by Weston Maggio

Turning Back Time in Photoshop With the History Brush and a Wacom Tablet

In most cases, hands-down the best way to undo a workflow step in Photoshop is to use the Undo command (Cmd/Ctrl + Z). That is, of course, if all you need to do is “undo” the last step you performed. By adding the Option or Alt key to the previous shortcut combination, you can Step Backward through your history states. That is, the last 20 or so steps that you performed. (Photoshop maintains a rolling list of the last 20 steps performed by default.) These history states can be seen in the History panel.

Another popular way of stepping back in time is by using the Fade command (Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + F). This essentially lets you Undo the last step performed using a slider. Simply dial-in the percentage of the last effect created and you're on your way back to the past. For example, lets say you made a Levels adjustment to your image, but the effect is a bit too strong. You can use Fade to adjust the percentage from 0 to 100 percent effect. Similar to Undo, this option only applies to the very last step performed. 

With a Wacom tablet, however, one of the most useful ways to turn back time is by using the History Brush. The History Brush lets you selectively apply a history state. More to the point, it let’s you paint back to previous version of your image’s appearance. What makes the History Brush truly powerful is the combination of its effect with a pressure sensitive pen. 

Let’s say you apply a filter to an image and you like its effect for the most part, but you’d like to retain a bit of the original appearance of the image. By selecting the History Brush tool with a soft round brush tip, and then setting opacity control to pen pressure, you can selectively paint back to that state. By pressing lightly with your pen to the tablet, you bring back a subtle version of the previous state. When you press harder you bring back a more opaque version of the appearance.

You can draw some comparison to this selective method with the Fade command. Painting with the History Brush allows you to brush on varying percentages of opacity, controlled by the physical amount of pressure that press your pen to the tablet.

Check out the video below to get some fresh ideas on how the use of this fairly fundamental tool can benefit your workflow.


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