Creating Photoshop Brushes Tutorial

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Creating Photoshop Brushes
Compatibility:
Photoshop 7, CS-CS6, CC
Photoshop Elements 2+


This tutorial will walk you through how to create brushes in Photoshop. It details how to create the brushes themselves and save them into a set.


1. Creating your own custom Photoshop brushes is easier than you might think. First, let’s create a simple signature brush. Open a new file within Photoshop (File > New..), and make it approx 500 X 500 pixels. The resolution doesn’t matter. Make it 72 pixels/inch, or whatever it starts on. Make sure that the mode is RGB. For “Background Contents,” choose white.

When you’re making a signature brush, make sure you make it large enough to accommodate your needs. A lot of us are working on pretty large scales, now-a-days, and you want it large enough to be able to work on anything. 2500X2500 pixels is the largest brush that you can possibly make. So make it that large if you’d like. Remember, you can always scale the size of the brush DOWN much better than you can scale it UP.

When you make a brush, ALWAYS make sure it has a white background. Everything that is white will remain an “empty” area when it comes to the brush – a gap or a hole, if you will. You’ll see what I mean as we go along. Now, using black or a dark color, make your signature.

2. Mine is fairly sloppy and simple, but you get the idea. You can make it as ornate as you wish. In fact, that’s one of the wonderful things about using a signature brush – you don’t have to reproduce it each time! Now, under the top menu, under “Edit” click on “Define Brush Preset.”

3. Photoshop will show you a preview of how your brush will look, as well as give you an opportunity to name it. Name it “signature brush” or whatever you like. Notice also that the size of the brush (in pixels) is listed below the preview. That will be the default size that this particular brush opens to. Remember, you can change it to whatever size you like later – up to 2000 pixels. The larger it is here, the less fuzzy it will be at those large sizes.

4.That’s it! Really! Open a new file and play around with your new brush. It will be listed in with all the others that you had currently active. Be careful, however, as it is not yet saved as a part of a brush file. So, if you go load a different set of brushes, it will be lost. We’ll show you how to save it in just a moment. Let’s make a second, more complex brush, first – then we can save them as a brush set!

5. Open a picture of whatever it is you want to make a brush out of. I’ve chosen to use one of my speedpaintings, a penguin. Crop the piece around the part of it that you would like to make into a brush file. You don’t want any extra room on the edges that you need to worry about.

I generally do this in one of two ways. I make a white layer beneath the photo layer, then just use the lasso tool or eraser to “erase” around it. OR, if it’s more intricate… I make a NEW layer on top of the photo layer. I then paint white around the area that I want to make a brush out of. By doing it this second way, if you make a mistake, you can fix it much more easily! (Multiple layers are fine when it comes to making brushes – it will act as though it was all one flat image when it creates it.)

6. You’re going to want to have all white surrounding that penguin so that when you make the brush, it doesn’t end up with the background being a part of it, too. This is the most time consuming part of the brush process, especially if you’re making intricate brushes!

7. Again, go in to Edit>Define Brush Preset and create your brush. See how all those blues are created to grayscale? All brushes are created that way – Photoshop will do it for you. That is so that when you choose a brush to paint with, you can use whatever color you want! Name your brush and click “OK”. Again, feel free to play around with it in a new file. This is what my new brush looks like:

8. What good is all of that if you can’t save them, though, right? So, here’s the last part of the tutorial. Saving your new brushes as a set.

This next step is assuming that you have not made any of your own brushes before now (if you did, then they were added onto the end of whatever brush set(s) you have open, and when you do this step, you will lose them unless you save them first.) If you’ve not ever made your own brushes before, (which this tutorial assumes, since you’re following it) then you’re fine.

Go back into your brushes and delete any of the ones that had been previously in there – ones that you do NOT want as a part of your new set. Don’t worry, this doesn’t delete them as a file, it just removes them from your list of “active” brushes. (This is assuming, of course, that you haven’t made any other brushes on your own and not saved them!) To do that, right click on the brush you want to delete, and click on “delete” – as simple as that!

9.When you are left with ONLY the brushes that you want as a part of this new set, click on the same arrow that you would click on to load up new brushes (highlighted in red on the picture to the right), then choose “Save as..”. Now, you’re going to want to put this in the right directory, so that it will automatically load up in your list of brushes whenever you start Photoshop. Within your Photoshop directory, place it in the Presets>Brushes folder. For example, if you installed Photoshop CS onto your C drive in the path that the installation program defaults to, you would find this folder in: C:\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop CS\Presets\Brushes\. Choose an appropriate name for it, and you’re done!

Note: You will have to close and re-open Photoshop before that brushes set will be visible among those that you can choose from the menu on the right. Alternatively, you can choose “Replace Brushes..” and load them that way.

10. Congratulations! You just made your first brush set!

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  • rebecca

    Hi…I was wondering if you could do a tutorial on how to make gimp brushes. I’ve done it before but it was years ago and I can’t seem to remember -.-‘

  • Hikari Productions

    i LOVE you!!!! this just made my job a whole lot easier!! i couldnt find rail road spike brushes but i made em =] you are awesome <3

  • Pingback: 24 Useful Tutorials on Creating Photoshop Brushes « HUE Designer()

  • http://grafika.xl8.eu Marco

    Fantastic work. Very nicely explained. Thanks so much!

  • Pingback: 55 Photoshop ecset, és tutoriál amit nem szabad kihagynod | grunge.hu-textúrák, ecsetek, tutoriálok()

  • Snizzbut

    Im really confused because ive never used photoshop before the most advanced image software ive used is ms paint so when the lecturer said “we’ll be designing our own brush sets in photoshop” i was very confused, then she showed us images on websites like yours of ‘brush sets’ but they where butterflies and stuff they looked like photographs to me not brushes!
    i thought with brushes you draw lines, im very very confused and the next lecture is on monday!
    Could you please tell me what a brush set actually IS?

    • http://www.obsidiandawn.com Stephanie

      Sure thing. Some brushes are for painting, just like with paint. Others are made to be shapes, so that you just have to click once on the canvas, and voila! You have a design or whatever the brush was made to be.

      The main thing about brushes is that they will come out in just one color – whichever color you have currently selected. So it’s very much like paint in that way.

      If you look through my tutorials section, there’s a few tutorials in there that will give you a better idea of what brushes can be used for – including one that explains how to have multiple colors within a brush shape, to a degree.

      I hope this helps!

      • Snizzbut

        So some brushes are like stamps?
        And photoshop doesnt specify which is which? (a painting brush or a stamp brush?)

        • http://www.obsidiandawn.com Stephanie

          Yep, exactly like Stamps. And no, Photoshop doesn’t know or classify them, if you get them from other places – like my website. Most people that have downloadable brushes make the stamp types. I have a “Painting” section in my brushes area, which will include any sets I have that have paintable brush types. Other people may do the same kind of thing, or mention it with the set info.

          You can see which brushes were made for painting by changing the stroke type in Photoshop, on how it displays the brushes. The same little arrow that you use to load up new brush sets (in a tutorial I have, if you’re not sure where I mean), you can change the way that Photoshop’s brushes are displayed on that screen to “Stroke Thumbnail” and it will show you what it looks like when you paint with the brush. Most of them will look silly, because they weren’t made to be painted with. But you’ll be able to differentiate the ones that WERE made for it that way – it’ll be obvious in that thumbnail.

          Hope this helps!

  • Jon

    Great tutorial and great website. Keep up the great work!!! ;)

  • Unreality

    I love this site thanks tutorials are great!!! :)

  • Iris

    Just wanted to thank you for all the wonderful brushes and tutorials you’ve put up for us! I highly appreciate each one of them :) Actually just downloaded 7 brush-packages, and now I was planning on learning how to make my own. Thank you, you are simply genius!

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  • Ronayb Netto

    From Brazil

    Seus tutoriais são muito bons. Seu Website também. Parabéns!

  • http://coolpix.ir Mona

    Cool manual! thank you. Do you have similar about the GIMP?

    • http://www.obsidiandawn.com Stephanie

      I don’t, sorry. I don’t use GIMP.

  • Meggan

    Your tutorial and brushes are fantastic — thanks for putting them up! I was inspired by your work to do a custom card deck with different suits.

    I also use GIMP for a lot of things and wondered about creating brushes there. I found this tutorial if you want to post it in reply to other comments about GIMP: www [dot] gimp [dot] org [f-slash] tutorials [f-slash] Custom_Brushes. There are a few options in the “Save as Brush” part that I don’t understand, but that’s what the Internet is for, right? =)

  • http://www.obsidiandawn.com/creating-photoshop-brushes-tutorial Carole

    Love the tutorial! But I am very new at this. When you are talking about making the brush size large like 2500×2500 pixels, I don’t what you mean. How do I do that? When I started out it was 500×500 and resolution of 72. I feel so dumb somethime. Could you explain this to me? Thank you so much for your time.

  • http://www.froebelweb.org/ Carole

    don;t know if I sent to right addresss so please excuse if you got this already. Could you explain how to make the brush size bigger when you are talking about 2500 x2500 pixels please? Thank you

    • http://www.obsidiandawn.com Stephanie

      When you go to create a new file in Photoshop, it will ask you how many pixels by how many pixels to make it. So if you’re starting from scratch, that’s where you’d put in 2500×2500. If you’re using an existing photo, you will have to expand the size of that current document/file. How to do this is different depending on what Photoshop version you’re using, but in CS3 in the top menu it’s Image > Image size. Then change the larger of the two dimensions to be 2500 pixels.

  • clipping path

    wonderful tutorial nice creation.I didn’t know that When you make a brush, initially it has a white background.thanks you for your nice and helpful tutorial.please keep it up!!

    clipping path bd