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Affinity Brush panel enhancements

In this article, we’ll have a look at what’s new in version 2.1 of the Affinity Photo and Designer Brushes panel and how these additions improve digital image manipulation workflows.

What’s new and why does it matter?

One of the most commonly used tools in layer-based editing is the Paint Brush Tool–and for good reasons! Whether used to add colour or working with layer masks to either hide or reveal portions of adjustments, enhance objects or add effects, its applications go as far as your imagination can take you.

For the most part, you probably already know how to use the brushes with their numerous options within the panel. However, Affinity Photo and Designer 2.1 bring a considerable number of updates to what’s already available and loved. The new enhancements are not just cosmetic and have been carefully conceived with you–the creative–in mind.

The new Brushes panel in Affinity version 2.1

Modifying brush settings

The first update to the UI in the Brushes panel is the visual indication of the modified brush state. If modified via the More button on the context toolbar (on desktop) or via the field value (on iPad), the currently selected brush temporary change is indicated by the red outline and the red dot in the panel. This is very useful in workflows where multiple brushes are used and where you need to keep track of your edits, especially when building up composited pieces with multiple strokes.

Red outline and dot indicating temporary brush settings change

Update and Reset Brush

Once you’ve modified a brush and you’d like to keep the changes made to it, the new Update Brush option allows you to save them, i.e. overwrite the defaults–now every time you return to that brush, its modifications will be maintained.

Additionally, if at a later stage (or perhaps when starting a new project) you would like to revert to the settings the brush originally shipped with, simply select Reset Brush from its list of options.

Update and Reset Brush settings

Auto-scroll functionality

The next update lets you keep track of your recently used brush and return to it after swapping tools, for example. This is great, especially in complex workflows as you can rely on Affinity apps to remember the last used brush and mark it for further use. Look for the Auto-scroll entry in the panel’s options.

You’ll also find a new Auto-switch option–this controls whether the brush list switches to the category containing the selected brush after selecting a different tool, for example.

The layer which has been painted on is, as before, indicated in the stack with a little brush icon–a great visual prompt to ensure you stay informed about your edits.

Layers panel with the layer painted on

Viewing brushes

Brushes panel on desktop improvements

Not all brushes are created equal–some are basic in texture and shape, whereas others, the more complex ones, may have been created based on textures, images or patterns. The brush type may affect its visibility in the panel, therefore to be able to see them all clearly (especially on smaller screens) may be a challenge. The new version of Affinity Photo and Designer, however, come with a solution. In the new version, it is now possible to display brushes either as a list or tiles–no more guessing or making mistakes when selecting a brush from within the panel!

Show as List option in the new Brushes panel on desktop

Show brush names

You might already be familiar with the Brushes panel in Affinity apps, and you’re likely to know which brushes are your favourite ones because you use them often, and that’s great! Every so often, however, even the best of us forget which particular brush in the stack is the one we would like to pick again. This next update rids of that guessing game, particularly if you’re new to working with brushes, and you’ll definitely find it helpful. You can now see brushes in their categories with names displayed underneath–look for the Show Brush Names entry in the panel’s options.

The Brushes panel showing brush names

Wrapping up

With the above enhancements to Affinity Photo and Designer’s Brushes panel, it’s never been easier to stay organised and informed during your creative process. Whether on desktop or iPad, try them out and see what changes they bring to your workflow!