Curriculum Guide Index

SLP Curriculum Guide #27: Paint and Air Brushes -Brush Variance Palette

In this series of Guides we will explore the Paint Brush and the Air Brush. We will also briefly explore the Brush Variance Palette in which one has the opportunity of creating some very interesting brush actions that create different images.

Paint and Air Brush Options

For the most part, the Paint and Air Brush options (Tool Options Palette) are the same (Shape, Size, Hardness, Step, Density, Thickness, Rotation, Opacity and Blend Mode). In exploring how to use these tools, take some time to experiment with various option settings as one is able to create various painting effects with these options.
Using the Paint and Air Brushes
Both of these Brushes, for the most part paint in a similar way. However, because of their specific options, each has a unique way of painting a canvas. The Paint Brush is generally used as a stroking painting tool which the Air Brush is generally used as a spraying painting tool.

The Paint Brush has three additional options one can set.

  • Continuous will determine if paint builds up and when not checked (and if Opacity is set lower than 100%) painting over the same area allows the area to build up to 100% opacity. Thus this option allows one to control the appearance of the painted area.
  • Wet Look Paint when set has the appearance of a softer center color with a darker edge. When one paints over the stroke that area will also appear darker. Often the Hardness value when set to low values will make this effect more prominent.
  • Stroke when clicked on will allow one to start a new stroke. Continuous needs to be checked so build up over a painted area will not build up unless one clicks on Stroke.
The Air Brush has just one additional option of Rate which controls how fast (rate) paint is applied. When at a value of zero (0) paint is applied in a consistent fashion even when the speed of the brush is varied. When at a higher value more paint will be applied when the brush is slows down or pauses.

Hints and Tips

  • A very interesting technique is using a picture for painting. Opening up a picture and then minimizing it, one then can use the Materials Palette and the Pattern Option to select this picture as the painting brush for either the Paint Brush or the Air Brush. Ultimately one can paint the whole canvas to reproduce the picture. However, if one just paints a portion of the canvas they reproduce only that area of the picture. Thus, one can create some very interesting results from pictures. Very Particular and unique effects are able to be created particularly when using various option values (usually low values).

  • Often, when working to create a unique effect set Hardness and Opacity to very low values. Then use a dabbing of the brush by quickly clicking and releasing the mouse button rather than holding and dragging the brush.


  1. Set up two identical canvases with a white background. Then alternate with the Paint Brush and the Air Brush and for each set the exact same values for the basic options and leave their unique options unchecked. Then apply the brush in the same way on each canvas so you can compare these two brushes. For each brush change the hardness and opacity values to learn more clearly how these values work with a painted stroke.
  2. Again with two canvases, explore how the Paint Brush Options of Continuous and Wet Paint Look appear and how you can in general duplicate that look using the Air Brush with low values for Harness and Opacity and setting the Rate to a low value of zero (0) and (1).
  3. Often one uses the Paint Brush with stroke (grab and drag) to create drawings and paintings while using the Air Brush to create a spraying effect. Again, option values will often be low for best results. Experiment by creating a picture.
  4. Use a picture and the Materials Palette with Pattern option set and select the picture as the paint brush tip. Explore different ways to display a picture. Also, keep in mind when creating unique pictures one can first use different layers to develop the final results.

An Example (Click on Thumbnail for full size)


Cat and Fish

Cat and Dog
Example #1

Using Air Brush
Example #2

Using Both Originals

Example #1 uses just the Cat and Fish original and the Air Brush with very low values for Hardness and Opacity and the Dab technique to darken the new painting as wanted. One could also change the background color to other colors though experiment to find the best contrast.

Example #2 uses both originals by first just creating on two separate layers a painting of the particular original using the Dab technique. On the Cat/Dog picture I erased the dog using very low values for the eraser tool in order to get the right blend. I also made the Cat/Fish picture the top layer.


  1. When completing a tutorial or series of tutorials, and having placed them upon your web page, post in the SLP Forum your completed work using this layout:
    • a. Name or Screen Name.
    • b. Web Site URL.
    • c. Version of PSP using.
    • d. List of Tutorials completed.
  2. From exploration of using any of the Paint and Air Brush Tools on images and/or photographs post some of your results and or comments in response to the exercises.
    • a. Indicate what you did so others can duplicate.
    • b. Indicate what option values.
    • c. Add comments on your results and findings of interest.
    • d. Share your questions and comments in the SLP Forum and your graphic results in the member Gallery SLP Album as well as in the Forum.


Curriculum Guide Index