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Brush as Mask

Lesson 16 from: Advanced Techniques with Brushes in Photoshop CC

Lisa Carney

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Lesson Info

16. Brush as Mask

Lesson Info

Brush as Mask

How about brush as mask? This is a little simpler. It's just basically using Paintbrush as a mask. This is a little more traditional, but you can do a lot of fun things with it. So I'm gonna go ahead and just dissect the piece on the right. When I got into all this painting stuff, what it also reminded me for digital painting is, because this is basically digital painting that we're doing, is why not paint outside and bring it in? So get some India ink, get some ... Have you guys ever painted with coffee and coffee grounds? Oh, it's the coolest thing. And you guys could probably do it this afternoon. Take your coffee and dip a paintbrush in it, or your fingers even, and put it on paper and then take a picture of it with your iPhone. And you can make a brush tip head out of that. And you can sell it on the internet for a lotta money, and you could call it your coffee grounds. Right? Come on, someone should do it. Simon, you go do that, go make some money. Take me to dinner. All right, l...

et me show you brush as mask. So I think for this demo, I'd like to just dissect it, if that's all right. And hopefully ya'll will follow along. I'm just gonna merge this because I tried different heads out (laughs) 'cause that's what you do. All right, I used this basic splatter. It's not the splatter we've used before. This is actually made in real world with India ink, and used as a brush. So that's the thing I'm gonna use as a brush. I'm gonna dissect this file. I'm gonna say goodbye to the little docking here. I'm just gonna walk through it. I don't think I need to show you how to make a brush out of this because we've done that a few times now. So I'm just gonna walk through the imagery and talk about the file construction. All right. Now this is gonna get a little complicated, but I want to reiterate that everything I'm showing, we've really already talked about. This is nothing new, it's just gonna be used in a slightly different way, all right? So no panicking. Panic later. All right, when I said you guys can make art out of coffee and stuff, that's what I meant. Like paint something. Make it brown, use the color. You don't have to necessarily just have everything be black and white. So there's a little texture. Then I just did a little levels move to make it contrasty. I pulled the red channel on my dude. Wait, what? I pulled the red channel on my dude. So, here's my guy. I went to the channels. I'm big on channel pulling. I know this is old school, get rid of this, but I basically took a copy of the red channel. What does that mean? That means I went to the red channel. So let's take a look at what I have viewing. All I have viewing is my guy. Right, and a little extra crap underneath because I didn't clean up my file. I took the red channel, grabbed it by its name, and dragged it down. This is not in your handouts. So if you're interested in this, take some notes or rewatch this slowly a couple times. So red channel, and Lisa loves her levels, I'm gonna make it contrasty, because I want him to be very contrasty, so Lisa says do some levels. And I'm gonna do a contrast move. I'm gonna blow the whites out, and bring up the darks. The idea here is, I just want to use him kind of as an illustration. So I'm trying to get rid of all that mid-tone. Then what I did when I did the levels is I ended up with something like this. Now, if you look at the layer file, I love that Photoshop communicates visually with you, what you can see is I basically used that selection to fill with black. So let's do that together. I'm gonna make a new layer. If I was really proper, I'd say fill with black, red channel copy. As it was, I said red channel. I was giving myself a little credit. In Photoshop, I don't know if you know this, but if you hold your cursor over the icon for a channel, with the Command key click down, you'll see you get this little hand with the marching ants symbol. And you click and that will load a selection. Now if I were to load this selection right now, and I had black as my foreground color, I'm gonna get the exact opposite of what I was looking for. I'm gonna get this guy filled in. I don't want that. So what I want to do, is I want to either invert the channel, Command+I, or when I make my selection, Command+Click. on the icon for that channel, I want to Inverse my selection, which is Command+Shift+I or Inverse, okay? So now the dark area is selected, not the white area. Now I'm gonna fill with black. Now I have him, just a nice little black and white monochromatic print. What I did, is I did a little mask, and there's my little mask. All right, so now I've got ... I'm gonna go back to History because I think I just deleted too much stuff real quick. It's gonna go back real quickly. Play with me here for a second. All right, so let's look at what we have. We have a base guy, we have some white, we have that paint I made, we have that guy filled with black, his red channel and just masked in, that's him entirely masked in. Do you see all this is grouped to the layer underneath? That means this texture is deciding everything that's showing. Then I added a little more. I used that brush, I showed you that brush I made in the beginning? That texture as a brush? As a mask. A little splatter there. A little more splatter. It is all the same brush. It's all that splatter. I think I should say this really quickly. When I said I made a brush, I mean I had that splatter, I took the Marquee tool, I squared it out, I circled it, and I said Define brush, and I said Splatter. That's what I'm talking about. Only what I've done is I've now used that brush as a mask, to lay down some paint. Did a little curve just to lighten him up because I couldn't change my mind. The exact same brush. The exact same brush I used to just paint a little texture with gray. It's the exact same brush used seven times for the exact same piece, only in different areas, and at different sizes. A little more of the guy. Little Hue Saturation. Oh you guys, this should be your best friend. Hue Saturation for colorizing. So what I did is I did a little Hue Colorize, and put it on top, and it took all that yellow, and double-click on it again, all that yellow, it made it blue. Then I put a tiny bit at that four color guy, the original, right back in. Just masking it in, see that? It's the same brush, oddly enough, it's all the same brush, but after I painted it I blurred it. It's the same brush. I used this brush, not on Dissolve mode. Can I call attention to something? I just made that brush, right? I never use Dissolve mode. When you make a brand new brush, it leaves it at the pre-set of the last one. Who uses Dissolve? That Kyle. It's that Kyle guy. So it's stuck on Dissolve. I do love him. But I don't use Dissolve, so let me just change that real quick. That's a little tricky wicket you should know about. All right. I used the exact same brush, I just then used that in a mask and I blurred it. Do you understand? It's literally the same thing used in the piece. A little High Pass to sharpen it, and then that was it. So that's a brush as a mask. We have made a few brushes already. We've made a pattern brush, you can make a watercolor brush, I'm gonna show you a lens flare later. It's all the same. Look at his poor little back of his head showing. Should I fix that real quick? There, go away, there you go, sorry. Just looked a little awkward. So far the take-away I'd like you to have for right now, is that all these brushes can be used so many ways that your head could probably pop off. You've got your half-tone brush, you've got your blender brush. Often they deal with the exact same element. What I mean by that is you could take this splatter right here, and use that as a blender brush. You could. You could use it as a mixer brush. And I think the genius of Kyle is, if you look through his brushes, he's gone through painters and looked at their style. He looked at Cezanne, he looked Suratte, he looked at Pizarro. And he looked at their brush strokes, and he made tip heads that look like this. So while I show you all this crazy stuff you can do, I'm gonna guess that most of you, when you're working in here, if you're gonna make your own brush like this, you're gonna use that for a watercolor, or you're gonna use it as a mask. More than likely you're not gonna take that and use that as an Impressionist brush, right? Because an Impressionist style ... Maybe you will. I think most of you are not gonna do a lot of adjusting, but I think what you'll end up doing is you'll look at Kyle's brushes and you'll understand what he did, and you'll know how to drive that car a little better. Because you'll know how to dissect it.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Brushes Companion Handout
Adobe Stock Contributor

Ratings and Reviews


Knowledgeable Lisa is the best teacher. She makes learning Photoshop fun. Great course. Lisa has a great teaching style. She mixes in a great speech cadence, great voice up and down and pausing, jokes, and is extremely knowledgeable and fun to watch. Awesome course. Really helpful course for getting my feet wet with brushes.


This is a comprehensive overview of Ps CC Brushes, what they do, how they work and how to control, manage & modify them. I found it extremely useful to learn about the functionality/features that Ps CC brushes can provide even though I'm a photographer and not an illustrator or painter. I will never ever be able to employ everything Lisa explained & demo'd in the class - she covered a wide gamut of info. But she served the purpose, in this class, of being essentially what I'd call an 'idea sparker'. Once you see how she works with brushes and you find out how you can adapt (or create) brush tools to suit your personal artistic style the options for creativity are unlimited. I might re-title this class "Oh the Places Brushes Can Go" (apologies to Dr Seuss and his classic graduation gift book 'Oh, the Places You'll Go...'). Keep in mind a few things about this class (& back away from it and your credit card if you don't note a few key facts...): (1) It is called 'Advanced Techniques' - it is for intermediate to advanced Ps users, not newbies unless you're a child prodigy who picks things up really fast, (2) This is not a 'Paint with Lisa' class - we don't all paint a butterfly like a color by numbers together. Rather we learn about Ps brushes, how they work, what they look like and how to modify them and change their dynamics for different types of artistic/retouching/post-processing uses. Each person will have to experiment - there's no one 'this is it' formula that can be provided, (3) Lisa talks and thinks fast and has a pretty amusing patter too (she's clearly very intelligent!) - so be prepared to hit the Pause button. She repeatedly advises during the class, don't overload your brain with all there is to absorb with regard to Ps Brushes. Take breaks to try the info she shares & see what works for you before going on to a different section of the class. Don't buy this class thinking you'll whizz through it in 15 minutes & figure out how to complete a job you've committed to deliver in 2 hours, (4) There's a large packet of material that comes with a purchase of the class (descriptions, definitions, brush settings, drawing examples, etc.). Item #4 is the only thing I'd ding this class on. While the handout material contains lots of really really useful info it is - sadly - microscopic print. The text is exceedingly difficult for my poor old eyes to read. I value that there's plenty of white space on the pages to write notes as Lisa talks - I've done so prodigiously. But the print in that accompanying brushes class guide needs to be larger. I honestly wish I could enlarge the print in some way (unless it is a PDF that I can alter & I haven't figured it out). If there is a way to re-print with larger type font sizes someone please let me know! Bottom line: I highly recommend this class to more advanced Ps users who want a comprehensive overview of Brushes and working with them. It's definitely not a class for someone who wants a linear, step x step, "do this then do that" type of recipe class. As I've noted above, it's best as a way to learn about richly varied Ps tools you may have only had superficial exposure to previously; and get enough new knowledge to make you dangerous (and, dare I say it, boldly creative!).

Skye Taten

Lisa is the BEST teacher!!!!! Everyone should take this class!!!!!!! This class is utterly phenomenal!!!! Lisa is so knowledgable and so very talented. She is incredibly smart, super funny and so very helpful. This class contains so much valuable information, and at this price it's a complete steal. This class has forever changed my life!!! I'm so happy to have a new skill set. Thank you Lisa from the bottom of all of our hearts you are completely incredible and have touched all of our editing in photoshop lives forever!!!!! You are so very talented thank you so much for sharing your incredible skills and knowledge with us, you are a true beautiful talented soul. xoxo, Skye

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