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Since the Paintbrush is such a powerful tool, we need to talk about how to quickly change its attributes so that you can paint more effectively when you're changing your masks. If you've got the brush selected, up in the top in the Options Bar we have a Brush Preset picker and you can click on that in order to change the Size, or the Hardness of your brush. We also have a Brushes panel, if you select the Window menu and then choose Brush, you'll notice that we have a ton of options up here. But let's keep this simple. I'm going to close this panel, and we're going to learn some essential keyboard shortcuts to make changes to our brush.
Now if I want to access the Preset picker without going all the way to the upper-left of my monitor, I can simply click anywhere in my image area with the right mouse click, or the Ctrl+Click on Mac in order to access my context-sensitive menus. Now I can quickly change the Size and the Hardness of my brush. I can tap the Enter key or the Return key to hide that context-sensitive menu once I'm finished. But there are other ways that are even quicker. I can use the Right Bracket key to get a larger brush.
I can use the Left Bracket key to get a smaller brush. If I want to change the hardness of the brush, if I hold the Shift key and I click on the Right Bracket key, I'm going to get a harder-edged brush. If I hold the Shift key and click on the Left Bracket I'll get a softer-edged brush. Although the problem with that shortcut is, visually I don't really see much of a change. I can glance up here and the icon will change and get a little softer or harder, but my favorite way to change the size of the brush is to hold down the Option and the Ctrl key on the Mac, on Windows it would be the Shift key and the Alt key, and you would click-and-drag left or right, and you can see that that changes the diameter.
We can see that in the pop-up right here. It's really handy, especially if you know that you want a specific size brush. It gets even better though, because if I keep those keyboard shortcuts down and I drag up or down, you can see that I'm changing the hardness of the brush. Now there's an interesting listing here, this third one for Opacity. But it doesn't seem to matter if I move up and down or left or right, I can't change that Opacity and that's because it's a preference. In order to toggle the Opacity is the option here.
We need to go to Photoshop>Preferences and then General. If you're on Windows you'd go onto the Edit menu and then select Preferences>General. This is the option that we need to uncheck. The option is to vary the Round Brush, and that's what we're working with. We've got a Round Brush. This option says to Vary the Hardness based on the HUD, that's Head-Up Display, what we were using the keyboard shortcut to access, on that vertical movement. If I turn this off, instead of varying the brush hardness, we're going to vary the brush's opacity.
So I'll click OK, hold down Option+Ctrl or Shift+Alt on Windows and now when I drag up and down you can see I can dynamically change the opacity of the brush. So there you have it, a number of different ways to quickly change the size of the brush, the hardness and the opacity. You don't have to use all of the different shortcuts. Just find the one that you like best for your workflow.
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