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Paint quickly using image source data with the Art History Brush

Added on Tuesday 12th of October 2010 05:23 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows



When your client wants an original illustration but you’re pressed for time, don’t panic. Take advantage of the Art History Brush and create fantastic art in your own original style.


To create a digital masterpiece with the Art History Brush, we’ll:

     Introduce you to the History panel’s basic functionality.

     Show you how to select a state and a color source to use as the foundation for this technique.

     Explain the different settings available for the Art History Brush.

     Walk you through the steps to paint an original illustration with our sample file.


As a Photoshop user, you’re aware of the program’s versatility. You can use it to retouch photos, create text effects, add images, and do countless other things. You can also use it to create original artwork and illustrations. Some people start with a blank canvas and go from there. But if you want, you can use an image as a basis for your art. With the Art History Brush tool, you can draw an original illustration, such as the one shown in Figure A, using an existing image as a source.




The History panel explained

Every time you do something to an image, such as paint a stroke, erase a few pixels, or draw a path, Photoshop creates a state of what you’ve completed. Each state is a separate copy of each action you’ve done as your work progresses. Photoshop displays the progression of states in the History panel. If, for example, you open an image, use the Pencil tool, use the Brush tool, and then go back and use the Pencil tool again, you’ll see the states listed as Open, Pencil, Brush Tool, and Pencil, as shown in Figure B.




If you want to view your image in a particular state, select that state in the History panel. The History panel shows only work you’ve done up to that point.


Note: If you want to delete a state, select it, drag it onto or simply click the Delete Current State button located at the base of the History panel, and you’ll delete all states from that point forward.



Select a history state

Once you’ve selected the Art History Brush tool, you must then select a history state from which to work. To do so, in the History panel, click in the box to the left of the history state you want to use as the source data. An icon of the Art History Brush appears, as shown in Figure C.




Select color source data

As you begin using the Art History Brush tool, you’ll notice that the color of your stroke is constantly changing. That’s because you use the image area under your brush tip for the corresponding history state as the source data for your stroke, as shown in Figure D. You might think of the Art History Brush tool as a combination of the Brush and Clone Stamp tools. As you move your brush, you also move the area selected for your color source data.




Create an example

The best way to get a feel for this tool is to try it on a photo. To follow along with our example, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of the article, and extract the file streetscene.jpg. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.).


Then, follow these steps:

1.       Launch Photoshop.