Pixel Playground
Illustration by John Hersey

Creating a custom brush


Pixel Playground

with Bert Monroy

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Video: Creating a custom brush

Today we're going to look at the creation of a custom brush. Now, I've done brushes in many of my other tutorials. In fact, my series on the making of Time Squared there's a whole series of different brushes in there including brushes for hair and decorative chains, and so on. But here what we're going to talk about is pepper. Now in this particular painting of mine, Lunch in Tiburon, I'm going to zoom in really close here to look at the pepper, there's a little pepper inside of the shaker.
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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

Today we're going to look at the creation of a custom brush. Now, I've done brushes in many of my other tutorials. In fact, my series on the making of Time Squared there's a whole series of different brushes in there including brushes for hair and decorative chains, and so on. But here what we're going to talk about is pepper. Now in this particular painting of mine, Lunch in Tiburon, I'm going to zoom in really close here to look at the pepper, there's a little pepper inside of the shaker.

Now, it looks pretty complex, but, it isn't. All it is, is a single brush that has been applied to multiple layers. First, let's see how that brush was created. I'm going to create a new one. New File here. And that's a pretty good size, no problem. And I'm going to take my paintbrush. I'll pick a hard edge brush. Nice and hard, and somewhat small. Maybe even smaller than that. There you go, nice little small brush. I'm going to draw a little shape here, which will be a little flake of pepper, like that.

And I'll do another one right here, which will be slightly different. An then a third one right here. Right there. So each one of these is different. One's a little bigger than the other, no problem. There they are. That's going to be my pepper brush. I'm going to select this. Now any part that's white is going to be completely transparent in the brush. Every part that's black, will be opaque. Anything other than black Be in a grey or a particular color will be transparent based on the particular value of that color. So right here, all I'm going to get of the brush is those three dots.

So notice even if I selected this big one, I say find Brush Preset. It's only showing the three pieces in there, 92 which means that's the size in pixels of that particular brush. So we're going to call it peper Okay? And then that's it. We can, throw that away. Let's, set it to the background color. Okay, there we go. So now, in a layer, I'm going to take that paintbrush, and select that brush we just created, which will appear at the bottom of our list right there.

A select that and right now it does that but by going into the brush engine I'm able to modify that brush to do exactly what I want it to do. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to bring down the size a little bit so it gets a little smaller. That's a good size, and again it's still just doing that and we can see it in the preview down here. What I'm going to do is increase the spacing for it. Have a little more spacing between the little flakes. There we go. It's looking like that. Now I'm going to go into my shape dynamics and this is where things are really going to start to change.

I'm going to change these size jitters You see that they're make difference, I can go all the way. And then you see that every tip is going to be a different size, see? But I don't want them to get too small, so I can set up a minimum diameter so they won't get too small. Let's say about 20%, alright. So there you see a little tiny one next to that big one, okay. And in fact, there is a really big one right there. Now comes the next big and most important change, the angle. I'm going to set that all the way to 100%. And you see that the each tip is now becoming slightly different angled then the one next to it.

I set the control to just off we don't need to have any controls there. Roundness we can play with that and what that does is it flattens some of them. See now, they're starting to look like little flakes. Flat flakes, so I don't want to go too far with that round. It's just a little bit, just start to add a little more nuance to those particular shapes. Have a minimum roundness setup, let's bring that down to about the same size. There we go. And then I'm going to scatter them. Now scatter them right now you see that they go away from the line, I'm going to say on both axis so that they really go in all different directions, just like that, see.

That kind of shape. Now I'm going to go way down here to Color Dynamics and what I want to do here is I want to have, between the foreground and background, I want to do a complete 100% change. That's from tip to tip, it's going to be jumping between those two colors randomly. I could add a little bit of a hue jitter and some saturation and brightness just a little bit. I don't want to get too intense with that. Now that I have that, I can now pick the colors that I want, so I want a a nice dark gray like that and for the other color I want a lighter grey like that.

And I'll start to draw right in this layer. And as you can see that I'm starting to create all these nice little, little flakes in there. Just like that. Now I can create another layer on top of that. Now I'll pick a different set of colors. I'll go in there and pick some browns. So I pick a little brown like that. And we'll lose this grey. We'll make that a little darker but we're actually make a darker brown. And the w layer I add a whole bunch of other flakes on top of that and this one I could possibly give it a little layer style. I go in there and give it a little bevel and emboss. Which is going to start add some tone to it.

I'm going to make it small just a one and increase the depth so it starts to give it a little more of a Textured kind of a feel. And a third one on top of that. So here, we'll just change the colors, and get a much lighter grey, and that dark brown. And I add another bunch on top of that. And there, we can see where we start to get our little pepper flakes. Now, I do have the actual file in which I created the pepper flakes. This is an early version of the painting. And when I get in real close here. We see there's the pepper flakes.

They're not as detailed as they were before because here they're just flat. And I'll show you that extra detail in a few minutes. But right here we start to see the pepper and it's made up of many different layers here and we'll start to turn off some of these layers you'll see that the peppers will start to disappear. And then you start to see the individual layers that make it up. So again there's quite a few of them, as you can see. Quite a few layers. There's the first one there. This one down here is simply holding. That's the shape that's going to hold our peppers, because they're all being masked by that as a clipping group. And I start turning on each layer, and you can see that there we're starting to get all the little pepper flakes starting to form.

Now the final details that we see in the actual painting and let's get in real close again. Now we see additional details. These little rough areas were done with yet another brush, but in this particular case I used a brush that does exist in Photoshop already. So, going back in here, we'll just get in real close. Right in here and these are very low res, but what I did at that point was to take a brush like this, one of the splatter brushes, which are these sets right here.

And I'll take like let's say that one. Which right now does that. There. That's what it does. Well by going into that brush engine, we're going to modify that brush. Give it a little spacing and a little size jitter, a little angle jitter. And now You can see, it's doing that kind of an effect and with a very, very tiny brush we'll get in bigger here and I'm going to change my brush size down, I just started adding little tones on top, little, little extra little edges and stuff, which is what you see in the final painting here.

All the little rough edges that were added to the pepper flakes afterwards. Took some time. That was a lot of work, but the end result is something that looks fairly real. Brushes they can solve a lot of problems. It's just a question of creating the right brush to do the right job.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Pixel Playground .

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Q: Why can't I earn a Certificate of Completion for this course?
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.
Q: Why are some of the 3D menu items grayed out when I try to follow along?
A: The 3D features in Photoshop CC require a computer with at least 512MB VRAM. If your computer doesn't meet this criterion, the 3D menu features will be greyed out.
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