Artists have their go-to software when it comes to digital painting and drawing, and some people even use multiple apps to get specific effects they like from one app that might not be available in another. We meet lots of people at events who tell us what they like about SketchBook and what they like about Photoshop, which isn’t an app that’s specifically made for drawing and painting but that is sometimes a mouse click away — especially for people who do graphic design or illustration for a living. We’re obviously biased toward using our own app, but we also know that some people actually prefer to use both apps, sometimes in conjunction. We wanted to put together a comprehensive tutorial for Photoshop vs. SketchBook that shows how they work for a few different kinds of people:
- People making the switch to SketchBook from Photoshop. This tutorial can help you spot the differences and make a quicker transition.
- People who use both apps: This tutorial is handy if you’re one of those people who prefer to start in one app and finish in the other, either because it’s been part of your workflow forever or because you like how one specific tool works in one of the apps.
- People who have some familiarity with image editing tools in apps like Photoshop (or Corel or Pixelmator, etc.) and are ready to try something more creative with brushes and paint.
I’m going through some of the major points on the blog in a series of posts to share my take on the essential tools and functions in SketchBook and how they compare in Photoshop. Getting familiar with these tools can allow for seamlessly painting without having technical distractions. Today, I just want to focus on the thing people ask about the most: brushes. (If you want to look closer at any of these images, click through to show the image at its largest size.)
Brush Sizing in Photoshop vs. SketchBook
Sizing is straightforward in both apps. For SketchBook, we built a puck that you can use with a pen to quickly drag to increase/decrease your brush size (moving up/down changes opacity). Photoshop is similar when it comes to resizing, only it’s part of its own submenu.
Brush Library & Brush Presets
Photoshop has brush presets that are roughly similar to SketchBook, although they do look very different. SketchBook brushes have larger icons and a more visually rich menu, probably because SketchBook is geared specifically toward drawing while Photoshop has a lot of other uses besides drawing; Adobe has to squeeze a lot of functionality into smaller submenus so you might need to drill down a bit more. But functionally the brushes are not all that different. You can create, delete, and customize each brush. You can also import/export brush sets in both apps.
In Photoshop you view one set at a time, although you can append other sets into one large selection of brushes if you like. SketchBook lets you optionally organize, name, and upload thumbnail images for your brushes, which is something art-supply lovers (people who connect with the idea of real-world tools) seem to enjoy. It also has a way to pin brush sets to a working palette. One big difference between these apps, though: Both have their own formats for brushes (.skb vs. .abr) so you can’t upload a brush set from one app into the other. That could change in the future, but for now each app sticks with its own proprietary format. (You can find lots of free Photoshop brushes around the Internet, and we release new free brush sets every week on this blog.)
Customization in both apps is very robust. SketchBook has pressure control for each brush; but in Photoshop you have options for color/hue and brightness randomness. Just like in Photoshop, the eraser in SketchBook is a separate brush. One important thing to note: SketchBook does not have a dedicated Key press for the eraser (“E” in Photoshop). So if you’re used to that option, you might want to use the “S” key in SketchBook. It handily switches between the two last-used brushes (“S” is for “Switch”). If you need to erase a lot, you actually might like the way the S key toggles back and forth in this way as if you were using a pencil and flipping it to the eraser at the touch of a button.
Another thing to note: You can assign custom hotkeys in SketchBook. So if you’re used to having a keyboard shortcut for an erasing brush, here’s a quick hack that lets you have both of these options: In SketchBook there is a hotkey slot
Synthetic Brush vs. Mixer Brush
The synthetic brush in SketchBook pushes/pulls and blends paint together as you create strokes on the canvas. The amount of blending, stamping of the texture, and other effects are based on values you can adjust in the brush properties. This can be compared to the Mixer Brush tool in Photoshop. Both act and simulate “wet” paint in which the flow and wetness can be changed. Both are useful for creating traditional looking paintings, although SketchBook offers a bit more customization in the details. As you can see in the screenshots, you can load up the wetness or define the details even further if you have a specific type of real-world paintbrush you’re trying to mimic.
Those are the differences and similarities in brushes. Overall, there’s a lot more in common than there is different between these two apps, so you should have no trouble moving from one to the other. If you like to have this kind of information handy, download the full Photoshop to SketchBook PDF tutorial. It’s a thorough comparison of both apps that goes way beyond brushes for people who like to know all the details. It will help you plan a switch or just keep you on the same page if you’re a power user who likes to use both apps to create your art.
***Follow up reading is our in-depth comparison of Photoshop vs SketchBook seen HERE.