Brush it, Baby!

There is always something coming up that throws me for a loop and last night, it was a “thermal event” on my main Windows computer that I do my image editing from.  The room that the computer lives in is a tad warm, and as you may recall, we’ve been without A/C for a while now.  I am going to have to do something to keep that computer cooler, but for now, it means my 40D shots are not editable in PS3 because I only have a license for it on the one computer.  I have CS2 on the Mac, which won’t recognize the images, so I went about installing DPP there last night.  It did prreclude a “What’s This?” post for today as I had anticipated, so in lieu of that, I’ve got another topic waiting in the wings that should be of some interest, and that’s brushes!

We all know about the brush tool in Photoshop, but all the options that go along with it can sometimes be confusing.  Well, never fear, the “Canon Blogger” is here (me), to help explain it all to you.  Let’s go ahead and get started then.  As far as brushes go, there are four main elements that can adjust the type of brush that is applied to your document.  These are opacity, flow, size, and hardness.   Today I am going to look at the hardness element of a brush.

If you click on the various standard brushes in Photoshop, you will get brushes of various sizes and hardness.  This is all fine and dandy, but if you want a truly custom brush for your work flow, you need to really tweak the size and hardness depending on the image you are working with.  Brush hardness refers to the degree to which a single click of the brush will feather from the center to the edge of your brush size.  Here, it may be best to give you examples of what this means so you can see exactly what it does.

Here I am going to present a brush as applied to a document with a 50% gray background, with all other variables except hardness kept constant.  I then adjust the hardness from 0% to 25% and then 50% and 100%.  As you can tell, as I increased the hardness, the amount of the brush that that is filled increases relative to the hardness level.

Check these out:

Brush 1

Brush 2

Brush 3

Brush 4

Notice how in each instance, the edge of the circle gets slightly sharper and sharper, with less of that “feathered” look.  Pretty neat, eh?  That’s what increasing the hardness does – it decreases the feathering or fading of a brush into the background.

I’ve often found that when learning all the tools of Photoshop, Lightroom, Bridge, Flash and everything else, that it helps to just take things one step at a time, and make comparisons between various settings.  Here, making just one change to one element of the brush options demonstrated to me (and hopefully to you) what impact changing the brush hardness has on the quality and type of brushing that you add to your imagery.

What brushes do you like?  Are there any particular settings that you find useful for certain types of imagery?  What about other tools?  Are there any tools that you just wish you understood better?  Feel free to share your own thoughts on brush features either via email or the comments.

Anyway, that’s it for todays post.  Tomorrow the “What’s This?” should be back up and running as I swing back into gear there.  Hope everyone enjoyed the post on brush features/options.  Clearly, there might be more content down the road that will illustrate various features of Photoshop tools, so make sure to share your own thoughts on what content would be of use so I can include that.  Until tomorrow then, happy shooting and watch those apertures!

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1 comment for “Brush it, Baby!

  1. August 23, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    Good info to know. Thanks for posting it.

    I find the more I learn about the tools available in Photoshop the sadder I become as I only have Elements. If only Photoshop Elements allowed the user to change the hardness of a brush then I would be all set. 🙂

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