Brushes are used to paint on images, to paint on masks, and to apply many tools.

This tutorial will be needed as a reference when using various tools.

The Brush Tool.

Brushes1A brush may come with a tool such as the Clone tool or a brush may be required for work.

To get a brush type B (B for brush) or click on the brush icon in the tool bar.

The thumbnail shows the Brush tool highlighted on the bar, and the brush cursor in the image The brush cursor shows the shape and size but not the hardness of the brush. If the brush is soft the cursor will be smaller and the effect of the brush will extend out beyond the cursor. If the brush is hard the cursor will be larger and the effect will go to the edge of the cursor.


The size of the brush is best controlled using the Square Brackets on the keypad. The left bracket makes the brush smaller and the right larger. It is often necessary to change the brush size while you are working and with fingers on the bracket keys this is easily done. Also, the size of a brush may be adjusted in the brush palette and this can be useful at the beginning of a job.


Brushes2Click on the Brush icon in the Option bar. Slide the Hardness slider to change the hardness.

Right Click

Brushes3With the brush tool active a right click in the image brings up the Brush palette.

This is a good place to alter the hardness of the brush, and also the size, if this is way off.

I do not find the shapes in the menu useful as I always use a round brush. Like wise I do not select a brush icon of a particular size and sharpness preferring to use the sliders and the square brackets to get the brush I need.

Option bar

Brushes4The choices in the option bar will vary with different versions of PS

Presets is the first option but I do not have any brush presets

The brush panel is the next option and in this is another way to choose a brush size and hardness.

Mode changes the blend mode but this is not often needed in a brush.

Opacity changes will be necessary some times

The Air Brush and flow are not used by many.

Black and white

Brushes5The colour that a brush paints is obviously important in painting but much more often a choice of black or white is needed when painting on a mask (see a later tutorial).

The colours that the brush paints are controlled by the Foreground colour at the bottom of the Tool bar. The Foreground colour is on top of the Background colour. Note that the terms foreground and background do not have the usual photographic meaning but refer only to the colour available for work.

Click on the little black and white squares and the colours will revert to the default black and white. This is easily achieved by typing D for “default”.

The double headed arrow toggles between Foreground and Background colours. This is easily achieved by typing X.

So get used to:

Type B for brush
Type D for default colours
Type X to toggle between Foreground and Background colours


Brushes6If you wish to paint with a colour double click on the foreground colour and the Colour Picker palette will appear.

In the centre of the Colour Picker is the Colour Bar. As you drag in the bar the range of colours in the window changes.

Click in the window and drag the circle over the colour of your choice. The colour of your choice is shown in the small window to the right of the colour bar.

The boxes with numbers bottom right are for other methods to choose colours.

Brushes7A colour can also be selected from the image. In the Tool bar select the Eyedropper. In the image click on the colour of your choice and this colour will now be the Foreground colour.


A Worked Example Using Brushes

Many tools use brushes to apply their function, brushes are used to paints black and white on masks and of course brushes are used to paint.

Open “Sydney at night” (right click on the image and select “save link as”)Sydney at night

correction with

Open the Clone tool, the Eraser and the Dodge tool to show how various tools use

Type B for brush (or from the tool panel)

Change the size with square brackets and the brush panel

Change the hardness with the brush panel

Show the right click and the icon on the Options panel.

Enlarge the Options bar and discuss Precepts, icon for brush panel, the brush panel, Mode, Opacity, and the Air Brush and flow.

Painting with black and white on a mask. Open curves, darken, inverse the mask and paint. Do the same with H/S. Demonstrate

change of Demonstrate B for Brush, D for default Foreground colour and X to toggle black

Go back to the original using Cmd/Option (Control/ ALT)

Open the Color Picker and discuss. Use the Eyedropper

Duplicate the Background layer

Paint the sky various colours. Demonstrate the painting technique.