Photoshop Show Brush Outline | Hidden Tricks For Photoshop Brushes And Brush Tools

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Hidden Tricks For Photoshop Brushes And Brush Tools


Hi everyone, Steve Patterson here from Photoshop Essentials. In this video, I’ll show you some hidden, pro-level tips and tricks that make working with Photoshop’s brushes and the brush tools faster and easier. I’m using Photoshop CC but these tips will also work with CS6. If you like this video and want to learn more about Photoshop, be sure to Subscribe, and let’s get started! This first one isn’t much of a secret but it’s still a good one to use. Rather than selecting the Brush Tool from the toolbar and taking your eyes off your work, a better way to select it is by pressing the letter B (for “Brush Tool”) on your keyboard. Now when using the Brush Tool, it often helps to know the exact center of your brush cursor so you can see exactly where you’re painting. You can show a crosshair in the center by enabling it in Photoshop’s Preferences. To open the Preferences, go up to the Edit menu in the Menu Bar. Or on a Mac, go up to the Photoshop CC menu. From there, choose Preferences, and then Cursors. Select the option that says “Show Crosshair in Brush Tip”. You’ll see the crosshair in the cursor preview at the top. Click OK to close the dialog box. And the next time you paint with the Brush Tool, you’ll see a crosshair in the center of the cursor. As you paint with the Brush Tool, you may notice that the edges of your strokes look kind of, well, bumpy. The reason is that Photoshop does not paint a continuous stroke. Instead, it paints by laying down a series of individual dots. And each one of those bumps in the stroke is a single dot. By default, Photoshop spaces the dots too far apart, making them too obvious. But we can close up the spacing for smoother strokes, and we do that in the Brush Settings panel. To open it, go up to the Window menu in the Menu Bar and choose Brush Settings. In earlier versions of Photoshop, the Brush Settings panel is called the Brush panel. At the bottom of the panel is the Spacing option, along with a preview below it showing the stroke with your current settings. The default Spacing of 25 percent is too high. This value is a hold-over from years ago when computers were not as fast as they are today. Back then, smaller Spacing values would have slowed Photoshop down. But if you’re using a newer computer, there’s no reason to keep this old setting. If we increase the Spacing value, we see the individual dots that make up the stroke. Lowering the value back down to 25 percent does help, but those bumps are still there. So these days, a better Spacing value to use is 10 percent. This gives you a smoother stroke without sacrificing speed and performance. I’ll hide the Brush Settings panel by clicking the double-arrows at the top. And now if I paint another stroke, this time with the Spacing lowered to 10 percent, the edges are much smoother. To paint in a straight line like this, I’m holding my Shift key as I drag. Let’s look at some faster ways to change the size of your brush. The most common way to change your brush size is by right-clicking, or Control-clicking on a Mac, to bring up the Brush Preset Picker. From here, you can drag the Size slider left or right to adjust your brush size as needed. But the problem with this method is that you can’t see your brush cursor as you’re dragging the slider. The only way to see it is to move your cursor away from the panel. If it’s not the right size, you need to go back and drag the slider again. And if it’s still not the right size, you have to go back again and again until you get it right. A faster way to change your brush size is by using the left and right bracket keys on your keyboard. Press the right bracket key to make your brush larger or the left bracket key to make it smaller. And if you look in the Options Bar, you’ll see the brush size value updating as you press the keys. The only problem with using the bracket keys is that they make your brush larger or smaller in incremental steps. But if you need more control over your brush size, or if your keyboard does not include the bracket keys, you can change the brush size using the HUD, or Heads Up Display. To access the HUD, press and hold the Alt key on your keyboard and right-click in the document. On a Mac, press and hold your Control and Option keys and left-click. Keep your mouse button held down and you’ll see the HUD showing a preview of your brush cursor, along with its current size, or Diameter, the Hardness of the brush, and the Opacity. Note that the red color you’re seeing is not your brush color. It’s just the color of the brush preview, and I’ll show you how to change it in a moment. Once your mouse button is down, you can release the Alt key, or the Control and Option keys on a Mac. The HUD will stay open for as long as your mouse button is held down. Then to adjust the brush size, simply drag left or right. Dragging to the right makes the brush larger, and dragging to the left makes it smaller. As you drag, you’ll see the Diameter value updating. Once you’ve found the size you need, close the HUD by releasing your mouse button. Along with changing your brush size, you can also use the HUD to adjust the brush hardness. Again on a Windows PC, press and hold your Alt key and right-click. Or on a Mac, hold Control and Option and left-click. The current Hardness value is shown below the Diameter value. To decrease the hardness, keep your mouse button held down and drag up. Lowering the hardness makes the brush edges softer, and the softer the edges, the more feathering you’ll see around the cursor’s outline. And to increase the hardness, drag down to a maximum of 100 percent. So again, drag horizontally to change the brush size, and vertically to change the hardness. And to close the HUD, release your mouse button. If you don’t like that red color for the brush preview, or it’s hard to see in front of your image, you can change the color in Photoshop’s Preferences. A quick way to open the Preferences is by pressing Ctrl+K or Command+K on a Mac. Then in the dialog box, select the Cursors category on the left. To change the preview color, click the Brush Preview color swatch and choose a new color from the Color Picker. Then click OK to close the Preferences dialog box. I didn’t really want to do that so I’ll click Cancel to close the dialog box without saving my changes. So we’ve seen that we can change Photoshop’s brush size and hardness using the HUD. But we can also use the HUD to quickly choose our brush color, and to choose new colors as we paint. The current brush color is shown in the Foreground color swatch in the toolbar. And the most common way to change it is to click on the swatch and then choose a new color from the standard Color Picker. But the problem with choosing brush colors like this is that each time we choose a different color, we take our eyes off our work. So a faster way is to use the HUD Color Picker. Press and hold your Shift and Alt keys and right-click in the document. On a Mac, press and hold the Command, Control and Option keys and left-click. Again it’s right-click on the PC and left-click on the Mac. This opens the default HUD Color Picker, which looks similar to the standard Color Picker but without the actual dialog box. We have a Hue strip along the right and what Adobe calls the Hue cube on the left. Once your mouse button is down, you can release the keys on your keyboard. The HUD Color Picker will stay open for as long as your mouse button stays down. To choose a color, first drag your cursor into the Hue strip on the right, and then drag up or down inside the strip to select a hue, or the main color. Then drag your cursor into the Hue cube on the left. Drag vertically inside the cube to set the brightness of the color, and drag horizontally to set the saturation. Once you’ve chosen your color, release your mouse button to close the HUD Color Picker. If you find that the HUD Color Picker is too small, that’s because Photoshop chooses the smallest version by default. But there are other sizes we can use, and even a different type of Color Picker. Press Ctrl+K or Command+K on a Mac to open Photoshop’s Preferences. Then look for where it says HUD Color Picker at the top. By default, it’s set to Hue Strip (Small). Click on it for more options, including a Medium or Large size for the Hue Strip. Or you can also select the Hue Wheel, with different sizes to choose from. I’ll choose the standard size. Then I’ll click OK to close the dialog box. I’ll reopen the HUD Color Picker by holding Shift and Alt and right-clicking, or by holding Command, Control and Option on a Mac and left-clicking. And now we see the Hue Wheel, which works pretty much the same as the Hue Strip. Start by dragging your mouse cursor into the outer wheel, and then drag around it to choose a main color. Then drag into the cube and drag vertically to set the brightness, or horizontally to choose the saturation. And when you’re done, release your mouse button to close it. Finally, let’s look at a faster way to switch between Photoshop’s brush blend modes. Along with layer blend modes found in the Layers panel which control how a layer blends and interacts with the layers below it, Photoshop also includes brush blend modes. The brush blend modes are found in the Options Bar whenever a brush tool is active. Brush blend modes control how the brush interacts with the layer, and how your brush stroke interacts with other brush strokes. I’ll show you what that means in a moment. The default blend mode is Normal, but clicking on it opens the complete list. Most of these blend modes are the same as what you’d find in the Layers panel, and they behave the same way except that these ones affect the brush, not the layer. But instead of going up to the Options Bar, there’s a faster way to switch between these brush blend modes as you’re working. We know that if we right-click in the document, or Control-click on a Mac, we open the Brush Preset Picker. I’ll press the Esc key on my keyboard to cancel that. But if you press and hold your Shift key and right-click, you’ll open the same list of brush blend modes that we saw in the Options Bar. If you’re on a Mac, hold your Shift and Control keys and left-click. Then simply choose the blend mode you need. Now blend modes are a whole other topic. But for a quick example of what they do, I’ll select the default Normal blend mode. I’ll start by painting my first brush stroke, and then I’ll paint a couple of additional strokes so that parts of them overlap. But notice that with the Normal blend mode, all I’m doing is covering more space. Nothing interesting is happening, even in the areas where the brush strokes overlap. I’ll undo those last two strokes by pressing Ctrl+Z, or Command+Z on a Mac, a couple of times. And before I paint again, I’ll reopen the list of blend modes by holding Shift and right-clicking in the document. Or on a Mac, I would hold Shift and Control and left-click. Then I’ll choose a different blend mode, like Multiply. The Multiply blend mode works the same way with brushes as it does with layers. It multiplies overlapping colors together to create a darker effect. I’ll paint another stroke that overlaps the first one. And this time, with the blend mode set to Multiply, the areas that overlap becomes darker. And if I paint a third stroke, the part where all three strokes overlap becomes even darker. I’ll switch to a different blend mode, like Screen. Screen is the opposite of Multiply and makes overlapping areas lighter. Just make sure that when you’re done with the brush, you reset the blend mode back to Normal otherwise you may get unexpected results the next time you use it. And there we have it! That’s some tips and tricks you can use with the brush tools in Photoshop! As always, I hope you enjoyed this video. And if you did, don’t forget to Like it, Share it and Subscribe to my channel for more videos! Visit my website,, where you’ll find hundreds of Photoshop tutorials. Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next time. I’m Steve Patterson from