When working on a bitmap image in Photoshop, I often need to make changes to individual pixels, such as using the Paintbrush to change the colour. This would typically involve zooming into the maximum level possible - 3200% - then using a 1px brush to paint the individual pixels, as seen below. However, this has the unwanted effect of also changing the colour of the surrounding pixels to a lesser degree.

enter image description here

How can I avoid this behaviour to modify the properties of only a single pixel? I've come across the workaround of creating a 1px x 1px fixed size selection around the pixel as I'm working on it, thereby preventing the surrounding pixels from being affected, but this seems like a convoluted, time-consuming hack more than a real solution. Is there nothing in Photoshop designed for this purpose - or at the very least, a hack or plugin that would be less time-consuming?

  • You don't have a true bitmap image there. A bitmap image won't have any gray pixels. It looks like the anti-aliasing of a grayscale image is what's throwing you off. Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 19:52
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    @GoofyMonkey: what are you talking about? Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 21:16
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    @GoofyMonkey A bitmap/raster image is simply an image composed of pixels, as opposed to a vector image, which is composed of mathematical lines and curves. Colour has absolutely no correlation as to whether an image is a bitmap or not, at least not as far as I know. Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 23:49
  • I have already forgotten most of Photoshop features since I haven't used it for long time, but I think there's a "hardness" parameter for Brush tool?
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 9:37
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    The Wikipedia article indicates 'bitmap' is commonly used to refer to pixmaps. In 25 years of using computers, this is the first time I've come across the pixmap/bitmap distinction. Pretty much everybody uses "bitmap" when they want to specify that an image is composed of pixels rather than vectors.
    – Hobbes
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 18:05

1 Answer 1


You'll want to use the Pencil tool instead of Brush tool. It allows you to do pixel level edits without any anti-aliasing (the fuzzy area). It's located below the Brush tool or can be accessed by repeatedly pressingShift+B until it cycles around.

  • Thank you, that does the job perfectly. Is there any particular technical reason that the results from the brush are inherently anti-aliased? Could Adobe not have made this possible with the brush too? Do competing products work in the same way? Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 23:51
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    @Hashim There is no technical reason brush couldn't be the pen tool (then people using brush would use another tool for brushing and your question would be is there a reason why X isnt Y etc). But then the brush tool would be bad for brushwork as it couldn't account for sub pixel accuracy. So you in fact need both for different reasons.
    – joojaa
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 10:30
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    @Hashim Subpixel brushes are great for photomanipulation.
    – joojaa
    Commented Feb 25, 2018 at 8:37

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