Photoshop: Brush Tips

Brushes are a HUGE part of Photoshop. They are present in many of the tools in Photoshop. Here are a few quick tips!

The traditional way of changing your brush settings, is to use the Brush Picker, which can be located at the top on your Options Bar, or by right-clicking on your canvas while a brush is active.

This window allows you to choose any of the various brushes that Photoshop includes, in addition to the Size and Hardness of the brush. At the top right corner of the Brush Picker, there’s an arrow which reveals a sub-menu.

This menu will give you a few options related to your brushes.

Change the size of the brush thumbnails:

Reset, load, save, or replace brushes:

Reset – Resetting your brushes will replace the current brushes with the brushes Photoshop shipped with.
Load – If you’ve downloaded brushes from the Internet, this will allow you to browse your computer for them.
Save – Once you’ve made customizations to your brushes, or created your own set, this will allow you to save them outside of Photoshop.
Replace – This allows you to replace all current brushes with a loaded file of brushes.

Load in additional brushes that Adobe has included:

The brushes that are visible when you originally open your Brush Picker aren’t the only brushes available to you! Photoshop ships with a whole assortment of brushes, which need to be loaded.

When you go to load any of the preset brush packs, or brushes which you’re downloaded from the Internet, you will be presented with a few options:

Append – Choosing Append will add the new brushes to the end of your current list of brushes.
Cancel – No action will be taken.
OK – Pressing OK will REPLACE your current brushes with the new brushes in the selected set.


When it comes to the Brush Tool, there are a few handy shortcuts you should know!

Adjusting the brush’s Opacity/Fill

Opacity: Using the numbers on your keyboard, you can quickly adjust the brush’s opacity. Eg: 3 = 30%. 8 = 80%. 0 = 100%.
Fill: Similar to adjusting the Opacity, hold down your Shift key while pressing the corresponding number to adjust your Fill. Shift + 4 = 40% Fill.

Adjusting the Size of your brush: On your keyboard, the square bracket keys increase/decrease the size of your brush.

[ = Decrease brush size.
] = Increase brush size.

Visually adjust your brush Size and Hardness: Instead of guessing, how about a visual look at your brushes, as you resize them?

Mac: Control + Option + drag your mouse left or right. To change hardness, drag up or down.
PC: Alt + right-click + drag your mouse left or right. To change hardness, drag up or down.

Brush Panel

While Photoshop comes with some pretty neat brushes, there is so much more that can be done in terms of customizing your brushes. The Brush Panel allows you to do just that. To access the Brush Panel, activate it by going to Window > Brush.

Brush Tip Shape

Size: As you can guess, this value controls how big or how small your brush is.
Flip X/Y: If you’re dealing with a non-symetrical brush, checking off either of these checkboxes will flip the brush horizontally or vertically.
Angle: For brushes that are not perfectly round, this value will rotate the brush.
Roundness: Do you want your brush perfectly round, or do you want to flatten it out? The Roundness percentage will control just that.
Hardness: This value controls the softness of the brush’s edge. A lower value will result in a much softer edge.
Spacing: A lower spacing value will allow for fluid strokes, while a larger value will separate your brush as you paint (See below for a comparison).

Shape Dynamics

Size Jitter: When increased, your brush will output a variety of different sized strokes. Some bigger, some smaller than the “Size” value.
Minimum Diameter: This value will limit how small your Size Jitter can go. A high value will result in less small strokes.
Angle Jitter: Similar to Size Jitter, this will allow your brush to randomly rotate when the brush is applied.
Roundness Jitter: If you’d like to stray away from your circular brush, increasing this value will randomize the roundness.
Minimum Roundness: If you don’t want your brushes too flat, increase this value to limit the minimum roundness.
Control: Throughout the different windows, you’ll see Control connected to various options. Your options are Off, Fade, Pen Pressure, Pen Tilt, Stylus Wheel. If you aren’t using a tablet as your input device, the only option which may be of use is Fade. You can tell Photoshop to fade your brush stroke after certain steps.


Both Axes: If this is left unchecked, your scattering will take place only vertically. If checked, scattering will also occur horizontally.
Scatter: How far out from the center do you want the scattering to occur? The higher the Scatter value, the further out your brush will scatter.
Count: This value essentially controls the density of the scatter. A higher Count value will create a more dense scatter.
Count Jitter: This controls the randomness of the Count value.


Pattern Picker
: This dropdown is where you’ll select from one of the many patterns that Photoshop includes.
Scale: Do you want to scale the pattern larger or smaller? Increase or decrease this percentage to achieve those results.
Texture Each Tip: If this is checked, each and every individual tip will have it’s own texture. Otherwise, the texture will be applied to the whole stroke.
Mode: Similar to Blend Modes,  this will tell Photoshop how the texture interacts with the brush.
Depth: Do you want your texture very defined, or subtle? A larger Depth value will result in a harsher texture.
Depth Jitter: Sets the randomness for the Depth.

Dual Brush

The Dual Brush option allows you to overlay an additional brush to interact with your current brush settings. This does not include another brush amongst your current brush, but adds an overlay based on the settings you provide in this section. The options should look quite familiar, as you’ve seen them in the other sections.

Color Dynamics

The Color Dynamic section works with your foreground and background colors to add color variation to your brush strokes.

Foreground/Background Jitter: At 0%, your brush strokes will contain only the foreground color. At 100%, your brush strokes will switch evenly between the two colors.
Hue Jitter: A Hut Jitter of 0% will stick to ONLY the foreground/background colors. However, as you increase this value, more similar colors will be added to your strokes.
Saturation Jitter: This will add random strokes of vibrant colors, as well as random desaturated strokes, if the value is high enough.
Brightness Jitter: This value will add random brush strokes which are brighter than your selected colors.
Purity: This can be looked at like an overall Saturation value. A purity value of -100% will result in a desaturated brush. 0% will be neutral, and +100% will be very saturated.


Opacity/Flow Jitter: A higher Opacity/Flow Jitter value will give your brush strokes randomness in their visibility.

Precise Cursor

Many times, you’ll run into an ‘issue’ that changes your standard brush into a tiny crosshair. Many users email me with the following question:


The tool you’re actually running into, is called the Precise Cursor. It’s a sub-tool to the Brush Tool that allows you to place your cursor exactly where you want to start painting. Those referring to this issue will most likely see the following:

So how is this activated, and why don’t you see your standard Brush? Looking back at the initial question (“I’M HAVING PROBLEMS WITH MY BRUSH. IT’S TINY AND WON’T GET BIGGER!”). Your answer is staring right into your eyes. CAPS LOCK! Activating your Caps Lock key on your keyboard actually activates the Precise Cursor while you have a brush tool selected. Turning off the Caps Lock key will return you to your regular scheduled Brush Tool!

If you have any additional brush related tips, feel free to post them in the comments below!