Recently I have been working hard at drawing and painting different types of images so a lot of what I will be blogging about in the next few months will be about this. As I have been learning (and this definitely has been a several year evolution), I found some “little known Photoshop tips” to me so I thought I would share them. Maybe there are a few new things for you to try out too!
But first a little about my image above. I felt compelled to try drawing something using Amedeo Modigliani’s basic style after viewing The Daily Art Magazine blog showing several of his images. The really elongated necks were not that appealing to me, but the facial expressions and slightly cartoon-looking lines in his portraits were very interesting. Which brings me to an Aaron Blaise class on Clear Expression where he teaches how to draw cartoonish facial emotions like happiness, sadness, anger, etc. (Most of his classes are very inexpensive, especially during his sales and he is a great teacher.) Aaron’s class was an excellent way to learn how to achieve some of the expressions used in Modigliani’s art. La Femme en blouse marine (Girl in a sailor collar) was used as the main example for my image.
For those of you who do not know or remember, the ~ or TILDE key (just above the left TAB key) can now be used as an Eraser using the same stroke as the brush being used when held down while stroking. PS added this a couple years ago and it is very handy – a great time-saver! If your brush is set to 30% Opacity or Flow, it will erase at this lower amount to blend back. Use the regular Eraser at 100% Opacity and Flow to make major changes. Below are listed the rest of the tips:
1. USE THE EDIT-> FADE TO REDUCE THE OPACITY OF A STROKE WITH THE MIXER BRUSH
I have always felt that the Mixer had a shortcoming since there was no way to control the actual Stroke Opacity, especially if the stroke looked correct, but maybe a little over the top when working in detailed areas. Using the Fade Command can really help with this – just remember it must be executed right after the stroke is made or it cannot be used. For the Mixer brush PS does not let you change the Mode but at least you can reduce the effect! I have the Fade Command set up on F4 as a shortcut key.
2. INCREASE THE BRUSH TIP APPEARANCE FOR PAINTING
A small but new feature in Photoshop 2023 and it seems to be very helpful to me. The brush dab icon is often hard to see when painting with a small size brush so often the SHIFT key is set to see where the brush is painting. PS now lets you change the boldness of the brush tip by going to Edit -> Preferences -> Cursors -> and changing the Brush Tip Outline to Extra Bold. It really makes a difference!
3. ALT + DRAGGING WITH THE SMUDGE TOOL TO SMUDGE USING THE FOREGROUND COLOR
This is one that never occurred to me, but when smudging in an image and more color needs to be added into an area, you do not have to switch to the Brush Tool to do this. Just press the ALT key while painting and the Foreground Color will show up – by dabbing, more color is added. Do take note that: 1) Everything depends on which Smudge Brush is being used. Kyle T. Webster’s free All Purpose Blend Smudge Brush in his Concept set will work quite well. Just make sure that the Foreground Color is the one to needed to add in and the Sample All Layers box is checked On if using a New Layer. If the color does not show up, try a different Smudge Brush; and 2) The Strength of the brush in the Options Bar usually needs to be adjusted – it seems the stronger the amount, the better the color. What I like is that just a touch of a different color from another part of the image can be added quickly to tie it into another object on your layer, and it also makes some really nice cloud colors. What is causing this to happen? The PS keyboard shortcut for the Finger Painting option is the ALT key so actually this is being turned on. The Finger Painting option simulates the effect that happens when you drag a finger through wet paint, and it uses the Foreground Color at the beginning of each stroke. When not On, the Smudge Tool uses the color under the brush at the beginning of each stroke, and this is why dabbing adds more color. (This info was from the great PS Guru Deke McClelland.) See next tip to make this work great!
4. REMOVE SPACING ON SMUDGE BRUSH TO GET A GREAT PAINTERLY LOOK
I have found the best way to find good brushes is find out what the artists who really are doing Digital Painting are using. Eric Elwell is one of these artists and has a set of brushes and a video that explained how he uses his Smudge Brushes. By turning off the Spacing in the Brush Settings panel, some very interesting results can be obtained. The slower the stroke, the closer the strokes are for a nice smudgy smooth transition; the faster the stroke, the brush uses the dab and stamps it along the brush path. Stroking an edge breaks up the edge. His theory is he can add soft and hard edges without having to change tools. To test it, the same Kyle’s All Purpose Blend Smudge Brush was selected, but this time the spacing was turned off – not much happened. By checking out Eric’s EE TEx Smudge brush settings, these changes were made to Kyle’s brush: Shape Dynamics (no Control for Size Jitter), Angle Jitter set to 3%, and Angle Jitter Control set to Direction; Transfer checked with 0 Strength and no Control; Noise checked, and in Options Bar Strength set to 92%. (Each of Eric’s Smudge brushes has different settings but all have Spacing unchecked.) What is really great is that if the ALT key is now pressed, the Foreground color comes out brilliantly when Strength is set to 92% and looks totally painterly! By varying the Smudge brush size and direction, some very nice stroke effects can be obtained, even with Kyle’s All Purpose Blend Smudge Brush. You can download Eric’s brushes that I have here, and I believe he has newer sets for sale up on Artstation. His digital artwork is very good! When several of Kyle’s other Smudge brush settings were opened, he has several where the spacing is unchecked and give some very interesting results.
5. HOW TO EASILY CREATE A FACE CIRCLE OR OVAL WITH EDIT -> STROKE
I have a horrible time getting the first circle or oval drawn on my canvas. Why didn’t I think of this before I don’t know! First create a New Layer, select the brush for your basic outline drawing, and choose a color, usually black. Select the Elliptical Marquee Tool and drag out your shape – use the Space Bar to reposition on the canvas. Then go to Edit -> Stroke and set 2 pixels (or however large you want the line to be) and press enter. Then deselect (CTRL+D) to see the line. Free Transform (CTRL + T) can be used to adjust it more if needed.
6. HOW TO ERASE A SPECIFIC COLOR WITH THE PAINT BUCKET TOOL
One again something I did not know. To remove a specific color from a layer (or All Layers box is checked), select the Bucket Tool or CTRL + G (located with the Gradient Tool in the Toolbar). Set the Mode to Clear and Tolerance (mine is set to 32 at the moment). Turn On the Contiguous box if you want only one area to be removed, otherwise all the selected color on the layer(s) will be removed. Just click in the image on the color to removed, and away it goes. If not enough is removed, change the Tolerance to a higher amount or click again on what was missed. This is so fast! Remember to set the Mode back to Normal when you finish.
7. QUICK TOOL TOGGLE KEYS THAT SAVE A LOT OF TIME
Sharpen and Blur Tools toggle with ALT key
Sponge Tool: ALT + SHIFT + D Desaturates and ALT + SHIFT + S Saturates
Dodge and Burn Tools toggle with ALT key: ALT + SHIFT + S targets Shadows, ALT + SHIFT + M targets Midtones, and ALT + SHIFT + H targets Highlights
I hope some of these tips are ones you did not know. I am using several of them often now. I plan to experiment more with the Smudge brushes to get better at the digital effects I want to create. Let me know if you know of any other tips I may have missed. It is amazing how much Photoshop can do! Have a great one!…..Digital Lady Syd
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