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Photoshop is the world’s most powerful image editor, and it’s arguably the most complex, as well. Fortunately, nobody knows the program like award-winning book and video author Deke McClelland. Join Deke as he explores such indispensable Photoshop features as resolution, cropping, color correction, retouching, and layers. Gain expertise with real-world projects that make sense. Exercise files accompany the course.
Download Deke's free dekeKeys and color settings from the Exercise Files tab.
In this exercise I'm going to share with you a few shortcuts for changing the size and hardness of a brush on-the-fly, and these are some incredibly useful techniques. If you don't know about them yet, if you don't know about them, you'll be using them on a regular basis in the future. Now, I've gone ahead and created the new sample document for you. It's called Tips from Sketchy.psd found inside the 09_retouch_heal folder. It doesn't look like anything special, but it will shortly. So you can see the size of my brush on screen right there. And I'm going to go ahead and increase its size just a little bit here.
I'll go ahead and right-click inside of my Image window and I'll change the Size value to 300 pixels. Notice the Hardness value is set to 100%. And then I'll make my foreground color white and I'll click inside of this layer in order to paint a brush stroke. Now, I can reduce the size of my brush by pressing the Left Bracket key . That's the Square Bracket key just next door to the P as in Paul key on an American keyboard, and paint again and I get a brush stroke this big. Then I'll press the Left Bracket key, click, Left Bracket, click, Left Bracket, click.
So you can see that it's making the brush incrementally smaller in the exact amount by which we're reducing the brush diameter depends on how big the brush is in the first place. So, when it's very big like this, you're changing the brush size in about 25 pixel increments. When you start getting down to very small sizes, you might be changing the brush in 1 pixel increments. All right! Now, in order to make the brush bigger, you might already anticipate this. I'll go ahead and click in order to create a brush stroke then press the Right Bracket key , then press the Right Square Bracket key.
And I'll click again, press Right Bracket, click again, press Right Bracket, click again, press Right Bracket, click again. So you get the idea there. All right! So that's one way to work. That's how you change the size on- the-fly with those bracket keys. In order to change the hardness, check this out. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Backspace or Command+Delete on the Mac in order to fill the layer once again with black. I'll click in order to create a hard brush. Remember that I'm working with a Hardness value of 100%. Now, I'll press Shift+Left Bracket in order to make the brush 25% softer.
So when I click again, you can see that I've added a little bit of softness there. I'll press Shift+Left Bracket again, click. Now I have a 50% hard brush, because each press of Shift along with the bracket key changes that Hardness value by 25% always. It doesn't matter what the Hardness value was before. If I press Shift+ Left Bracket again and click, and now I have a 25% hard brush and then I'll press Shift+ Left Bracket again, and now I have a 0% hard brush. And just to confirm that, I'll go ahead and right-click and you can see that indeed I've reduced that Hardness value down to 0%.
In order to increase the hardness of the brush why then use a Right Bracket key instead. So Shift+Right Bracket makes the brush 25% harder. If you want to increase hardness all the way from 0% back to 100%, you press Shift+Right Bracket four times in a row. So, I already did it once, two, three, four, and now I should have a nice hard brush which I do. All right! So, that's one way to work. I'm going to press Ctrl+Backspace or Command+Delete on a Mac in order to once again fill the layer with black. That's one way to work. There's a new way that was introduced inside of Photoshop CS4 and has been additionally augmented inside of Photoshop CS5 and it's kind of weird technique that doesn't work quite the same on the Mac and the PC, but the advantage of this technique is that you can preview the brush size and hardness on-the-fly, and you can also work in smaller increments.
Before I show you this technique though, I'm going to press Ctrl+K or Command+K on the Mac in order to bring up my Preferences dialog box right here. And then I'm going to switch to Cursors, and I want you to notice these Painting Cursor options. You can switch to a standard cursor which gives you a little goofy brush icon like there is any reason on earth you would want that. You'll also have Precise cursors which is going to give you kind of crosshair, and I'll show you how to get that on-the-fly. We've got Normal Brush Tip which is what I advise, which is going to give you an idea of how big your brush is at any given point in time.
It's also going to change depending on what kind of brush you're using, but if we were working with something like one of Photoshop CS5's new Bristle Brushes then we would see a representative cursor of that instead. Finally, we have this Full Size Brush Tip right there which seeks to go ahead and enclose the entire area that's going to get painted at a given time. So the softer you make your brush the bigger the brush cursor will get. That is going to encircle everything that's going to get modified at any point in time. However, I don't find it to be terribly representative.
So, I stick with Normal Brush Tip. Obviously, you can experiment with these things to determine what you like. I like to see the crosshair at the center of the brush. That's very useful in case I want to center a brush stroke at a specific location. So, I've got that checkbox turned on. You can also by the way turn on this guy which is Show only Crosshair While Painting. So when you're painting, the circle is going to disappear, and you're just going to see the cross and that's it; again up to you. Then finally we've got this Brush Preview >Color, and by default, it's set to red which is awfully useful for our purposes. We're going to see that red in just a second.
So, I'm going to go ahead and cancel out of this dialog box. And now I'll show you that technique for scaling the brush on-the-fly and previewing the results of your modification. I'll tell you how it works on the PC first and then I'll tell you how it works on the Mac. You press and hold the Alt key, you're on a PC and you click and hold the right mouse button, and then if you want to increase the size of your brush, you drag to the right and if you want to decrease the size of your brush, you drag to the left. So that's how you scale a brush incrementally on the PC, and you can see that you get a preview of that brush diameter at the same time.
So, you can compare it to other details inside your image, for example, if you were seeing something other than black as I am. Now, if you want to change the hardness of that brush again you PC users then you press and hold the Alt key. It's really the same technique. You press and hold the Alt key, you click and hold the right-mouse button. However, instead of dragging horizontally, you drag vertically. So, if you want to make the brush softer, you drag up which is kind of strange. That doesn't make that much sense to me, but that's what you do. And if you want to make the brush harder, you drag down.
So again, this is an Alt+Right- mouse button+drag. All right! On the Mac, totally different keyboard shortcut; you press the Control and Option keys. And when I say Control, I don't mean Command; I mean the Control key, the one that's actually spelled out and says Control. So you press Control and Option, you don't have to right drag; you just do a standard drag. So it's Control+Option+drag to the right in order to the make the brush bigger, and Control+Option+drag to the left in order to make the brush smaller. And notice that you can go back-and- forth on-the-fly until you get the brush exactly the size you want it to be.
Then if you want to change the hardness, again it's Control+Option. So, Control+Option+drag up to make the brush softer as if that makes any darn sense, but that's the way it is. And then Control+Option+drag down in order to make the brush harder. Now the reason I provided you with this Tips from Sketchy.psd file is if you turn off the layer of black, Sketchy is actually communicating these tricks to you in his angry fashion, of course. But so for Windows, we've got an Alt+Right, and for Mac we've got Control+Option+Standard drag.
So that's why I don't have right or left listed, it's just the standard drag. And then these arrows indicate the different results you're going to get. The cursor will grow big like this if you drag to the right and it will get small if you drag to the left. And if you want the brush to be harder, you drag down, and if you want it to be softer, you drag up. So, it's a kind of still graphic visualization of the tricks that I just passed along. In the next exercise, I'm going to show you a very similar technique that brings up the Heads Up Display Color Picker inside of Photoshop CS5.
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