How to make Photoshop Brushes

Sometimes, learning how to make Photoshop brushes can come in handy because there will be cases where the default Photoshop brush heads may not be enough. The process is actually very quick and painless. It just needs a source to be defined as a brush.

For this lesson, there are two ways to create these brushes: drawing it or creating it from an existing picture. I will go over both methods. This information is invaluable because it creates brushes that are in sync with one's work flow. The rest is learning how to use the Photoshop brushes created.

Although faster, there is no need to grab external brush packs if only a few are needed. The second advantage of knowing how to make Photoshop brushes is that it gives an opportunity to create an artistic package that could be sold if it is useful.

However, before making any new brushes from a custom shape, it is actually a good idea to explore what is available in Photoshop internally. I think it's best to start from the beginning using a freshly opened up blank document.

How to make Photoshop brushes with default options

First, set up the workspace. On the top right hand corner of the screen, there is a drop down menu that lists the common workspace that Photoshop is capable of handling. For artists, 'painting' should be selected to open up the right options.

Out of the all the available mini tabs and windows, 'brush presets' will allow anyone to quickly access popular settings for that particular brush type while the 'brush' window changes brush behavior to align it with the drawing stylus.

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It's a good idea to test out each individual option to see how it behaves and make a mental note of it as these can be applied to most drawing tools like the erase, smudge tool, etc. Lastly, for how the brush behaves when applying color, experiment and make a mental note with the following blend modes:

Color Burn
Linear Burn
Color Dodge
Linear Dodge
Soft Light
Hard Light
Vivid Light
Linear Light
Pin Light
Hard Mix

How to make Photoshop brushes: saving presets

As for the brush heads, there are a few that are hidden from the default view. To gain access to these brushes, click on the drop down menu in the 'brush preset' window to open up custom brushes. Unfortunately, there's no quick way to view all of the available brushes at once.

The user must select each individual category to view the brushes. There may be even repeating brushes in multiple categories. The idea is to go over what is already built in before making a custom brush. I know I have been pleasantly surprised to find a few in there that works for a drawing.

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Ideally, I would save a profile that has all the brushes for drawing and then slowly add to it as time goes by. It is important to save this profile constantly as switching to new categories will override the current brush profile. As for the individual brushes, I always edit a presets before anything else.

Presets are very powerful in that it can be applied to many other brushes. This will require some trial and error based on the drawing and is unique to the artist's work flow. Again, once a preset has been identified to have worked with a drawing, save it!

How to make Photoshop brushes: from a shape

When building new brushes from scratch that are not available in Photoshop, there are two ways to go about it: manually draw it out or create one through existing sources. To illustrate the first method, I have drawn a random shape on a new layer.

The next step is to define the area. I use a square lasso tool. If the are is not defined properly, Photoshop will treat the entire drawing canvas as the area. The rest is pretty easy. Just go to Edit > Define Brush Presets... and then name the brush.

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The brush will appear as a new preset in the brush and the brush preset window. This is exactly why it is important to understand the brush preset window and what can be done with it. Now the newly made brush can be edited to fit the drawing work flow.

One more important key to keep in mind is transparency. Defining the brush as a object will also pickup any transparency of the original shape. So if there is a shape that doesn't need to have any see-through effects, make sure the object is solid before using the brush preset option.

How to make Photoshop brushes: from a picture

To save time, the second method in learning how to make Photoshop brushes involves creating a object brush from existing sources like picture files. I only do this if there are predefined shapes from the real world I want to use but do not wish to draw it out.

To change the picture into a viable brush definition, the first thing to do is change it into a gray scale tone to emphasize the dark and light areas. The option to change it to gray scale can be found in Images > Adjustments > Desaturate.

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Once the picture has been removed of all colors, the next stop is to emphasize the light and shadows. Basically, any whiten areas become picked up by Photoshop as not being part of the brush while the darken areas do.

While there are may ways, one of the best methods for finding this difference between light and darken areas is going into Images > Adjustments > Curves…and adjust the balance in there. Finally, after all that is done, go to Edit > Define Brush Preset…to define the brush.

As mentioned, once the brush is created, it is automatically located in the brush presets panel of the program. From there, change the parameters of each brush to suit the drawing and always make sure to save it.

What other opportunities is there for creating brushes? Those with experience in Photoshop have noticed that the default brushes aren't that great for doing foliage, rust stains, clothing materials, etc. When the opportunity arises, be glad that creating custom brushes can be this easy.