Brush Settings

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The tablet brush settings is one of features that really sets a Wacom tablet (Intuos or Intuos Pro) apart from a mouse.

When you're using Photoshop tools with an Intuos or Intuos Pro tablet installed on eithr your Mac or Windows computer you can decide how those tools will react to varying pressure on the pen - and that's impossible with a mouse.

What the tablet brush setting do is move things like Opacity and Brush Size from the Options bar at the top of the screen right into your hand and that is so much more intuitive.

One thing you need to know is that the Tablet Drivers absolutely have to be installed for the pressure sensitive brushes to work.  

The Brush Palette

The brushes palette (F5) is Photoshop’s central control panel for absolutely everything to do with the brush settings for the brush tool and many of the other Photoshop tools for that matter.

The brush settings palette has three views ...

  • Brush Presets
  • Brush Tip Shape
  • Controls

Presets View

The Presets View is available when you click on the words “Brush Presets” at the top of thebrush setting presets palette.

What this palette shows is the shape and the size of each of the brushes that are currently available.  

To change the brushes or append a new brush set to the existing ones just click on the little right facing arrow (top right of the palette).  This will bring up a list of available brushes that can be added.

There are also a lot of neat and interesting brushes that can be downloaded from many different sites - or you can even make your own!

At the bottom of the palette is a sample stroke with the currently selected brush.

Above the sample stroke is the Master Diameter setting (in pixels) which changes the size of the brush.

The palette is very similar to the drop down palette in the Options Bar at the top of the Photoshop screen.

Tip Shape

brush settings tip shapeThis part of the palette is visible when the words “Brush Tip Shape” is selected.

As the name implies, each box represents the actual tip shape of the brush - from round to little stars or whatever the tip.

There is more to this palette than just pretty little pictures ...

Flip X - flips the brush on its X axis
Flip Y - flips the brush on its Y axis

Angle - with a brush that is not round the angle can be changed.  Either type in a new angle or move the cursor over the little arrow and spin the circle around

Roundness - 100% is the default and it can also be changed by typing in a new value or move the cursor over the little circle and moving the black dots in toward the middle of the circle.

Hardness - defines how sharp an edge each brush has.  At 0% the stroke will have very soft edges and at 100% the stroke will be well defined.

Spacing - controls the distance between the brush marks in a stroke. To change the spacing, type a number, or use the slider to enter a value that is a percentage of the brush diameter. When this option is deselected, the speed of the cursor determines the spacing.

At the bottom of the palette is a preview of a stroke for the selected brush.

Pressure Sensitive Tools

Pressure Sensitive Tools

Photoshop has a lot of pressure sensitive tools that work perfectly with a Wacom tablet, including ...

Brush Tool Pencil Tool Clone Tool
Pattern Stamp Tool Dodge Tool Burn Tool
History Brush Eraser Smudge Tool
Blur Tool Sponge Tool Sharpen Tool
Magnetic Lasso Art History Brush Plus More ...

The Dynamics

The dynamics you can change with pen pressure include

  • Size
  • Opacity
  • Scattering
  • Color
and they can be changed either alone or together.

"So What" You Ask

Having the ability to change the way your brush behaves dynamically (on the fly) provides un-matched control over your Photoshop digital editing projects.

Brush Settings Samples

This part of the brush settings tutorial will assume that you have a Wacom pen and tablet plugged into a USB  port on your computer and that the drivers for the tablet are also installed. 

I will refer to the Wacom brand (Intuos and Intuos Pro) but there are other pen and tablet manufacturers whose products may work the same.

The following brush settings are accessed by putting a check mark next to the setting.  The controls are accessed by clicking on the words next to the check mark so that it looks just like this ... brush settings selection

If you want to lock the settings so they don't change then click on the little lock at the right end of the selected dynamic (in this image it is Shape Dynamics).  I didn't know this until a YouTube user pointed it out to me in a comment on the video ...

There sure are a lot of different brush settings available with a Wacom tablet installed!

Shape Dynamics (Size)

With this setting checked the size of the brush stroke will change as more or less pressure is applied to the pen.

Shape dynamics are set by dropping the Control: menu down and choosing Pen Pressure

The Minimum Diameter slider allows you to set the smallest size of your brush.  At 0% the size is 1 pixel.

The preview at the bottom of the dialogue shows what will happen with pressure - as more is applied the stroke becomes larger up to the maximum set for the brush.

There are also three settings for Jitter, Size, Angle and Roundness ...

According to the dictionary on my MacBook, Jitter is "slight irregular movement, variation, or unsteadiness" and this agrees to some degree with the definition given for Jitter by Adobe  ...

 "Jitter percentages specify the randomness of dynamic elements. At 0%, an element does not change over the course of a stroke; at 100%, an element has the maximum amount of randomness".

Have you ever had the jitters?  Sure you have - now the definition is clear.

Each of the Jitters (Size, Angle and Roundness) can be modified with Pen Pressure by dropping down their individual Control: menus and selecting Pen Pressure.

As one of the Jitters is placed under control of pen pressure and an amount is selected the preview at the bottom of the palette will show the change.

brush settins size brush settings

Other Dynamics (Opacity) - AKA Transfer in CS5 and CS6

This is how Adobe says Opacity.

With the control set to pen pressure the opacity of the brush stroke will change according to how much pressure is applied to the pen and this is fabulous when working with a Layer Mask.

This control has two jitters - Opacity and Flow.  What they do is set the flow of the paint in each stroke.

brush settings opacity brush palette opacity

Color Dynamics (Color)

The stroke begins with the Background color and as you press harder the color morphs to the Foreground color.

With light pen pressure the brush stroke is the background color and as more pressure is applied the color changes to the foreground color and to two are blended at about 50% pressure.

As with the previous two dynamics, the Control: has to be set to Pen Pressure.

Now you have a whole bunch of new Jitters to mess about with.

Hue jitter sets the rate at which the stroke color switches between the foreground and background colors. Higher values cause more frequent switches between the two colors than lower values.

Saturation Jitter specifies a percentage by which the saturation of the paint can vary in a stroke. Type a number, or use the slider to enter a value. A lower value changes the saturation while maintaining a close proximity to the saturation of the foreground color. A higher value increases the difference between saturation levels.

Brightness Jitter specifies a percentage by which the brightness of the paint can vary in a stroke. Type a number, or use the slider to enter a value. A lower value changes the brightness while maintaining a close proximity to the brightness of the foreground color. A higher value increases the difference between brightness levels.

Purity Increases or decreases the saturation of the color. Type a number, or use the slider to enter a percentage between –100 and 100. At –100%, the color is fully desaturated; at 100%, the color is fully saturated.

Brush settings jitter thumbFor a full explanation of the Jitter values and how they work (complete with examples) pay a visit to the Coloring page.  

Each setting is described and there is an example coloring project that demonstrates the dynamics in action!

Understanding the Jitter settings is really useful when you do any kind of digital coloring.  Click the thumbnail to learn more about the Jitter settings.

Brush settings color brush palette color


Now this one is fun!  As more pressure is applied to the pen the brush stokes are flung about the canvas in a seemingly random pattern.

Like Shape Dynamics, the Control: menu has to be set to Pen Pressure and the harder the pen is pressed onto the Wacom tablet the farther the strokes are scattered.

At the top of the palette is a check box for Both Axes (meaning both the X and Y Axis).  When it is checked the brush marks are in a radial direction around the stroke path.  If it is not checked then the brush marks are perpendicular to the path of the stroke.

The count and count jitter means the number of brush marks will change as more pressure is applied to the pen.

Scattering can be done if no pen and tablet is installed on your computer but it is not particularly dramatic.  With a Wacom Bamboo or Wacom Intuos everything changes - this is one you have to try for yourself.

brush settings scatter brush palette scatter

All four of the brush settings checked - grab yourself a really neat brush like the stars or the leaves, turn on all of the dynamics (Size, Opacity, Color and Scatter), set them all to Pen Pressure,  and have at it!

brush settings brush palette

Be creative and have fun with the wide variety of brush settings available in Photoshop!


Photoshop Brush Settings

Brush Settings links
On This Page ...

Presets View

Tip Shape

Pressure Sensitive Tools

Shape Dynamics

Other Dynamics or Transfer (in CS5 and CS6)

Color Dynamics



Brush Dynamics means that the way the brushes behave with Photoshop can be changed dynamically (that is, while you are working) when a Wacom Intuos or Wacom Intuos Pro Tablet is installed on your computer.

 Photoshop in a Day
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