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Step back in History

The History Brush lets you paint previous states of the current document over the current state.This makes it a powerful tool for selectively applying filters to an image.

The History Brush seems a bit of a mysterious tool in the Photoshop toolbox for both newcomer and veteran alike, and for that reason is one that often gets overlooked. This is usually because veteran Photoshoppers have got used to the way Photoshop used to work before the advent of the History Brush and old habits die hard.

But it's worth getting to know this unusual tool because, together with its indispensable partner the History palette, it should turn out to be a total delight to any newcomer.

Every time you perform an action, such as painting a stroke, applying a filter, or deleting a layer, that step is stored in the History palette as a 'state'. By clicking on any of these, you can return your document to the state it was in at that point. Now, here's the best bit - by clicking on the small icon box next to a history state in the History palette, you earmark that layer as the source for the History Brush. When you then paint on the image with the History Brush only those pixels will be returned back to the earmarked state.

History and Undo

So what's the difference between Undo and History?

Photoshop 5 onwards has two kinds of undo.There's the normal [Ctrl]+[Z] undo ([Command]+[Z] on a Mac),which undoes and redoes the last action you performed.This can be handy to flip back and forth, checking the result of your last action.There is also History. You can step backwards in History using [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[Z] (that's [Command]+[Alt]+[Z] for Mac users). By repeatedly pressing this shortcut, you step back further and further through the history. To go forwards again press [Ctrl/Command]+[Shift]+[Z]. Set the number of states stored in History by going to Preferences > General and entering a new number in the History States field.

You can set Photoshop's maximum number of History states from the General section in Preferences

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