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How to Use Advanced Brush Settings in Affinity Photo
  • By Nadine Spires
  • 21 Apr 2022
  • 18 Mins
  • Advanced
  • Affinity Tutorials

How to Use Advanced Brush Settings in Affinity Photo

In this step by step tutorial discover how to use advanced brush settings in Affinity Photo

In today’s tutorial we will guide you through the advanced brush settings in Affinity Photo. Brushes can be fine tuned to create a specific effect for any type of project. You will learn how to use the different settings available and apply to any type of brush.

If you would like to make your own brush, check our tutorial on creating custom brushes in Affinity Photo.

Step 1 - Edit the General Brush Settings

Open Affinity Photo and create a new document of any dimension. On the right hand side you will find the Brushes Panel. If you don’t see it, go to View > Studio > Brushes.

Under the Brushes panel you have a selection of Brush Categories. We have already selected a custom made brush.

Select a brush in Affinity Photo

It’s generally a good idea to make a copy of any brush that you edit. This is so the original brush can be preserved.

Right click the selected brush and choose Duplicate. This brush will appear at the bottom of the brush category you are in.

Duplicate a brush in Affinity Photo

Double click on the brush to open the Brush Edit settings. Here you will get a preview of the brush as changes are made. Here you will get a preview of the brush as changes are made.

Edit brush settings in Affinity Photo

Size - this adjusts the size of the brush

Accumulation - while this is an odd name, all it does it adjust the Opacity of the brush

Hardness - this adjusts how hard or soft the edge of the brush is

Spacing - this setting spaces each brush stroke making the design more defined

Flow - the flow of color is gradually built up as you paint over and over

Shape - the shape is changed but will only work with basic shapes such as circles

Rotation - the brush is rotated

This is how our Intensity brush appears in the preview after a few edits.

Make changes to Intensity brush

At the bottom you have the following options.

Blend Mode - this is the mode applied when using the brush

Wet Edges - this creates a wet or dry edge to a brush, with the edge being darker

Associated Tool - with this option, you can add an associated icon e.g. a paint brush icon that will appear next to the brush under the Brush Panel

Associated tool brush settings in Affinity

You can also Reset the brush settings or Duplicate the brush if you want to preserve the original.

Step 2 - Adjust Brush Dynamics

Brush Dynamics opens up a whole new level of editing options. This is where you can fine tune the brush to work exactly as you want. You will need to experiment with the settings to see what works for you.

The option on the right for each brush, set as Random by default, works with a graphics tablet. We won’t be going over every single setting but will point out a few to note.

Size Jitter

The brush design size will change throughout the brush stroke.

Change size jitter of brush in Affinity

Rotation Jitter

This rotates the brush as you paint, which is visible in the preview. You do need to select the Direction option on the far right else the rotation will be at random. This works great for simulating direction brush strokes.

Rotation Jitter brush in Affinity Photo

Scatter X and Scatter Y

This moves the brush design on the X and Y axis, or up and down and sideways. You can create a number of variations with these brush settings.

Change X and Y scatter brush in Affinity

As you experiment further you will learn what works best for your brush style.

Step 3 - Add Texture and Sub Brushes

Click on the Texture Tab to open the options. Here you can add additional designs or texture to your brush. Select the texture by clicking on Add. To remove, select the texture then click Remove.

Add and remove texture for brush

Base Texture allows you to add another texture to the brush itself. You can also scale the texture up or down. The Base Texture will affect how visible the brush is. So you may need to play around with the Opacity for a better result.

The Sub Brushes category allows you to add additional brushes. Click on Add Bitmap and add a PNG image in the same way as the Texture above. This will create a new brush.

Sub brushes in Affinity Photo

Double clicking on this newly added brush will open the Brush Edit Settings. Not all options like Spacing will be available. However, you can edit this Sub Brush in the same way you edited the Intensity Brush.

Edit Sub Brushes in Affinity Photo

Step 4 - Edit Brush With Top Toolbar

When you select the Paint Brush Tool, editing options become available on the top toolbar. We already know the first group of settings, Brush Width (brush size), Opacity (also called Accumulation), Flow and Hardness.

Brush settings top toolbar Affinity

The More menu opens the Brush Edit Settings as an alternative option to double clicking on the brush.

Next to this is a circular icon with a brush. This handles the pressure when using a graphics tablet. The description says “Force pressure to control size. When disabled, size is controlled by brush defaults”.

If using a mouse this option should not be selected as it won’t do anything.

Change pressure options for brush

Stabilize the Brush Stroke

The Stabilizer helps to create smooth brush strokes. To better show this, we have selected a Basic brush.

The first option is Rope Mode where the brush stroke acts as if it is being pulled. When creating corners, the “rope” waits until it has been pulled to max length before painting again. The length can be adjusted short or longer. A longer length creates a smoother flow.

The second option is the Window Mode. This mode doesn’t pull or wait like the Rope Mode. Increasing the Window number creates a smoother flow.

The graphics below give a visual of how these two modes work.

Use Stabilizer for Affinity Photo brush

Use the Symmetry Brush Option

Symmetry allows you to paint on several planes. Think along the lines of a Mandala. Depending on the amount of planes selected, the painting will be duplicated on the opposite side.

Click on the Paint Brush Tool then tick the box for Symmetry top toolbar. The Symmetry number is currently set to 1 and a single line will appear. Move your cursor off the document and over the line. It will change into a curved handle.

Now, click + drag to place the first Symmetry line where you want.

Adjust Symmetry Brush option in Affinity

Add Symmetry Lines

You can now add additional symmetry lines that will be placed according to the first main line. Wherever you paint, the result will show on the opposite side.

Add Symmetry Lines in Affinity Photo

Mirror and Lock Options

Ticking the box for Mirror will mirror the paint stroke across the symmetrical planes.

Mirror the symmetry brush in Affinity

If you don't want to accidentally move the main symmetry line, tick the box for Lock. This will lock it into place and can only be moved once the box has been un-ticked.

Change the Brush Blend Mode

Did you know that you can adjust the blending mode of paint strokes? This adds to the creative options available. On the top toolbar, click on the Blend Mode drop down menu and select an option. In the image below, we experiment with four blending options.

Change brush blend mode in Affinity

As you can see, under the Layers Panel, the brush strokes are all on the same layer. The Blend Mode affects each brush stroke even though they are on the same layer.

Create Watercolor Effect with Wet Edges

You can use your paint brush to create a watercolor effect by ticking the box for Wet Edges. Much like the name implies, the brush will act like a wet brush where there is more color on the edge. This works very well for slowly building up your paint with a watercolor appearance.

In the image below, the only thing that was changed was ticking the Wet Edges box.

Wet edges brush option in Affinity

Protect Alpha Brush Setting

The Protect Alpha brush setting is a very handy option to have. If you decide you want to change the paint stroke, but it’s something like a splatter brush, then use this option.

Use dry media brush in Affinity Photo

Tick the box for Protect Alpha. For this example we used a Dry Media brush from the Brush Panel.

If we want to change the color of the brush stroke, first select the Paint Brush Tool. Now, select a new color from the Color Panel. If you try to paint anywhere on a blank area of the document, nothing will happen.

Instead, paint over the purple brush stroke. Depending on the brush used, you may need to brush over the area a few times. Just like that, the color has been changed and only the painted area is affected.

Paint with Protect Alpha active Affinity

The advanced brush settings in Affinity Photo are an invaluable tool for editing. Always keep in mind to duplicate a brush if you intend editing the settings. Get creative and add more options to your brush library. There is no limit to the number of creative opportunities for brushes in Affinity Photo.

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