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The Brush Variance Palette
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The Brush Variance Palette
Created by:Prof

Another new and incredible feature of PSP 8 is the Brush Variance Palette. Using this palette one is able to create innumerable patterns and shapes and pictures and whatever one's creativity brings about.

In this tutorial, we will explore the Brush Variance Palette to give you a taste for what this powerful feature is able to accomplish. After the introductory remarks, I will give you some option values for creating different effects.

Although we will primarily concentrate on the Brush Variance Palette options, there are actually two sets of options one is able to manipulate to get different results. If you have not yet done the tutorial "Brushes: A Relief and Cutouts", you will want to explore that tutorial to review the Brush Tool Options Palette. Its settings control the main brush tip effects. The Brush Variance Palette has some similar settings but they function differently in many respects.

Also, the Brush Variance palette can be applied to more than just the Paint Brush and Airbrush tools. One can use this palette for other tools such as the Smudge tool, Push tool, etc. However, in this tutorial we will mainly concentrate on using the Paint Brush tool.

Intro to the Brush Variance Palette

First, make sure your Brush Variance palette is visible: go to View || Palettes || Brush Variance (F11).

The best teacher for getting acquainted with this palette is to just use it, use it and experiment with it.

Brush Variance Palette

The Options:

Color blend: Uses foreground and background colors dependent upon the Setting and Jitter. One will want to experiment with the colors to see which results are most pleasing.

Hue: Varies the color (hue) of results based upon the initial palette colors used. Does not affect black or white colors.

Saturation: Creates a harder, more saturated result.

Lightness: Alters the lightness/darkness of the painted colors dependent upon the original colors used.

Size: Varies the brush size dependent upon the Setting and/or the Jitter settings used.

Opacity: Alters the opacity of the results.

Thickness: Varies the thickness of the brush tip and results.

Rotation: Varies tip rotation as it paints dependent upon the Setting and/or Jitter values used.

Density: Alters the density from solid to opaque.

Fade rate: Determines how fast/slow the brush painting fades. Dependent upon the Setting used for any of the above.

Position jitter: Varies where the brush paints on the canvas. Dependent upon its value and values set on the main options above.

Scale: Keeps the outcome in scale. Dependent upon the size of the brush painting.

Impressions per step: Varies how many impressions are painted before moving to the next pixel as determined by the Step value in the Tool Options palette.

Preset: Reset to Default Option

The "Reset To Default" button: Resets the values in this palette as seen in the illustration.

Note: There will be times when one will need to reset the Brush Variance palette to its default values. Also, in the Tool Options palette, one can use the Reset to Default button in the Presets to reset both the Tool Option values as well as the Brush Variance palette values at the same time. Thus, if you are expecting one result and get a different result, you may need to reset your values in both places.

Brush Variance Settings

The Settings:

The settings change the way the brush painting outcome appears. Those with the * star before them are only operational in a Pressure Tablet controller and will not be explored in this tutorial.

One will need to experiment with these option settings to see how they work. Different options with these settings will have different outcomes.

The result of the settings is dependent upon which value is chosen or the set of values chosen. The Fade Rate mentioned above works only when the setting is other than Normal.

  • Normal: No brush variance occurs.
  • Direction: The outcome changes in size dependent upon the direction of the brush stroke.
  • Fade In: The particular option or options chosen for this value will "fade in" and then remain full size.
  • Repeating Fade In: The brush stroke "fades in" in a repeating pattern.
  • Fade Out: The brush stroke fades out from solid to opaque and stops any further painting.
  • Oscillating Fade: The brush stroke fades in and out dependent upon which option is used. The rotation option will cause the brush stroke to oscillate in repeating patterns.

Position Jitter (%):

The Jitter percentage varies from 0 to 1000 in value. This value is contingent upon the option in which it is used and functions a bit differently in each of the options.

For instance, the Color Jitter values affect the foreground-background use. In the Size option it affects the size of the brush tip result. In Rotation it affects the amount of rotation of the brush tip outcome.

Exploration of the Presets

We will first explore the Paint Brush tool presets. This adventure is most intriguing as there are a number of presets each of which creates a different and interesting outcome. We will explore only a few options to give you a taste of this neat feature.

The key when exploring them is to become familiar with the Brush Variance palette option values. Doing so will help to acquaint you with how they operate.

New Image

New Raster Layer

Materials Palette - Materials BoxMaterials Solid Color Option

Basic Setup

We will create a canvas with at least two layers, a background layer and an experimental layer. Although we could use the Edit || Undo (Ctrl+Z) function, it is often much easier to just delete the work and start over.

Start with a new image:
Width = 300 pixels
Height = 80 pixels
Background = Raster Background
Color = white
Image type = 16 M colors

Convert the background layer to a layer: Right-click on it in your Layer palette and choose "Convert Background Layer" from the popup menu. Then create a new raster layer over it.

Foreground = Solid Color: a dark brown
(Red = 62, Green = 38, Blue = 0; #3E2600)
Background = Solid Color: a light pink
(Red = 241, Green = 227, Blue = 227; #F1E3E3)

Paint Brush ToolPreset: Reset to Default Option

Click on the Paint Brush tool, then click on "Presets" and set the default values.

At this point, just quickly review all values in the Tool Options palette and in the Brush Variance palette so you have a base line for comparison.

In the Presets, select the "Animal Fur Generator" preset. Again look at your values in both palettes. Notice that in using the particular shape, some options are greyed out (Hardness, Density and Thickness).

Illustration #1

In this series of illustrations we will just draw a fur line from left to right. We will then change some of the values in the Brush Variance palette and draw again so you can see how different values in the Brush Variance palette create different effects.

For each change start again with a new white canvas, 300x80 pixels. The quickest way to do this is to just duplicate your new image (with Window || Duplicate or Shift+D) as often as you need it.

  1. The "Animal Fur Generator" preset.
  1. Color Blend
    Setting = Oscillating Fade
    Jitter = 0

    Notice how "Oscillating Fade" alternates between the Foreground and Background and creates a smooth transition between them.
  1. Hue
    Color Blend: Setting = Normal, Jitter = 115
    Hue: Setting = Oscillating Fade
  1. Saturation
    Hue: Setting = Normal
    Saturation: Setting = Oscillating Fade
  1. Lightness
    Saturation: Setting = Normal
    Lightness: Setting = Oscillating Fade
  1. Density
    Lightness: Setting = Normal
    Density: Setting = Oscillating Fade
  1. Creating Rings
    Size = 64
    Rotation: Setting = Normal
    Rotation: Jitter = 100
    Position Jitter = 0
    Scale = unchecked

    You may want to experiment with other settings in the Brush Variance palette to see how they create different effects as well. In this series we mainly used the "Oscillating Fade" effect. Try various Options and Jitter values for various effects.

Illustration #2

In this illustration I used the "Animal Fur Generator" preset to draw a dog.

First, I clicked on the "Reset to Default" button in the Brush Variance palette in order to clear all the earlier values. Then in the presets, I selected the "Animal Fur Generator". With a little practice you will be able to create other animals or objects.

Try it out and have fun. Not a bad looking shaggy dog if I do say so myself <grin>.

Illustration #3

In this example we will again use the "Animal Fur Generator" preset with no changes and create a frame.

Set your canvas to the size you want. Then just draw around the edges to create the fur frame.

To give it some character add an Inner Bevel of your choice. I am using the "Frame" preset in the second example.

New ImageMaterials Palette - Materials BoxMaterials Solid Color OptionPaint Brush Tool

Illustration #4

In this exercise we will use the "Scattered Papers" preset. In this preset many of the options in both the Tool Options palette and the Brush Variance palette are used and set to various values.

Create a new image 200x200, black background. Set your:
Foreground = Solid Color: a pastel purple
(Red = 192, Green = 192, Blue = 255; #C0C0FF)
Background = Solid Color: a pastel pink
(Red = 255, Green = 192, Blue = 255; #FFC0FF)

Then, just draw your painting. If you don't like the outcome, delete it and start again until you have one you like.

Note: The color scheme is not only pastel purple and pink but darker and lighter colors. This effect is created because of the Brush Variance palette Options, particularly Hue, Saturation and Lightness as well as Opacity.

The "Oscillating Fade" is an in and out pattern. Also note that the "Impressions per step" are greater than earlier drawings. To get some better idea of how the Brush Variance palette Settings alter images, use these settings and paint a second image:

Color Blend: Jitter = 100
Hue: Setting = Oscillating Fade
Size: Setting = Oscillating Fade
Rotation: Setting = Oscillating Fade
Fade Rate = 220

Note: The colors produced with Hue = Oscillating Fade include a number of additional colors. Also the size of the rectangles created varies from small to large to small and again due to the Size = Oscillating Fade.

As you see with these brief illustrations and playing with the values, one can create interesting results.

Some Additional Illustrations

In the next set of illustrations, I will give you some of the various values I used for the particular effect. You want to notice which options and values I used. The combination of these options and values in both the Tool Options palette and in the Brush Variance palette will create the effects.

Save Preset Option

Saving Preset Values:

Though these presets I have saved are in the Brush Tool, one is able to use the same technique for the Air Brush and other tools when saving settings one likes.

To save a preset, click on the "Save Preset" button in the Presets drop-down window. A "Save Preset" dialog will pop up. Just enter a name for your preset and then click on OK.

Your preset will now show up in the Preset drop-down list and when selected will set the values you saved.


This illustration uses a number of techniques.

  • Settings in both the Tool Options palette and the Brush Variance palette;
  • The Smudge tool, the Lighten-Darken tool and the Soften tool are used. These tools are used as needed to create the effect.
  • Step 1 is to create the clouds on a layer above the background.
  • Step 2 is to use the Smudge tool with Brush Variance palette values.
  • Step 3 is to use the Lighten-Darken tool to lighten the top of the clouds and darken the bottom of them.
  • And, step 4 is to use the Soften Brush to soften the effect and give it more realism.
New Image

Materials Palette - Materials BoxMaterials Gradient Option

Flood Fill ToolNew Raster Layer

Materials Palette - Materials BoxMaterials Solid Color Option

Create a new image, 200x200, Background = Raster, Color doesn't matter.

For the background, set your Foreground Materials to Gradient:
Gradient = Duo Tone Dark Blue
Style = Sunburst
Center Points: Horizontal = 75, Vertical = 25
Link Center and Focal Points = checked

Flood-fill your image with the gradient, then create a new raster layer for the clouds

Set both your Materials to Solid Color:
Foreground color = Dark Blue (Red = 0, Green = 0, Blue = 128)
Background color = White

Paint Brush ToolPreset: Reset to Default Option

Activate the Paint Brush tool, reset to default and work with the following settings:

Tool Options palette:
Shape = Oval Default
Size = 40
Hardness = 0
Step = 46
Density = 100
Thickness = 100
Rotation = 90
Opacity = 50
Blend Mode = Overlay
Continuous = unchecked
Wet Look Paint = unchecked

Brush Variance palette:
Color Blend = Oscillating Fade, Jitter = 0
Hue = Normal, Jitter = 0
Saturation = Oscillating Fade, Jitter = 0
Lightness = Normal, Jitter = 0
Size = Normal, Jitter = 0
Opacity = Oscillating Fade, Jitter = 0
Thickness = Normal, Jitter = 0
Rotation = Oscillating Fade, Jitter = 0
Density = Normal, Jitter = 0
Fade Rate = 300
Position jitter = 100
Scale = checked
Impressions per step = 10

Use short strokes and paint where you want clouds. The result will be fluffy circular clouds. If you like the result you might just keep this image.

Smudge ToolPreset: Reset to Default Option

Use the Smudge tool with no changes in the default values in the Tool Options palette.

In the Brush Variance palette use these values:
Size, Opacity, Thickness and Rotation = all Oscillating Fade
Rotation: Jitter = 1000 (all other options: Jitter = 0)
Fade Rate = 100
Position Jitter = 99
Scale = checked
Impressions per Step = 3

Note: When using the Smudge tool, when the left mouse button is used there is a soften effect. When using the right mouse button there is a darkening or clearing out of the areas. The Smudge tool is the key tool for creating the realistic look of the clouds.

Start with the left mouse button and draw through the clouds to smudge them. Try the right mouse button and draw through the clouds to get separation in the clouds. Don't overdo this step but alternate between the left and the right buttons.

Lighten/Darken ToolPreset: Reset to Default Option

Soften Tool

Use the Lighten-Darken tool with these changes in the default values in the Tool Options palette:
Shape = default circle
Size and Hardness = 50
Step = 25
Density = 100
Thickness = 30
Rotation = 90
Opacity = 64
Continuous = checked
Mode = RGB

In the Brush Variance palette, use the default settings.

Then draw with left clicks over the top of clouds to lighten them. Draw with right clicks over the bottom of clouds to darken them. Repeat until satisfied.

If you want to use the Smudge tool again, go ahead.

Finish up by using the Soften tool and soften the whole image. (Tool Options palette values are all set to 100, except Size = 1 and Rotation = 0).

If you like the effect, save the values as a preset for each of the brushes so you can just click on that preset when you want to use this effect again.


In this illustration, the technique is to just draw the brush down or across to create the bouquet. Again I am using the same gradient background as for the above illustration.

Paint Brush ToolPreset: Reset to Default Option

Paint Brush settings in the Tool Options palette:
Shape = Default Circle
Size = 32
Hardness = 80
Step = 1
Density = 100
Thickness = 1
Rotation = 0
Opacity = 100
Blend Mode = Normal

Settings in the Brush Variance palette:
Color Blend = Normal, Jitter = 100
Hue = Oscillating Fade, Jitter = 10
Saturation = Oscillating Fade, Jitter = 100
Lightness = Normal, Jitter = 0
Size = Fade Out, Jitter = 0
Opacity = Oscillating Fade, Jitter = 100
Thickness = Normal, Jitter = 100
Rotation = Oscillating Fade, Jitter = 100
Density = Oscillating Fade, Jitter = 0
Fade Rate = 10
Position Jitter = 500
Scale = checked
Impression per step = 100

If you like this pattern save the values to your presets.

Gallery 1: Flowers with Leaves

This illustration uses two separate presets I developed. One is for the leaves and the other is for the flower(s). This illustration uses similar values as for the bouquet with some changes.

This illustration also uses a combination of background layers with different blend modes. The 'Leaves' layer also uses the blend mode "Lighten".

Gallery 2: A Night Bird

This illustration of a bird flying at night actually involves four (4) steps using the same Brush Variance palette settings. I drew the back wing first, then the head, then the tail and finally the front wing. The Blend Mode of the layer is also set to Overlay.

Gallery 3: Foggy Glass

This illustration is based upon using a very high Position Jitter setting and Color Blend set to Oscillating. Using any combination of Foreground and Background colors one is able to create a glass-like effect and can create various patterns as well. The final image is softened with the soften brush.

Gallery 4: Stary Night

This final illustration again uses a very high Position Jitter value and Rotation value.

The Brush Variance palette has so many options for creating images. I have spent hours and hours playing with it. I hope you will, too.

Enjoy Prof