Artist Resources

How to Create Photoshop Brushes

Make Some Noise

Along with being a world-class image editor, Adobe Photoshop is also well known for it’s digital painting capability. The brush tools that are available have become more advanced over the years, and are helping the program becoming a powerful tool for concept and fine artists alike. While there are many amazing free and paid brushes available, those created by Kyle T Webster are some of our favorites, it’s easy and fun to make your own custom brushes.

"Death and Silence" by rfortes

Step 1: The first thing you want to do is collect or create some source material that can be turned into brushes. This can be photos of a wall texture, scans of worn paper, or even ink marks on a piece of paper. For this tutorial we  made some marks using black fluid acrylics and a simple foam brush. Try making a variety of marks, focusing on texture and definition. The size of the marks will dictate how big the brushes can be, so play around with a few different sizes as well.

Step 2: Once your ink marks are dry, scan them into your computer at roughly 300-600 DPI. You want to capture as much detail as possible. You’ll notice in the scan below, we have a variety of marks on a single piece of paper. Once the ink marks are isolated from the background, each mark can be turned into an individual brush.

Step 3: There are many ways to isolate the black pixels. However, this method makes it easy to extract the ink marks and see exactly what pixels are being hidden. To do this go to Layer>Layer Style>Blending Options. In the popup, you want to adjust the slider that is shown in the image below. Moving this slider to the left will hide the white pixels. To make this easier, zoom-in to your image before adjusting the slider. Again, try to capture as much detail as you can before clicking OK.

Step 4: You will notice that there is no need to copy the black pixels to a new layer. The white pixels have simply been hidden from the main background layer. If you need to adjust the selection a bit more, the icon featured in the layer panel denotes that adjustments have been made, and if you double click this icon you can make further adjustments.

Using the marquee tool, select one of the marks you want to turn into a brush. Once you have made your selection go to Edit>Define Brush Preset. A popup window will allow you to name the new brush. You can now continue through the document and define each mark as a new brush.

Step 5: It’s time to test your new brush. By default the brush will not have any adjustments that alter the rotation, size, jitter, and so on. It can be painted with, but will repeat as shown in the image below. Depending on the brush, no adjustments may be necessary, especially if the brush is a large texture that is meant to be placed once over an illustration.

However, if you do want to adjust the brush dynamics, go to Window>Brush (f5) or click the brush icon in the tool bar. In the brush palette adjust the settings using the preview to see how your brush will behave. The example below shows what a little bit of spacing, size, and angle jitter can affect the brush.

Finish: As you can see below, the adjustments made to the brush give it a more painterly feel when used. This is ideal for creating brushes that will simulate cross-hatching or stipple for example. Your new brush is ready to use, and even to share with others. Photoshop brushes can also be made using Adobe Capture CC for your mobile phone (iOS, Android). Have fun!

Did you find the tutorial helpful? Please let us know in the comments below, and share any tips you might have.

Make Some Noise


Photographer, art historian, freelance writer, and Community Manager here at Redbubble.