Brush Palette

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Learning more about brushes
Here's something that I think would help everyone if they did it: Review some of the Adobe help files to see if there's anything that you may be missing-out on that the program can do. That's what I did/do.

By looking at the 'Topics' in the help files you can see very easily what all the features are for the program. If you see a topic that you don't recognize, explore it!

Those using PS 5+ might notice that Adobe's help files have downgraded somewhat from PS 4. I have no idea WHY they would do that, but, at least they didn't remove it all-together! However... in PS6 and up the Help files are greatly improved. Thank goodness.

Now to fix the problem about loading and using Brush palettes:
  • when you've got your program open, open up the brushes palette and click on the little black arrow on the right-hand side of the palette.
  • in the list that pops-up choose 'Load brushes'. 
  • navigate, or browse your way to the Adobe program folder on your system, and you will see a folder called 'Presets'. Within there is your 'Brushes' folder. In there should be several palettes of brushes (default sets). Pick the one called 'Assorted' and load it into the brush palette in the program. This is where the 'sparkle' brushes are. Now before you do anything else SAVE that palette. Repeat the steps about clicking the little arrow etc., but choose 'Save Brushes' instead of 'Load Brushes'. Give the palette your own special name. 
    I call mine "Favorites".

Where to find the Brushes folder:
You can do this as often as you like and can make your 'default' brush palette as big or small as you like. Every time you start Photoshop that brush palette will be the one that gets loaded.
And there you have it!

The system path for the Brushes folder (PC) using PS6 may look something like this:
[install drive]\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop 6.0 (or 7 or CS)\Presets\Brushes

The system path for the Brushes folder (PC) using PS5+ may look something like this:
[install drive]\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop 5.5\Goodies\Brushes

The system path for the Brushes folder (PC) using PS4 may look something like this:
[install drive]\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop4\Brushes

Note here though that in some cases, (such as for those using Macs), the \Program Files\ part of the path won't be the same as mine above. In that case, you should be able to locate the Adobe folder starting from your main drive root: eg. C:\Adobe\Photoshop 4\etc\etc...

Also: I renamed my Photoshop install folders during setup, so the word 'Photoshop' may differ also; i.e. yours may be spelled like this - Photoshp (without the last 'o' in 'shop').

Creating hair brushes
Hair brushes are SO easy to make!
All they are is a group of 1 pixel dots, placed randomly within a small area. Use black for them, and when you've created the group, draw a rectangular selection around them and under the EDIT menu, Define them as a Brush.

I have different styles of these brushes, and the only way they are different is in how the dots are placed - some have less dots, placed further apart; to make the brush paint hair highlights or thinning hair. Other brushes have the dots spaced close together, for thick looking hair and/or painting a base layer for the hair.

Guidelines For Easy Hair Brush Design:
  1. Try not to go beyond 30 (40 max) pixels for the overall size of hair brushes.
  2. Draw a 30x30 circle or square selection, then zoom into the page so the selection fills the entire canvas. Then paint within this area. When you're done, just zoom out and under the Edit menu choose 'Define Brush'. Give it a name, and you're ready to test it. Use an empty layer against a white background for that. Draw a mock hair style and see how the brush looks. Use black, brown, and a cream color to text with.
  3. Use the Pencil tool for hard edged brushes, and the Airbrush for soft edged brushes. The size of these should be set to 1 pixel.
  4. Right after you create a brush and before you test it out, open the options for the brush and change the spacing to 1%.

    - In PS5+, double-click on the new brush. Change the spacing setting to 1%, and click OK to save the change.

    - In PS6, click on the brush preview thumbnail, change the spacing to 1%, then click on the small paper icon on the top-right side of the dialog box to save the changes.

    NOTE In PS6 however, changing a setting after creating a brush will create a New 'Custom' brush at the end of the brush palette. You have to right-click this newer brush and rename it, then delete the original version from the palette - hold down the Alt/Option key and when the cursor turns into scissors, click your mouse on the brush.

    (Personally, I think Adobe could have made this function a LOT less of a hassle! Which they've since done so in PS7's much improved brush palette.)

T I P If you use multiple shades of gray as well as black for all the dots, then your hair will have instant 'depth' to it when you paint it on.

As for actually painting hair... that's a tough thing to teach someone; especially when not knowing a person's artistic background. One thing though... it's definitely easier to paint hair using a Pen Tablet, instead of a mouse. A Tablet has pressure sensitivity that's a real plus for painting hair.

T I P find photo of real people who have styles of hair you'd like to paint. Load the photo into Photoshop as look at it for reference as you're painting your digital hair.

Creating a Custom Default Brush Set: You might do well to actually create a special group of brushes just containing hair & skin brushes. There's one good reason for wanting to do this: it allows you to load and keep all of these specific types of brushes together in the brush palette.

First you'll need to make sure your current group of brushes is saved. Open the brush palette options dialog, and select the 'Save Brushes' option. Then reopen the options dialog, and choose the 'Reset Brushes' option. This clears all brushes except the few that came with the program. Now hold the Alt/Option key down and click on all of the brushes in the palette; to delete them.

And now you can start building your own custom brush set. When you've created your custom group of brushes, save the group out in the same method as mentioned above. Give the group an appropriate name.

Now you can reload your previous larger group of brushes (the ones you removed earlier) and after that, you can also load your new 'hair & skin' brush group - when asked, Append this group to the current group. And finally, save out this entire new group, and name it something like 'My Default Brush Set'.

Photoshop's help files can tell you all you need to know about creating your own custom brushes. They will explain it easily. But I'll just tell you here that you can make a brush out of anything, & that includes photographs or sections of a photograph too.

Copyright © Mark Anthony Larmand

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