Elements has several useful tools that allow you to paint lines and color areas of the images and layers in an Elements file. You can use the Brush Tool and the Pencil Tool to paint and draw pixels in an image. These two tools share the same button in the Toolbox. You can access the Pencil Tool by right-clicking the Brush Tool button and selecting the Pencil Tool from the side menu, and vice versa.
You tend to use the Brush Tool to create softer color strokes in an image. The Pencil Tool creates hard-edged lines. You can alter these settings by changing the tool’s options in the Options bar. Also, you can apply the airbrush effect to your Brush Tool to apply color in a spray effect, if desired.
The Brush Tool
To use the Brush Tool, select it from the Toolbox and make sure that the color that you want to apply to the image is selected as the foreground color. Make sure that you have selected the appropriate layer to which you want to add the brush strokes selected in the “Layers” Panel. The highlighted layer is the one to which the brush strokes will be applied. Oftentimes, if you are trying to apply an effect and it doesn’t appear in the image, you have the wrong layer selected in the image.
To use the Brush Tool, just click and drag with the circle that appears in the image to paint. The circle represents the width of your brush. If the lines aren’t appearing as you wish, remember that you can reverse your steps in the “History” Panel and try again. Look into the Options Bar with the Brush Tool selected. Here you can set different options that affect how the Brush Tool will interact with the underlying layer of the image.
Once you have created a brush that you use frequently, you can save it as a preset tool that you can then access in the future with all of the brush options that you use already set. To do this, click the “Brush Presets” and click on the small right-pointing arrow to display the side menu and select “Preset Manager…”, or choose “Edit| Preset Manager” from the Menu Bar. Use the preset drop-down menu to select the brush preset. In the dialog box, you can select your brushes, rename, edit, save brushes you create and even load custom brush sets such as those in TeachUcomp, Inc.’s “Photoshop Brush Bonanza.” The “More” button allows you to change the display of the presets, changing the display to lists, thumbnails, etc.
You can also control the size of the brush you are using. You use the “Brush Size” slider to set the width of the brush tip you’ll use to paint. You can also type in an exact measurement in pixels in the box provided. You can use the “Mode” drop-down to determine how the brush will apply the color and interact with the color of the pixels it is painting over. There are several color modes that we will examine in the next section. You can use the “Opacity” drop-down to set the transparency level of the paint that you are using in the slider that appears. If you want to use the current Brush Tool as an airbrush, click the “Airbrush” button at the right end of the Options Bar. This will allow you to apply gradual tones to an image, simulating an airbrush technique. Use the “Tablet Options” to set preferences for what can be controlled with the pen of most pressure-sensitive digitizing tablets. These optional hardware devices allow you to paint with a pen tool in your hand, instead of using the mouse and keyboard.
Under “Brush Dynamics” (“More Options” in version 7.0 and earlier), you can imitate different brush strokes and effects by changing what is called the brush dynamics, which we discuss in more detail in the next chapter. Then, to paint, just click and drag in your image.
The Impressionist Brush Tool
The Impressionist Brush Tool is designed to simulate the brush strokes of a fine art painting. The Impressionist Brush gives you the same options as the Brush Tool. However, under “More Options” you can change style, area and tolerance. Style provides brush styles related to an impressionist style of painting, including “Loose Curl” and “Dab.” “Area” determines the size of your brush stroke. “Tolerance” defines the range of colors similar to the one that you will select to remove. A low tolerance allows the brush to change pixels with a color very similar to the one that you select. A higher tolerance changes pixels with a broader range of color similar to the one that you click. After choosing your settings, just click and drag in your image to apply the effect.
The Pencil Tool
You use the Pencil Tool to draw hard-edged lines in Elements images. You can access the Pencil Tool button in the Toolbox to enable it. Then you simply click and drag in your image to create lines and apply color to the pixels in the image. The Pencil Tool has many of the same options as the Brush Tool, but cannot be used as an airbrush. There is an option in the Options Bar for the Pencil Tool, and that is “Auto Erase.” If you check this checkbox, you can then draw the background color over areas in the document where you have applied the foreground color to replace it. After making your selections, just click and drag in your image to draw with the Pencil Tool.