Brushes are really easy to use. Go on, open up photoshop, select the brush tool from the menu and have a go!
Using a mouse for brushes can be done, but an external drawing tablet (such as those made by wacom) really enable brushes to become smooth, lifelike and realistic. They allow for variable pressure (so when you press hard, more paint is applied) and some allow for tilt so when you tilt the pen, the stroke is different.
But first, brush basics. Below you can see a basic stroke with normal settings. Now open the brush palette and enter a whole world or creativity. The brush palette is the second button along with the circular icon. That icon represents the brush tip, while the number represents the size of the brush.
The hardness slider in the brushes selection panel defines that edge blur you see. A hardness of 100% will give you a completely hard edge, while 0% will give you a soft edge.
Play around with some of these brushes. Some will give you really interesting effects. Also, you may want to take some time to look around the web, there you will find a whole array of free brushes you can download. You can also make your own - and in another tutorial I will show you how to do that. For now let’s look at modifying existing brushes.
For now, I will show you brush settings. So, press the third button along to open up the brush panel. Also reset to your basic brush by selecting it from the menu. You will see a preview of your brush at the bottom of the window. We will modify our brush to make it a little more interesting.
Select shape dynamics from the left side menu in the panel. Here various sliders let you change how the brush tip varies along the stroke. Take up the size jitter (which randomly various the size of the brush tip) and then experiment with minimum radius. This defines the minimum distance between ‘blobs’ of the tip shape. Angle jitter will make no difference at the moment as the brush is perfectly circular, but if you wanted to vary the angle you would do it here. Roundness jitter changes how much the brush gets squashed. Take this up to 50% and then fiddle with the Angle jitter to see how they work.
This is what our brush looks like so far. Hmm.... how else can we modify it?
Next select the Scattering option. Set the count quite low, we don’t want the brush to completely explode. Then take the Scatter up to about 230%. See what it does? The brush is varied along the stroke line creating an interesting scatter effect. You may have seen this appear in some of the other special effect brushes in Photoshops presets.
The texture section allows you to apply textures to your brush tip. Skip this for now but I would recommend playing around with that area latter.
Dual brush allows you to create even more complex patterns. The brush tip you select here is used as a mask for your brush. Try it out and you will see what I mean by choosing different brush tips. Look at the hard and soft edge ones. In the brush I am demoing I have turned Dual brush off.
Now lets explore colour dynamics and effects.
Colour Dynamics allow you to change the way colours work in your brush. To see this effect I have set the brush colour to red.
(Before colour Dynamics)
Hue jitter does just that, it varies the hue of the brush along the stroke. So when this is set low you will see a range of colours from yellows to reds, but if set to 100% you will see a whole range of colours from all hues.
Saturation jitter varies the saturation of the brush. So some spots of colour will be desaturated while others will be bright and vivid.
Brightness jitter is also self explanatory. Some spots darker, other lighter.
The image below shows the jitters independently:
No colour dynamics
Under the transfer section is opacity jitter, which simple varies the opacity of the colour tips occasionally letting colours beneath the stroke through.
Brush flow controls the transparency of overlapping parts of the brush. When flow jitter is set higher, overlapping parts of the stroke get lighter as the flow on those areas is lower.
Finally, there are some more settings that can only be turned on and off. These are noise, wet edges, smoothing and protect texture. The effects of these can be instantly and easily seen by turning them on. Wet edges provides a watercolour feel while noise breaks up the brush stroke with noise-like texture. (like applying gaussian blur to the stroke)
The image above shows the last stroke with both noise and wet edges applied.
The best thing you can do is to play around with the settings and see what interesting effects you can get. Then, when you are in the middle of a piece of work and think “oh, I need a brush like this,” it will be much easier to modify existing ones to create the perfect brush.