Three little things.

As a little holiday gift, I’m leaving behind some of my favourite tools in Adobe Photoshop.

Well, not actually leaving them behind, as such, but sharing them, rather.

The first one is the colour picker.

With this nifty little tool, you can pick up any colour you have previously set down in a painting. Or in the case of editing a photo, you can pick any colour from the photo. Not only is this an excellent way of keeping the right colours when you want, but you also have the benefit of being able to examine what colours you are actually using. See, sometimes when you think you are painting in blue, you are actually painting in grey – it only looks blue because of the surrounding colours. All of this the colour picker helps you with. It’s also available from any painting tool, or filling tool, by pressing the alt key and then clicking the colour. Nifty, huh?

For some examples on how your perception of colour changes:
colour perception

The second one I’m dumping on you is Photoshop’s brush system. It is a small wonder – a lovely little way of creating lines, textures, shapes. You can simply create any brush you could possibly care to create, and the sweet thing about it is that you are in absolute control.

The fun thing is that the program is set up so that you can see a small thumbnail of what the brush looks in action. This makes it very simple and nice to play around with different possibilities. Just don’t forget to save the thing in between different versions!

Try using the spackled brush and the smudge tool. You can make a spackled brush yourself by placing a bunch of little dots next to one another, and then changing the settings on the brush… all of this works more easily if you have a wacom tablet, of course. If you do, set other dynamics’ opacity jitter to pen pressure… if you don’t have a tablet, set it to fade. This brush happens to an excellent blender. Yay!

Using textured brushes in this manner opens up entirely new ways of working in photoshop. Instead of accomplishing only flat or blurred brush strokes, you can imitate all manners of tools, or even invent some of your own. I rarely use Photoshop’s own brushes, and never, ever, ever with the smudge tool. The smudge tool is stupid and clumsy with soft edged, regular brushes but a very powerful asset when used right.

For a small tutorial on how to create brushes in photoshop, see: textured brushes

For a little thing on how to blend, using photoshop: smooth blending.

The third and last bit would be the quick masks. In my opinion the best tool that Photoshop has for creating selections. Instead of that tedious lasso tool, you can actually ‘paint’ the stuff that you want to select, and erase what you don’t. While in the quick mask mode, you can do sweet things like blurring the selection, smudging it, erasing or editing parts or making it more transparent. It’s unbeatable.

In the quick mask mode, you simply use white or black to add or subtract from the selection. Everything ‘not’ selected will show up as red, and the selected bits will be transparent. Of course, that can be changed.

Have a wonderful holiday :]