How to Create Custom Brushes in Photoshop

Apr 17th, 2017
Malyse McKinnon

The default brushes in Photoshop don’t have much variety, and it can sometimes feel like there isn’t much to work with. You can remedy this by making your own brushes – adding new brushes and experimenting with textures is easy to do in Photoshop. Brushes can be made using images, shapes, or brush strokes in the program. Exploring with other art materials will add even more depth to your brush tool box.

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to help you get started.

Method 1: Make your custom brush with the “Brush” tool

1. To start, you can use any canvas size – but when drawing or using an image, try to work big. Details while brush resizing tend to be more visible and intact when it’s created as a larger pixel size.

2. In Layers, make a new layer without a background. This helps make selecting the new shape easier.

3. Draw or place an image. You can work with a file or a brush that has color, but the file product will translate to black and white (where the black or any color variation is the brush). Changing your file and strokes to black and white settings will give a better preview of the results – but feel free to experiment!

4. Select your object using the selection tool.

5. Then go to “Edit” in the top bar menu and choose “Define Brush Preset”.

6. Name your new brush, and it will be added to your Brush Preset list.

7. Congratulations! A new brush is born. You can now further adjust your brush in the Brush Panel. Change the angle, add spacing, anything you want!

Method 2: Have art supplies? Explore more with mediums

1. Use old sponges, inks, pens, paints, pencils – anything to experiment with finding new textures.
On paper, make an assortment of spaced out strokes, blobs, and shapes. When they’re dry, scan the paper with a scanner; or take a good photo using your phone. Get a consistent background (a white or black background is best).

2. After you create a file, open it in Photoshop.

3. The background color will need to be removed. The quickest way to do this is to go to “Layer” in the top bar menu and choose “Layer Style”, then “Blending Options…”. Next, in the Layer Styles menu, go down to “Blend If.” Move the arrows along the gradient controls bar. If you have a white background use the white arrow, if there is a black background use the black arrow. Adjust it until the background color is gone.

If the edges around your objects seems harsh, hold the Option/alt key to split the arrow. This allows to have more precision with blending.

4. After removing the background color, select your object with the selection or lasso tool.

5. Go to “Edit” in the top bar menu and choose “Define Brush Preset”.

6. Name your new brush. It will also be added to your Brush Preset list.

7. Another new brush for your toolkit!

Save all your brushes in a folder. You can even make a materials library from photos, scanned accidental smudges, or happy accidents. Have an arsenal ready when inspiration strikes! See what you can create by adding your own artistic touch to Photoshop.

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