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Brush Options

Lesson 3 from: Advanced Techniques with Brushes in Photoshop CC

Lisa Carney

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Lesson Info

3. Brush Options

Next Lesson: Brush Tools

Lesson Info

Brush Options

So, new brushes. Super-duper, uber amazing. When you're working with brushes, it's really important to know your brush tool option, and this menu bar, you've really got to get to know and be friends with it. In this handout, there's gonna be a lot of data that we don't talk about. There's just not enough time. So, on the handout you'll see explanations for the mode, opacity, the flow. We're gonna talk about a lot of it, but we can't talk about all of it. However, I do want to point out this one thing. Do you see that "Clear" function on the brush mode? I think it's one of the more underutilized tools in Photoshop. I'm just gonna pick a brush here, this real watercolor brush. And I'm gonna go back to, let's see, smooth copy. Alright. So I'm just picking a brush and a color and I'm just gonna make a new layer for giggle's sake. And I'm just gonna brush with it. It's a filled-up brush, it's beautiful, it's on regular mode. Now, let's say I accidentally went too far and I wanna change it. ...

In the old days, what you'd have to do is either you erase it, but if you erased it, you had to get a brush and make it the same settings and all the same functions. Or, you'd have to mask it with that brush. You could add a layer mask and change your color to black and then start masking it that way. But now, and actually, you have been able to do this for awhile, just most people didn't know it. I'm gonna go ahead and delete that mask. You can just go here, to the layer function, and go to "Clear." And what "Clear" is gonna do is basically turn it into an eraser with all the same settings you already had. So you don't have to reset it. So that's genius, I know most people don't erase when you're retouching, you tend to mask, but this is painting, this is a different conversation. So what's nice is you don't have to fluctuate between tools, you don't have to add layer masks where you don't need 'em and you just, it keeps your flow pretty fluid. So, again, it's on layer mode, it's clear, it's been there for at least last Photoshop. I had no idea. No idea it was there. It's been there for awhile. So use it, it's fun. It's good. Underutilized. It needs some love. Cool. Alright. Now, I'm gonna go into another demo here about stroke smoothing. Stroke smoothing is new, okay? So we're gonna talk about this, it's another function. This new function called "stroke smoothing" is only available on the paintbrush as opposed to a mixer brush or a blender brush. I'm gonna talk about that in a minute. There is a link on the handout here that will take you to this little demo that Adobe does, it's a little video demo, but I'm going to show it to you. The stroke smoothing option is great. I'm gonna show you the "pulled string" function of it. It's brand-new, so you have to have 2018 to have this work. I don't wanna get anyone frustrated, because they don't have it in 17. Now, how this works, I'm gonna pick a regular brush, a regular hard, round brush, alright. Now, how this works is you have to have "smoothing" on. So if you notice right here I have this smoothing function on right here. We're gonna enter the zone. What do I wanna say to you about this? Alright, you guys. There's a lot. I think, how much is it, 17 windows? I believe I have it counted up somewhere. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 windows here. Inside that, how many different settings? Some of them have 5 different settings you can do, 2, 3, 1. The amount of variables here is staggering and 100% overwhelming, so we're gonna talk about it a little bit as we go. I'm gonna hopefully frame it in a way that you guys can understand what's going on, but one of the first ones I wanna share is, if you do not have "smoothing" on, do you notice on the Option bar on the top, "smoothing" disappeared? So many of you, when you go home and try this, you're gonna try this stroke "smoothing," and you're gonna be like, "I can't do anything. It's not working." I do this all the time. You've gotta remember to go to your brush settings. Your brush settings show up under your window, "Brush Settings," and have your smoothing on. Once the smoothing comes on, you will then see this option. I'm just gonna turn my flow up, here's smoothing, the smoothing has a scrubber so you can go from 10% to 100. And let me kinda just demo. This beautiful graphic, I drew that. It's really hard to draw something like that. I'm a professional. Really. This graphic shows what the result is. So I have a basic, 80% pixel brush, nothing special, and I'm gonna draw. And I'm just gonna make it a little smaller here. Let's make it 10% brush. So, when I draw, I've had a little bit of coffee and my drawing is not great. My drawing's not great even if I haven't had coffee, but we don't need to talk about that. So let's say I put my smoothing on 10% and you see this little gear shift here? You can do the "pulled string" method, which will show you where you're going. The circle shows you your percentage and where you're going. The brush is following your stroke. But it allows you to get a little smoother. Now, that's just 10%. What if I scrub this up to 50%? Or close to 50? Some of y'all are gonna prefer to just type in here, and some of you are gonna prefer the scrubbing. I'm not so precise, I don't mind if it's 49% or whatnot. And then, do you see how the circle got bigger? And the pull string got different. "Got different," me talking pretty. When you click on your document, it's gonna start. You do not get to start your line until after you get outside of the circle, then the circle's gonna follow your stroke. Okay? It's a little odd as a visual, I find. For me, it was a little like, "What? What? What? What is that circle? What's going on?" But it's just trying to help you do your stroke. And, look, you've got freedom. You can do whatever you want. But look how smooth that is. I don't know about you, but if I did that by hand, do you see how it's wobbly? It's just a really, really, really nice, new function. This is 100%. Again, the brush gets bigger. The circle, pardon me, as you go. In fact, just for demo's sake, let me turn it off. Okay? So, there are settings in here that you can adjust for the zoom, so what that means is if you zoom in 100%, let's getcha a little window here, if you zoom in 100%, or 30%, the program's gonna assist you in that. Now, I know this is a lot of stuff to cover, and it's just technical. This handout's got information here. It'll tell ya all about this. Try it, practice it, and, I would suggest, once again, you don't practice this when you're doing artwork. Practice it when you're, you know, figure out your tools. Kinda a tool shed, you know what I mean? Figure out your tools, get 'em all sharp, clean, practice with 'em, and then do your job, okay? I love brushes. I'm gonna say that all day today. You might find it annoying eventually. I hope not, but I love this. So, stroke smoothing, give it a try, it's lovely. Alright. Now, there's some other functions in here that, I'm sure, nothing new here. 100% nothing new. It's just to let you know, to get you up to speed, I don't know what you guys know about brushes or not, but this'll talk about your round brush, your opacity, low flow, blah, blah, blah. The key thing for you guys probably, right now, would be to keep in mind about your blending modes as we talked about, and your "Create New Tool" preset. And what that button is, you'll see it everywhere. They've stuck it in a bunch of different spots. Once you make a brush you like, you wanna save it. I'm gonna say that 10 times. Once you make a brush, you wanna save it. Call it something that makes sense to you and save it, 'cause, trust me, you'll do all those 17 windows, and you'll do all those settings, and then you'll forget to save it. And you'll be doing it again, okay? So, please save your brush presets. And, once again, if you guys know, we haven't discussed this yet on the handouts, the companion handout has a lot of blank space on it, and it's intentional so that when you get it, you print it out and write notes on it. I find it helps your brain hold the information that you're trying to keep, because I think there's so much, especially for brushes, look, I have to be honest, you guys, with this new brush system, came out in October, I've been on this every day. Every day since October. And I feel like I'm just scratching it. Just scratching the surface. Now, the good news about the brushes is oddly enough it's not that they changed a lot. They really didn't. They changed a few things, but they packaged it in such a way that you all don't have to know everything about these brushes. And that's really, really kind, frankly. Anyway, I just want to show you more about the Option bar that you've got your opacity, which when off, when you turn the opacity off, it lets your brush, your tablet control. Your brush preset or your tablet. And here's your buildup, it's your airbrush. Now, what else do I wanna tell you about this? Symmetry drawing, I'm in love with this, but I haven't figured out entirely how I get to use this on jobs. I get to use this for play, and I'm gonna show you that it's awesome. There is a little side note. I'm giving you my opinion, it's just my opinion, other people will have their opinion, there is a tool inside Photoshop and it's the replacement color tool, I think it's horrible. Here's why I think it's horrible. It works, it changes, it allows you to paint over colors that are already existing and replace their color. It's destructive. And I work in an environment where I have to answer to other people, and once you change the color, you've changed the color, and I'd rather do it with an adjustment layer or a curve, something that is flexible. So I'm not gonna talk about the des-, the, uh, I just called it the destructive tool. The color replacement tool. So let's go look at the symmetry tool. I love it, I love it, I love it. And then we're going to find brushes. Alright. So, the symmetry tool you have to turn on, and you have to turn it on in your preferences, so this is the first thing that folks are gonna forget. You have to go into your preferences, general, what is that, technology previews? I always say that word wrong. Your technology previews. And turn it on. So it does not come on. Let me say that again, it does not come on. And it's a little butterfly and it's lovely, and it allows you to draw symmetrically. And I'm gonna show you some samples, it's got the vertical lines, horizontal lines, dual axis, diagonal, wavy, a curl, a spiral, and new parallel lines. And, in addition, what's great out here, and I definitely want you to know this if you're writing notes, "selected path," what that means is you can also make your own path. Your very own path, and draw symmetrically on this, okay? Let's go over some samples real quick. I love this tool. Gonna close that out. You guys having fun yet? Good. We love brushes! Alright. So, here they are. New vertical, new horizontal, dual axis. And I'm just gonna, I'm just gonna start. I'm gonna turn this off and make a new layer, and I'm gonna start with a new vertical. Now, what happens is, I'm taking my hands off the wheel. It will put a path down, effectively, for you, and it's saying, "What do you want?" And what I mean by that, do you see those anchor points? The transform tool? It wants you to do something. So the minute you turn it on, it needs you to respond. It's not ready to go. So it's gonna say, hey, do you wanna make it bigger? Wider? Or do you wanna rotate it? I'm not gonna rotate it. So you have to hit "enter", okay? So now I'm gonna hit "enter." And now I'm gonna go to whatever brush I want. I'm just gonna use this standard brush for right now, and I'm using black. And I'm gonna turn off, you don't have to do this, but I'm gonna turn off my smoothing. So let me go to my settings. You don't have to turn off your smoothing, I just want to because I find that little, uh, dialogue box a little distracting. You do not, let me repeat this, you do not have to turn that off. I'm just choosing to turn it off. Alright. I'm drawing down one side. You can cross over and do whatever you want. Do you remember I said it laid down a path? That's what you're seeing. So you can see I've already done some paths here, I was practicing, so it is putting a path down for you. Let me make this a little smaller. Alright. So the current one I'm on, this is really, really, really important, the symmetry tool is actually using a path. So you're gonna see a line, and I don't want you to freak out, because if you're someone who doesn't have paths open, you're gonna be like, "Well, what needs to go away. I don't want that." Well, that's not there. It's just a guide, okay? But you'll see it and it'll confuse you, perhaps. So, here are the paths that it actually draws. These are old paths that I had made. I'm gonna click off it, alright. Now, I'm gonna go back and do another one. So I'm just gonna, for giggles, delete that and I'm gonna go back to the symmetry. If you want that path to no longer view, this is another thing that's not entirely fun, you can't just click off the path. You actually have to turn the symmetry off. I hope this analogy makes sense, but it's kinda like a car. If you put it in a different mode, like four-wheel drive, it is in four-wheel drive until you tell it to get out of four-wheel drive. So even though you're shifting, or you park the car and you've stopped driving, you're still in four-wheel drive. Hope that's not a weird analogy. So, if you want to turn that off, you've gotta literally go say, "Hey, thank you, I've had enough of you. Go off." I'm gonna pick the dual axis one. Now, it's making a brand-new path, and, as I said, it wants you to do something, right? What are you doing? Okay, you wanna scale it? Leave it? You've gotta make a decision, is what I'm saying. So now I have the dual axis one, same brush. You see what it does there? Ooooh. And you can do whatever you want, and keep going, you can make designs. This is a great way of making a repeatable pattern. Did I mention at the beginning of the class that I can't draw? I think we've talked about that. I'm gonna be saying that a lot. You're gonna notice this in much of the demo. Anyway, I think you guys get the point here about how these axises work. I'm gonna just show you some stuff that I have done before class, just to show you. Alright. Let's just move this out of the way. Alright. So you can do a dual axis you can do circular, you can do all kinds of circulars, and do you see that I have a chain brush? What happened there is that when I did the first demo I just used a plain brush, right? Let's go to "New Circle". I'm gonna make an oval, 'cause I'm living large here. And if I go to my brushes, I can use whatever I want. I'm gonna use a chain. I can make a necklace, I can make a gate. For folks like us who do a lot of imaging for the movie industry, I have to tell you, we have to do this all the time. Gaming boxes, you have to make all sorts of chains. This is so easy and it makes it really symmetrical, so that whole wavy drawing issue goes away. And what I mean by that is, if you're trying to hand-do it, well you can actually draw a path. So I'm gonna delete that. Now I'm on that tool. I just hit the return key. Do you guys know this? When you have a path that's active and effectively, effectively your, um, whatchamadoodles, your symmetry drawing is a path. Do you see it? Here's the path window, buried under there. See that? That circle symmetry guide I made is a path, and in Photoshop, and it's been this way for a gazillion years, if you are on a brush tool, do you see how I'm on this icon for the brush tool? When I'm on the brush tool, all I have to do is hit the return key and it'll automatically stroke a path. And the path happens to be drawn for us. So, if that's true, and I'm certainly not lying to you, not yet anyway, here's what I'm going to do. I'm gonna select all those paths and I'm gonna throw 'em away, and I'm gonna clear that. And now I'm gonna take a pen tool and I'm gonna draw a path and I can just stroke that path if I want to. Keep in mind, you wanna be on your tool. I drew a path, I've now gone to the brush tool and now I can hit "return" and it will stroke that. Or I can use that same path, go to the symmetry, and now, do you see how that's highlighted, guys? "Selected Path?" Now that path is selected. Once again, symmetry is always thinking you're not sure. "Are you sure? Is that where you want it? You wanna move it? Wait. Make a decision." Hit return. And now I can use the same path either to do a symmetrical design, or I can choose to stroke it. All the same. So it's a really handy-dandy tool. The takeaway, I would say, for this is one, it's great for radial design, symmetrical design. But also it buries paths in there for you that you can use for other things. And then the last thing I think I wanna show you is, it also is a way for someone like me, I think I've mentioned a hundred times I can't draw, so what I would do is I would doodle and I would take a, I'm gonna turn this symmetry off for just a second, I would take an already existing pattern and then I would just draw on top of it to make it. And so, for someone like me, I can use it as a guide. And I think it's really handy-dandy. And the last thing I think I wanna tell you is, some of the brushes you can use for this are pixie dust. Let me move my window here for just a second. Come on, my sweet love. Aw, she's being difficult. There we go. Come on. The application frame and I, we're working on each other, we're trying to be friends, we just started dating and it's not quite a love fest yet but we're working on it. I'm really curious how many people do use that application frame. Alright. So, let me go back here. I'm gonna go back into my history, because I just deleted something I wanted to show you, which is always fun. Alright. Here on the samples, the other thing you can choose to use this for are things like pixie dust. So you can make a brush that's pixie dust and use that to fill, to do logos, to paint trails, sparkles, anything. You're just using a different brush. So that pixie dust is no different than the chain brush. It's the same thing, it's just being used in a different manner. Same function. Same architecture, if you will. So try it out, I hope you'll enjoy it. Symmetry is fun. It's good for you.

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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