Photoshop Brushes: 10 ways to use them
by Stephanie Gill
Photoshop brushes seem to leave people with the same lingering question, “What the heck are brushes good for?”
Personally, the term “brushes” was confusing to me more than anything else. When I thought of a brush, I thought of the typical paint brush that you would use to paint a picture on canvas. But when I opened up the brushes category in Photoshop, I saw more than what you would typically consider to use in this manner.
There were all sorts of round brushes: some with hard edges, others with softer, faded ones – and all of these available in every size conceivable. Then I got really confused when I saw star shaped brushes, brushes that looked like leaves and blades of grass, etc. Normally, if you used a paint brush in the shape of a star, it wouldn’t really work once you stroked it across your page… At this point I realized that, although being called “brushes” in Photoshop, some of these tools with specific designs are really meant to be used as stamps. Once I looked at these designs as more of a stamp than a brush, I found all kinds of ways to use them.
Ok, so now that we know brushes are not only for making strokes and can also be used like a stamp, lets tackle the big question: “What the heck are brushes used for?”
1) Brushes are what you use when you clone, erase, heal, and mask something on your photo. Usually the round brush is most often used for these techniques, but sometimes you need a realistic texture, a finer line, or a certain shape.
For example, on the photo below I used textured brushes to clone the red background over the messiest parts of her on the sides of her head. Then I used brushes made for skin to clone over stray hairs and blemishes. These brushes have a texture like quality to them so that you don’t get a flat look. I even used the skin brushes to paint on some more eye shadow. Then I used a round brush to clone the missing bead from her necklace. And to finish it off, I used an eyelash brush to stamp on her new lashes.
2) Brushes are a fun way to add artistic flair to a photo. Here I have used texture brushes to add an aged effect. Then I used tree brushes to make the photo into a unique piece of art.
3) Sometimes your photo is just missing that extra element, or if you’re like me you can’t figure out how to get the grass and the clouds both exposed in some photos. In that case, well, then use a cloud brush to add your clouds!
4) Brushes are a must for making logos, business cards, advertisements, and holiday cards. There are an endless amount of brushes for every idea/style/theme you can think of.
Here I used the brushes to frame my photo and add shapes to my card.
5) Brushes are also great for adding borders to your photos. You can make them dark and very literal or soft and faded.
Now that we have some new ideas and uses for brushes, lets talk about how to find them. Its easy to find all kinds of brushes that you can download for free. Usually when I need a certain brush, I go to Google and type in “free Photoshop holiday brushes” or “Photoshop skin brushes”, and it gives me plenty of brushes right away.
Thank you to Stephanie Gill of TinyTot Snapshot Photography for this fantastic tutorial on some unique, fun ways to use brushes for more than just “making stokes of paint on your photo.” She has demonstrated 5 ways you can start using brushes today. I have briefly explained 5 more ways you can use brushes too.
6) Watermark: turning a logo or text into a brush so that you can watermark your photos.
7) Textures: hand creating texture overlays that can be used to add depth to photos.
8) Digital painting: Using the brush as an artistic tool to smudge, blend and push pixels turning your photo into a “painting.”
9) Detailed masking: by altering the hardness, softness and size of your brush, you can use the brush tool on layer masks and quick masks to retouch, extract, and make selections, as well as target where a particular adjustment effects your photo.
10) Digital Scrapbooking: brushes are often used for embellishments and designs
Please add how you like to use brushes in the comment section.