In case you’ve been wondering how to create your own custom Photoshop brushes from a picture rather than from something you draw or paint within PS, I’ve created this short tutorial for an easy way to get it done.
Ideally, to create a brush in this manner, you will want to choose a photo with a solid color background that doesn’t much bleed with the image you’re trying to capture as a brush. White or black backgrounds work best in most cases. Though, if you’re looking for a little transparency in your brush effect, some bleed may be appropriate – this is the sort of example I’ll be giving in this walk-through.
If you’re using Photoshop CC, then you can utilize the free Pexels photo plugin to search photos. If you’re using an older version such as CS6, then you can find a free image to use on the Pexels website or Pixabay.
- You can download the plugin here: Photoshop CC plugin by Pexels.
- To open the plugin window within PS, go to: Window — Extensions — Pexels. It will then appear to the right along the edge of your editing window pane as a camera icon. Click that, be sure to log in to your Pexels account (If you don’t have one, then just create one), and run your search term to select an image.
If the image shows as a smart object, you’ll need to Rasterize the layer. You can tell a photo is a smart object because the image icon in the layers panel will contain a small square box over the lower right side of the image. To rasterize, or remove smart object capabilities, right click onto the image in the layers panel and select “Rasterize Layer.”
Now, go to Select — Color Range.
Use the dropper that appears when Color Range has been selected to click onto the background color of the image. This will take out the selected color and show a black and white contrasted image. You can adjust the result by sliding the Fuzziness handle. Click OK.
Note: the portion of the image that shows as black and gray will be the brush – the portion that shows as white will become transparent.
Once you’ve completed the Color Range step, your image will show with a transparent background.
You can fine tune the selection for creating your brush by using the eraser tool on the left side of your workspace in the tools panel.
Select Eraser tool – select a general brush tip with soft edges and adjust the opacity somewhere between 50 – 80 % depending on the result you require. With some pictures you may want to use a hard brush tip with no opacity changes – this will depend on your image and desired effect. The main thing is that you ensure all the edges around the image are deleted out for the final effect. You can also use the eraser to delete out any parts of the image that you don’t want to keep for the final brush effect.
When you’re done erasing those portions that you don’t want, you can prepare to save your brush preset.
If you want, you can add adjustment layers or use paintbrush tool to darken or lighten certain parts of the effect or to add elements. If you make any adjustments, you’ll need to go to Layer — Merge Layers.
When ready, go to Edit — Define Brush Preset.
Note: If Define Brush Set is blacked out, you may need to adjust the image size. To do that go to Image — Image Size and make sure to set the width to 2500 px. That should make the preset option appear.
Give your brush a name and hit OK.
Your new brush should now show up in your open brushes. To locate it, just click on your brushes tab and scroll to the bottom.
Now – you can create sets of brushes and group them together into folders. To do this, after creating a number of brushes for a set, open your Brushes Panel (Window — Brushes). Scroll down to your brushes — hold shift key and click each custom brush — right click — choose “New Brush Group” — give it a name and hit OK.
You probably think this is all you need to do to create a custom brush and save it – and many tutorials will say that’s all there is to it. Sorry folks, that’s just not the case. If you don’t want to lose the brushes you’ve created, you’ll need to export your custom brushes folder into a save location on your computer.
I’ve had this happen to me on more than one occasion – complete sets of created brushes gone forever because I didn’t save a copy onto my computer in a separate location. Photoshop didn’t make this particular feature very intuitive and many people are unaware that they stand to lose their work through system or application updates if they neglect to save externally. And, the “save” feature isn’t presented as a “save” option – you need to “export” the file, which then saves it. Or, you have to “save set” and the process isn’t totally transparent for self-taught Photoshoppers.
If you’d like a complete walk-through on how to do this – see my post about Saving Custom Brushes in PS.
Be sure to check out my post about Easily Creating Unique Photo Effects in PS Using Masks and Brushes.
In case you were unaware, I am a completely self-taught photo editor. I’ve learned by reading and following a number of useful tutorials from a variety of sources over the years. Through my trial and error coupled with self-study, I’ve picked up some useful tidbits along the way – many of which are not easily gleaned from a single tutorial. Therefore, this will be a first in a series of simple walk-throughs where I will show you my favorite methods and useful tricks that I’ve found helpful in my own work. So, stay tuned for more!
If you’d like to learn more about how to use Photoshop – here is a list of my favorite free Photoshop Tutorial Sites and Channels that are great for expanding your knowledge and skill with PS.
Useful YouTube Channels:
Piximperfect (My Top Pick)