How to Turn on Pressure Sensitivity in Photoshop

Want to create a realistic drawing in Photoshop? Then you absolutely get the pressure sensitivity feature working. 

Hey there! I’m Cara, and as a photographer, I usually talk about photo manipulation and editing topics here on Photoshop Buzz. Today, however, I’m going to take a moment for the artists who draw/paint. Yes, the folks with talent oozing out of their fingers never cease to amaze me. 

With a graphics tablet and Photoshop, artists can easily transition to creating digital art, using the same techniques they always have and a few new ones! Of course, you need the right settings for this to work and a big one is the pressure sensitivity. 

So, let’s look at how to turn on pressure sensitivity in Photoshop! 

Note: I use the Windows version of Photoshop. If you are using a Mac, the workspace will look slightly different from the screenshots displayed here.

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What is Pressure Sensitivity?

Now that we know how to turn pressure sensitivity on, let’s back up a little and talk about what it is.

Pressure sensitivity is a feature that makes your digital drawing experience mimic your drawing experience with pen and paper. 

As an artist, you know that you place differing amounts of pressure on your drawing or painting utensil according to how you want your stroke to appear. You push harder if you want your line to be fatter or darker. And you use a light touch when you want a faint stroke or a thin line. 

The pressure sensitivity feature in Photoshop allows you to mimic this with your graphics tablet. While you can control the intensity of your tool with settings like Flow and Opacity in the program, it’s a pain to be changing those all the time as you work. 

How to Use Pressure Sensitivity in Photoshop

To turn on pressure sensitivity, you first need to find the brush settings panel. There are a few ways you can get to it. 

Step 1: One way is to press B on the keyboard or choose the Brush tool from the toolbar on the left.

Then click on the folder to the right of the brush preset picker in the Options bar.

This will open the Brush Settings panel.

Alternatively, you can go to Window in the menu bar and choose Brush Settings from the menu. Or simply press F5 on the keyboard. 

Step 2: Change the Control Setting. Once you’re in the Brush Settings panel, look for Shape Dynamics on the right side of the box. Click on it to switch to this set of configurations.

Just to the right, you’ll see a box marked Control under the Size Jitter setting near the top. Open the menu and choose Pen Pressure from the dropdown. 

Make a couple of test strokes with your tablet pen and you should see that the strokes are wider when you press harder and narrower when you stroke lightly.

Now, the thickness of your line isn’t the only thing you can control with pressure sensitivity. You can also control various other settings with pressure. 

In the same menu, notice there are Control boxes for both Angle Jitter and Roundness Jitter. Pen Pressure appears as an option for both.

You’ll find the control settings for Flow and Opacity under the Transfer tab as well as various others under Scattering, Texture, and Color Dynamics.

So, play around with the different settings to understand how each affects your pen strokes. This is guaranteed to positively affect your drawing experience!

Having this control directly in your writing utensil is far more efficient. Plus, all the various options that you can control depending on which settings you apply to Pen Pressure are helpful ways to speed up and augment your writing process.

How Important is Pressure Sensitivity?

Pressure sensitivity is immensely important for anyone who is drawing freehand in Photoshop. 

Stopping and making manual adjustments every time you want to change a setting is time-consuming. Not to mention that you can’t change anything seamlessly midstroke. 

Pressure sensitivity takes care of this problem. You can change the pressure of your pen as you draw and seamlessly affect the setting you want to adjust. It’s a huge part of a frustration-free digital drawing experience!

Drawing in Photoshop

Curious to learn more about digital drawing? Learn a little more about if Photoshop is good for drawing in this article.

Pressure sensitivity is extremely important for anybody who wants to draw with a pen in Photoshop. But what about those of us who aren’t artistically blessed with pens and brushes? Photoshop has a solution for us. Check out how to turn a photograph into a drawing in this tutorial!

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