Make Your Own Photoshop Brushes

Create a Custom Brush

Creating your own custom brush is really quite easy:

  1. Open an image, any image.
  2. Select all or part of the image.
  3. Go to Edit –> Define Brush Preset.
  4. Voila! New brush…

You can use anything from scanned textures, photographs, or drawings to make new brushes. The real key to creating a brush is understanding how they work and finding the right settings. In this tutorial, I’ll give you a few tips and show you how to create some specific brushes to get you started.

Tips for Making Great Brushes
Sure, you can use any image to create a brush, but the there are definitely some notes you should consider before you start.

  • Brushes are grayscale.
    If you use a color image to define a brush preset, you will notice that the color information is discarded. In a brush shape, the opacity of each pixel is determined by how black it is. Black pixels are opaque, and white is transparent.
  • High contrast is better.
    Because the opacity is determined by black and white, you can get more variety from your brush if you use a high contrast image. If your image is all gray, your brush will turn out to be a big blobby mess.
  • Use the right size.
    When creating a brush, I like to use an image that is around 600 pixels wide. This is because I usually don’t use brushes over 300 pixels wide, but it still gives me room if I want to go bigger.

Settings to Consider

Open your Brush palette (Window–>Brushes) and you will see a bunch of settings you can use to make your brush just right. You can see their specific settings by clicking directly on the categories on the left side of the window. There are a few of these that I almost always change, or at least experiment with, when creating a brush.

  • Spacing
    You can find this under “Brush Tip Shape” at the very bottom of the window. You will almost always want this turned on. Use the slider to change the spacing between your shapes in your stroke. A lower value will give you a smooth stroke, while a higher value will “dot” the brush tip shape along your stroke.
    Spacing setting
  • Angle and Roundness
    You can change your brush shape is oriented. It is right above the Spacing settings. Click and drag the arrow on the circle to change the angle. Click and drag the dots to squish your shape.
    Angle and roundness settings
  • Angle Control
    This is also in the Shape Dynamics section. Sometimes it will help to change the drop-down menu to “Direction.”
    Angle control
  • Scattering
    This setting has its own section in the brush palette. Use the slider under “Scatter” to experiment with your brush. It can sometimes create a more random effect for your brush.
  • Texture
    This also has its own section in the brush palette. Sometimes having a good texture in your brush shape isn’t enough. Apply different textures to see their effect on your painting. You can learn more about creating your own textures in my other tutorial.

Specific Brushes to Get You Started

Some general images and settings will make certain kinds of brushes. Here are a few tips for getting some specific effects.

How to make…

…a bristle brush.

  1. Create a new document for your brush.
  2. Use a standard round brush to draw a bunch of black dots. Vary their sizes and values and don’t worry about making perfect circles. Be careful not to make too many, because these are what create the bristle effect that you are looking for.
  3. For a more brush like effect, cluster more dots near the center of your brush, and make your outer dots lighter.
  4. Define your new brush preset.
  5. Under Brush Tip Shape in the Brushes palette, move the Spacing slider all the way down

The Result:

My bristle brush The bristle brush

…a spatter brush.

  1. Create a new document.
  2. Use a standard round brush. Use your mouse to create a bunch of circles at different sizes.
  3. When you’re done, define your brush preset.
  4. In your settings, play with the Spacing and the Scattering settings. Look in the preview window to make sure it doesn’t get spread too far apart.

The Result:

My spatter brush The spatter brush

…a stamp.

  1. Open up a drawing or a photo with an object you want to create a brush out of. I have used a scan of my signature.
  2. Resize the image and edit as needed. For example, if you have a photo, will need to cut out your object first by erasing any extraneous parts of the image.
  3. Define your brush preset.
  4. You can now use your new brush to stamp the shape onto your image. With a simple click of my mouse, I have an automatic signature!
  5. Play around with the Scattering, Spacing, and Shape Dynamics settings to create fun effects.

The Result:

My signature My signature stamp

Saving Your Brushes

You will want to be able to save your new brushes for later. You might also want to keep them separate from the other Photoshop brushes. Here’s how:

  1. Open up your Brushes palette and click on “Brush Presets” at the very top left corner of the window.
    Brush Presets
  2. Go through and select each brush and click the trash icon on the bottom right to delete it. This won’t delete the brushes from your system, it will just get rid of them from the window. If you wanted to bring up the default Photoshop brushes, click the arrow in the top right corner of the palette and click “Reset Brushes.”
    Trash extra brushes
  3. Once you’ve ridden of the extraneous brushes, go ahead and create your new ones. They should all show up in the Brushes palette once you’ve defined them.
  4. With each new brush, change the settings to just the way you like it, then click the arrow in the top right corner of the palette and click “New Brush Preset.” After you have your new brush saved, you may want to go back and delete the first preset that was created when you first defined the brush.
    New Brush Preset
  5. When you have created all your brushes, go to the Brush palette menu again and click “Save Brushes.” Your new collection of brushes will now be available to you when you need them!
    Save your brushes

This should be just enough of a taste to get you addicted to custom brushes forever! If you have any questions or suggestions, be sure to leave a comment on