Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Working with the Brush tool, part of Learning Photoshop for Design (2011).
In this exercise, I will introduce you to the Brush tool, which is an exceedingly practical free-form painting tool inside Photoshop, and along the way we will transform this basic circle into this finished piece of artwork. About half of what you're seeing here is the result of the Brush tool. The other half is the result of the fills and gradients that we will apply in an upcoming exercise. We will start things off inside this file that's called Circle.psd. And before we set about making that fish eye, let's get a sense of what's going on with the Brush tool.
Anytime you want to paint inside of Photoshop, I recommend that you paint on a new layer so that you can paint and erase without harming the rest of the image. And the easiest way to create a new layer is to press Ctrl+Shift+N or Command+Shift+N on the Mac and I will go ahead and call this new layer Painting and click OK. Now I will switch to the Brush tool, which you get by clicking on the brush icon here in the toolbox or you can press the B key. The brush always paints in the foreground color, which is by default set to black. And so I will go ahead and paint. Now I happen to be working with a drawing tablet outfitted with a pressure sensitive stylist.
This is a Wacom Intuos 4 for what is worth. And if you're serious about painting inside of Photoshop, I definitely recommend you pick up a drawing tablet. They cost anywhere from 100 bucks at the low-end to $500 or more, depending on the features that you want. And notice when I press softly I get a small brushstroke, a very thin one, and when I press harder, I get a thicker brush stroke, but throughout it's pretty darn soft. Now the thickness and softness of a brush stroke are dependent upon two attributes called Size and Hardness that you can get to by right clicking inside of the image window.
I am going to go ahead and change that Size value to let's say 75 pixels and then I will increase the Hardness value all the way from 0%, which gives you very soft brush strokes indeed, to 100%, which gives you sharp brushstrokes without being jagged. Then I will press the Enter key in order to hide that panel and I will go ahead and paint another brushstroke and you can see that's much thicker. It's also much sharper. Now the great news is you can modify both of those attributes from the keyboard without bringing up a panel by pressing the square bracket keys. Those are the keys to the right of the P as in Paul key on an American keyboard.
If you press the Right Bracket key and keep an eye on my cursor here, you'll make the brush incrementally larger. If you press the Left Bracket key you'll make it incrementally smaller. If you get impatient with those increments, you can press and hold one of those keys. So this is the result. I am going to move my cursor to the center. Pressing and holding the Right Bracket key makes the brush monstrously large, as you can see here, and this is a result of pressing and holding the Left Bracket key. You can change the hardness of the brush as well by adding Shift. I am going to go ahead and press Ctrl+A or Command+A on the Mac to select the entire layer and then press the Backspace key or the Delete key on the Mac to get rid of the contents of that layer.
Notice the layer goes ahead and hangs in there because there is a selection outline active. Now I will press Ctrl+D or Command+ D on the Mac to deselect the image. Currently I have a sharp brush. I will go ahead and click to show you what it looks like. If I press Shift+Left Bracket key, it gets slightly softer. That's actually 25% softer. I'll press Shift+Left Bracket again and that's a 50% hardness brush. Press Shift+Left Bracket again, click, that's a 25% hardness brush. Shift+Left Bracket again, click, that's a 0% hardness brush. To go the other way then you press Shift+Right Bracket, there's a 25% brush, Shift+Right Bracket for 50% hardness brush, Shift+Right Bracket again for 75% hardness brush, and Shift+Right Bracket a fourth time for 100% hardness brush. All right! So I was telling you what a practical tool this is.
Let's go ahead and put it to work. I am going to turn off the painting layer, click on the sphere layer to make it active. It doesn't look much like a sphere right now, but it will by time we are done with it. Go ahead and click the down pointing arrowhead next to the fx icon in order to reveal the layer effects. Notice that I have two effects ready and waiting, both of which are currently turned off. I will turn on the Inner Shadow effect. That goes ahead and adds the shadow to the sphere. If you want to see the specific values I applied, just go ahead and double click on the words Inner Shadow. Check it out. Now that's still not quite a sphere.
I need to add a highlight. So I am going to right-click with my Brush tool. I am going to change the Size value to 200 and the Hardness value to 0%. Press the Enter key a couple of times in order to hide that panel. I want my foreground color to be white. So I will click this little switch icon or I could press the X key for exchange. And then I want to paint exclusively inside the sphere. Let me show you what I am talking about. I will turn off the background layer so that we can see that checkerboard pattern. And notice if I start painting inside the sphere layer, I make more or less a mess of things.
So I am painting both inside the circle and outside of it and you may wonder how in the world is it that I am painting with white and I'm getting these dark brushstrokes? Well, that's entirely a function of the Inner Shadow effect. If I were to turn it off, we would have whiteness all over the place. If I turn it back on then you can see the Inner Shadow is attacking that area and turning it all dark. I'm going to go ahead and undo those brushstrokes and I hit a backstep there by pressing the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+Alt+Z or Command+Option+Z on the Mac, to go back several steps.
If I want to limit my brushstroke to the interior of the layer so it doesn't go outside, then I would lock down the transparent pixels by clicking on this first icon to the right of the word Lock at the top of the Layers panel. Now if I paint inside the layer, notice that I am painting exclusively inside the circle. I am going to undo that brushstroke too and all I want to do, in order to create the highlight that will turn this circle into a sphere, I just have to click once. So with my mouse, by the way. I'm not using my drawing tablet this time. All right! Now the sphere is going to serve as an iris inside the eye.
So I added this Inner Glow effect, which is actually something of a shading effect, all the way around the perimeter of the circle. The next step is to create a pupil. So I will press Ctrl+Shift+N, Command+ Shift+N on the Mac to make a new layer and I will call it pupil and then click OK. And we are going to make the pupil using the Brush tool. I will right click inside the image window to bring up the Brush panel once again. I will change the Size value to 150 and Hardness value to 100%. Press the Enter key to hide the panel. Press the X key in order to switch the foreground color back to black and I will click any old place.
Now that's way off-center, as you can see. I did that on purpose so I can show you how to align one layer to another. Make sure pupil is selected. Shift+click on sphere to select it as well. Then go ahead and switch to the Move tool, which gives you access to the Align options up here in the Options bar, and click on each one of these align centers icons. So first align vertical centers and then align horizontal centers and we end up with this effect here. Now I want to create a kind of drop shadow behind the pupil, not because the pupil is casting a drop shadow onto the iris, that wouldn't make any sense, but rather because I want a little bit of darkness around the pupil's edge.
So select the pupil layer independently just by clicking on it. Click on the fx icon. Choose Drop Shadow. We are going to move pretty quickly through this one. Click on the color swatch. I am going to change the Hue to 15 degrees, the Saturation to 100% and the Brightness value to 15%. So 15, 100, 15. Click OK. Multiply is fine. I am going to crank the Opacity value up to 100%. The Angle should be 135 degrees. A Distance value of 5 pixels is just fine. I will change the Spread value to 30% and the Size value to 50 pixels.
Then click OK and that gives me the darkening effect I see right there. Now I want to add a highlight to the pupil. So I will switch back to my Brush tool and I'll also go ahead and press the X key to swap the foreground color back to white and I will right-click inside my image window. Let's change the Size value to let's say 100 pixels. The Hardness should be 0%. Press the Enter key a couple of times in order to hide that panel and then make sure that you have got the tansparency locked down. So go ahead and click on that Lock Transparent Pixels icon next to the word Lock there in the Layers panel and click in order to create the highlight. All right! So that finishes off the iris and the pupil.
Now you know how to paint with the Brush tool as well as modify the size and hardness of our brush here inside Photoshop.
- Getting around an image
- Creating accurate selections
- Creating a layered composition
- Scaling and rotating layers
- Creating realistic layer effects
- Painting with the brush tool
- Tracing outlines with the pen tool
- Creating editable effects with smart filters
- Saving an image and preparing it for print