111. About Tool Options
Before You Begin
110 About the Toolbox
112 About Preset Manager
113 Select a Color to Work With
In the real world, you have hands to prepare a drawing or painting utensilfor instance, to attach a nib to it or apply a color or medium to itand then you have your own motor skills to help tilt the brush in just the right direction, or to make a smooth or jagged stroke. In the virtual world of digital painting, not every variety of brush or pencil stroke can be simulated with just a click-and-drag operation of the mouse. To set up your painting tools in precisely the right way, Photoshop Elements gives you options. When you pick up a tool from the Toolbox, the horizontal Options bar near the top of the screen displays the options specific to that tool.
Some tools share identically named options, such as Mode and Opacity. For example, the Brush and Impressionist Brush tools are similar, so each has nearly the same set of options including a drop-down list of preset brush designs. Thankfully, the Editor never uses the same term to mean two or more different things for two or more different tools. So Opacity for the Brush tool is the same as Opacity for the Impressionist Brush tool, as well as for the Paint Bucket tool.
Other tools have options exclusive to them. For example, only the Pencil tool offers an Auto Erase option, which instructs the Pencil to apply the background color whenever you start drawing on an area that already contains the foreground colorthe color you'd normally draw with. Imagine if your real-world pencil could apply a second, auxiliary color to an area whenever it "knew" it was drawing on top of matching graphite-colored paper. It's a unique feature, which is why Auto Erase is a unique option.
The Pencil tool draws freehand lines, so the Options bar displays more line-drawing options than you might have known existed. The Brushes menu near the left end of the tool's Options bar lets you select from a variety of preset pencil tips. This list gives you the choice of selecting one of several hundred unique pencils; the regular brush tools, the healing brush tools (for repairing spots), the replication brush tools (for cloning areas), and the eraser tools all have similar lists in the same place in the Options bar.
After you have set options for using a tool, you can return to its original settings. Click the tool symbol at the far left end of the Options bar, and from the pop-up menu that opens, select Reset Tool.
Few tools offer a broader range of options than the Brush tool. You can select from a variety of brush sizes and styles, and you have the opportunity to design your own brush. You can vary the opacity of a brush stroke from a thin film to total coverage. And you also have the advantage of two dozen blend modes that determine how the colors you add affect those that are already in the picture.
The most common options you will find among the Editor's tools are the following:
Brush style and size. Open the Brushes menu on the Options bar to select brush tips of different sizes and styles. Some brush tips are solid; others have feathered edges. Different groupings or libraries of brush tips are available from the Brushes drop-down list on the Brushes menu. Here, you'll find special-purpose tips such as those that paint butterflies or maple leaves, or emulate faux finishes.
You can often control the effect of a tool by specifying a low opacity, then repeating the application with multiple strokes. This approach is particularly effective when you use the Airbrush option of the Brush tool.
Opacity. This setting determines the relative transparency of the paint you apply. Opacity is expressed as a percentage. A 100% opacity totally covers the surface you are applying it to; a 50% "coat of paint" lets about half the underlying picture show through. The Brush, Pencil, Eraser, Paint Bucket, and Gradient tools all have Opacity settings.
Tolerance. When a tool that is working within an area of one color comes up against an area of a different color, the Tolerance setting governs how much of that difference is to be treated as significant, and how much is to be ignored. For example, the Paint Bucket tool is designed to spread paint over a large areaoften an area of roughly the same color. Here, the Tolerance setting determines exactly what the tool considers to be "the same color." A high Tolerance setting covers areas of similar color, such as the varied tones of a sky. A low Tolerance setting covers only the selected color and those very close to it: If you apply the tool to a dark blue in the sky, the paint will not flow onto lighter blues.
Feather. When you apply a color, you sometimes want a sharp edge. At other times, you might want to blend the color into its surroundings. A feathered edge helps you make that blend; the larger the Feather setting, the more gradual the blend. Some tools let you set the amount of feathering; with others, you can select a feathered brush.
The Size setting for a brush tip is expressed in pixels, which means that size may vary depending on the resolution of the image you're drawing on. For instance, by default, when you create a new image from scratch in the Editor, it assigns a resolution of 72 PPI. With that low resolution, a 10-pixel-wide brush tip might be fairly thick. But when you load an imported digital photo, whose resolution can range from 200 to 600 PPI, the same brush tip can produce a very fine point.
Anti-Aliased. This selection smoothes edges by averaging the colors at the boundary. Because digital images are made up of square pixels, sometimes you don't want boundaries to look like they're made up of stacked squares. Anti-aliasing provides the illusion of smoothness by varying the opacity of the blocks along the edges that show the sharpest corners. The final effect, up close, looks like blunting a serrated knife.
Use All Layers. This instructs the Editor to sample the contents of an image not only from the layer on which you're currently drawing or painting or making selections, but from every layer in the entire image. This way, if there's a yellow border on an otherwise bluish background you want your tool to pay attention to, but you're painting on the layer with the bluish background and that yellow border exists on a different layer, Use All Layers instructs the tool to pay attention to the yellow border. With this option turned off, the tool ignores that border.
Aligned. When you're using one of the replication tools or the Healing Brush tool, you're copying a pattern from one spot of an image to the spot directly beneath your brush. You generally want the location of the spot you're copying from to move in tandem with the spot you're copying to. But for in-between brush strokes, you might want the "from" spot to continue to follow your tool, or you might want it to snap back to where it started. With the Aligned option enabled, the "from" spot always follows your brush, which is important when you're cloning objects. With the option disabled, the "from" spot snaps back to its origin at the end of a brushstroke, which is important when you're copying shades of color. You see the differences demonstrated in 162 Remove Unwanted Objects from an Image.
Contiguous. When a tool operates on areas of an image with the same or similar color, the Contiguous option designates whether such areas must be comprised of neighboring pixels (which happens when the option is enabled), or of all pixels of the same or similar color throughout the entire selection or the entire image (which happens when the option is disabled).
Neighboring pixels Pixels that physically touch each other. When trying to judge which pixels will by affected by a change, only pixels that match the criteria and that touch the original pixel you click or another matching pixel are included.
The Mode option is one of the most powerfuland yet underusedfeatures of Photoshop Elements. You'll find that most editing procedures at some point are comprised of putting something new on top of something old. This is true whether you're applying new paint to an old background, moving a new layer on top of an old layer, or creating a new shape to fit on top of an existing element of a photo. When you put something on top of something else, Photoshop Elements wants to know what it should do to create the result: Does the new stuff replace the old stuff completely? Does the new stuff represent a transparency that lets some of the old material show through? And if so, what old material shows through and what gets replaced? Or does the new stuff represent a pattern for what parts of the old stuff get changed somehow? And if so, what constitutes the change? All these questions are answered through one major setting: Mode.
Blend modes Settings that govern the way colors interact when placed on top of each other. Some modes darken, others lighten, and others combine the colors in varying proportions. Blend modes can be applied with any of several tools when colors are combined. Common situations include applying a brush to an existing picture and correcting colors by blending layers.
Open the Mode drop-down list in the Options bar and select from two dozen different blend modes. When you apply color with a brush or other tool, the blend mode determines how the color being applied alters the colors already in the image.
The best way to describe how blend modes work is to show each one in action. To do this, I assembled two test patterns. One is the source, containing the layer to be copied. The other is the target, on top of which the copied layer will be placed. The source pattern is made up of four corners, labeled S, K, L, and J. The source's background is made up of a gradient that fills, left to right, from black to white. At corners K and L, opacity was reduced to 50%; at corners S and J, opacity was left at 100%. Three horizontal gradient stripes appear in the middle of the source image, graduating from red to yellow, cyan to green, and blue to magenta. All colors in these stripes are at full intensity. You can see the colors more clearly in the example reproductions in the Color Gallery. The target pattern is Abe's head from the Lincoln Memorial, set against a gradient background that graduates from top to bottom, blue to green to red. The background colors here are at half intensity.
The brush tools include two extra blend modes (not shown here, and not really blend modes) that do not apply to copying layers or selections: The Behind mode paints only on the transparent part of a layer. Using this mode is like painting on the back of transparent areas of a sheet of acetate. The Clear mode paints transparency onto an area, as if transparency were a paint. Neither mode works when painting on top of the Background layer, which has no transparent base, so no part of it can be made transparent.
The source image is a combination of colors and opacities. The target image is a photo with a gradient as a background.
With that setup out of the way, here are the blend modes used by Photoshop Elements:
Normal. Source pixels replace target pixels. The Opacity setting of the source pixels determine the extent to which that replacement is made: totally (Opacity = 100) or partially (Opacity < 100). With Opacity set to less than 100, a percentage of source colors equal to 100 minus the Opacity setting is mixed with target colors. In square K, notice how the half-opaque light pixels brighten Abe's forehead and the background behind it, and in square L, how the half-opaque dark pixels darken that area. Normal is the default blend mode for all painting and all layer copying operations.
Dissolve. Gives you the opportunity to apply some visual effects and relies entirely on the Opacity setting. When you set Opacity to less than 100, rather than making the blend color partially transparent, Dissolve removes pixels from the source at random locations to let target pixels show through. So if you're using a brush tool, your tool color might or might not overwrite the target pixelthe lower the Opacity value, the less likely your tool will do so. When you're laying one layer atop another, Dissolve covers up some pixels in the next layer entirely, while letting others show through; the higher the Opacity setting, the fewer of the lower-layer pixels show through. In the example, notice how the half-opaque squares K and L look fuzzy, while S and J were copied at full opacity.
Darken. Source pixels are blended with target pixels only when they are darker than the target pixels. If you're using a brush tool to apply the blend color, Darken adds the color only when the result is darker than the existing color. The Opacity setting determines the extent of the darkening effect. Notice in the example that bright pixels in squares K and J have little or no effect on the right side of Abe's head, while squares S and L darken their respective target regions.
Multiply. Compounds the darkness of source pixels with the darkness of target pixels so that the result is always darker. This blend mode most closely simulates the effect of laying one color transparency over another and projecting one light through both. What distinguishes Multiply from Darken mode is that, with Multiply, all pixels from the source darken all pixels in the target, to the extent that they are dark. With Darken, when a source pixel isn't darker than the target to begin with, its effects are discarded; with Multiply, if a source pixel is one unit darker than bright white, it darkens the corresponding target pixel by one unit. This is why you can see the faint K" and "J in the Multiply example, while they're almost invisible in the Darken example.
Color Burn. A complex blend mode that also takes contrast adjustment into account. Dark and highly saturated (richly colored) pixels in the source darken pixels in the target, increase their saturation (technically, brightening them), and transfer their color value to the target. But also, pixels in the source with low saturation (blacks, grays, and whites) but high opacity borrow color data from surrounding pixels and apply that data to the target area, darkening it in the process. This expands areas of rich saturation from surrounding areas, resulting in higher-contrast areas where differing or opposite colors collide with, or come closer to, one another. Opaque, light, unsaturated pixels can darken opaque, dark, saturated ones. Notice in the example how the bright pixels in square J darken Abe's cheek. Up close, you can see how the highlight on his cheekbone in square J is pinkerthe saturation there has been increased.
Linear Burn. Applies a similar burn technique as Color Burn, but the difference here involves opacity. With Linear Burn, the pixels in the target are both darkened and saturated by exactly as much as the source pixels are opaque. So in the example, in square S, the dark and unsaturated pixels in the source not only darken Abe's forehead but add pinks and browns. Although square J has lighter pixels in its source, they too darkened and saturated the target by exactly as much as square S did. But squares K and L, which are 50% opaque, left Abe's face closer to its original saturation. Meanwhile, the richly saturated color stripes in the source not only transferred their hue value to the target, but compounded the saturation. So while Color Burn left Abe's nose white, Linear Burn turned it as blue-green as the center of the source.
Lighten. Applies the source or target color, whichever is lighter, as the result color. Pixels darker than the blend color are replaced, and pixels lighter than the blend color do not change. The result is always the lightest of the two, although its brightness value is unchanged. Notice in the example how none of the dark pixels in squares S and L translated to the target. Square J is mostly lighter than the target, so it mostly occluded the target. Meanwhile, the 50% opaque square K lightened the right side of the target without overwriting it entirely.
Screen. Compounds the lightness of the source pixels with the lightness of the target pixels, so the result color is always lighter. The effect is similar to projecting light from two photographic slides onto the same "screen," thus the title. With Screen, all pixels from the source lighten all pixels in the target to the extent that they are light. So in the example, even the very slight brightness of the gray pixels in square S brightens pixels near the bridge of Abe's nose.
Color Dodge. A complex blend mode that involves borrowing color value from surrounding pixels. Light and highly saturated (richly colored) pixels in the source lighten and brighten pixels in the target and transfer their color value to the target. But also, pixels in the source with low saturation (blacks, grays, and whites) but high opacity borrow color data from surrounding pixels and apply that data to the target area, brightening it in the process. Areas of rich saturation are expanded into nearby light areas, introducing new areas of direct and sharp contrast. Notice in the example how the light gray letter L brings in red values from the gradient and from Abe's face, rendering the formerly green area bright yellow. And notice also how the lighter areas in squares K and J make the right edge of the target bright cyan and yellow, respectively. Meanwhile, the full color value of the three color bands is transferred to the target, leaving white areas white but rendering dark areas bright with color. The dark pixels at the left of the source have no effect on the target.
Linear Dodge. Applies a similar dodge technique as Color Dodge, but the difference here is that Linear Dodge brightens and saturates pixels in the target by as much as the source pixels are both bright and opaque. Dark, opaque pixels have little effect on the target, but opaque midtones brighten the target by the degree of their opacity. This is how the dark-ish letter K in the example makes a light mark on Abe's hair, even though the half-opaque pixels in the source are actually lighter than the K. This is also why the equally opaque letter S brightens its target area, while its dark surroundings have no effect. Meanwhile, the full-intensity color bands brighten the dark zones in Abe's face, leaving the white zones white.
Overlay. Applies the formula for the Multiply mode to dark target pixels and the formula for the Screen mode to light target pixels. The result is that lights compound with lights and darks compound with darks. The result includes more stark contrasts with fewer middle values. The Overlay mode is one way to create a ghostly image of one layer on top of another, especially at less than full opacity.
Soft Light. A different combination of the Multiply and Screen modes, with similar results except with less augmented saturation. To compound both brightness and darkness, the source and target pixels are both blended using Multiply, then the product is multiplied back into the inverse of the source. Separately, both source and target are blended using Screen, with the result multiplied back into the source. The two interim resultsdarker darks and lighter lights, but with less dramatic saturationare then added together, resulting in more natural saturation. As you can see in the example, the differences between Soft Light and Overlay are subtle, but noticeable.
Hard Light. Applies the formula for the Multiply mode to dark source pixels (as opposed to Overlay, which tests the target pixels), and the formula for the Screen mode to light source pixels. The result with Hard Light is that the source (what you're adding) becomes more prominent than the target; with Overlay, the target (what you're adding to) remains prominent.
Vivid Light. A blend of Color Dodge and Color Burn modes, applying the dodge formula to light target pixels and the burn formula to dark target pixels. The result contains either very highly saturated bright pixels or highly unsaturated dark pixels. Middle gray values in the source make the least impact on the target. Whereas the bright whites in squares K and J in our example leave the right side of the target bright cyan and yellow, the gray values from the source leave the subtle midtones in Abe's face largely untouched.
Linear Light. A blend of Linear Burn and Linear Dodge modes, applying the burn formula to dark pixels in the target and the dodge formula to light pixels in the target. The result has greater impact on the overall lightness of pixels than on their saturation. Notice in the example how the patterns in the color bands are less graduated. For instance, in Abe's beard, the darkest darks were made more prominent by adding blue (the color from the dark side of the source, if you will); whereas the lightest lights were made more prominent by adding magenta from the light side.
Pin Light. Uses a combination of the Lighten and Darken formulas. In essence, when pixels from the source are already significantly darker than the target, the Darken formula is applied to blend those dark pixels with the target; when pixels from the source are already significantly lighter than the target, the Lighten formula blends them with the target. But there's a notable bias against middle values, such as 50% gray. In the example, notice how the middle gray value on the right side of square S did not darken the center of Abe's forehead, and the same middle gray value on the left side of square J did not brighten the shadow under Abe's nose. So middle luminance values in the source are always tossed out of consideration; only extreme values apply.
Hard Mix. Uses simpler mathematics to come up with a psychedelic, posterized result: When the source and target are combined, the hue components of the result are reset either to full strength (255) or no strength (0). The result is comprised only of basic primary colors (red, green, blue), secondary colors (cyan, magenta, yellow), black, and white. In the example, the only reason some middle tones remain in squares K and L is because the opacity for those squares at the source was 50%.
Difference. Subtracts the RGB color values of the source pixels from those of the target pixels. The result is often a completely different color than the original target color. How different that is, is proportional to the difference between the source and target colorsthus, the name of the blend mode. It helps to remember these rules: First, black is considered "zero," and subtracting zero from anything leaves you with what you had to begin with. Second, subtracting a color from itself results in black. Third, subtracting double a color's value results in that same value, so medium gray minus white equals medium gray. Notice in the example how the half-opaque whites in square K ended up making the background of that square entirely middle gray from top to bottom, whereas the bright whites in square J made the background behind Abe's neck graduate from pink to cyan (as opposed to green to blue).
Exclusion. In some ways the opposite of Difference, but with a twist: Unlike Difference, Exclusion mode adds the RGB color values of the source and the target pixels. But to bring the result back to the reality range of 0255, twice the average of the source and target values are subtracted from the sum. Exclusion's results are similar to Difference's when the differences between the source and target are extreme. But as the example shows, when the differences are more negligible, the result is a middle value. Notice how the middle grays actually blur into one another in the center of Abe's head with Exclusion mode, whereas they created stark contrasts for Difference mode.
Hue. Substitutes the hue component of the target pixels with that of the source pixels, leaving saturation and luminance intact. In the example, Abe's hair, the bridge of his nose, and his beard are all now slightly tinted. But the unsaturated portions of all four squares did create noticeable color noise behind Abe's head. This is because grayscales are all considered "Hue #0," so the unsaturated pixels' hue value is being applied to the target even when there's no color in those pixels.
Saturation. Substitutes the saturation component of the target pixels with that of the source pixels, leaving hue and luminance intact. In the example, the fully opaque squares S and J removed all saturation from the target, so the result is as unsaturated as the source. The half-opaque squares K and L let some original color show through. But the fully opaque, fully saturated color bands "went to town" with the middle values in Abe's face. The light pixels look untouched because white is considered fully saturated, while any fully saturated hue ends up translating to white anyway. So the white on the bridge of Abe's nose, where it was white before, is actually "very light green."
Color. Substitutes the hue and saturation components of the target pixels with those of the source pixels, leaving the luminance component intact. Result pixels, therefore, are as light or as dark as they were before, but they might be colored. Technically, "color" is achieved by mixing hue and saturation (consider that there is no hue that represents shades such as russet, cobalt, and aquamarine). In the example, squares S and J are now unsaturated, as they were in the source. But as color is added by the color bands, the contrasts in Abe's face remain as they were.
Luminosity. Substitutes the luminance (or "luminosity") component of the target pixels with that of the source pixels, leaving the hue and saturation components intact. This leaves target pixels colored as they were before, but made blacker or whiter by the source. Notice in the example how the color bands lent nothing but their brightness to the result.