Basics of Photoshop Brushes for Beginners

The digital brush is as effective as the physical one. When painted by an expert hand, Photoshop brushes can speak many words. It helps to connect with your audience which words can’t convey. Mastering it, however, is not an easy task by any means. In fact the going gets tough here. It takes superior precision and years of practice to create a connection between the monitor and your hand.

This article is aimed to provide Photoshop beginners with the basics of Photoshop Brushes, which is arguably the most important function of Photoshop.

Find the Brush Tool in Photoshop Toolbox

You can locate the Brush Tool in the Toolbox as shown below:

brush 1

Brush Preset Picker

The Brush Preset Picker menu can be accessed by clicking the drop down menu next to the brush preview.

brush preset picker

It presents three options to control the brush, namely: “Size,” “Hardness” and “Brush Shape.” The size takes care of the width and height of the brush in terms of pixel. Hardness deals with round brushes and brush shape presents with various brush options.


Brush Mode

The brush mode decides how painted pixels affect the current layer. These modes working mechanism is similar to the Blend Mode on the layer’s palette. The differentiating factor is that they’re converted to absolute values when the stroke is over.


Opacity, Flow and Airbrush

These three features work in tandem to decipher the quantity of paint thrown on the canvas. Opacity acts as the master control; it decides the amount of paint that can be used with each stroke. Flow decides the amount of paint that can be applied to an area with every brush movement. The Airbrush setting helps one to build up paint based on time rather than movement.


Brush Presets

This menu keeps track of all the available Photoshop brushes. Some of the presets only change the brush shape; others have advanced settings which could be utilized. A number of brush libraries are also available other than the defaults. This can be easily added to the current list. The provision of creating a new brush is also available in Photoshop.

brush presets window

This brush preset window can be found under Window > Brush Preset:

brush presets

Dynamic Brush Options

You can press the “F5” key on your keyboard to bring the Dynamic Brush Options window. From there you can set the shape, scattering and a few others:


Experiment with these settings and see what results they bring to your brush.

Pen Pressure

This is an extremely handy tool. This can only come into play when you use a tablet device (such as a Wacom Intuos). Pen pressure keeps track of the values based on the pressure with which the pen is pressed against the tablet. It results in very mature looking paints especially when it is used in collaboration with opacity settings and size.

pen pressure

Almost all versions of Photoshop come with Pen Pressure built-in so you can take full advantage of a tablet device.

That’s for this tutorial! Hope you learn a few things about Photoshop Brushes! Remember practice always makes it better!


  • My name is James and I have been using Photoshop since version 5.0 (long time ago!). PSD Vault is my spare time hobby and I write majority of the Photoshop tutorials and articles here. I hope you enjoy my blog, and feel free to leave a comment or contact me if you have any questions.

  • Show Comments

  • deathdesigner

    i see no pictures -_-

  • This is a very thorough tutorial on brushes. Bookmarked!

  • James Qu

    @deathdesigner My hosting provider was having some issue before, should be ok now.

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