some more brushes install them from Adobe online.
In the Brushes panels burger menu go to → Get More Brushes …
This will bring you to Adobes Website where you can download and install Kyles “Megapack”. A super extensive and useful pack of brushes.
You can also download it here: Megapack.abr
Using all the info above create a brush that simulates Confetti and save it.
Creating your own
Custom Brush Tips and Brushes
Now that we know that most brushes work as one image that gets repeated over and over again – the Brush Tip – let’s see how we can create (sample) our own custom Brush Tips.
Use a whole image or using any selection tool, select the image area you want to use as a custom brush.
- The brush shape can be up to 2500 pixels by 2500 pixels in size.
- With Sampled Brushes you can’t change the Hardness later on. So think about soft edges already when creating your brush.
- Your brush tip image is converted to grayscale. Areas that are lighter than 100% black will produce more transparency in your brush. White will be 100% transparent.
Choose Edit > Define Brush Preset and just click OK.
Now go to Brush Settings and change them to your liking and save this final brush and give it a describing name.
Note: Sadly it’s not possible to overwrite Brushes with newer settings (I know, crazy isn’t it?). You can throw away the one that was created by Define Brush Preset as now we have a better final Version including our own settings.
Spray Brush or Snow
Create a File with the size of ca 500 by 500 pixel and draw some tiny black spots in it. Make a Brush Preset out of this (Edit > Define Brush Preset).
The Settings for a snow like brush could be something like this. Test your brush in a wintery landscape as you play around with Scattering, Count, Size Jitter, Spacing to get slightly different “snow” brushes. Save the brushes you like so you can use them later on.
TIP: to create realistic looking snow use a few layers in which you brush with different sizes to generate depth. The bigger now flakes might be more blurry (closer to the “camera”) so add some Filter → Blur → Gaussian Blur to them. Use reference images!
Create a brush that simulates grainy Spray Paint. Use a the same Brush Tip as for snow or create a new one with a few more dots. Size Jitter and the Scattering settings are important here. Try activating Pen Pressure for Scatter and Count. Then play with the Count and Scattering and try what happens when you activate Both Axes. Save this brush.
Again in a file around 500 px square draw a very thin line that goes from thin to thick to thin. Use smoothing to get a smooth straight-ish line. Create a Brush Preset from it.
The Settings for a fluffy fur brush could be something like this. Play around with Size and Roundness Jitter, Color Dynamics and Spacing. Save the brushes you like so you can use them later on. Also reduce the Flow to around 35% in the Top Bar. This makes the Hair more translucent and soft.
Create a fluffy fur brush and save it. Paint another hair, this time curly and create a Brush Preset from it. In your fur brushes Brush Settings exchange the Brush Tip Shape with the curly hair.
Try with a few different “hairs”. Save your brush.
Create a footprint brush that follows along your stroke with this fox-footprint image. Or draw your own footprint. Keep in mind that you have to paint both feet as PS is not able to mirror every other brush tip in a brush (wold be nice, ha?). Save your brush.
Fog & Clouds
Pencils, Charcoals, Rough Paint
Have a look at the brushes in this File: Pencils-Charcoal-Paint.abr
or at any of the Adobe-Megapack brushes. With what we’ve learned so far it will be pretty easy to understand how they work.
Single click Brush Tips
Sometimes you want to quickly brush birds and trees, clouds, paint splatters, smoke, coffee stains, spider webs, stamps, etc.. In these cases it’s handy to use Brush Tips from existing images.
If you only want to paint one single image with one click make sure all Brush Settings are turned off and Opacity and Flow are at 100%.
INFO: You can only paint with one color therefore the result will resemble printing with one color. You can then paint inside the brushed areas by saving the transparency of its layer . See video below:
A lot of these brushes can be found online for free or for a small fee. You can download a little selection (spider-web, trees, stains) here to understand how they work. We’ll cover in the Class 02 how you can digitalise an existing image and transform it into a brush.
When and why create your own custom brushes?
Everything you want to (re)create that has either repeating elements, is structured and textured or has some randomness to it could be a potential use case for a brush with custom settings. Also of course if you want to create your very own brushes that look like classic media (oil, pencil, etc.). Or just for the fun of it!
You can also find heaps of already existing free brush presets on google. Some better some worse.
TIP: Don’t overuse too many different brushes. Using only a few and stylistically similar brushes throughout a whole project makes its look more coherent.
Examples from different sources on the internet: