How often do you give more than a passing thought to Photoshop brushes as artistic tools? They appear simple enough on the surface, but underneath there’s a wealth of potential for creating art and editing digital photos. You can make your own brushes (for example, a signature or copyright message) and use them to paint these details onto a photograph or you can make a textured brush to use to distress an image from a photo. Once you start experimenting with brushes, you’ll find there are lots of Photoshop users who create and share brushes—and you can share them, too. In this article I’ll introduce you to the world of Photoshop brushes. I’ll show you how to use the brush settings in Photoshop, how to create your own brushes, and how to find and use brushes that others have created.
Before delving into homemade brushes, let’s look at how to configure the built in Photoshop brushes. Click the Brush tool on the Tools palette to activate it or press B. The first icon on the Tool options bar is the Tool Preset picker, from which you can select from preset brushes that have been saved. To its right is the Brush Preset Picker—open it to choose a brush from the currently loaded brush collection. Next is the mode list that lets you configure how pixels in the image are affected by painting; they are similar to blend modes accessible in the Layer palette. The Opacity setting controls how opaque or transparent the paint is. The Flow value sets how quickly paint is applied. Set this to a low value and you can build up paint in layers by successively painting over the same area. To turn a brush into an airbrush, click the Airbrush icon and any brush will behave like an airbrush. Adjust the Flow value to control the speed that the paint is delivered. At the far end of the Tools palette is a toggle for the Brushes palette that contains a heap of additional brush settings.