How to Paint in Adobe Photoshop

 Photoshop is much more than an image editing program. It's also one of the best paint programs that you'll ever use.

The Brush Tool

It's only natural that when you think about painting, you think about a paintbrush. That's why it only seems fitting that we start out this article by teaching you how to use the Brush tool. The Brush tool is located in the toolbox, and it allows you to paint like you were using a paintbrush.

As with all tools, use the Options Bar to set brush stroke size and other preferences before you start painting. The Options Bar for the Brush tool is pictured below.

First, set your brush size. Then, determine the mode you want to use. The mode you choose will affect how your colors appear. Modes are essentially brush types. Experiment with these to become familiar with the different brushes that you can use.

Next, select the opacity, or transparency. A higher value will be darker than a lighter value.

The Flow sets the rate the color is applied as you move your mouse over the area.

The Airbrush tool simulates painting with an airbrush.

The color used with the brush will be the foreground color that you have set. You can find your foreground and background colors in the toolbox . The top color is the foreground color, and the back color is the background color.

To paint, simply drag your mouse over the area in the image that you want to paint.

Remember, you can make selections, then use the brush to paint single aspects of an image.

Below, we've selected the inside of the flower:

Now, we're going to paint it a lighter shade of yellow.

First, we set our foreground color:

Then, our options in the Options Bar. Next, we paint:

The Pencil Tool

The Pencil tool is grouped with the Brush tool. If you don't see the Pencil tool in your toolbox, right click on the downward arrow beside the Brush tool.

With the Pencil tool, you can draw just like you would if you were using a regular pencil. 

Before you draw with the Pencil tool, make sure to set your preferences in the Option Bar. You'll notice that the Options Bar for the Pencil tool is the same as for the Brush tool.

The only difference is that you can set Auto Erase. Auto Erase paints the background color of areas that contain the foreground color. You will need to select the foreground color that you want to erase as well as the background color that you want to change it to.

The Eraser Tool

The Eraser tool changes pixels that you erase either to transparent or to the background color. You can use the eraser to change to a previous state in the history panel or to just erase areas of an image by specifying your preferences in the Options Bar.

Set your brush size as well as the mode that you want to use. You can choose from Brush, Pencil, or Block.

  • Opacity sets the transparency.    
  • Flow determines how quick the eraser will erase aspects of the image that you move your mouse over.
  • The Airbrush tool allows you to use the eraser as if it were an airbrush.
  • You should check Erase to History if you want to erase and restore to a previous state.

    In the snapshot below, we erased aspects of the image using 100% opacity and 55%.

    The Background Eraser Tool

    The Background Eraser tool is grouped with the Eraser tool. This tool erases background pixels and makes them transparent as you drag your mouse.

    Let's learn to set our options in the Options Bar for the Background Eraser tool. The Options Bar is pictured below.

    The first thing we need to do is select our brush size.

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    Next, choose the sampling method:

    Contiguous samples colors continuously as you drag.

    Sample Once erases the first color that you click.

    Background Swatch erases only areas that contain the background color that you have set.

    The sampling method will determine what colors are erased.

    We're going to choose Contiguous.

  • Set your tolerance. You can enter a value or drag the slider. A low level means that areas that are very similar to the sampled color will be erased. A high level will erase a broader range of colors.

    If you select Protect Foreground Color, Photoshop will make sure that areas that match the foreground color in the toolbox won't be erased.

    Drag through the area that you want to erase. You can also click on individual aspects in the background to erase the colors.

    We erased the background of the photo below:

    Working with Color Swatches

    The Swatches panel is grouped with the Colors panel. You can access it by going to Windows>Swatches. It contains the basic colors that you can use in your Photoshop images. Again, these are the colors that you can use while using Photoshop. The Swatches panel looks like this:

    You can add or delete colors from the Color Swatches panel anytime you want. It's easy to do.

    To add a new color swatch:

    Make the color you want to add the foreground color. Remember, the foreground and background color both appear in the toolbox.

    You can create a new color by clicking on the foreground color in the toolbox. Remember, the foreground color appears on top of the background color. Then, either move the circle inside the color preview box or adjust the slider.

    Make sure you make this new color your foreground color.

    Add the new color to your color swatches by clicking the New Swatch button from the Swatches panel.

    Enter a name for the new color swatch. Click OK.

    As you can see, the color is now added to your swatches:

    To delete a color from the Swatches panel:

    Drag a swatch located in the Swatches panel to the located in the lower right hand corner of the panel.

    Creating and Using Gradients

    A gradient is defined as a blending of shades from light to dark or from one color to another instead of just a solid color. In that respect, a rainbow is a gradient.

    To create a gradient, you first need to click on the Gradient tool in the toolbox. It is grouped with the Paint Bucket tool.

    Now, go to the Options Bar (pictured below).

    Click inside the gradient sample box . The Gradient Editor will then be displayed.

    Photoshop provides some gradients for you to use. However, you can also create your own.

    If you want to base the new gradient on an existing one, select the existing gradient from the Presets section, then choose Solid from the Gradient Type drop down menu.

    Now it's time to define the colors of your new gradient. Click on the left color stop under the gradient bar. The gradient bar looks like this:

    When you do this, the triangle above the stop turns black. This indicates that the starting point is being edited.

    Select the color you want to use by choosing a color from the Stops section.

    Next, define the ending color by clicking the right color stop under the gradient bar. Choose the color you want.

    Here are some additional tips for creating gradients:

  • You can adjust the starting or ending point by dragging the corresponding stop to the location that you want. 
  • To adjust the midpoint, drag the diamond that appears below the gradient bar to the left or right. 
  • If you want to add more colors, just click the gradient bar in the place where you want to add another color. This will add another color stop. 
  • You can control how gradual the transitions are between bands of color in the gradient by changing the value in the Smoothness box. 
  • When you're finished, enter a new name for the gradient. If you want to save it as a preset, click New after you've finished creating your gradient.

    Applying a Gradient to an Image or Document

    To fill an area with a gradient, you drag in the image. Where you start to drag and where you finish the drag will affect how the gradient appears. When you drag, a line will appear, as shown below.

    When you release the mouse, the line will vanish and your gradient will appear:

    To fill in part of an image with a gradient, select the area of the image where you want the gradient to appear, as we've done below using the Rectangular Marquee tool.

    Now, select the Gradient tool again.

    Choose your gradient in the Options Bar. If you've just created a new one, you can select that.

    Choose an option for applying the gradient fill:

    Linear gradients has shades that go from the starting point to the ending point in a straight line.

    Radial gradients go from the starting point to the ending point in a circular pattern.

    Angle gradients has shades that go in a counterclockwise sweep around the starting point.

    Reflected gradients have shades that use symmetric linear gradients on both sides of the starting point.

    Diamond gradients have shades that start from the starting point and go outward in a diamond pattern. The end point becomes one corner of the diamond.

    Next in the Options bar, specify a blending mode and opacity for the paint colors you use. 

  • If you want to reverse the order the colors appear in the gradient fill, click Reverse.    
  • If you want a smoother blend and less banding of colors, select Dither.
  • If you want to use a transparency mask for the fill, select Transparency.

    Now you can position the mouse over the spot in the image where you want the starting point for the gradient to be, then drag to the ending point, as shown below in the diagonal line.

    Release to add the gradient.