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The Brush tool in Photoshop is your digital paintbrush, allowing you to add, modify, and retouch elements in your images with precision and creativity. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll explore the Brush tool step by step, so you can start painting and retouching your images like a pro.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Preparation

The best way to learn Photoshop is by practicing. Don’t just read it, apply it directly. So, make a new file by clicking on the Create new button in the home screen or click File > New.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 2

In the New Document dialog box, you can use any size. Click the Create button.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 3: Start Using The Brush Tool

Before we’re moving on, I’d like to remind you to the basic principle of image editing. Do not destroy the original image!. We don’t want to paint on the original image. It’s a big no-no. To keep the original image safe, hit Ctrl + J to duplicate it. This way, we are going to paint on the duplicated image. If anything goes wrong, we can simply hit Delete key to remove the image and we can go back to the original unedited image.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 4

To activate the Brush tool, hit the B key on your keyboard. You can also use the Toolbox panel. When the Brush tool is active, the Option Bar — horizontal bar that runs underneath the Menu Bar — shows some options that related to the tool.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 5

Click and drag to start applying the Foreground color which can be found at the lower part of the Toolbox.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 6

In the Option bar, you can change the brush Opacity to make it transparent.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 7

You can also apply blend mode to change how the color from the brush strokes interacts with the existing pixels.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 8

There is also option to simulate an airbrush. If you hold the mouse down long enough, the brush stroke spreads much lke an actual airbrush.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 9: The Basic

While the Brush tool is active, right click anywhere on the canvas to open up the Brushes panel. From the panel, you can select one of the available brush type.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 10

To change the brush size, drag the Size slider.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool
How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 11

The Hardness slider control the fuzziness of the brush stroke’s edges. Hardness 0% is a completely feathered edge and 100% is a crisp edge.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool
How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 12: Stroke Color

The brush stroke color is controlled by the foreground color. To change the foreground color click on the top color box on the Toolbox. A color Picker dialog box will pop up asking for the color you want to use.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 13

You can also use the Color panel. If you can’t find the panel, click Window > Color.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 14

You can also select predefined sets of colors in the Swatches panel.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 15

at a time, you can save two colors in Photoshop, foreground and background color. To set the background color click on the color box behind the foreground color.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 16

You can easily switch the foreground and background using the X key.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool
How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 17

While the Brush is active, you can hold Alt to temporarely switch to Eyedropper tool and click to select new foreground color.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 18

The interesting thing is you can select pixel outside the Photoshop interface as long as you keep on Alt + clicking your mouse button.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 19: Load Legacy Brush

Starting in CC 2018, Adobe introduces new sets of brushes and old additional brushes from previous versions of Photoshop seem to be missing. You still can find it using the Brushes panel menu. Open up the Brushes menu by right clicking the canvas and click the menu icon in its upper right corner. Select Legacy Brushes.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 20

A dialog box pops up. Confirm that you do want to load the old brushes by clicking the OK button.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 21

You will find the old brushes inside Legacy Brushes group.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 22: Calligraphic Brush

A more thorough settings for brushes can be found in the Brush Settings panel. You will find lots of settings to customize the behaviour of your brush. Let’s use it to make a calligraphic brush. Open up the Brush Settings panel by pressing F5. Select the first brush tip.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 23

Decrease the Roundness settings. You can also click and drag the dots on the brush tip preview to turn its shape into an ellipse.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 24

Add some angle to the brush tip. You can drag the arrow to rotate the brush tip. Make sure to keep an eye on the brush preview at the bottom of the panel, it updates in real time to every changes you make.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 25

Increase the brush Hardness to achieve crisp edge on the brush stroke.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 26

Test it by making a curvy line. Here is what I get.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 27: Make Your Own Custom Brush

Don’t delete the drawing you make earlier, we are going to turn it into a custom brush. Select it and then click Edit > Define Brush Preset. Give it a suitable name in the dialog box.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 28

A new brush tip will appear at the list. Select it.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 29

Set the Size and increase the Hardness. Try the brush to see its result.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool
How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 30

Activate Shape Dynamics and increase Size Jitter to randomize the brush size.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 31

If you use graphic tablet, the size variation can be controlled by the pressure you apply to the tablet and create more natural drawing process.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 32

You can add random rotation to the brush tip by adding Angle Jitter.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 33

You can also spread position pf the brush tip and increase its number by adding Scatter and Count.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 34

Activate Color Dynamics and increase Hue, Saturation, or Brightness Jitter to randomize the color of each brush tip.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 35

Next to each set of parameters, there is a small lock icon. If you lock it, the selected set parameters will stay when you applied different brush presets. Let’s try it out, click on the Color Dynamics lock icon.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 36

Select different brush tip. If you try it, the color variation feature still works.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 37: Symmetry Painting

Photoshop’s brush has symmetry painting feature that can turn your drawing, in fact any drawing, into an interesting abstract painting. No artistic skill is required, random brush stroke will do just fine. Activate brush tool and click on the butterfly icon in the Option Bar. Select Vertical. This is the most basic symmetry painting.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 38

A straight line appears. It acts like a mirror. Everything you paint on one side will be reflected on its opposite side.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 39

You can also paint across the line.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 40

There are other type of symmetry. The most interesting type is Mandala. Select Mandala and select your number of mirror, Photoshop calls it segment.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 41

Click and drag to position the mirror.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 42

You can just simply draw.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 43

Just go wild. I promise you, anything will eventually looks cool. Here, I use custom calligraphic brush made earlier.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 44

To stop the symmetry painting, click on the butterfly icon and then select Symmetry Off.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 45: Precise Brush Stroke Using Path

Drawing a perfect curvy stroke might not be easy, especially if you use mouse. You need to have a steady hand. You can fix this using path.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 44

Open up Paths panel and then click Create new path icon to make a new path.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 45

Fire up the Pen tool and select Path in the Option Bar. Click and drag to make first anchor point. Continue adding another anchor point until we have the desired curve.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 46

Right click the path and select Stroke Path. Make sure you have prepared the brush and all its settings.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 47

In the Stroke Path dialog box, select Brush in the Tol option. Click OK to start painting along the path.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 48

You can also activate Simulate Pressure to simulate pen pressure.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 49

Using this technique, you can make brush stroke along a text. Let’s try it. Activate Type Tool and then write a text.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 50

In the Layers panel, right click the text layer and select Create Work Path.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 51

The text will be converted into a path. We won’t need the text, so let’s make it hidden by clicking on its eye icon. Add a new layer.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 52

In the Paths panel, right click the path and select Stroke Path.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 53

In the dialog box, select Brush and activate Simulate Pressure.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 54

This is what we have from the brush stroke.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Step 55: Pencil Tool

Next to the brush tool, Photoshop has Pencil tool. It has the same settings and capabilities of a brush tool. The difference is a pencil will always produce hard edge stroke, even with 0% Hardness. Below is the difference between brush and pencil stroke, both using same brush tip size with 0% Hardness.

How to Use Brush and Pencil Tool

Conclusion

The digital pencil and brush tool is definitely a great to draw directly in Photoshop. But, this shouldn’t make you lose touch with the real world pencil and brush. I hope you enjoy the tutorial and thank you for reading. Stay home, stay safe, and don’t forget to wash your hand.

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