Brush Palette

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Creating Custom Brushes
It has come to my attention that I may be guilty of pre-supposing that everyone knows already that they have more than one brush palette and where the palettes are located in the Adobe program folder.

So I've written these pages to hopefully rectify that.

What is the purpose of 'custom' brushes?
Hair done with brush Do you have a brush that you would use to create a painterly hair effect? No?! Look at this example photo here. Except for the eyebrows, all the hair on that guy's head was 'painted' on using a specially designed set of brushes. The different colors and color depth were painted on in stages. The brush is nothing more than a bunch of 1-2 pixel dots, spread out loosely & randomly over a given amount of space - base hair: tight spacing / mid-tones: medium spacing / color highlights ( grays ): tight spacing. The brushes are no more than 20 in diameter ( loose spacing ).

THAT'S what 'custom' brushes are for. 'Personalized' brushes is what they are - specific to you and you alone, for your specific uses. And don't forget though too, custom brushes can be ANY type of image: any shape/size/even a photo or just a small section from one if you like! They can also be made from type as well. Experiment with creating some, I think you'll start to see a specific use for making your own, once you're in need of a specific type of painted effect; hair is just one example of this.

Remember though too that brushes can only be various shades of grayscale colors; including black. If you do however try using a colored image/photo as a brush, Photoshop will automatically convert it to grayscale as soon as you 'Define' it; so don't worry about starting with a colored image.

How do the grayscale tones effect the brush's characteristics?
  • Black will produce a solid effect.
  • Levels of gray will create faint brushes, and soft edged brushes.
  • White is generally not used, since it represents transparency, and is not needed.

Creating a soft-edged custom brush
To create a square shaped brush with soft edges, do this:
  1. Create a square selection.
  2. Fill it with black. Deselect.
  3. Gaussian Blur the shape to your desired edge softness.
  4. Ctrl-Click the layer to select the blurred shape.
  5. In PS5.5 click the small arrow top right on the brushes palette, and choose "Define Brush".
    In PS6 & up, open the Edit menu and choose "Define Brush".

Done! Once you know the steps, it takes no time at all to create a custom brush.

Another example is this...
Say you're tired of always having to draw certain shapes, like triangles, octagons, stars, etc. Well, making them once and then creating a brush out of the shape will mean you never have to draw them manually again! And you can create them in various sizes too, for specific uses. Users of PS6 & up however can also create custom vector shapes instead of or as well as a brush. Vector shapes allow for resizing without quality loss.

T I P You can create some very useful and interesting 'natural' brushes using small sections from photographs of foliage and plant life - leaves, tree branches, flowers, grass, rocks, wood, clouds, etc. Try it!

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Copyright © Mark Anthony Larmand

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