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Beginner's Guide to Brushes in Photoshop

I find myself turning to Photoshop's Brush tool for a variety of work; not only simply painting inside my images, but also for adjusting layer masks, color corrections, creating special effects, and even creating and editing selections. Such a flexible tool comes with quite a few options, and in this Quick Tip let's take a tour through a handful of them. 


Step 01

First off, go ahead and create a new blank file to work inside and then select the Brush tool from the Toolbox (try just tapping the "B" key on your keyboard for quick access). Next, open up the Brushes panel by choosing Window > Brushes



Step 02

At the top of the Brush panel, you'll see a scroll box with various-sized brushes. Some of them are even different shapes and textures. Go ahead and scroll through the available brushes, and you'll quickly realize that this is a whole other world to explore in Photoshop! As you click on different brushes in the scroll box, notice that you get a preview of how that brush would behave at the bottom of the panel.

The numbers below each brush represent the brush's size in pixels. Note though that you can always change a brush's size and a brush's softness, which we'll take a look at next.



Step 03

If you'd like to adjust a brush's size and softness (also sometimes called "feathering"), as well as a few other settings, select a brush from the scroll box at the top, then take a look at the options presented in the middle of the panel. Depending on the type of brush you select, you'll see options for Size, Angle, Roundness, Hardness (feathering), and Spacing. Other brush types offer up a completely different slew of options, so you'll want to experiment with these settings and try your brush out inside your blank document to see your results. 

There's so many options and effects available to us with brushes that I'm sure you'll be experimenting for quite some time on your own! And, we've barely scratched the surface here, but hopefully this will give you a decent start. If you have a Wacom tablet, then you can really achieve some amazing, real-world effects. Have lots of fun with your brushes!

Geoff Blake

Geoff Blake | Articles by this author

Geoff Blake is a book author, video presenter, designer, and visual artist. As an in demand live-on-stage software educator since 1997, Geoff has taught desktop publishing, web design and graphics courses all over North America and is regarded as an expert in Adobe's Creative Suite applications, as well as in HTML, CSS, WordPress, and related technologies. With his humorous, non-jargonny approach, Geoff produces highly regarded articles, video training and DVDs, and regularly contributes to top industry magazines and websites.

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