Learn how to design and create an original Photoshop brush based on nature, using analog methods and digital ease.
- [Instructor] Welcome to Drawing Vector Graphics Laboratory. Even though the name of this series is Drawing Vector Graphics, we're going to create our art assets today within Photoshop. Truth be told, I use both apps every day in my own creative process, so in this movie, I want to show you how to create an organic Photoshop brush. This is going to be a whole lot of fun, so let's dive into it. Now, this is where it's like going back to art school days.
This is where it starts. It starts with analog tools, just a simple disposable bowl here. I put some black acrylic paint in it, and then I water it down, almost to a watercolor consistency, but I'm using acrylic because it's readily available. You could use any black ink, for that matter, would do this, but I just happen to use acrylic paint. I'm also going to use an old toothbrush. Now, you've already seen this toothbrush in the previous DVG Lab, where I used it to make a speckled texture, so I always go back to it and use it on whatever project that it's a good fit for, and it is for this specific one, as you're going to see.
And then, I use brushes because we're actually going to paint, kind of paint out the artwork, and then scan it in, bring it into Photoshop, and then just customize it. You're never going to get it right the first time, I'll just say that upfront. You're going to do a lot of tweaking inside Photoshop, a lot of beta testing, that is, in order to get it working the way it should, and you're going to see what that's all about. Now, when I painted up the brushes, this is what they end up looking like.
These were the three brushes we're going to be showcasing in this specific movie. And then I created a little splatter texture with the toothbrush, and we're going to utilize that as well, just to make it more immersive and more organic, and we want to mimic foliage, or mimic nature. Branches, leaves, think that, vines, that's what we want to mimic with these brushes, and so this is what our inspiration is. And our end up artwork is going to look something like this.
That's going to enable us to actually create a very believable illustrative world of foliage and plants. And this might look a little strange, but believe it or not, this is going to lead to some really cool results. So let's jump into one of these brushes right here, and this is based off of my original scan of the brush that I painted out. It looks very gray, which means I'm going to have to go in and adjust the levels and beta test it.
So this just shows how I adjusted the levels, and all I mean by that is you just go to image, adjust, you go to levels, this will come up, and then it's just a matter of playing with these levels to blow out the backbone, so you get rid of that surface texture. And then, getting it dark enough in order to achieve, that's going to work well for a brush, and whatever that is for you, you're going to have to make that call yourself. And experiment. If you're not sure, make a duplicate of this layer and try it again.
That's what I had to do in order to find exactly what was going to work well. So, there is no distinct formula. There's a lot of exploratory and trying here in order to kind of discover what's going to work best, and discover is the key word. So, I ended up adjusting the values and the levels so it looks like this, and then as I was looking at it, I would test it. Now, I'm not going to walk through that process right now, 'cause I'm going to do that in just a little bit to show you how to create a brush that you can test, but I just want you to know upfront that I did that many, many times.
In this case, I did it about three times before I figured out what's going to actually work. So this represents beta test one. Beta test two, I decided to move this one up thinking that was going to help, tried it, it was okay, still not working that well. Then I did beta test three, which shows like this, and that one's not bad, but once again, it wasn't working quite as well. Now, what I mean by the layer here that says "beta selections" is, if I go ahead and click middle and click on that, and if I go ahead and select the selection, this is actually what I want this selection to be when I define a brush.
Now, the way brushes work in Photoshop is that it's based off of the spine. The orientation of that brush is going to be direct center of whatever selection you made. Now, one thing you have to keep in mind, it's only going to retain this exact size if there's an image out here. So if this is all white on the outside right edge where this anti-alias selection is, and this is all white over here, then it's not going to create a brush for any of that area, 'cause there's no information there.
It'll actually bring it to this edge right here. So, you might be thinking, "Well, I'm not really following you," so I set up a diagram to explain it. So, here's the diagram. This center line is the center of this exact image. This is where we want the center to be because this is where the stem is. Now, if we go out to the left, this would be the edge of the visible pixel-based image. There is no pixels going out to this furthest edge, and the right edge is here.
Now, if you notice, the right edge, this is not as wide as on the left, so when it would create a brush, if we made this selection, as we had here, and let's toggle this off for a second. If we went back and I did the same thing again. Wrong key. If I made that selection, then the brush it would create wouldn't be accurate, and I'm going to show you exactly what I mean by that. So, if we made a brush directly off of this selection, we're going to open up the brushes palette here.
Let's go ahead and open that up. We're going to go to beta brush, because this is one of the beta brushes, and this is the brush that I created at this stage, and we're going to go to what I call a beta testing area. And I actually, when I work on this, I keep this open, and I actually keep this selection live on a layer above the background, just so I can quickly test a brush and see if it's working. So let's go ahead and see what this brush does when we paint with it. Now, I'm using a Wacom Syntique Pro here. That said, you can use a mouse to work in Photoshop, you're just not going to have the pressure sensitivity and the ease of control.
That's the only difference. So, if you don't have a Wacom, don't worry. I'm going to be showing you how you can make a setting to allow you to get tapers and all that kind of stuff when you use a brush. But if I paint one out here like this, you can see, if I go slow, you can see how it's kind of jumping around. The spine isn't remaining centered, because that center point is no longer on the spine. And I'm going to show you how to fix that, and actually, let's leave one of these right here, and then we can compare it when we come back to it.
So, we're going to go back to this. Let's see, we'll go back to the brush here, and what we're going to do is we're going to, let's make this selection, make sure I do it right this time. And on this brush, on this layer right here, with this selection, we're going to zoom in here, and I'm just going to take the cancel tool, and we'll bring this all the way down to one here.
And I'm going to make a selection of a gray. It doesn't have to be really dark. We could even zoom in further here. Let's zoom in really far so we can see the pixel levels. We're just going to put a pixel right on the edge here to define that edge. We'll zoom out. We're going to zoom in really far on this one right here, go back to the pencil tool, and put a pixel right on this edge. Now, you're never going to see this pixel, but what we did is we defined this exact size, so it now goes from this edge of the selection to this edge, which means our center point is right dead center on what is supposed to be the illusion of the stem, if you will.
So let's go ahead, and I made a preset of that one, which is this right here, and this is fixing the orientation, so we're going to select that brush. Go back to our beta testing, and let's go ahead and paint on an example here. Oops, we have a light color. Let's select a dark black here, and let's paint this one out. And you can see it's working as intended. It doesn't jump around like it's showing here. This spine is continuous through the artwork, and that's the illusion we want.
And so, that's what orientation is all about. So let's go ahead and jump to, we can go ahead and delete that content. We'll go back to this foliage brush artwork, and I'm going to show you where it ended up going on this specific design. So right now we're at the beta brush, and I actually did another one, and I determined that this is going to work better. I actually simplified it, removed one of the stems, elongated the trunk a little bit, and on this one, I also added that little bit of speckling texture on it.
And on this one, if I make a selection like this, we're going to go ahead and we're going to add a little pixel on this to define the edge as well, so we'll go over here, sample any of the gray, go here, select the pencil, and we're going to put a pixel right there on the edge. We can zoom out, zoom back in over on the right edge, and put a pixel over here. And so now we've defined the total area for this brush.
So all it takes to make a brush now that we've done that, we have everything selected, this is the size we want it, and we're going to go over to Image, I'm sorry, to Edit, we're going to go down to Define Preset and click it, and this window will pop up. You can name it however you want. We'll go ahead and name it, let's see, we'll name it Foliage_Brush1 Test, like this.
And we'll go okay, and you can see how it puts it into our brushes panel over here. So, if we go back to our beta testing, and we start drawing, let's make sure we're on a darker color here like black, if we start drawing, you can see how huge it is, and it's not really working in any nice way, so we have to make some settings. Now, I create this really large because I want the flexibility of being able to size it down, and if I create it too small, I can never size it up.
This gives me the flexibility, regardless of what resolution or size my illustration is, so I build it a lot bigger. So we need to make a preset of this, so we're going to have this brush selected, go to Brush Settings, and then this allows us to scale it, so I'm going to set this down to a reasonable, like, 412, and what we're going to do is we're going to change the positioning here, so we're going to rotate it 90 degrees, like this, and then we're going to adjust the spacing so you can see how this spaces out, and this is where we can determine how much to overlap, and on this one, I think I'm just going to type in 45, we'll try that.
And we might come back and adjust that. We can do that later. We're going to go to shape dynamics, and this is where, if you're using pressure sensitivity, you'll want to select pen pressure. If you're using a mouse, select fade, and then you can determine how long it goes, 25 steps before it fades, or 40 steps, or you can do something longer. But for us, we're going to select pen pressure on control. Under angle jitter, we want to set this to directional, and that'll make sure it aligns the spine.
The next thing we want to do is just, so it doesn't always replicate the brush in the exact same way, we're going to do flip, and then that way, it will bounce back and fourth and it looks more believable. Now, if we go over to our beta testing and test this, we can see how that's looking. If I press hard and get small, you can see how the pressure sensitivity is working. I can go light, heavy, back to light. So it's working pretty good now. Now, if you want to adjust the spacing, 'cause you can see right here there's a little gap, we can go back to this, and maybe we determine this is going to work better if we go 40 instead.
And then we can go over here and test it, and I think that's going to work better. So, that's how I'll create a brush, create a preset. Now, you want to make sure to save your preset. We have all these settings in place, so we'll want to go up here and right click and go to new brush preset. And then what I usually do is use the same name for the basic brush itself, and then I do one like this that's just bracket, or parentheses, that is, and then setting, like this.
Now, you can capture the size in our preset, so I want to do this so I don't have to adjust the size all the time. And these will all be saved within this brush now, and I'll go okay, and now I'll go back to my brushes and you can see it's saved right here. So that's really cool. We're going to go ahead and delete this, 'cause I'm going to go back to the foliage brush now, and there's one thing that we can add to this foliage brush that's going to look really cool, and that is some white flakes, like this. Just really make it immersive with its texture.
So I'm going to go back to my brushes here, and I actually have this one created right here, and we're going to select it, then we'll go back to beta testing, and I'm going to select a color now, since we've just been dealing with black and white. I'm going to pick a nice green, I'm going to go okay, and we'll go ahead, like this, and just look at how cool this looks with that texturing in it. And I'll go ahead and zoom in on this, but you can see how this looks like. So, if we zoom in, you can see all the texturing it puts in.
It looks really, really cool. I love it. Now, here's another nice thing you can do. We can go into the preset on this brush, so if we have this brush selected, we go into preset, we're going to go to something called color dynamics, which is really, it's really, really cool. We're going to drag this over to about, I don't know, let's try 50, like this. We'll go ahead and delete this. We have green loaded still. And this is going to do analogous color, and it applies it to the brush.
It's just really, really cool. Now, there's a lot of other things you can do here. So, you can go into this, and right now, we could turn this off, let's delete this, and this is where beta testing comes in, where you can just try different things and see if you like it, see if that's what you're going for. And I don't really care for that, so let's do another one. Let's go like this, we go pen pressure, and then we'll try that, see what that does. And I'll tell you right now, I don't know what all these setting do, I just play with it until I get it, but I really like the way this looks, the way it feels, and that's how you go about creating your own foliage brush, your own kind of organic based brush inside Photoshop.
Now I'm going to show you a couple more. Here's another brush, the final artwork for that. We'll go to brushes, we'll select that one. I'm going to go back to beta testing, and I'll show you how this one works. And this one's really cool, it's more like a fern, vine type thing. But you can go any way you want on this, so that one's working cool. We have another one here, under foliage three, and this one's a lot smaller in terms of its sizing, but if you go back to beta testing, you can see how this one works.
And this is good for doing those small little kind of, you know, ground cover bushes, that type of thing. So there's a lot of things you can do with this, it's really nice. Now, it is possible, I should point out, it is possible to break a brush, because it's just applying that art at each point of the path that your mouse takes to draw it, so if we go like this, this doesn't look bad. But if we go like this, you know, you're going to break it because there is a breaking point, so just keep that in mind.
But for the most part, when you're using these, they're going to work really, really well, so I just think this is a fun process to work through, and I'm going to close this brushes panel 'cause I want to show you, I had taken this initial brush, this one right here, and I provided it to a couple friends of mine just to test it and tell me what they thought, and I just wanted to show you what they came up with, 'cause it blew me away. So, this is my friend Matt Strote, and he did this background, but then using just that one brush, he created this foreground.
I thought this was amazing. I was going, "Well that's cool!" I thought you'd built a lot of different brushes, and he just used one brush and created that background, so there's a lot of flexibility here. Here's another one created by Claire Butler, and I love how the color was handled in this, going from the foreground to the dark background. She has some of them that are luminescent, so that was cool as well. And then this last one, I just thought was really great how they handled the color, how they composed it with the deep sea diver, and made a really nice, immersive illustration here, and I couldn't help myself.
I went in and added a little more with bubbles and stuff, but it's a fun process. So, exploration is the key to good brushes. You saw where I started and where I ended up. There is no quick way to make Photoshop brushes like this, so take your time and just have fun with it. I hope this helped you understand brush creation a little better. Of course, there are many other types of cool brushes and settings you can use in Photoshop, so we'll hopefully revisit this topic at a later date.
All the brushes shown in this movie are included in the exercise files, so make sure to download them, and that way you can deconstruct their settings and experiment on your own. Thank you for watching DVG Lab, and until next time, never stop drawing.
Skill Level Intermediate
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.