Photoshop Tutorial : Making a dotted line brush

The dotted line is a very useful tool in graphic and web design for separating areas of information. If you’ve used Illustrator or InDesign, you’ll know that it’s simple to stroke a line so that it appears dotted. However, Photoshop doesn’t offer this as a standard feature. For today’s Photoshop tip, I’m going to show you how you can easily create a dotted line by making a custom brush.

1. Select the Brush tool from the toolbox.

2. Open the Brushes palette by choosing Window > Brushes.

3. Click on the pop-up menu at the top of the Brushes palette.

Choose Square Brushes from the list of brush types. You’ll be asked if you want to replace or append the Square Brushes. Choose Append.

4. Choose the Hard Square 3 pixel brush tip.

5. Drag the Spacing slider to 150%. You’ll be able to see a preview of the line at the bottom of the brushes palette, so if you want more space between the “dots”, then drag the slider farther to the right.

6. Once you’ve got your brush set up, you can start painting. Hold down the Shift key as you drag with the paintbrush to get a straight line.

Photoshop Quick Tip : Changing Ruler Units Fast

Sometimes when you’re working on a project in Photoshop, you realise, after you’ve opened a new document, that your rulers are set to pixels rather than centimeters (or vice versa or one of the other units). Here’s a mega-quick way to change ruler measurement units:

Right-click (windows) or Control-click (Mac) directly on the ruler. A pop-up menu will appear and you can select your preference from here.

Photoshop : Tutorial – Changing the direction of brush strokes

If you’re working with brushes with irregular shapes in Photoshop, you may find that you want to rotate the Brush so that you can get the same brush stroke horizontally as vertically. But how do you do it? Well the good news is that you CAN do this AND it’s easy too.

1. Select the brush tool from the tool box .

2. Choose a brush preset on the tool options bar.

(I’ve picked a policeman brush from Magurno).

This is what the brush looks like in its normal state when I drag horizontally and vertically.

However, if I want to change the direction of the brush stroke, I need to make a change in the Brush Tip Shape.

3. Select Window > Brushes to display the Brushes palette, or click on the Brushes palette if it’s docked up in the right hand corner..

4. Click on the words Brush Tip Shape” to display the brush shape options.

5. In the Angle box, change the 0 to 90. (if it already says 90, change it to 0 or 180 degrees).

Now when I drag with the paintbrush, the brush stroke is rotated.

Blurring Filters in Photoshop: A closer look at the Smart Blur and Lens Blur (Part 2)

Earlier in the week I wrote a post about the Smart Blur filter in Photoshop. Today I’m looking at the Lens Blur filter.

The Lens Blur re-creates many of the depth of field effects familiar to photographers. The dialog box is fairly complex with lots of sliders and buttons and knobs to play with! This filter works by adding blur to an image to give the effect that some objects in the image stay in focus and others areas are blurred. You decide which areas are blurred by making a selection.

To help you re-create in-camera depth of field effects the Lens Blur filter lets you load a depth map to help specify the points of the image that are near to the camera, and those that are further away. You can use alpha channels and layer masks to create depth maps; black areas in an alpha channel are treated as though they’re at the front of the photo, and white areas are treated as if they’re far in the distance. You can choose an iris shape and this will also determine how the blur appears. To get to this filter in Photoshop, choose Filter > Blur > Lens Blur.

Don’t be intimidated by Lens Blur filter dialog box. It is a bit scary-looking the first time you open it, but just click on the preview box and you will see your changes as you make them on the dialog box. If you don’t like the changes you’ve made then just cancel out of the dialog box and your image will not be affected.

So now, I’m going to show you a practical example of the lens blur in action. I’m going to use it in conjunction with the alpha channels to make a selection.

1. Open an image that you want to create some depth-of-field with. I’m using a picture I took of a statue in front of the Eiffel Tower.

In this image I want to keep the statue in focus while blurring out the Eiffel Tower.

2. In the channels palette click on the Create New Channel button at the bottom of the palette. This will create a black alpha channel (called Alpha Channel 1).

3. Click on the eye icon next to the RGB channel. Now you can see the image AND the red overlay representing the alpha channel.

4. Select the Paintbrush tool and with the foreground colour set to white, paint over the areas where you want the filter to be applied. If you make a mistake, change the foreground colour back to black and paint back over it.

In this case, I’m painting on the horse statue, but when I go into the Lens Blur filter, I’m going to invert the selection made in the alpha channel.


5. When you’re happy with the alpha channel, click on the RGB channel at the top to make the image itself the subject of the filter.

6. Choose Filter > Blur > Lens Blur. This opens up the big dialog box. BUT DO NOT BE AFRAID!!

7. Make sure the Preview box is checked so that you can see what you’re doing.

8. From the Depth Map, set the Source to be Alpha 1 (this is your alpha channel that you made earlier), and then adjust the Blur Focal Distance slider.

For my picture, I set the Blur Focal Distance to about 90, but importantly I also checked the Invert box. Otherwise, the horse statue would become blurred and the Eiffel Tower would stay sharp. You can drag this slider up and down depending on how blurred you want part of the image to become.

As you can see there are lots of other sliders to play with, including adding noise, specular highlights, lens iris configurations. The best thing I can suggest here is start dragging and see what happens.

9. When you’re happy with your preview image, click OK to apply the filter. And Voila!

Finally, here’s some tips for painting with alpha channels for use with the Lens Blur filter.

  • The part of the image that you want to remain sharp (the subject) should always be painted black in the alpha channel.
  • Anything at the same distance from the lens as the main subject should also be painted black.
  • Areas farthest from the lens should be white.
  • Try applying grey or a gradient between the areas of black and white.

Blurring Filters in Photoshop: A closer look at the Smart Blur and Lens Blur (Part 1)

For a lot of Photoshop users, blur tends to mean just one thing – that is Gaussian Blur. The other blur filters, “Blur” and “Blur More” have been part of Photoshop for a long time, but they generally require that you use the filter repeatedly before you start seeing the effects you’re after.

The Radial and Motion Radial Blurs have their uses when it comes to some special effects and like the Gaussian Blur filter, they have a preview window and a slider which allows you to control the strength of the blur. Even still, many of us rely heavily on the Gaussian Blur filter for our heavy-duty blurring.

However, there are two other blurring filters that are well worth taking a look at. They are the Smart Blur and the Lens Blur which have been added in more recent versions of Photoshop.

The Smart Blur blurs the image with great accuracy. Like some of the other blurs, you can stipulate a Radius which determines the degree of blurring applied. You can also specify the Threshold value. This stipulates how unalike the pixels must be before they are blurred. The third value that you can set is the Blur Quality. The choice here is low, medium or high quality. The final option available with Smart Blur is to set a mode for the entire selection ( Normal) or for the edges of color transitions (Edge Only and Overlay). This is where you can get some really interesting and perhaps somewhat unexpected effects for a blur tool. Where considerable contrast occurs between the edges, Edge Only applies black-and-white edges, and Overlay Edge applies white.

Open up an image in Photoshop and try this one out. To get to this filter, choose Filter > Blur > Smart Blur. Set the mode to Edge Only to get an effect like the one below.

There is, of course, much more to the Smart Blur than creating white outlines, but this is a good place to start playing. In the next part I’m going to take a look at the Lens Blur in Photoshop.

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