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Faking Soft Brushes and the Blur/Dodge/Burn Tool

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This tutorial is available as a PDF. Click here to view or download it

How many times has this happened to you? You're working on your picture in your favorite image editor of all time, Paint.NET, and you think to yourself, "Man, I sure wish I could have feathered brushes like they do in Photoshop! Or that other free image editor. *cough*" Well think no more! ... Oh wait... Keep thinking about other stuff, but stop thinking about this because I'm going to show you how to fake it! You'll need to use the Clone Stamp and a few layers for everything, and there's really no way to fake fancy brush shapes (that I can think of at the moment) . But this will allow you to have soft brushes and mimic an airbrush effect! Hurray! Soft Brush/Airbrush So often requested, yet until now, we could only sit back and say 'wait until 4.0'. Now, we have the opportunity of saying 'Hey, you know what? We can have soft brushes!' Granted, Photoshop's soft brushes are much more... you know... ...but Paint.NET comes pretty darn close if you use it right! First, you'll need three layers. One that has your main image (or not), one with the color you choose, and a third for your brush.


On the 'Color' layer, fill in your desired color. Take out the Clone Stamp and set your reference point on the color layer. (And hide the color layer while you're at it) Now for the interesting part: Set your primary color alpha value to something lower. The exact setting depends on your brush size and how 'soft' you want your brush to be. For the sake of example, I've shown different alpha values at the same brush size (70). To give you an idea of what you can do. If your alpha value is too low, there won't be any effect at all. Remember that. Go to the Brush Layer, line up with the reference point*, and start painting away! boltbait.big_smile.png


*If you don't line it up, or at least get it really close, you'll get less than desirable results. Especially in the next section. Blur Tool You may be thinking, "Ok, Wither. I'll admit airbrushing colors sort of works. But surely you can't fake a Blur Tool! Paint.NET just can't do it. Never!" Well, now I get to prove you wrong! I like doing that! It's fun, and it makes me feel more intelligent. Which ongoing research suggests is a good thing. We start out much the same as last time with one key difference: Instead of adding a new layer, duplicate the existing picture.


Now go to the layer you're going to blur, and use Gaussian Blur at your desired setting. It's totally up to you... I swear.


Go ahead and repeat the last few steps of the Color portion. Hide the blurred layer, set the reference point, lower the opacity, preheat to 450°... etc.


Dodge Tool Now I'm sure you're saying in your head "That's impressive, I'll admit. But I know for sure that you can't give me a Dodge Tool." Wrong again! 😉 Let's go ahead and make our extra layers (you should be getting used to this by now). Set your primary color to hex code 8C8C8C and fill the second layer up.


Ok, now unlike the last two times. We're going to change the blend mode of the Brush Layer. Change it to Color Dodge, of course. You were expecting me to say Xor, weren't you? Admit it!


Here we go again! It should really be habit by now. The numbers, just like in the Color section, represent the alpha value used.


Burn Tool By now you're probably saying to yourself, "I'm amazed. Paint.NET seems far less pathetic now. You showed me the wonder of the Dodge Tool. Please enlighten me further, oh wise one." Actually, if you really are saying that last part, I suggest you see a therapist... soon. >_> Well, we're almost done. You've stuck it out this far. Just a little longer, I promise! Three layers once more. Fill the middle layer with this shade of gray (hex code A5A5A5).


Change the Brush Layer's blend mode to Color Burn... Yes, I know it's a shock and completely unexpected but just bare with me! Don't bail out on my crazy ideas now!


You've seen me do it in an example 3 times already... You should know exactly what to do at this point. 😉


Eraser "All that other stuff is great, but we want a feathered eraser too!" the crowd shouted enthusiastically. It just so happens that you're in luck! Because it can be done... it will just take a few more steps than the other sections. You'll need the Alpha Mask plugin ([Plugin] | [Tutorial]). Faking a feathered eraser tool isn't as 'fluid' as the other mock-ups. But if you really need a feathered eraser and don't feel like turning to the alternative(s), read on. All these steps are made necessary because the clone stamp doesn't pay attention to the alpha value of the reference point. It will just ignore it entirely if it's transparent, and if it's a really low alpha color, it will simply fill in the color at full opacity. You'll have your three layers (big surprise there, eh?) Fill your middle layer with black this time.12

Reference point, Brush Layer, scribble, rinse, wash, repeat.


Unhide the middle layer, invert colors (so it's white) and Flatten. Save this as your mask (see the tutorial for Alpha Masking above if you don't understand. Just remember it NEEDS to be a .png to work right)


Undo the Flatten, hide/delete the "Black & White scribble layer", and load your alpha mask. It took a few steps and you may not ever need to use it... But now you know how to do it anyway!


Smudge Tool So you're probably saying, "No way it can do a Smudge Tool. Just no way.... Right?" Well... ... yeah, actually. You're right there's no way. boltbait.sad.png At least I can't think of how at the moment. >_> ...See? I'm nice, I let you guys win every once in a while. 😉 --- So there you have it! Some of the basic tools of Photoshop... Namely, soft brushes, can be mimicked in Paint.NET. Please don't hesitate to ask me to explain anything more in depth than I have here. If you're curious, I chose those shades of gray specifically for the Burn & Dodge Tools, because that's pretty close to the affect the 'real' Burn/Dodge Tools have in Photoshop CS2. (I compared the two. I'm good like that. Of course, you should feel free to use darker/brighter grays to adjust exactly how you want your Burn/Dodge to look. boltbait.big_smile.png

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Hey thats awesome........ big WoW

I have been browsing the froum for a while now... :shock: :shock: :shock:

and I have never seen anything like that...

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Excellent tutorial and great adaptations Wither. I look forward to seeing more from you in the way Photoshop tutorials.


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Thanks people! :) Glad I could be of assistance. And especially glad to have a second tutorial stickied. :)

To commemorate the occasion, I experimented further and added feathered erasers to the list here. Yay erasers! :D


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and we recieve brushes!excellent

and i tryed it with jitter plugin,with oil painting ,weaves,nice results

and we can to combine it!we can make brushes with 2 or more effects,very nice

and we can make fire brush(if combine fire tutorial,glow)

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wwhaaa i just had a great, simple, incredible idea, if Rick were to be able to implement a feature on the clone stamp tool so that it doesnt move as you move, then we would have a great work around for custom brushes. i dont know what this entails, but i think it could work

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i think in version paint net 3.30 we can receive brushes,now Rick can easy do it if combine stamp ,layers,etc

Please remember that Rick does not want to simply add one soft brush to Paint.NET. He wants to add the capability to add custom brushes. And, he wants to do it correctly.

You'll just have to wait for version 4.0+

Meanwhile, this is a nice workaround.

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