How to Create Custom Brushes in Photoshop

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: Create a custom brush with the “Brush” tool

1. To start, you can use any canvas size, however, when drawing or using an image, try to work on a large canvas. Details while brush resizing tend to be more visible and stay intact when brushes are created using 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 drawing that has color, but the image will translate to black and white (wherein the black or color variation becomes the brush pattern). For best results, play around with the contrast of the image to get a better idea of the results.

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! You’ve just created a new brush. You can now further adjust your brush in the Brush Panel. Change the angle, add spacing, anything you want!

Method 2: Create a custom brush with traditional media

1. Use old sponges, inks, pens, paints, pencils — anything to experiment with finding new textures.

On paper, make an assortment 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, select Layer Style, and then Blending Options. Next, in the Blending Options menu, go down to Blend If. Move the arrows along the gradient bar. If you have a white background, use the white arrow; if you have a black background, use the black arrow. Adjust the layer background until the background color is gone. Check to make sure the box next to Preview is checked, so you can see how your alterations affect the image.

If the edges around your objects seems harsh, hold the Option/alt key to split the arrow. This will allow you 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. Now you have another new brush for your toolkit!

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

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