Pixel Playground
Illustration by John Hersey

Creating a custom brush to draw hair


Pixel Playground

with Bert Monroy

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Video: Creating a custom brush to draw hair

What I want to do this week is show you a little trick that I came up with a long time ago for a brush. A very specialized brush that's going to create an effect. Now on the screen right now we see this two page spread, that I created for Wired magazine many, many years ago. I want to draw particular attention to right here, the upper right And let's go and see just that what particular set of layers right there and its a mink as you see I call it mink its a mink coat. Let's get in real close and we see that there it is and basically its just a brush.
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Watch the Online Video Course Pixel Playground
16h 4m Intermediate Jun 07, 2013 Updated Jul 31, 2015

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Take a 10-minute recess every week and join Bert Monroy in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, the playgrounds of digital artists. Every Friday Bert walks through a fun, self-contained project that tests your skills and challenges the imagination. These programs aren't just image editors; they are sandboxes for creativity and experimentation. Take a spin through a carousel of tools and get reinspired, each and every week.

Design Photography
Illustrator Photoshop
Bert Monroy

Creating a custom brush to draw hair

What I want to do this week is show you a little trick that I came up with a long time ago for a brush. A very specialized brush that's going to create an effect. Now on the screen right now we see this two page spread, that I created for Wired magazine many, many years ago. I want to draw particular attention to right here, the upper right And let's go and see just that what particular set of layers right there and its a mink as you see I call it mink its a mink coat. Let's get in real close and we see that there it is and basically its just a brush.

A brush very similar to another brush I created many years ago which incorporated into the program, which is this one right here, one I call a little grass brush which allows you to create little fields of grass. But in this particular case, it's fur, so it's a longer strand. Now, in my Time Square series I talk about creating hair, but this is a little different. This is a little different. It's fur. Has a different kind of a texture than hair does. In fact, in a particular case like this like say a mink coat, or say a bear's hide. They're going to have a very specific range of, of size of these little hairs.

So let's go ahead and create the brush that's going to give us our fur. I'm going to create a file and I'm going to create the brush right here and I'll use my pen tool. Very similar to the way I created the grass brushes I'm going to create this long, little strand right here and bring it down and close it off. Now once I have it, I'm going to in there and modify it so that it's nice and long and real thin, really, really fine, like that. And I'll create another one right in between here. Now this is very similar to the grass brush except that they're longer and much thinner.

I'll do another one right here. And this is why I'm going a little lower, see, because it'll automatically snap to that point so we'll go a little lower. Click and we thin that one out. And we'll add a fourth one here, add a fourth one right there, and we thin it out. So there. So, now what we're going to do is we're going to take these four little hairs and we're going to fill em with black. Now the white doesn't matter. It doesn't have to be in the layer because when you create a brush where it's black the contents that make up that brush, it's going to be opaque.

Anything other than black is going to be transparent based on that particular value. In the case of white, it is completely transparent. So I'm going to take my path, and fill it with the black. Turn off the path, and there it is. So what I'm going to do now is, I'm going to select that and turn it into a brush. That's it, it's that easy. So, now, I'm just going to delete this to the background color. And now, I will start creating layers. I'm going to first, let's throw some tones in here. So we can kind of differentiate our, our fur against the, the background.

So we'll go in here, and let's just say we take a nice black to grey gradient. And we'll just throw it right in there like that, okay. Then in a layer, here we go. First layer. It's going to have multiple colors. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to go in there and start picking a color that I'm going to want. So let's just go in there and pick say, this nice kind of a deep burgundy color right there. Right? And we might want to even change this a little. I'm going to click that burgundy for the background color. But I'm going to darken it a little bit.

So we get it a little darker, right there like that. Almost black. Two dark, burgundy colors. So I get my paintbrush, and the new brush we just created should appear right at the bottom. And there it is. So I'm going to select that brush. There it is. So I'm going to. Bring that size a bit alright so pick it up that's a good size right there and right now it does that that's what its doing and I'll make it even bigger. There we go. So, in our brush engine is where we're going to now modify it so it starts to look more like the fur that we're trying to create.

I'm going to give it a little more spacing, a little more spacing so we start to have a little more spacing between the individual tips. We're going to go into Shape Dynamics where I'm going to not have that much of a size change, just a very subtle little Maybe about a 10%. That's good, just a little bit of a Size Jitter and the Angle Jitter ever so slight. About 5% should be enough. I don't want to jitter it too much. Now that I see the shape they're taking I'm going to go in there and bring in that spacing again. There we go. And since we have two different colors I'm going to say Color Dynamics.

Color Dynamics so that it can go in there and go between the foreground and background 100%. No other jitter whatsoever, just between the foreground and background, and apply to each tip. So, in here, and we'll make that brush just a little bit bigger. There we go. Right there. I'm going to start to throw in this little field of these little hairs right there like this. Okay, there we go. Got this nice little field going here. So now, I'm going to go in there and choose that darker color.

And this time I'm going to color off the color and just throw a couple of these little strands of this darker color right on top, just like that. I'm going to create another layer. One more layer on top. And now I'm going to go in here and pick up a really light kind of a tone. See, almost like that. And what this is going to be is going to be kind of like a sheen, so I'm going to just throw in a couple. And let's go in here and bring down the opacity a little bit. We'll bring down the opacity to about a 15%. Just to add a couple little sheens here and there.

Just a couple. We're just throwing them in there. Now, we'll go back and pick that dark color we had before. And then one more layer on top, and we'll just kind of fill these up. And there you can see that we have this nice kind of a fur which could have been Any combination of colors that we want except in this particular case we wanted kind of like a mink. Now if I want to go even further here let's go in here and get our brush engine, bring in the color dynamics again, and we'll take this a make it a black this time.

And we got that red. All right? And in one final layer on top just to get that, there we go, we're going to start adding those really dark tones right on top of the whole thing here. Which starts to give us this really thick kind of a fur. Now we see along the edges, that we're getting this nice little light tone up there. And what we could do is, just go in, into our layers, and in that top layer, let's make sure we turn off the color dynamics. So we're just going to get that light red, and we just throw a couple of little strands right along the top there. And there you can see that toget, this whole file here, full of fur.

If you want to see what it really looks like, let's turn off the background. There we see that we have this whole little area of Fur. Now, one other thing that we could do, is let's just go in here and create a new file, is that I could set this one more little control here, and that is to set in color, in shape dynamics rather, set the angle jitter, we'll set that to a direction. Right? And what's cool now is that you see the shape that it's got, but if I'm going to go this way like this; it's going to go and start following that particular movement that I'm doing.

See? So we're basically creating a little ball of fur right there. I'm going to switch to this darker color, and start throwing some of that in there, and you can see where we're getting that nice, thick fur. Based on just a brush that we created to give us this little ball of fur, with some little reds in the front. And there we can see that we have a ball of fur. Now it's just a question of, what you use. The technique will be the same but we use more browns and golden colors, then we have a brown bear. Or we use some kind of orangey colors and some whites and we'll have a little orange tabby cat.

So whatever fur you need, it's a brush that you create, that will then in there and allow you to very randomly, or a least it seems random, to go in there and start to create all these hairs.

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A: We publish a new tutorial or tutorials for this course on a regular basis. We are unable to offer a Certificate of Completion because it is an ever-evolving course that is not designed to be completed. Check back often for new movies.
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