26 Feb Photoshop History Brush tutorial: the time traveller
Hey guys, I posted a video in which you could see how I use the History Brush when I use color, but it didn’t seem too clear, so before we go on with the tutorial I will explain in detail what the history brush is, how it works and what applications it can have.
What is the History Brush?
The History Brush is a Photoshop tool used to “travel through time” to any event reflected on the History palette. At first it is hard to understand, but as we go further we will see a few examples that you will be able to perfectly understand.
How does the History Brush work?
Before we understand what the History Brush is, we have to understand the concept of History: every action we take in Photoshop is registered in the History panel as an event, being the top ones, the oldest. We can freely go back in history, something very useful to fix mistakes.
At the left of each event is a square, and in one of these squares there is an icon of a brush (on the original snapshot by default) that we can keep changing from location. This square is the one that sets the origin, the source of the History Brush.
If we mark a particular event as source and then we make changes to the canvas, with the History Brush we can “paint some areas of the canvas to make them go back in time” up to its original state or source. It would be like going back on the History panel, only that the changes don’t affect the whole canvas, only the area we have painted with the History Brush.
What use can I give to the History Brush?
The History Brush is a very powerful tool, you can give it unlimited uses; right on top of my head I can think of 3:
Example 1: suppose we have a color picture of a subject with a background and we want to leave the background black and white. We can desaturate the image and then with the History Brush we can put some of its previous stage back, I mean some color.
If we mark the event Desaturate as source and we paint with the History Brush again, the result will be that we are going to return the image back to black and white … we can do it at any stage in history.
Example 2: suppose that after painting a character I decide to make several tests. It happens that I like the head on the first test, the body on the second and the feet on the third. With the History Brush I could merge all the variants quickly and easily (although with some limitations that we will see later on).
Just take snapshots of every version and use the History Brush to join the parts you like from each version. Remember the History Brush works just by individual layers (see limitations below).
Example 3: I can use the History Brush as a selective eraser. I can erase part of a gradient or stroke, having the rest of the gradients and strokes frozen.
Now I believe you have an idea of how powerful this tool is 🙂
Why is my History Brush not working?
This is one of the most frequent questions; the History Brush is a powerful tool that has its own rules:
- It works on individual layers. If you want to make changes to several layers, either you do it one by one or you have to flatten the layers.
- It works on existing layers on both sides of history (the event we marked as source and the current event). This means that if we mark an event and then we flatten it, erase it or if we create another layer, then the History Brush will not work on the affected layers.
- The History stores a limited number of events, it may happen that you want to go back to a very old event and you find it is not there any longer (though the source event is always kept). This can be solved by creating a snapshot every once in a while. From the Photoshop’s preferences (Edit > Preferences > Performance) panel you can also increment the number of events stored, although it will use more resources.
- It works both to go back to the past and to move to the future. Imagine that you make 10 strokes, you can go back to stroke 5 from history and mark stroke 10 as source, we would be moving to the “future”.
What is the Artistic History Brush?
It is a variant (less useful) of the History Brush, the concept is basically the same, only the result is artistic. It is useful in very particular cases in which we need some kind of texture, for example to paint clouds or give a painting finish to a photograph, or specific areas of a photograph.
I can’t figure any effective use, it just works fine if you need certain effects.
Let’s see if you got it !!!
If after reading this post and seeing the video again you can’t still figure the technique I use to paint complex gradients.
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See you soon!!