Lesson E: Painting in Photoshop – Adobe Photoshop

Lesson E: Painting in Photoshop

The Photoshop team has lavished much attention on painting features. In this lesson, we’ll dabble with painting. If you like the experience, there’s the whole “Brushes & Painting” chapter in the Compendium! I’d suggest consulting it during these experiments too.

Prepare Your Canvas

  • As you did in this chapter’s first lesson, create a new, empty document: click the Home button at the left end of the Options Bar. Then click the Create new button. Choose Photo to access the Default Photoshop Size. Click Create.
  • Go to the Window menu, and open both the Brushes and Brush Settings panels.

Tools that use a brush cursor can be customized with the Brush Settings panel. Configurations made there can be saved to the Brushes panel. Configuring is choosing (or creating) a brush tip and adding behaviors to it. These can leverage stylus and pressure-sensitive tablets. Brushes (a.k.a. presets) can be tool-specific or used by any brush-using tool.

To facilitate your experimental doodling, let’s make a layer structure that allows you to easily wipe the canvas clean without being too disruptive.

  • From the Layers panel menu, choose New Layer…. Give it a name like “doodle,” “masterpiece,” or “artful,” then click OK.

Now, here’s the challenge when experimenting. If you simply press delete/backspace, that whole layer will be destroyed. If you wanted to protect the pristine Background, you’d have to create another. But when there’s a selection active, delete/backspace removes only what’s inside the marquee, not the layer it’s on.

So, for quick erasure of my doodles but not my doodling layer, I marquee the whole layer with -A/Ctrl-A or by choosing Select > All. I simply choose not to notice those marching ants. When I want to wipe off the doodle layer, I hit delete/backspace and the layer is emptied but is still there, ready for more action.

Happy Little Dabs

  • Select the whole layer with -A/Ctrl- .
  • Activate the Brush tool by pressing the B key.
  • Use the Color panel to choose a color with which to paint.
  • In the Brush Settings panel, highlight Brush Tip Shape at the upper left. It is likely already highlighted. With the controls on the right, set both the brush’s Hardness and Spacing to 100%. The sample brush stroke at the bottom is a hint of what you’ll see in color when you paint a stroke.
  • Drag across the canvas. Should look a bit like this:

That string of pearls indicates that a stroke isn’t really continuous, but is a series of overlapping dabs. The spacing controls how tightly they overlap—if they do.

  • Try different Spacing settings. After a bit, I bet you have a lot of strokes and no room to paint. Double check that the marching ants are still there around the edges of the image. If so, press delete/backspace. Choose a low Spacing setting (a few percent).
  • Change the Angle and Roundness with the interface illustrated here. With a strongly elliptical brush angled at roughly 45º, you now have a calligraphy brush. Try it. (Note: just because you have a brush doesn’t mean you’ll be a fine calligrapher!)

In the top part of the Brush Settings panel, you’ll see brush tips. They’re used by the presets that are currently installed. Many are made from imagery. All the controls you’ve just been playing with can be used with those, too, except Hardness. Numbers in that window indicate the size of the tip in pixels.

  • With your current settings, an interesting tip would be the one with a size of 174. Hovering over it shows the mysterious name “kyle drag mixed grays.” Make a stroke with that tip.

The beginning and end of each stroke is rough like bristles were involved.

Setting Behavior and Qualities

This is where days are lost. On the left side of the Brush Settings panel you’ll see the various categories of behaviors that a brush can enjoy. I’ll mention a couple here and leave you to explore with the “Brushes & Painting” chapter in the Compendium as your guide.

  • Assuming your marquee is still around the edges of the canvas, press delete/backspace.
  • Increase the Spacing to a value like 25%. Make a reference brush stroke.
  • On the left side of the Brush Settings panel, highlight the words Shape Dynamics.

If the checkbox wasn’t checked, it is now. By highlighting the words, you can see the many controls on the right. You’re going to crank up one of those controls at a time, making a stroke to see its effects.

  • Set the Size Jitter to its maximum. Draw another stroke. “Jitter” means “randomizer.” Each dab that comprises the stroke is a random size between 0 and the size you set in Brush Tip Shape.
  • Set the Angle Jitter to its maximum. Make another stroke whose dabs are randomly rotated.

You get the idea! The other jitters are more subtle. Roundness Jitter randomizes each tip’s roundness, of course. Flip X and Flip Y Jitter randomly flip each tip either horizontally or vertically. One more:

  • Highlight Scattering so you can see its controls. Watch the stroke sample as you drag the Scatter slider.

The dabs move off perpendicular to the stroke direction. To make them also scatter along the stroke direction, check the Both Axes box. If the dabs get too spread out, you can multiply their number with the Count setting. Depending on the tip you choose, and other settings in this panel, this can provide interesting textures.

This has been just a taste. I hope you’re intrigued and plan to explore more.