Photoshop for beginners: all about the Brush | Lesson | Photo, video, optics


Whether you are a photographer, an artist or a designer, you will need a brush anyway. This is a basic tool, without which it is hard to imagine retouching, drawing shadows and lights. It is with the help of a brush that we work with masks, which allow us to change not the entire photo, but only part of it.

We tell in detail how the brush works, how to set up a brush in Photoshop, and also give a convenient table of hot keys for working with the tool.

Having understood the Brush settings alone, you will feel more confident in the program and work faster / Photo:

Where to Find Brushes in Photoshop

Brush is a manual editing tool. This means that it does not work automatically, it does not hide complex algorithms and does not have neural networks sewn in — it does what you did when you drew with a brush or tablet pen, with the settings that you set initially.

All manual editing tools are located by default in Photoshop on the panel attached to the left side of the screen. That’s where the brush is / Illustration by the author

Sometimes it «hides» behind the icon of another tool — if there is a small triangle next to the tool icon on the right, then there are several tools at once. In this case, you will have to left-click all these tabs — the brush will definitely be in one of them.

If you couldn’t find the brush in Photoshop, try calling it using the B hotkey. But sometimes that doesn’t help either — since there are a lot of tools and there aren’t enough letters in the alphabet, the developers have assigned one hotkey to several similar tools. In this case, press Shift and press the key Buntil the brush appears.

Adjusting the brush in Photoshop

The brush has three levels of settings: in the drop-down window, on the manual editing tools settings panel and — for the pros — a large group of different parameters in a palette specially dedicated to this (Brush Settings). In our text, we will look at how to set up a brush in Photoshop using the first two options. These are the most necessary and basic brush settings.

Brush settings in the dropdown box

To get into this group of settings, select the Brush, and then do any of the following:

  • Click on the circle with the number below it (the circle can be hard or blurry, and the number can be anything, depending on what settings the brush has now).
  • Right click anywhere on the image/canvas/photo.
  • If you are using a graphics tablet, place your pen anywhere on the image and hold for a couple of seconds.
Drop-down menu for brush settings / Illustration by the author

How to change the brush size in Photoshop?

Move the slider Size left to make the brush smaller and right to make it bigger. If you need an exact value, down to a pixel, enter the desired number in the box above the slider The size. You can also quickly change the brush size in Photoshop using hotkeys. [ (уменьшает) или ] (increases).

What is brush hardness and how to change it

The hardness of a brush is the clarity, sharpness, and delineation of its edges. It is measured in percentage. So, if the hardness is 100%, then the edges of the brush are rough and clearly visible, and if 0%, the brush becomes soft, it blends with a smooth gradient from the center to the edges.

You can adjust the Hardness in the drop-down brush settings menu / Illustration by the author

Move the slider to change the hardness of the brush Rigidity / Hardness, or enter the percentage you need in the box above the slider. You can also quickly change the hardness of a brush if you choose one of the brushes pre-prepared by the developers — the basic set includes both hard and soft brushes. The third way to change the hardness of the brush — hotkeys Shift + [ (уменьшает жёсткость) и Shift + ] (increases stiffness).

How to Change the Shape and Tilt of a Brush in Photoshop

A brush in Photoshop can be flattened by holding down the left mouse button and moving the circle on the brush preview to the center. In this case, it will become more elongated and flat.

You can change the slope of the brush by clicking in any direction on the brush preview. With a round brush, changing the slope does not make sense. But this is practically necessary if you have flattened the brush, or use a curly brush (for example, downloaded smoke, hair, clouds, etc. brushes).

The tilt of the brush can also be shifted with the left and right arrows on the keyboard / Illustration by the author

Brush sets

This window contains the brushes you downloaded and created earlier. Starting with Photoshop CC 2018, brushes can be conveniently organized into folders. Previously, they lay in a crowd.

Folders with previously downloaded and installed brushes / Illustration by the author

For information on how to install new brushes, as well as fonts, gradients and actions, read the text.

Brush settings in the manual editing toolbar

one. Brush Settings. Takes the user to a panel of detailed professional brush settings, where you can adjust its shape, texture, noise, etc.

2. Blend Modes / Mode. Allows you to change the blending mode of the brush — how it reacts with the layers below it. For example, in the mode Screen often draw light, and Multiplication / Multiply used to draw shadows.

3. Opacity / Opacity. The lower the opacity value, the weaker the brush draws. To the right is a button that allows you to change the opacity depending on the pressure. Works with tablets only.

four. Pressure / Flow. The less pressure, the more transparent the brush. On the right there is an airbrush mode — by turning it on, you spray the paint of the brush.

5. Smoothing. By increasing the smoothing, we seem to slow down the brush stroke, allowing us to work with it more accurately.

6. Rotate the brush. Same as rotating the brush in the drop down menu. If the brush is shaped, it may be helpful.

7. Dependence of size on pressure. Works only in conjunction with the tablet.

8. Symmetry. Allows you to draw symmetrically in two planes at the same time. For example, fractals.

What is the difference between Brush Pressure in Photoshop and Opacity?

If you lowered the opacity and swept with the brush, and then, without releasing the left mouse button, brushed again, the strokes do not overlap. In order to increase the density of the color, you have to release the left mouse button, make a new click and after that apply the color over the previous stroke.

If you work with pressure, then by holding the mouse button down in the same place, the opacity is summed up.

Brush with different pressure, but the same opacity / Illustration by the author

16 Brush Keyboard Shortcuts in Photoshop

Let’s see how to customize the brush using Photoshop’s keyboard shortcuts.

Hotkeys Purpose
B Select the Brush tool
[ Уменьшить размер кисти
] Increase brush size
Shift + [ Уменьшить жёсткость кисти
Shift + ] Increase brush hardness
Left arrow on keyboard Rotate brush to the left
Right arrow on the keyboard Rotate the brush to the right
Quickly print any 2 digits Set opacity in percentage equal to dialed digits
Print the number 0 100% brush opacity
Dial one number The opacity of the brush is in tenths. For example, if you type 2, the opacity will be 20%.
Left Alt Quick switch to pipette
Left Ctrl Moves the contents of a layer
Space Hand tool activation
Right Alt Moves the layer and creates a copy of it
Shift Draws a perfectly straight horizontal or vertical line
Shift + left clicks Creates straight, connected line segments


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