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

48 thoughts on “Make Your Own Photoshop Brushes

  1. Megan from Biloxi

    I love your tips and they are great for creating my graphics……you are awesome!!

  2. Cocacolagirlie

    Well i guess i got a very stupid question. I want also want to make some tutorials but…how should i put it ‘I don’t know how???’
    How do you get those pictures of photoshop. How do you do it??

    Sorry for this stupid question. But i see those tutorials everywhere, i use them also. But i now some stuff other could bennefit of and
    want to pass them on…. i just don’t know how.

  3. Dani Post author


    On a Mac, taking a picture of the screen is very easy. You press Command-Shift-3 (entire screen) or Command-Shift-4 (part of the screen). There is probably a way to do this on a Windows machine, but I don’t have one so I don’t know how. I’m sure if you Googled “screen capture,” “screen grab” or “screen shot,” you could find a tutorial really easily.

  4. tapi

    hi, dani!

    thank you for this tutorial!
    i made my 1st set of brushes today and thanks to you, they are not too bad for a beginner!


  5. tyler

    is there a way to make a brush that isnt gray scale?
    one that copies not only the pattern from an image but also the color?

  6. Dani Post author


    To get the effect you are describing, I think you should use the Pattern Stamp tool. It is located under the Clone Stamp tool in Photoshop.

  7. sara anthony

    I have CS 3 and when I select the whole image that I’m trying to make a brush out of the define> preset brush is not lite up therefore I am unable to click on it. do you know why this is happening? I did not have this problem in photoshop CS.

  8. Dani Post author

    sara anthony – I honestly don’t know what the problem is. I have CS3 and it works fine. Sorry.

    Peter – are you talking about the stamp brush? I would just create a new one. Open a new file, stamp on your brush on a new layer, modify it, then save it as a new brush using the instructions above. It would probably be easier to save your brush as a photoshop file also if you intend on modifying the brush on a regular basis.

  9. Dani Post author

    Melodi – In the Brush palette, click on “Brush Tip Shape” to see the angle and roundness settings. It is pictured and explained in the above tutorial under “Settings to Consider.”

  10. Catu

    Also, I’ve just made one with pencil scratches. Have you ever tried using them as a texture? It could look really well.

  11. Charlotte

    Thank you VERY much! I’ve been wondering where to find “spacing”, and how to make my own brushes, and no one could explain it as easy as you did. When I looked it up in Photoshop Help, it should definately refer to your site:) And for everyone else, the spatter brushes are excellent to use when creating hair on people.

  12. Livi

    Thank you so much! I’ve been wanting to make brushes that had scattering effect but didn’t know how until now I saw your tutorial. It really helped me! <3

  13. Juan

    hi, i have cs3 on my mac and im trying to figure out how i can turn on the scaterring option, ins not available by window-> brush palette…please help!

  14. Dani Post author

    Juan – Go to Window > Brushes. The scattering option is on the left side. Check the box to turn it on. If you want to change the settings, click on the actual word “Scattering” in the Brush palette, and it will reveal the settings.

    If everything is grayed out, remember you have to have the brush tool selected in the toolbar.

  15. Eric

    I aswell am having troubles. Ive tried everything i could to get the “Define Brush Preset” to become un-grey… I have seen others ask this question on forums but nobody seems to know the answer.

    One person had the problem that they were creating the brush beyond the 2500 pixel maximum, once they changed the sized down, it became ungreyed.

    This however wasnt my problem.

    Dani – I did give that a try, but didn’t ungrey it unfortunatly :(

  16. Dani Post author

    Eric – If you are running an older version of Photoshop, the maximum size might be smaller than 2500 pixels. I would do some experimenting with smaller images to see if you can get the Brush Preset options to come back.

  17. Gareth Green

    Thank you for the clear & informative tutorials.
    I’ve being trying to create a new brush on a new layer. Using an existing brush 48 to make a lighting star burst effect by using Brush Tip Shape and setting the angle(s) to build the shape. When I’m happy with the new brush I go to Edit-Define Brush Preset to save it, but the option is greyed out. Why can’t I do this?
    I’m using CS3 on a PC.

    1. Dani Post author

      Gareth, is your document size over 2500 pixels? That is the max size for a brush. That is the only reason I can think of that this might happen.

  18. Linda

    I found some Photoshop brushes and put them in the Photoshop/Presets/Brushes folder. Then used them in Photoshop Elements. No problem there. Then following your directions I used some scanned images and made some brushes with them. No problem using them in the program either. They are within the program, but they are not showing up in the Photoshop/Presets/Brushes folder on my Mac computer. I would like to save them outside of the program, too. Where are these new files, so I can save them to another folder in my computer? Thanks for your help and for your great tutorials.
    ~Linda :)

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  21. Youndivian

    If you expirienced problems with inactive “Define brush preset”, it is probable because you haven’t rasterize layer or change image mod to grayscale.
    Regards from Serbia

  22. Dani Post author

    Linda – Perhaps your presets are saving in a different location. On your mac, check to see if they are being saved either in “Applications/Adobe Photoshop/Presets/” or “*user/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop/Presets/”.

  23. andrea

    i also was having the grey-button problem for define brush…i changed the image size to no larger than 2500 pix, and it worked. i also have cs3. thanks for the tut.

  24. Jerlyn

    Sara Anthony – I’ve had the same problem as yours when it comes to saving the brush tip and the Define Brush Preset is not lite or active. The problem there is that your image could be too big to save. Try to lessen the pixel to 2000. It might work coz it works for me. Thanks for the tutorial. It helps a lot!

  25. Little Red

    Thanks Dani – this has been really helpful in designing a poster for an upcoming event! I was also having trouble with my initial image being too big so I couldn’t save it as a brush – thanks for the info! :)

  26. Chuck

    I want to scatter at picture of a Bluebonnet in full color in order to create a field of Bluebonnets. This might not be a brush that I need but perhaps a Clone stamp? Thanks

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