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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.
As you can see I've made some modifications to Sketchy the angry man.psd, and one of the reasons that sketchy is so darn angry is, because he didn't know that Photoshop is incapable of painting smooth brush strokes. It actually lays down dollops of color. Bear in mind that anything that I demonstrate with the Brush tool also applies to the editing tools as well. So the Healing Brush is going to apply dollops of cloning and the Dodge tool is going to apply dollops of lightning and so on. So let me show you how that works. But first, I want you to notice another really great thing about working with a Wacom Intuos4 like I have here.
If you turn the stylus upside down, you have an Eraser. If you paint with that Eraser, then you automatically erase inside of Photoshop. Now that may not seem like the biggest miracle on earth, but the tool is not selected. Notice the Eraser tool is not selected. Normally, if you're working with the mouse, you'd have to select the tool or press the E key to switch to the Eraser, then erase and then switch back to the Brush tool, whereas when you're working with the stylus, you just switch the stylus upside down. So it's really awesome. I have to tell you, I can't recommend these things enough. If you anticipate that you're going to spend a lot of time editing inside of Photoshop, the next time you have 250 bucks burning a hole in your pocket, then you really owe yourself a treat.
Anyway, you can check them out at wacom.com. I'm going to go ahead and turn on this layer of Black right here, so that I can demonstrate this dollop of paint thing that I'm talking about. Then I'll right-click with my Brush tool. I'll change the Size value to let's say 200 pixels. Then I'll raise the Hardness value to 100%. I'll press the Enter key a couple of times in order to hide that panel. Now, I'm going to press the X key to switch the foreground background colors, so that I can paint with white, because the Brush tool always paints with the active foreground color. Now watch, if I paint a brush stroke, you can see the dollops of paint.
You can see that it's actually repeating a round brush over and over again. So it's just clicking, clicking, clicking. So it's just setting down these dollops. I'm now doing this with the mouse by the way as opposed to the tablet. But I want you to have a sense of what's going on when you're painting with this tool. So what do you do about it? How do you get smoother results? Well, one way to get smoother results is to work with a low Hardness value. Incidentally, a low Hardness value that is 0% hardness is the default setting for the Dodge tool, and the Burn tool and the Sponge tool and many of the other edit tools as well.
However, when you're working with the likes of the Healing Brush, which is a really wicked great tool inside of Photoshop, the hardness value by default is 100%. Those are actually the hardness values you want to work with, with those tools. So that means you're going to get sort of lumpy brush strokes when you're working with the Healing Brush. Now you don't tend to notice it, because the Healing Brush is so great at merging its results. However, it is still something to bear in mind. So how might you get smoother results out of these tools, when you're using high hardness values? Well, let me go ahead and show you.
I'm going to press Ctrl+Backspace or Command+Delete on the Mac in order to fill that layer with black once again. Then I'll bring up the Brush panel. You can do that when the Brush tool is active. You can go up here to this little folder icon and just click on it. That brings up the Brush panel. You also can go up to the Window menu and choose the Brush command. Notice, you've got a keyboard shortcut of F5. If you're going to spend much time brushing, that's a really great keyboard shortcut to memorize because this is a very useful panel right here. Notice the Spacing value.
It's set to 25% by default. Well, what that means is each dollop of paint right there is spaced 25% of the size of the brush of the full diameter away from the next dollop of paint. So I'll go ahead and undo those dollops. Now I'm going to reduce the Spacing value here to let's say 5%, so that we have some very closely spaced dollops of paint. Then I'll hide the brush stroke. I'll show you what that looks like. So now if I paint another brush stroke, it looks much cleaner.
So you might look at that and say, well, then why isn't that the default setting? Why would Photoshop go ahead and set things to 25% when 5% spacing looks so much better? Well, were I to draw too quickly here, let me see if I can make this happen. If I kind of go back and forth, notice that I end up flattening out my brush stroke and spaces, because basically Photoshop can't keep up with me at a certain point. Then it goes ahead and connects the two points, the beginning and the end of where it couldn't keep up with me with a straight line.
So we have a bunch of sort of straight lines going on inside of this awful looking brush stroke, but that's the idea. Photoshop is assuming that you would like to paint and have it keep up with you, regardless of how quickly you paint inside of your image. Bear in mind of course, that when you're working with even higher resolution images, so if you're working in a 12 mega-pixel image or even larger and you start painting big brush strokes, then Photoshop is really going to have a hard time keeping up again, when you're using a low spacing value. So I'll go ahead and undo that modification right there.
Now notice, when you're working with a soft brush, I'll go ahead and right click here, and I'll reduce the Hardness value to 0%; and I'm going to take up the Size value to, to more like 300 pixels this time. Notice now, if I press the F5 key to bring up the Brush panel, and I reset that Spacing option to 25%, and then press F5 again to hide that panel, notice this is what a soft brush stroke looks like with the 25% Spacing value. So it looks actually pretty darn good, but you can, if you look closely.
You can see some vibrations going on inside of that brush stroke. So you can see some darkening that's showing up. That's where the brushes are starting to gap apart a little bit. But then if you raise that Spacing value, I'll press F5 again to bring up the Brush panel. I'll reduce that Spacing value to 5% and then press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac followed by F5 in order to hide that panel, and I paint again. Notice that I do get a tighter looking brush stroke this time around without any of those sort of dark vibrations right there. However, I also get a much thicker brush stroke because the dollops of paint are building up on each other.
So where does this 25% value come from anyway? Why is that the default? Well, that's basically the highest value that doesn't result in obvious separations of the brush stroke when you're working with a very soft brush. Check this out. I'll go ahead and press the F5 key once again. I'll change that Spacing value to 30% this time around. Press Enter or Return and F5. This time, you know what, I'm going to press Ctrl+Alt+Z or Command+Option+Z to get rid of that second brush stroke. This time if I paint a line across the image, you can see some pretty obvious vibrations.
When I say vibrations, I mean this occasional darkening effect that's going on right there. So pretty much at about 26-27% you start seeing the brush separate. So that's where 25% ends up performing very nicely. The biggest thing you need to remember, if you're going to go changing your Spacing value, you need to remember to press the F5 key to bring the Brush panel back up, because the only place that the Spacing value exists is right here, and you have to have by the way Brush Tip Shape selected. If you end up selecting one of these other options like Shape Dynamics, something along those lines, then you may kind of lose your way inside of this panel.
That's okay. You can always get back by clicking on Brush Tip Shape right there. There is the Spacing value. Make sure to reset it when you're done playing with it. So I'll go ahead and change it back to 25%. Then I'll press F5 to hide the panel once again. In the next exercise, I'm going to show you a few tips and tricks for changing the size and the hardness of your Brush on the fly.
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