Drawing a soft or hard brush in Photoshop

?To master digital painting at the highest level, you need to know a variety of drawing rules. In today’s lesson we will talk about what is best to use – a hard or soft Adobe Photoshop brush. I will show you the difference between them and the methods of application that are best for each brush.

But I can already draw …

It is logical to assume that if you can draw on paper, you can also draw in Photoshop, right?

Well, not quite.

I have seen many excellent traditional artists who have switched to digital painting with great difficulty. In truth, digital painting requires more than basic knowledge. For this type of creativity, a full understanding of the software used and the unlimited potential of these tools is needed.

As you can see, in order to draw on a computer, you need to reprogram your thinking to understand that the drawing can be changed at any time. As soon as you begin to better understand the tools, this feature becomes pleasant, not burdening.

Hard brushes Soft brushes

So, what are hard and soft brushes? The stiffness of the brush directly indicates how clear its edges are. The higher the percentage of stiffness, the more accurate the stroke. For a more blurred edge, simply lower the parameter. Rigidity (Hardness).

Opacity (Opacity) also plays an important role in defining the soft or hard nature of a standard round brush. The higher Opacity, the more paint.

Here are the settings I consider for Hard and Soft brushes.

Hard brushes

  • 50-100% Stiffness (Hardness)
  • 50-100% Opacity (Opacity)

Soft brushes

  • 0-50% Stiffness (Hardness)
  • 0-50% Opacity (Opacity)

You will notice that there is a middle ground, something between both types of brushes. 50% Stiffness It will be an excellent setting for drawing even small parts without having to worry about the edges being too blurred.

To show you which settings work best in certain situations, let’s look at these examples.


Let’s start with the sketches. They should always be performed. Hard brush (Hard Brush) – usually around 100% Stiffness (Hardness). Sometimes you can see artists who adjust the settings to get a more narrowed end of the brush, but this setting just gives the strokes the appearance of an ordinary pencil drawing.

Keeping the edges of the brush hard, you get neat and clean sketches.

Soft brush (Soft Brush) makes small details of the pattern less noticeable, especially due to the mixing of blurred areas.

Block in colors

In digital painting there is the concept of “block in colors”. This is the process of creating a basic color scheme for a picture. Usually for this process is used Hard Round Brush (Hard Round Brush) with Stiffness (Hardness) 50-100%, to impose primary colors on the sketch.

The artist then continues, adding colors with Soft round brush (Soft Round Brush) with Stiffness (Hardness) 0-50%.

If in the same situation start with Soft round brush (Soft Round Brush) you will notice that the colors are mixed and become dull. You will also have to spend much more time applying a lot of color layers just to get the same effect as using Rigid Round Brush (Hard Round Brush).

Most things in nature have a certain texture and weight. It is much harder to convey this idea using only Soft brush (Soft Brush).

So think of digital painting as a beautiful sculpture. First label the basics. Hard brush (Hard Brush), and then soften all that is needed Soft brush (Soft Brush).

Final touches

Visually, a piece of cotton and a diamond have two completely different textures. However, most of the details that you draw will need some form of clarity — like a diamond.

When you see that the drawing is almost finished, raise the values Stiffness (Hardness) and Opacity (Opacity). Use a harder brush to paint those very final details.

So, should I use only a hard brush?

No, but when you paint with a hard brush, you will feel more comfortable than using a soft brush. It should be borne in mind that a soft brush is a tool that helps to polish all the details after working with a hard brush. Try using the middle ground (50% Hardness) and simply adjust the settings to suit the needs of the particular pattern.

Tips for Hard and Soft brushes

If you are experiencing problems and feel that your drawing looks wrong, the reason may be the choice of brush. Keep this list as a reminder of which parts are best to paint with each brush.

Hard brush is suitable for:

  1. nature: general landscape and details such as grass, stones, trees, etc.
  2. clothes and accessories
  3. common features
  4. hair
  5. forming any other material

Soft brush is suitable for:

  1. nature: sky, clouds, smoke, fog, etc.
  2. create smooth skin
  3. texture polishing
  4. general color mixing (after color blocking)

Depth perception

The only case when you need to actively use a soft brush is to work with depth perception. Depth perception is a really cool effect, using which an object appears closer or farther from us depending on which details are blurred.

However, in truth, you can get the same effect by using other tools, for example, Gaussian blur (Gaussian Blur). Do not worry, we will describe the work with various tools in digital painting in one of the following lessons!


To be successful in working on digital drawings, pay attention to the basics. You can get rid of problems by simply adjusting the settings of a specific tool. Try to take frequent breaks to be able to look at your robot from a new angle and complete it perfectly. Good luck!

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