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Photoshop’s Painting Tools

In Photoshop, the painting tools are used to paint strokes, and fill areas with color or with colors that blend together. Knowing how to use the paint tools is a must for any artist who wishes to use Photoshop.

The Brush Tool

In order to use the brush tool to its full extent, it’s important to understand what exactly a brush is in Adobe Photoshop. A brush uses brush presets that are predefined (or user defined). A brush preset is any brush tip with defined characteristics (such as size and shape).

A brush tip will create a perfect match of the shape.Think of brushes in Photoshop as a large collection of different paintbrushes, each with a different shaped tip. Imagine when you press the tip of one of these paintbrushes against a canvas, the shape of the tip is imprinted immediately. It’s a rough explanation, but it gets the basic idea across.

Brushes in Photoshop have plenty of other characteristics which make them entirely unlike a real world paint brush. By manipulating these attributes, we can create entirely new brushes that act in unique ways. You could create a brush that changes in shape and size as you are painting, a brush that scatters itself in random directions, and even a brush that becomes more and less transparent while creating strokes. The possibilities are literally endless.

Select the first brush preset from the brush preset picker.

Let’s Create a Quick Brush for demonstration purposes.

Create a new document, 200px by 200px with a white background. Select the Brush tool, and in the options bar select the first brush preset from the brush preset picker (activated by clicking on the small down arrow next to the current brush).

Go ahead and give this brush preset a whirl in your active image area. Select a foreground color you’d like to paint with, point your cursor to where you’d like to start painting, hold down the mouse button, and create a stroke.

Modifying Brushes

Create a simple, hard, 1px brush stroke.

This brush preset creates a 1px hard stroke. We can modify some of the characteristics of this brush to create something entirely different.

To modify a brush preset, you’re going to need to access the Brush Palette. To open the brush palette, go to Window > Brushes. Here’s a quick overview of the palette.

Brush Palette Diagram

A. Brush Settings – Various settings for the selected brush tip.

B. Brush Stroke Preview – A preview of the current brush stroke will look when used.

C. Selected Brush Tip – The currently selected brush tip.

D. Brush Tip Shapes – A list of all brush tip shapes available.

E. Brush Options – Options for modifying the currently selected brush tip. Changes will not be permanent unless a new brush preset is saved.

From the Brush Tip Shape settings, a user can select a brush tip shape from a list of available shapes (predefined or user defined).

By clicking any of the various brush settings on the left, a panel of options will be displayed that can adjusted to your own preference.

By changing the diameter of the brush, you are changing the size of the tip shape.

In the Brush Tip Shape area, set the diameter of your brush to 20px. By changing the diameter, you affect the size of the brush.

Shape Dynamics determine variance in brush marks while painting strokes

Now go to Shape Dynamics and set the size jitter option to 100%. By changing shape dynamics, you’re adjusting how a brush mark changes during a stroke.

Brush Scattering adjusts how many marks there are in a stroke, and the placement of said marks.

Finally, go to Scattering, and set scatter to 300% with a count of 1. Scattering will affect placement and number of brush marks.

Try painting with your brush now, and you ought to see a huge difference from when you first started! Modifying brushes is really that simple!

If you’re interested in learning more about brushes, then you may want to take a look at our guide on installing new brushes in Photoshop which you’ve downloaded from elsewhere.

Eraser Tool

We’re not going to go into too much detail with the eraser tool, simply because you should already have a pretty good understanding of how it works. How so?

Well, like many other tools in Photoshop, the Eraser Tool uses brushes which effect the size, shape, and hardness of the tool. Essentially, the eraser tool is controlled in the exact same way as the brush tool, only it erases rather than paints.

Watch Out! If you’re erasing directly on the “Background” layer, you’ll leave the currently selected background color wherever you erase. Always be sure to set your background color before erasing from the Background layer.

Paint Bucket Tool

The Paint Bucket Tool is used for filling areas with solid colors. It can be used to fill selections with a selected foreground color, or fill areas that are similar in color to the part of an image that is clicked. To use the paint bucket tool, select a foreground color you’d like to paint with, and click anywhere in the active image area you’d like to fill.

The Paint Bucket tool fills selections or areas of similar color with one solid foreground color.

Gradient Tool

The Gradient Tool is very similar to the paint bucket tool, in that it fills entire areas or selections with colors. However, rather than filling an area with a solid color, the Gradient Tool creates a series of colors than blend into one another.

When the gradient tool is selected, a preset gradient can be selected from the gradient picker in the options bar. A gradient can then be created in the active image area by clicking and holding the mouse button, and dragging in the direction you’d like the gradient to go. Release where you’d like the gradient to stop.

To create a gradient, click, hold, and drag in the direction you\'d like to create your gradient, releasing where it should end.

There are 5 different gradient styles which can be selected to create different effects. You can set them from the Options Bar.

There are 5 different gradient styles: Linear, Radial, Angle, Reflected, and Diamond.


  1. Add point Subtract point
    airless paint sprayer (2 Points) December 9, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Thanks very much for your useful share,from which we benefit a lot.Through your shared methods,we have made a good understand of Photoshop’s Painting Tools.With your permission, we would like to enjoy this good article with others by adding it to our own website !

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  2. Add point Subtract point
    Sancaktepe (-2 Points) November 24, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Çok güzel anlatmışsınız konuyu, sadece resimlere bakmak bile yetiyor :) Teşekkürler…

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    ทาสีคอนโด (0 Points) November 10, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    It’s Amazing!!

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  4. Add point Subtract point
    Web Design (0 Points) April 26, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Great explanation thanks for sharing!!!

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  5. Add point Subtract point

    Nice tutorial, but i have not got brush options (E) in my brush palette and cannot modify the brushes for some reason ;/ any help would be appreciated! Thank you for all your great tutorials

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    gotrino (-1 Points) April 8, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Always Good Explanation
    This One
    Nice explanation for Intermediate students.

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  7. Add point Subtract point
    โหลดเพลง (0 Points) March 30, 2010 at 4:12 am

    Great tip. Thank you for your sharing!

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  8. Add point Subtract point

    I am having trouble choosing the “color dynamics” option. It is ghosted out, and I can’t figure out why. Any ideas?

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    ฟังเพลง (1 Point) February 2, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    its very nice. Great post34

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  10. Add point Subtract point
    ฟังเพลงออนไลน์ (1 Point) February 1, 2010 at 2:51 am

    its very nice. Great post15

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    ดาวน์โหลดเพลงฟรี (1 Point) January 28, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Great article. Thank you.

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    Nastynightmare (1 Point) January 9, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Where can i get the shape of your brush?
    My brush is in one line i doesn’t have those thin endings.. :/

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    Dejan Ninic (1 Point) January 4, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Something is deeply wrong with this program. Just cannot understand how stupidity became standard.
    After selecting 1px brush i am getting everything else but 1px brush. Maybe 1px have several meanings for Adobe?
    Because it doesnt for Corel with their PSP.

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  14. Add point Subtract point
    original artwork (0 Points) November 27, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Interesting stuff. Will come to great use for my future CD artwork.

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  15. Add point Subtract point
    wall art (1 Point) October 29, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    great stuff, will use this for my new wall art project

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  16. Add point Subtract point
    öğrenme nesneleri (2 Points) August 30, 2009 at 5:44 am

    David Leggett, thanks your sharings…

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  17. Add point Subtract point

    I seem to be having a problem with getting brushes to be soft. Even the preview of predefined soft brushes is showing hard lines.

    I’m using CS3 with an RGB document, in 8-bit. Wet edges are off, blend mode set to normal, hardness down to 0%. What am I doing wrong?

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  18. Add point Subtract point
    maria (1 Point) June 7, 2009 at 9:05 am

    thanks your tutorials helped me a lot..
    i understand photoshop and it’s concepts better now..
    more power to your site!

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  19. Add point Subtract point

    david, How do you select the graident tool?
    great explantions

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  20. Add point Subtract point
    Tom (2 Points) May 23, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Well written tutorial, I think this site will really help in getting my photoshop skills up.

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  21. Add point Subtract point
    vik nakka (1 Point) May 16, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Very awesome website!

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  22. Add point Subtract point
    huwaw69 (0 Points) May 3, 2009 at 4:36 am

    Wow the gradient is well explained to me, thanks man! i really had a hard time making a gradient background

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  23. Add point Subtract point
    moriese (0 Points) April 20, 2009 at 12:25 am

    hey david….firstly thank you for these tutorials they are of immense help…..i just needed to ask one thing….the colour dynamics option in my brush presets is locked and i am not able to unlock it…..moreover my brush is not painting in the desired colour….i was going through the layers tutorial but my brush paints the grass as white….no matter what i tried it continued to paint in white…..i an unable to understand how to get the desired colour for the brush….it will be very kind if you could help….
    thank you…

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  24. Add point Subtract point

    awesome tutorials!. thanks for posting them. keep them coming!

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  25. Add point Subtract point

    Are those brushes installed automatically in photoshop? The tips are thinner. I just can’t figure out how to do that

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  26. Add point Subtract point

    I went 16 some-odd years using photoshop without ever learning about all the awesome things you can do with brushes. I’m starting to learn now – and my creative side loves the new tricks it’s learning. Thank you for the article!

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  27. Add point Subtract point

    How can we fill gradient in adobe photoshop bursh…

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  28. Add point Subtract point
    Mothership (1 Point) June 14, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    Gradients are essential, as I see it, from my limited experience. It adds so much depth to the piece in question. These are one of the first things I learnt when starting to use Photoshop, as they’re useful – and fun to play with.

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    heizel (1 Point) June 2, 2008 at 6:35 am

    very useful site,thanks for giving basic and simpliest but most important knowledge in photoshop,keep up the good work and god blesz!

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  30. Add point Subtract point
    David (1 Point) May 30, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Good job of intro some photoshop tools. You have some typos though :P

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  31. Add point Subtract point

    Thank you for the kind words guys!

    @ Zapox – My intents at this point are to teach what I consider to be the most important… or essential tools. I hope to cover all of Photoshop’s tools eventually, and understand that some tools may be “essential” in certain cases, but I don’t think people would gain as much from this series if I spent to much time covering ALL of the details at once ;)

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  32. Add point Subtract point

    Very useful tutorial. Thanks!

    Is it me, or are a few tools not covered here?

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  33. Add point Subtract point
    Marcus (1 Point) April 27, 2008 at 9:12 am

    I probably learned more about the Brush Tool after going through this than anywhere else I have ever been. Thanks again for another really good tutorial. Man, this site is so helpful!

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