Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Blogs > Five More Adobe Photoshop Tips in Five Days: Tip 1 - Customizing Bristle Brushes for Calligraphy

Five More Adobe Photoshop Tips in Five Days: Tip 1 - Customizing Bristle Brushes for Calligraphy

By  Apr 19, 2010

Topics: Adobe Photoshop

Adobe® Photoshop® CS5 has a great new feature called Bristle Brushes.  If you are using a pressure sensitive tablet (like a Wacom Intuos4) these brushes let you manipulate how you use them by simply tilting the brush to the left and to the right.  The beauty of these brushes, however, is that you can also configure them to make special brushes of your own.  Now you can resurrect that Calligraphy class you so badly wanted to take!

Create a 640x480 document in Photoshop CS5.  Select the brush tool by clicking on the letter B and pick a color.  Clicking on the drop down tool, you’ll see a set of brushes under the second and third rows that are called Bristle brushes.  Select the “Round Fan Stiff Thin” Bristle Brush.


Make sure you have View>Show>Brush Preview selected. (If you still cannot see the brush after that, chances are you are not seeing any of the GPU features of Photoshop CS5 and have an unsupported video card.  Make sure you check the Adobe website for the latest requirements.) You’ll notice that you can now turn the brush by tilting your stylus in a specific direction. While this in itself will provide hours of staring into the screen, let’s take it a step further.

To the right of the Brush Preset drop down you have a Brush Panel.  Click on that and you’ll see that there are a series of things that can be customized for this brush.  At the very top there is a brush shape. Many people don’t know that you can even click in that area, but you can. Let’s do that.


The Bristles slider lets you control how many Bristles you have on your brush, while your length lets you control their overall size.  Extending the length makes for a really tall brush.  Let’s increase the amount of bristles and increase the size.  The stiffness of the brush lets you configure how much “give” the brush will have when it hits the canvas.  Changing the stiffness on the Brush panel will be represented in the Brush view.  The Stiffer brush will look like its going through the paper, letting you know it’s pretty stiff.

Once you have all of your settings complete, it's time to go back to the paper.  Change the overall size of the brush by using the key shortcuts and paint on the screen.  You can even take it a step further by adjusting the flow on the toolbar to a lower number.  This will let the color that you’ve selected come in a little slower as you are painting your brushstrokes.  From here, it’s all about experimentation!