Photoshop Custom Brush

When creating digital artwork, there are many software applications that you should have in your arsenal. One of the most fun is Corel Painter. It does an excellent job of simulating traditional media and allows you to create very natural looking artwork. Photoshop can also be a powerful medium for fine art painting, but out of the box, it doesn't posses the same tools for imitating natural media as Painter. One of the keys to successfully using Photoshop to create digital art is the ability to create custom brushes to achieve the technique you want. Your brushes can simulate oils, watercolors, acrylics, or any other type of media. They can also be shapes that possess grainy or wash effects. In the following example, we are going to create a fine oil brush, and armed with the knowledge of creating this one, you should be able to make your own brushes using the same techniques. (For your convenience, the source materials used in this tutorial are available for download at the end of the article.)

To begin creating your fine oil brush, open a new document approximately 300 pixels by 300 pixels with a solid white background. Start by creating a new layer. Working on this layer with a black color and a solid brush, create a series of horizontal lines in a random pattern in uneven strokes. You can see them in the picture below.

Brush Sketch

Once you have created those on the new layer, go to edit under the main menu and select "define a brush set". You can give it a name or rename it at a later time; it doesn't really matter, and select OK. Now create a new document, 1200 pixels by 1200 pixels. Create a new layer. If you draw with your new brush, you'll see that you don't really get anything other than a repetition of the image that you just drew. What we want to do now is alter the brush settings using the brush preset palette.

Dual Brush

The first thing we would like to do is select dual brush, and from the brush chart, choose the same brush that you just created. We will use the dual brush setting to control the amount of ink or paint that our brush will lay down. We can also use it to control the scattering depending on what blending modes we select. For now, select hard mix as the blending mode and set spacing to 25%, scatter to 0, and count to 3.

Dual Brush

Shape Dynamics

Under shape dynamics, we want to set size jitter at 32%, leave angle jitter at 0, but set the control to direction, and set roundness jitter to 80% with the minimum roundness to18%. The important function here is having our "stroke" follow our brush. By choosing direction as the control, the horizontal lines you used to create your brush will always be drawn in the direction your brush is traveling.



Now we would like to go to scattering, turn scattering on and set scatter to 19%, the count to 2, and count jitter to 0.


Color Dynamics

Under color dynamics, set foreground and background jitter to about 87% and set the control to fade. At the box to the right of control, enter the number 70. By setting the control to fade, we are telling our brush to start with our foreground color and fade into the background color. The number specifies how quickly this happens. A smaller number is a shorter transition, and a larger number indicates a longer transition. Under hue jitter select 5%. The hue jitter adds a little random hue variation. Under brightness jitter, select 5%. This will add a small amount of contrast in our brush strokes. Leave purity at zero. Moving the purity slider to the right will add saturation to your selected colors, while moving it to the left will make them more pastel. This can provide a really nice effect, but the drawback is that it alters your selected colors. Leaving purity at 0 insures that you paint with the exact same colors you specify.


Finally, check the brushes for airbrush and protect texture.

Now, if you test your brush, you should find you get a brush stroke similar to that of an oil brush. The color will fade quickly from the foreground color to the background. The important thing here is what colors you select. If you select white to be your foreground color and set your background color to the color you in which you wish to paint, you get a nice fade of color as if you are dabbing a brush full of paint onto the canvas. Using colors that are found in natural paints will make your oil brush feel more natural. Another trick is to lower the flow value to about 20%. This will slow the amount of paint coming off your brush.

Altering the settings we just made will result in variations of the same brush. You may choose to make slight variations, or you may create a brush that behaves very differently. One important step before experimenting is to save your new brush. Take warning, altering settings or choosing a different brush will make all the steps taken above disappear forever. Open the brush palette, and select the icon that looks like a paper with the corner folded down. Enter a name for your brush and save it as a preset.

One more tip: Let's say you have perfect settings for your brush, but you want a different shape. Set the brush with the perfect settings as the current brush. Create the new shape, define the brush preset, and when you check the boxes for shape dynamics, scatter, etc the default values will be the same as the previous brush. That is a very big time saver!

Hopefully this tutorial has been of help, and has you all excited about creating your own brushes! Feel free to download the brush shape (saved as a psd), and the final brush.

Download Brush Shape

Download Brush


Creating a Custom Brush

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