Anything Photoshop or Photography


Digital painting of the Swamp or Wetlands in Florida Just was not ready with a new technique but have been enjoying painting, so thought I would go over a couple little tricks I’ve  learned that might help save you some time while digital painting. It can get pretty sophisticated once you figure out where the image is going. The above Photoshop painting is called Spring in the Swamp and contains 61 layers. Even if this is not exactly your type of painting or expression, maybe there are a few tips here that will speed up your image production.

My painting started with just a basic sketch of a stream before just adding some floral brush strokes. Over the last few months I have spent hours figuring out exactly what brushes work with my painting style and creating new ones as tool presets when needed. This results in lots of brushes that can be very cumbersome to have piled up in the Brush and Tool Panels in PS.

TIP No. 1: Create several groups of brushes and save them as Tool Presets so they can be opened up anytime you want to paint those effects.

For my paintings I currently use 6 major sections: At the top of my Tool Presets Panel (top left icon in Options Bar shows current tool selected) are the signature brushes and brushes used on an almost daily basis for all kinds of touch up on both photos and my paintings. The Tool Preset Picker (click the arrow beside the Tool Presets Icon to open) and click the little square icon with the corner folded up to create a New Tool Preset – name it Drawing Brushes section. Any regular brush can be used for this since it is not being used as a brush. It will be listed at the bottom of the Tool Preset list. I find that capital letters stand out really good. Now drag it into the spot needed above the described brushes for quick use.

Regular Brushes Tool Preset in my Photoshop

The sections must be set up in the Preset Manager which can opened in a couple ways. To go directly to the Tool Preset Manager, open the Tool Preset Picker in the Options Bar and click on the top icon – a little cog wheel – in the drop-down, select Preset Manager. You will see not just the Regular Brush Tool Preset, but all kinds of brush tool presets – Mixers, Smudge, Burn, Dodge, Smudge, Erasers, etc. – the Regular Brushes have the paintbrush as an icon. Alternatively, go to the Brush Panel or Brush Picker Panel and click on the 2nd icon over at the bottom of each called Open Preset Manager. Once opened, the Preset Type is set to Brushes, not the Tool Presets, so open click on the little field to open a drop-down, and select Tools – it is now at the same place as described above. Now the brushes can be moved around by just dragging them. Also SHIFT+Highlight or CTRL+Highlight to move several brushes. Create sections by moving the header above each group to be used – i.e., Drawing Tools and then adding underneath the brushes as shown in the screenshot. Now select the Header and all the accompanying brushes and click Save Set. Once saved, the whole section can be deleted out of the Preset Manager and reloaded anytime this set of brushes is needed again. Very handy and a safe way not to loose these so important brushes if you paint. (For more info on this, check out my Why Use the Tool Preset Panel? Photoshop Painters Listen Up! blog.) The 6 major sections that work for me are: my basic brushes at top, Drawing Tools, Landscape Brushes, Snow Tools, Fur Tools, and Spatter Brushes. Brushes I am trying out are at the bottom. At this point only the Regular brushes are kept in sections. If I switch to my Mixer Brushes in the Tool Presets, there are several more brushes but not as many so I have not divided them into sections, but rather just keep them grouped together for quick use.

TIP No. 2: Name the Tool Preset Brushes so you know what they are.

When I modify a brush that is from someone else, the tool or brush is renamed using my initials at the beginning and then using the original brush title – usually these brushes all have a unique dab types that I could not have created without the original creators help. Creating several of these brushes have been explained several other blogs so I will not go into that. For example the Drawing Tools are from various people and represent very different types of brushes for creating an actual drawing effect. In the screen shot above are many examples of the way my brushes are named.

TIP No. 3: Keeping all Tool Presets open.

If you do not have Check Current Tool Only checked, all the Tool Presets loaded will be shown. I do not do this as there are so many brushes in my Tool Presets, but many people save lots of time by opening leaving open the Tool Preset Panel (Windows -> Tool Presets) – then you can actually switch between tool types very quickly, like a particular Regular Brush and a Mixer or Eraser.

TIP No. 4: Use the Brush Picker to get back to the last 7 brushes used! Can be a major time-saver.

Once Photoshop removed the ability to create your own panels to access your favorite brushes quickly (original CC and CS6), it became a real problem to paint in PS. I was constantly going back to CS6. The Brush Picker now has this great little gem that can be indispensable for painting. The last 7 brushes used are displayed at the top – just note each time you change a size it will be listed at the top again under that size. What is so great is that if the size or something else is modified in the Brush Panel, by clicking on the brush icons at the top, these settings are retained as long as the icon is showing. If you clicked back on the brush in the Brush Panel, the settings would be lost. If you click on the settings in the Tool Preset, the brush will also reset. But if you press on the brush icon in the Brush Picker, the correct Brush Panel settings are retained. This can be helpful if you are switching back and forth a lot. The thing that you must be careful about is that the settings for the Options Bar do not change as the brushes are switched – this is just for Brush Panel modifications. So watch the brush modes, opacities and flows to get correct results. Not always useful, but can be a real time saver. Oh yes, same goes for the Libraries Panel – if a brush is placed in there it will act the same as the brushes in the Brush Panel. The Options Bar settings will not be retained. The Libraries Panel is another place to put your favorite brushes though.

TIP No. 5: Use the Mode Clear to erase on a layer when painting.

My friend Nicholai over at Grut Brushes is where I learned this tip (check out his website for some really great brushes and his free brush of the week). This can be handy to erase away an area using the same dabs of what you were painting. So for example, if you are painting clouds, set the brush to Clear to get a nice cut away when parts of the clouds need to be removed. Very handy!

TIP No. 6: Use the Blur Tool to quickly soften parts of a flower or tree or bird that is too sharp.

The Blur Tool was used in several places on the above – just create a New Layer and keep the setting at no more than 50% to get some nice controlled blurred strokes. This tool was not that good in previous versions (in CS6 it does not work that well), but it works great now.

Guess this is enough for this week. Hope you find the tips handy and time-saving! Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

5 responses

  1. midolu

    Merci, c’est intéressant, instructif et pratique. Je relirai cet article.
    Bonne journée.

    02/25/2017 at 9:17 am

  2. Your photograph is so in tune with my next post 😉
    I have never used Clear mode! Thank you for the tip!

    02/26/2017 at 5:01 am

  3. Wow 61 layers. I feel like I’m getting too technical when I exceed 20 layers for a painting.
    I also use ProCreate (on iPad Pro) rather than Photoshop, but I think that as I improve my skill (I have a VERY long way to go) I’ll have to transition to a more sophisticated platform. Looks like Photoshop will be a good place to start, and your blog will be a great tutorial.
    Thank you!

    02/26/2017 at 2:12 pm

    • Thanks Gabe for the comments. I do not like to use 60 layers, but usually having the layers gives me a lot more flexibility for adjusting the opacities and layer masks to give more control. I tend to walk away and come back later and these layers help with the tweaking. I know a lot of people love ProCreate but that is one I have not investigated so much. Good luck with your PS endeavors.

      02/26/2017 at 4:23 pm

  4. All those layers and brushes sure to create a lovely image, Syd!

    03/09/2017 at 1:51 pm

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