Photoshop 7: Using Brush Shapes and Textures


Photoshop 7's new Brushes palette is far more than simply a place to pick a brush. You have incredible control over the size, shape, and behavior of the brush. In this follow-up to "Understanding the Brushes Palette," we'll look at the Shape Dynamics and the Scatter panes of the Brushes palette. Then we'll consider the palette's Texture and Dual Brush panes.

Shape Dynamics
The Shape Dynamics pane of the Brushes palette controls three aspects of the stroke appearance: size, rotation, and perspective. The variations for each parameter are specified with sliders.


The Shape Dynamics settings are:

  • Size Jitter: This slider determines how much variation there will be in the individual instances of the brush's tip. At the maximum of 100% variation, instances of the brush tip can be as small as 10% (or smaller) of the diameter that you have set. In no case will Size Jitter create instances of the brush tip larger than the Diameter selected in Brush Tip Shape or the Master Diameter selected in Brush Presets.
  • Minimum Diameter: You can constrain the size of the smallest instances using the Minimum Diameter slider.
  • Tilt Scale: When the Control pop-up menu is set to Tilt, this slider regulates how much the angle of the stylus will affect the brush stroke.
  • Angle Jitter: With non-round brush tips, the angle of application can be varied. The Angle Jitter setting determines the degree of variation. At a setting of 25%, the orientation of the brush tip with vary from -90 degrees to =90 degrees Remember that, by default, the angle is relative to orientation of the page rather than the path of the stroke - even if you drag a circular stroke, the variation in angle remains relative to the top of the image. Orient the brush tip to the path by changing the Control menu under Angle Jitter to Direction. (You don't need to change the Angle Jitter from 0%.)
  • Roundness Jitter: The Roundness slider controls variation in the proportion of a brush tip. When set to 0%, each instance of the brush has the same width-to-height relationship. As you increase Roundness Jitter, you add variation. At 100% jitter, the height of the brush instances will vary between approximately 5% and 100% of the size specified in the Brushes palette. Roundness never increases the height beyond that selected with the Diameter or Master Diameter sliders.
  • Minimum Roundness: You can constrain the Roundness variations using this slider. It sets the smallest instance that the brush will produce when Roundness Jitter is activated.

Examples of the shape dynamics are shown here. For ease of identification, custom brushes were defined using numerals. In all cases, Spacing was set to 110%.


The stroke has no shape dynamics applied.
Size Jitter is 50%.
Size Jitter is 100%.
Size Jitter is 100% combined with a minimum diameter of 50%.
Angle Jitter is set to 10%.
Angle Jitter is 50%.
Roundness Jitter is 50%.
Roundness Jitter is set to 100%, with a Minimum Roundness of 20%.

Note the difference between Roundness and Size jittering. With Roundness, the width of each brush instance remains the same -- only the height is varied. When working with the dynamic brush options, think of the slider as representing the amount of variation or variety or change in the individual brush instances along the stroke, and the pop-up menu as the control for that variation. Combining Shape Dynamics settings produces more complicated patterns. However, once you understand what each option does, their interaction is more predictable. This stroke was created with the settings shown.


Scattering spreads copies of the brush tip as instances along the path of the stroke. The next image illustrates how Spacing affects Scattering and shows the influence of the Count and Count Jitter options.


In this image, the following settings are used:

  1. Spacing 25%, Scatter 220%, Count 0, Count Jitter 0%.
  2. Spacing 100%, Scatter 220%, Count 0, Count Jitter 0%.
  3. Spacing 100%, Scatter 220%, Count 3, Count Jitter 0%.
  4. Spacing 100%, Scatter 220%, Count 3, Count Jitter 60%.

Using Spacing to create a specific density of brush instances results in substantial overlap in places, as well as some areas of "clumping," where many instances occur in a small space. Using the Scattering and Count options, especially in conjunction with Count Jitter, produces the appearance of random distribution, while doing a better job of preserving individual brush instances.

The Scattering pane of the Brushes palette also offers the check box Both Axes. In the first set of examples, only one axis is used for distributing the brush instances. The scattering is perpendicular to the path. Adding the second axis enables you to randomize the scattering along the path as well.


These five examples, all set to Spacing 100%, do not use the Count option in order to better display the effect of adding a second axis of distribution. The settings used in image are:

  1. No scattering.
  2. Scatter 100%, one axis.
  3. Scatter 100%, both axes.
  4. Scatter 250%, one axis.
  5. Scatter 250%, both axes.

Enabling the Both Axes option produces a result much like using a reduced Spacing setting -- some clumping of the brush instances occurs as the distribution is varied along the path of the stroke.

Tip: When Count and Count Jitter are used and Scatter is set to Both Axes, a very random pattern can be produced, but you're likely to see brush instances bunched together in groups. Add some Roundness Jitter (Shape Dynamics) to produce an illusion of depth.

Now let's look at Texture and Dual Brush panes of the Brushes palette.



Rather than a texture like those applied with the filter Texture> Texturizer, the Texture option in the Brushes palette applies a pattern to your stroke. Any pattern available in the Pattern picker for the command Edit> Fill or for the Paint Bucket is also available as a brush texture.


The Pattern picker menu enables you to load sets of patterns. Some of the patterns found in the set Artist Surfaces are especially appropriate for use as brush textures.

You can invert the pattern by checking the box to the right of the pattern sample. Inverting reverses the grayscale values of the pattern.

The next image shows the additional options available for texturing a brush. At the bottom are samples of the pattern Dark Coarse Weave at a variety of scale factors. From the left, the pattern is scaled to 15%, 30%, 50%, 100%, 150%, and 200%. The maximum scale factor is 1000%.


The Mode and the various Depth options are only available when Texture Each Tip is selected. The Texture Each Tip option applies the pattern individually to each instance of the brush tip. Rather than treating the brush stroke as a whole, this option treats each application of the brush tip separately. In this image, a single instance of the brush tip is shown to the upper-right. The pattern for the brush texture is Burlap.


The upper example shows how Photoshop applies a pattern to a stroke as a whole. Below, Texture Each Tip is activated. Note the areas of overlap from instance to instance. The pattern is applied over itself.

There are several options available for Texture Each Tip:

  • Mode: The blending modes available for Texture are Multiply, Subtract, Darken, Overlay, Color Dodge, Color Burn, Linear Burn, Hard Mix. The blending mode affects how the overlapping brush instances interact, as well as how the brush itself interacts with other colors already on the layer. Note that the Hard Mix blending mode is only available in the Texture and Dual Brush panes of the Brushes palette. Each of the brush's component color values is compared to the existing color on the layer. If the brush's component color is darker, the existing color is darkened. If it's lighter, the existing color is lightened.
  • Depth: Depth looks at the texture as a three dimensional object, with the light and dark areas representing high and low points. Changing the Depth setting alters what grayscale values are affected. At 0%, the pattern is completely eliminated. At 100% Depth, the texture is reproduced normally.
  • Minimum Depth: Used in conjunction with Depth Jitter, this slider restricts the lowest jitter value.
  • Depth Jitter This slider regulates the amount of variation in depth over the course of the stroke. At 0%, there is no variation and the Depth slider determines the appearance of the brush. The Control options are discussed in the first part of this series.

Dual Brush


The Dual Brush option adds another brush tip to the tip selected in Brush Presets or Brush Tip Shape. The second tip is overlaid using the blending mode at the top of the Dual Brush pane of the Brushes palette. The Dual Brush pane is a cross between the Brush Tip Shape and Scattering panes. In addition to selecting the second brush tip and blending mode, you adjust the second tip for diameter, spacing, scatter, and count.

You can use Dual Brush to add a texture to a brush (upper example) or to add a custom brush within a shape defined by the initial brush tip (lower example).


This story brought to you by the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP). Copyright 2002 KW Media Group. Photoshop is a registered trademark of Adobe Systems, Inc.

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