The BrushKnob USB dial wants to help you speed up your Photoshop workflow

Jun 14, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

The BrushKnob USB dial wants to help you speed up your Photoshop workflow

Jun 14, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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External dials and gizmos have been common in the movie industry for years.  Their sole purpose in live is to help speed up workflow and productivity, assisting with things like editing and colour grading.  Now, they’re starting to become more popular for the regular desktop and stills editing with Photoshop.

BrushKnob, developed by Japanese concept artist, Wataru Kami, is a very inexpensive attempt to bring this kind of capability to the masses, releasing the entire project as OpenSource; circuit, code & all.

Plugging the device into your computer recognises a standard USB HID (Human Interface Device), requiring no extra drivers, containing just two buttons.  These then are mapped in Photoshop the way you’d set a regular keyboard shortcut.  No muss, no fuss.

BKIsWorking_min

Because it’s seen as a standard USB keyboard, this means that you’re not just limited to Photoshop.  Many other applications can have keyboard shortcuts remapped to utilise the device.  Here it’s shown in Blender 3D to allow a quick rotation around an object within a scene.

BKWithBlender

I think for this particular example, it’s probably still less hassle to just click your wheel and move your mouse to rotate around your scene, but it still holds a lot of potential for Blender 3D, especially for fine control of shader nodes, for example.

Sure, there are other options available, like Palette, but many of those options are beyond the budgets of a lot of users (or at least, beyond what they’re willing to spend).  If you need ultra cheap, then you could always go the DIY option with a USB Gamepad, but that can be a little unwieldy when already trying to balance between a wacom tablet and keyboard shortcuts.

The BrushKnob seems to be a nice balance between the two.

The entire project being OpenSource also means that you can also have a go at building your own, and customise it however you like.

Based around the Atmel ATtiny85 microprocessor, adding more functionality and modifying the code for extra buttons and dials should be pretty straightforward for anybody with AVR programming experience.

Do you want a second dial to adjust the feather of the brush or eraser?  Want three dials for controlling lift, gamma and gain separately in video editing software?  Or a bunch of controls to completely replace your regular keyboard shortcuts in your software of choice?  Well, now you can.

While the information is freely available via GitHub for you to make your own, Kami has started an Indiegogo campaign to fund a small production run of these units for less electronically-inclined.

With 18 days left, the campaign has raised 69% of its target.  BrushKnobs are only $28 each and are expected to ship out in October.

What do you think?  Have you already jumped on the new wave of USB controllers? Or are you sticking with the more traditional keyboard & mouse/Wacom combo?  Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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22 responses to “The BrushKnob USB dial wants to help you speed up your Photoshop workflow”

  1. Sylvain Clement Avatar
    Sylvain Clement

    That’s a joke?? Right clic+ Alt then mouse your mousse left/right. Thez know it??

    1. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      For that particular example, I kinda tend to agree, but then I’m also using Photoshop on the desktop. But there are a million things in Photoshop that can have shortcuts assigned to them. There are many other areas where one might want to use a device such as this.

      Sometimes, however, holding down alt and right clicking isn’t even possible. If you’re using a tablet without a keyboard, for example.

    2. Sylvain Clement Avatar
      Sylvain Clement

      I could be agree if this devise has at least 4 keys for some non assignable features. On each tablet you have some mapped keys to assign Alt, Ctrl and so on.

    3. Sylvain Clement Avatar
      Sylvain Clement

      Sorry for my English

    4. Nicolas Racine Avatar
      Nicolas Racine

      You do realise the potential is bigger than just adjusting brush size? Have you read the article or just looked at the visual?

    5. Federico Garcia Avatar
      Federico Garcia

      I agree is a bit pointless as you can do anything with keyboard shortcuts, it could be cool to change brush size..

  2. Tweakie Avatar
    Tweakie

    might as well just use a touch screen for minor tweaks…

  3. Jeremy Avatar
    Jeremy

    I like this idea, especially for Lightroom common functions. Are they/will they be “stackable”?

  4. ajbatac Avatar
    ajbatac

    How does this one differ from this? http://palettegear.com

  5. Tac Coluccio Avatar
    Tac Coluccio

    Palette is much better

    1. Palette Avatar
      Palette

      Thank you for the support Tac! :)

    2. Tac Coluccio Avatar
      Tac Coluccio

      Palette You’re welcome, l’m an original Kickstarter pledger and still use more basic kit all the time. Love your products, just wish they were a little less expensive so I could get more!

  6. thomas Avatar
    thomas

    Hasn’t griffen done this and with a bit more style.. https://support.griffintechnology.com/product/powermate/

  7. Lawrence Timmons Avatar
    Lawrence Timmons

    use a Griffin Powermate – much better

  8. Rick Avatar
    Rick

    So can any of the hackers out there offer a DIY version? It would make a good post for this forum. It looks to be less than about $5 in parts.

  9. David Halliday Avatar
    David Halliday

    Either Paddy (Win) or Knobroom (Mac) with a Behringer Fader BCF2000 – more money but much more versatility.

  10. Paul Allen Avatar
    Paul Allen

    Using one of those button heavy midi controllers seems better

  11. Graeme Simpson Avatar
    Graeme Simpson

    i don’t get why you need to move your hand away from a keyboard to grab this device to do what you can do just as quick on your keyboard? I don’t see how it can speed up your process. I loved the look of palette andf possibly wished i’d jumped on board when it first launched but it’s too expensive now but looking at it I just don’t see a need.

  12. Stereo Reverb Avatar
    Stereo Reverb

    As a retoucher, neither this nor it’s competitors works, since one hand is always spent holding a pen stylus and the other on the keyboard switching out brushes and such. Taking your hand off the keyboard to reach for a controller destroys your workflow.

    Where a rolling device would become incredibly useful is if there was a foot switch (like the “wah” guitar pedals, where you can move a plate up or down like a see-saw so control the brush size.) Behringer makes a midi guitar pedal floor unit (FCB1010) that works great for mapping it’s switches to various tool items and Actions, however getting the wah pedals to smoothly resize brushes is so far a mystery on how to do.

    1. ext237 Avatar
      ext237

      Agreed. I had a Griffin PowerMate and it just wasn’t useful. Multi-touch and programable gestures on the Mighty Mouse renders this kinda thing into desktop clutter.

      1. Stereo Reverb Avatar
        Stereo Reverb

        Take a look at the Behringer FCB1010 midi footpedal. I can’t remember the midi software i use with it offhand, but it’s freeware. The footpedal has 10 midi footpedals and you can switch to another set of banks, so in total you have 100 banks. I have mine set to run specific actions and keyboard macros in photoshop (it’ll work in any app, really), I also have a set of pedals mapped to increase/decrease the size of my brush, which is a huge timesaver.

        I put a small strip of grip tape on the pedals so i can locate the one i want by feel alone. Let’s you keep one hand on the keyboard and the other on your wacom pen- you won’t ever have to take your eyes off the screen again as you work.

        http://www.musiciansfriend.com/keyboards-midi/behringer-fcb1010-midi-footcontroller

  13. Pierre Schiller Avatar
    Pierre Schiller

    This dial with 2 custom keys is any 2d animator’s dream come true. Push the stylus, right click the stylus.. to get menus or functions on the screen…
    I mean, c’mon, my left hand is literally sitting doing nothing when drawing 2d animation. I need this!