I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m a shortcut fanatic, I want my photographic workflow to be as easy and efficient as possible. To achieve this I have shortcuts, custom panels, actions and presets coming out my ears along with a nifty programmable mouse and keyboard.
I’ll explain more about how I setup my workspaces and hardware in future blogs but for today I wanted to share how I fixed what I found to be a very annoying shortfall in Photoshop.
I frequently use tools with adjustable brush tip sizes, whether it’s for creating layer masks with the brush tool, using the clone tool or the quick selection tool I constantly need to change the size (and hardness) of the brush tip.
In Lightroom this simple task is achieved by rotating the mouse wheel, nothing could be easier or more intuitive. So why is it that in Photoshop we can’t have similar ease of use?
Here are the better known options to adjust the size of a brush tip in Photoshop:
1. Drag the Master Diameter slider in the properties panel or the right click popup menu
2. Use the ‘[' ']‘ keys to increase / decrease the brush tip size
Being the efficiency fanatic that I am, none of these options were acceptable, I wanted the ease of use that Lightroom offers, something that allowed me to concentrate on the task at hand without having to look at the keyboard or perform 2 or 3 additional mouse clicks.
For Photoshop CS4 & CS5 users simply do the following:
Hold down the Alt key and the right mouse button (Mac: Crtl and Option keys) simultaneously then drag the mouse left or right.
CS4 Tip: Add the Shift key to the key combination to change hardness instead.
CS5 Tip: Drag the mouse up or down to change hardness instead.
Not only does this make it easier to change the brush tip size it also shows a neat red overlay indicating the exact brush shape and hardness.
Note: the brush shape overlay will only be visible if you have OpenGL support enabled (click here for more information).
The Solution – Part 2
The only problem I still had was that pressing Alt + clicking the right mouse button then dragging the mouse seemed a little over the top for such a simple function, I simply couldn’t get beyond how easy it is in Lightroom just using the mouse wheel.
So it was time to look to my programmable mouse to improve on the situation. I have a Logitech G500, a great mouse with loads of programmable buttons and a tilt function on the mouse wheel. Sadly I was still unable to reprogram the wheel to perform the brush resizing, but I did manage to create a macro to emulate the Alt key + a mouse right click and assign that to the right tilt of the mouse wheel. I then created a similar macro including the shift key and assigned that to the left tilt of the mouse wheel.
CS4: As a result of all this I can now simply tilt my mouse wheel to the right and drag the mouse left or right to decrease/increase the brush size or tilt the wheel to the left and drag the mouse to decrease/increase the brush hardness.
CS5: As a result of upgrading to CS5 I now only need the one mouse macro (fired by tilting the mouse wheel to the right) and to drag the mouse left or right to decrease/increase the brush size or drag the mouse up or down to decrease/increase the brush hardness. I love it when things get easier
Whilst it is not practical to use the mouse wheel to change brush size in Photoshop (without Adobe making some changes), with the right tools and configuration several improvements are still possible.
If you don’t have a mouse with a tilt wheel or programmable buttons then you can still make use of the Alt key + right mouse button functionality built into Photoshop CS4 & CS5 if you didn’t already know it existed. I would be interested to know how many people were aware of this existing funtionality in Photoshop CS4 & CS5, I know I wasn’t until I started looking for a better solution.
If you do have a programmable mouse then you can configure your tilt wheel to change brush size by titling it in one direction and brush hardness by titling the other way. This is the solution I am currently using.
Another alternative solution would be to program the mouse wheel tilt buttons (or any other programmable buttons / keys you may have) to emulate the ‘[' ']‘ keys, but personally I like to see the brush overlay when I resize.
While not a perfect solution I am now able to concentrate on the changes I am making and change brush tips without being distracted from the task I am performing.
Finally a note to the Adobe Photoshop development team, that mouse wheel is sat there doing nothing whilst hovering over an image please give it a purpose in life and allow it to change the brush size. If you’re not sure how to do it, pop down the corridor and chat with the Lightroom guys, I’m sure they’ll help you out
Update: I’ve found a new use for the mouse wheel, simply tick the “Zoom with Scroll Wheel” and “Zoom Clicked Point to Center” option from the General page Preferences (select Edit -> Preferences -> General from the menu bar) and the mouse wheel will allow you to zoom the image centering on the location of your mouse pointer without having to hold down any other keys