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5 Cool Effects to Create with your Brush Tool in Photoshop

The Brush Tool in Photoshop can seem like a pretty basic adjustment at first glance. Choose a color, paint it onto your photo. Simple, right?

Well, in this post I’m going to show you 5 cool ways you can use your Brush Tool that you might not have considered before. With just a couple quick tweaks, you’ll see how versatile this tool can really be!

1. Using the Brush Tool to Dodge & Burn

My favorite quick and easy way to dodge & burn (selectively brighten and darken) uses the Brush tool. Simply add a blank layer to your document (hit the button that looks like a sheet of paper at the bottom of your layers panel). Then, place that new layer in ‘Soft Light’ blend mode, and you’ll be able to choose a white color to paint brightness onto your photo, and a black color to darken. A little goes a long way with this effect, so I recommend setting your brush opacity to around 5-10%.

In this video tutorial, I’ll walk you through this process and show you how I use this technique to create a glowy skin effect on my subjects.

Here’s a before & after photo where I used this dodge & burn technique to lighten the trees around my subjects in a heart shape.
5 Cool Effects you can create with your Brush Tool in Photoshop

2. Using the Brush Tool to change an object’s color

A really fun way to use your Brush is to change the color of something in your photo. With this effect, you’ll want to add a new blank layer to your document, then place it in either ‘Hue’ or ‘Color’ blend mode. From there, you can select the color you want to paint the object, and start brushing it right on! Check out this tutorial for full step-by-step instructions.

3. Using the Brush Tool to Fix Backlit Ears in Photoshop

When shooting backlit photos, sometimes the sun can make a subject’s ears have a sort of neon effect. You can use your Brush tool on a blank layer in ‘Color’ blend mode to correct this! Just be sure to use a low opacity brush for subtle results. You can watch me perform these steps on a backlit photo in this video tutorial.

4. Using the Brush Tool to Paint Light onto a Photo

Another of my own personal favorite editing techniques uses the Brush Tool to paint a sunlight effect into your photos. I do this using two different layers; one in Overlay blend mode and one in Hard Light blend mode. You can choose any light color you want for the sunlight effect, which makes experimenting with this technique so much fun. If you want to watch me create a sunlight effect using this technique, skip forward to 14:26 in this video tutorial.

In this before and after, I used the brush tool to create the sunlight effect on the mountains.
Use your Brush Tool to create a light effect in Photoshop

5. Using the Brush Tool to Whiten Teeth

Another quick trick you can use your Brush for is to whiten teeth. Just like with the color changing trick mentioned above, this technique also uses the ‘Hue’ or ‘Color’ blend modes to help you. Simply add that new blank layer, choose either Hue or Color blend mode, and then paint over your subject’s teeth with a white color to desaturate and remove any yellow-ish tint. You’ll want to be sure to use a low opacity with this technique, 20% opacity is a great start, and be careful to avoid brushing over your subject’s gums. Those tend to look a little funny when desaturated.

Have you ever used your Brush Tool to create a unique effect in Photoshop? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

If you enjoyed these tips and want to learn all the ins and outs of editing in Photoshop, I’d love to invite you to check out my VIP Membership. As a VIP, you’ll get access to my online course The Photoshop Fanatic, plus a Marketing course for portrait photographers, and ALL of the editing products in my shop!
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