Skip to main content

Learn How to Use Photoshop Elements

Lesson 28 of 58

Brushes Overview


Learn How to Use Photoshop Elements

Lesson 28 of 58

Brushes Overview


Lesson Info

Brushes Overview

We're gonna start by talking about brushes. Brushes are one thing, I think, in Photoshop that get under-utilized, and they're really fun and cool. So we're gonna spend some time doing that this morning, and working with the shape tools, which is also something that's fun and unique in Elements. Elements has a lot of extra shapes that the other Photoshop does not have. So that's a fun little bonus perk for Elements users. And then we're gonna get into re-touching. We'll be talking about fixing blemishes, whitening teeth. We'll talk about removing things from photos. If you've got something in a photo that you want to get rid of, we'll be talking about that. And I'm gonna show you a new feature that was just added about being able to adjust faces. So the big thing is you can actually turn a frown upside down in Elements, now. And it's really easy. You could do it before, if you were really handy with the liquefy tool, but now it's easier than ever. And I'm gonna show you how that works. ...

It's actually really super fun. So that'll be great. And then we'll also be working with text today, and seeing all kinds of cool effects that we can create with type and typography in Elements. And then to bring it home, we'll be going actually back to the organizer and talking about how you do the whole workflow, so getting images in, we did yesterday, but we'll be talking about how you go through and cull them, so pick the ones you want to keep, get rid of the ones that you don't, and organizing them with keywords and all kinds of different labels and neat things. So if organization is something that you struggle with, you definitely want to stick around for that. This morning though, we're gonna start off with those brushes. And they're really cool, really super fun. So I'm gonna pop over into the workspace. And instead of, here we go. Instead of opening an image like we usually do, we are actually going to create something from scratch, which is another thing that not everyone realizes is an option in Photoshop. So to do that, instead of choosing a file from the organizer, or instead of coming to the File menu and choosing Open, this time we're gonna come up to the File menu and choose New. And the only available choice here is Blank File, and that's great, because that's exactly what we want. We're usually restricted by the number of pixels that we have in our image, which is determined by our cameras when we take the image. But here, when we're working from scratch, we can make the image whatever size we want. In this case, I'm just gonna leave it simple, just a little four by six, with a resolution of 300. So if you want to follow along, you can type those in. And then we'll go ahead and click OK. So I've got this new blank file. So my approach to brushes is, I really want to just encourage people to play a little bit. So if you can remember your early days, maybe in pre-school, early elementary school, when you would just play with brushes and paint and make a bit of a mess and not care so much about making something perfect, or brilliant. Then you know, that was probably a lot of fun. And that's what we're gonna try to do today. So in order to make this easy on ourselves, the first thing that I want to do is create a new blank layer. That way our background can just stay clear, basically. So as we are experimenting and playing this morning, let's make sure that we're on that blank layer. And we can add new blank layers as we feel would be helpful. So I'll show you how that works as we move on. In order to make this happen, of course, we have to grab our brush tool. So over here in the toolbar, the brush tool is this one, not to be confused with this brush up here. Just the regular brush tool down here. Keyboard shortcut is B. You also want to make sure once you do have that brush tool, you want to make sure that you do not have one of these other ones. We're not gonna be using these today. This is the color replacement tool. This is the impressionist brush tool. We're just gonna be focused on this little guy, so just the regular brush. And a couple of things to know about the brush is some things we can change, that we've already been talking about in this course, but the first thing is size. You can do that down here with this slider, although you don't really have a reference for knowing how big that's gonna end up being. So you kind of get stuck playing the back and forth game. Like, how big is my brush? I don't know. It's too big, it's too small. So I prefer, instead, to just come up here, so I can use my bracket keys that are next to the letter P. Again, those are those two bracket keys next to the letter P on your keyboard. The left bracket key makes the brush smaller, the right bracket key makes the brush bigger. So that is how that works. The other thing that you can do with your keyboard is you can change the hardness or softness of the brush. You can see kind of what you've got, if you look down here. This is your stroke preview. So it's showing you if you were to paint with your brush you'd get a mark something like this. So we can see that the middle part of this stroke is kind of fuzzy. That lets me know that my brush is somewhat soft. I can't tell exactly how soft it is until I either make a mark with it, or if I come down here and click the Brush Settings button, I can see oh, that is as soft as it gets, actually. So I can see that right here. This is the hardness slider. So the values go from zero percent, which you can see the little preview here, so it would be all the way soft. Or if I drag this over to 100 percent, then it's all the way hard. Of course, we can also do this with our keyboard. With those same bracket keys, the left bracket key with the Shift. So you have to add Shift. So Shift + left bracket key will move the slider this way, towards a soft brush. And Shift + right bracket key moves it back over here. So you can do that on the fly, as well. Let's just take a look at the different kinds of marks this would make, then. So that would be a soft brush. If we drag this over to the 100 percent hard setting, we get this. So they have a very different look, those two brushes. Down here, we also have a slider that controls opacity. So you'll notice that even though I have black paint over here in my foreground swatch, it's been coming out looking gray, and that's because my opacity was somewhere around the halfway point. So it was not painting with full force. If I want to see that nice rich black, then I've got to bring my opacity up to 100 percent. And usually that's where I operate is in the 100 percent opacity. If I end up wanting to change any opacity setting, I prefer to do that, in most cases, in my layers panel. Keep going here. So that's a little about size and hardness or softness values. We talked a little bit about color. And one way that you can pick that is clicking right here on this swatch. This is your foreground swatch and your background swatch. And then you can change the color by pulling up this color picker, you find a hue that you want to pick from. And then you come over into this box and you click to pick the color up here. So that's one way to do it. We didn't talk yesterday about what all these numbers mean. And I always like to cover that, because I think it's actually pretty useful. So it turns out that there's three different languages that we have in the digital world to talk about color. We have something called, in this case, I guess. There's more than this, but this is what Elements offers. So we have one language that describes this color in what we call hue saturation and brightness values. So every color has to be exactly reproducible, right. There has to be a way for me to design, let's say, a logo and I make it a certain color. And then there has to be a way for me to communicate to someone else, another designer, perhaps, what that color is. So if I've created a logo and I need them to create some other materials to go with that logo, I need to be able to be more specific than tell them, we'll it's kind of this, you know, sea foam blue, like turquoise or whatever. I need to be able to give them an exact, precise way to replicate that color. So it turns out that Elements offers us three ways to talk about color. And one of those ways is in regard to hue saturation and brightness values. So that's what this is right here. So the hue value for this particular color that I've clicked on is 182 degrees. That of course is talking about like on a color wheel. Then down here, the saturation, the S stands for saturation. So that particular color that I clicked on has a saturation value of 68 percent and a brightness value of 80 percent. So if I wanted to be able to replicate this color and give it to someone else, I could tell them, oh, yeah, that's, you know, that blue color, and I would give them these numbers, H: 182, S: 68, B: 80. That's one way. Something that you might hear more commonly is to talk about color in regards to RGB values. So our images on computers and screens and all of that are made up with three channels of light. We have a red channel, a green channel and a blue channel. And the way that those channels combine is what creates color. This particular color, if we want to speak the language of RGB, we would describe this color as having a red value of 66, a green value of and a blue value of 205. And lastly, we have a third option down here. This is called the hex code. And this is what you would use, like on the web. So let's say you had that logo and now you're gonna make a website for that company, and you want to make, you know, some header banner or something, and you need this color. This is what you would type into your cascading style sheets and stuff like that on the web. And you'd be able to reproduce that same color. So that's a little bit about how this color picker, what all this stuff means. If you ever get in here, and this is how I like to work with it, when it looks like this. And if I ever get in here and my cat jumps on the keyboard or something funny happens and it looks like this, then I don't know, I feel lost. So if that happens to you, just click up here next to the H and then that'll put you back into this looking workspace. I don't know, I always feel like that's kind of my home base. So, that's how that works. Another way to get color is through the swatches panel. So that can be easier when you're playing around with brushes and making some fun things. You want to kind of just be able to grab color from somewhere without having to think about it too much. So I'm gonna come up to the Window menu. And you'll notice that there is something called Color Swatches. And if I click on that, I get this handy dandy swatches panel. And I can scroll down and see that there are a bunch of pre-made swatches here, just waiting to be put to good use. You should know that you can edit the swatches panel. You can create your own colors. Obviously if you want a color that you don't find here, this is clearly not an all-inclusive collection of colors, but if there is a color that you want that's not here, you can, you know, make it yourself over here. Maybe I really like this, I don't know why I'm always going after these like, sea foam blue colors, or sea foam greens. So maybe I select that color down there and I want to add it to the swatches panel. I just scroll down to the bottom, and you see that there's some blank space down here. And when I hover my cursor in this blank space, I get this paint bucket icon. And then all I have to do to add the swatch to this panel is click in one of those empty spaces, and I even get the chance to name it. If you've ever thought that you should have a job, like naming nail polish, or lipstick or eye shadow or something, you're gonna like this. So I'll call it Seafoam. Well just call it Seafoam. There we go, click OK. And you see it gets added to the swatches panel right there. So I'm gonna actually leave my swatches panel open, because I think it's pretty handy for when I'm painting with things. So let's take a look now and talk a little bit more about the brushes. If I obviously, if I have this green color, I can just now put my cursor here, and I can paint this green color. The swatch that I have in the background is just that, it's a background swatch. It's sort of your on-deck color that's just waiting to spring into action. So if I want to pick the background color from here, I can hold down the Option or Alt key, and maybe I'll pick like this orange. Oops, and I did that wrong. Not Option or Alt. Command or Control. There we go. Now I've totally screwed up my whole nice color scheme I had going on. There we go. It's Command or Control. And then you click over here, and that will load whatever you clicked on in your background swatch here. So now that I've got orange there, and let's say I'm painting along with this green color and now I want to switch to orange. All I have to do to flip-flop these colors is press the X key. And that will exchange them so that the background is now the foreground swatch. And now I can paint with orange. See how that works?

Class Description

We all have hundreds of images on our smartphones and cameras that we never do anything with. Adobe Photoshop Elements is the perfect tool for beginners to use for organizing and editing those images. Khara Plicanic will show you the practical ways to use this software by using step-by-step projects you can follow along with at home. You’ll get hands-on practice at making selections and working with layers, doing simple retouching, and adding text to your images.

You’ll also learn: 

• Basic adjustments to color and adding contrast to photos 
• Understanding resolution and image resizing and how to use the crop tool 
• Simple retouching and image compositing

No Photoshop Elements class would be complete without shedding light on file saving and organizing your images for a complete workflow! By the time you’re finished with this class, you’ll be creating beautiful images to share with your family and friends.

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2015


  1. Class Introduction
  2. Understand How Elements Works
  3. Importing Images
  4. Workspace Basics: Organizer
  5. Workspace Basics: Editor
  6. Tonal Adjustments in Quick Fix
  7. Color Adjustments in Quick Fix
  8. Apply Black & White Filters
  9. Sharpen an Image
  10. Fix Red Eye & Pet Eye
  11. Straighten an Image in Quick Fix
  12. Explanation of Photoshop Elements
  13. Basic Cropping in Quick Fix
  14. Guided Edit Overview
  15. Guided Edit: Tilt Shift
  16. Ways to Save Files
  17. Layers & Simple Selections
  18. Combine Images with Layers
  19. How to Use Layer Styles
  20. Make Selections with Layers
  21. Make Selection with Lasso
  22. Compositing with Multiple Images
  23. Refine Edge Selection on Image
  24. Use Refine Edge on Images
  25. Create Gradient in Image
  26. Gradient Map Differences
  27. Options for Saving
  28. Brushes Overview
  29. Creatively Use Brushes
  30. How to Change Brush Settings
  31. Use Shape Tool with Brushes
  32. Work with Multiple Shape Layers
  33. Finish Image with Custom Shape Tool
  34. How to Load Brushes into Elements
  35. Add Layer Style to Image
  36. Clip Image to Shape & Use as Template
  37. Retouching Overview
  38. How to Use Content-Aware Fill
  39. How to Use Content-Aware Move Tool
  40. Spot Healing Brush on Blemishes
  41. Remove Frown Lines with Retouching
  42. How to Remove Tattoos
  43. Remove a Gap in Teeth
  44. How to Whiten Teeth
  45. Adjust Facial Features
  46. Working with Type Overview
  47. Match Type for Image
  48. How to Manipulate Type Layers
  49. Create Postcard with Type
  50. Add Type on a Path
  51. Organizing Images in Elements
  52. Add Keywords to Images
  53. Smart Tags Overview
  54. Using Albums in Elements
  55. Places Workspace Overview
  56. Use Event Tags on Images
  57. Timeline for Image Organization
  58. Recommended Workflow


a Creativelive Student

Just watching this class live. It's my first class with Khara; she is a wonderful teacher, moving at a steady speed but always being careful to let us know what she's doing in the moment. I would classify myself as intermediate in terms of PSE but I've learned lots of little things that will make further use even easier and more fun. I really appreciated her descriptions of the difference between PS and PSE and her encouragement in using Photoshop Elements and all that it can do.


I have only been able to watch portions of this class but every single part that I have watched has been technically clear and inspiring to me. Based on this experience and the thorough, 58 item list of lessons, I will surely be buying this class soon! Thank you Khara and Creativelive for making a class on this topic and making it be super!!

Ven S

Great course. You can tell she knows the programme inside out.