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How To Generate Custom Brushes in Photoshop

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There is no dearth of brushes in Photoshop however there are times when you want to make a custom brush that delivers you the style your art work requires. For such scenario, you need to come up without brushes and doing that requires a slightly higher understanding of how Photoshop works. So let’s begin the process of creating a custom brush in Adobe Photoshop CS4. Remember, with little changes, these instructions will be good for other Photoshop versions, even the CS5.
Creating the Brush
Technically, you can divide Photoshop brushes into two categories:
• Paint Type
• Image hose type
A pain type brush is the most commonly used brush used to mimic the behavior and the texture of a real brush such as sponge brush, paintbrush and paint roller.
An image-hose type brush works by spraying a single graphic element on the canvas and allows the user to change its size or color or shape. These types of brushes are primarily used to create snow fields, hair or field of grass.
The Process is Straightforward
Creating a brush in Photoshop is quite straightforward. With a single menu command, one can make any image into a Photoshop brush. However before we start making the brush, it’s crucial to know how the brush works.
Essentially, a brush tip is nothing but a grayscale image. All black parts are completely opaque and that’s what leaves marks when used. When we use a color image as a brush tip, it is first converted into a grayscale and values get assigned. These values decide how different parts of the image operate as brush tips.
Brush size is another element one needs to be conscious of. If you make a brush in 500-by-500 pixels, decreasing the size and working in even 25 by 25 pixels will look fine, however if you create a brush in 25 by 25 pixel and use it at 500 by 500 pixels, the quality will definitely suffer.
The source image for the brush could be just about anything.
Creating a Sponge Brush
For this, use a loofa sponge and dab the canvas with black paint. Once it dries, scan the surface to get the texture and open the scanned file in Photoshop. Now convert the image to a grayscale. For this go to Image>>Mode>>Grayscale. Change the levels if you want. For this go to Image>>Adjustments>> Levels. Try and make black areas as pure black as possible.
Creating a Wheat Stalk Brush
Launch Adobe Illustrator or any other vector drawing application and draw a stalk of wheat. Don’t use any colors. Use a transparent background and the stalk should be made in black. Import this work in Photoshop.
Creating a Flower Brush
Open a picture of a flower in Photoshop. Convert this image into a grayscale image and adjust the levels to saturate the blacks. Ensure that no parts of the image are to light as they will get transparent and make the flower brush incomplete. Add contrast to highlight the areas.
Once you are done with the edits, you will have to scale down the image to a more reasonable size. For this choose Image>>Image size and make it 500 by 500 pixels. Move on to Select>>All>> and then Edit>>define Brush Preset. Now enter the name of the brush. Once done, the new brush gets added to the brushes.
Don’t forget to save the brush. Once done, close the window. Move on to a new window and open a new document with resolutions that match your screen’s display. This step is essential to fine tune the brush.
Fine Tuning The Brush
The brush should be sharp and have smooth edges, until required. For this you need to fine tune the brush.
Once you have opened the document, move on to the Brush Tool. Choose Window>>Brushes. Click on Brush Presets now and you will see the brush plate. Identify the brush you created for yourself and select it to get started.
Before you start refining the brush, remember the changes you make are not automatically saved therefore be watchful of the changes you want to save. You need to save the changes as a new preset. For this, click on the tiny document icon. This lies at the bottom right of the Brushes window. Enter a new name to make this ‘Save’ unique. Remember you cannot save over the brush. Every new change has to be saved as a new preset or else the changes are lost. Once you save the new one, it appears to the right of the original one. To delete the old one, simply select that and click on the Trash icon. Press OK to confirm. We delete the old brush to ease confusion however if you don’t want to delete, naming the new brush in a unique way can help as well.

So finally for fine tuning the brush, you will need help from ‘Brush option’. This lies on the left of the Brush window.
Picking the kind of options from this palette will depend greatly on the kind of brush being fine tuned. If it’s the wheat stalk, you will need to focus more on the shape, color and scattering. As you progress with changes, the preview pane which is at the bottom of the Brushes window will help you see the changes. The preview, however, will only be in grayscale. For previewing that brush in color, simply use it on the document and see how it looks.
Effects of the Brush Options
Every brush option has a different task to perform. Let’s have a quick look at what each does:
Brush Tip Shape—this option is handy for paint-type brushes. With this option, one can edit the size as well as the angle, hardness and roundness of the brush. One can also define the spacing for the bristles, which can come handy at the time of creating image hose-type brushes.
Shape Dynamics—this is commonly used for hose-type brushes. One can adjust Size Jitter, Roundness Jitter and Angle Jitter to control the shape of each brush dab. This lets you create unique shapes every unique dab thus letting you have a lot of variation to the touch sensitive input such as pen tilt and pen pressure.
Scattering— this is commonly used for image hose-type brushes. This option varies the brush mark placement and allows for a more even and natural paint dabs distribution in case of grass, leaves, or snow.
Texture—this is commonly used for paint-type brushes. This lets one to apply patterns to brush strokes to leave an impression of texture (such as canvas).
Dual Brush—this can be used for any kind of brushes. It combines two tips and leave an impression of the secondary brush stoke inside the primary brush stroke, thus leaving a dual brush impression.
Color Dynamics—this is used for image-hose type brushes. This color lets you control hue, brightness, saturation, and purity to vary the intensity and the color of each brush stroke.
Other Dynamics—this is used for all brushes. Opacity sets transparency randomly while Flow helps in achieving natural opacity variations that flow from solid to clear. This control is refer to Transfer in CS5.
The other five controls have no adjustable settings and are commonly used for paint type brushes. Noise as we know adds pixels turbulence, Airbrush gets on the airbrush type coloring, Wet Edge leaves an impression of water colors and makes the center of the brush partially transparent Smoothing softens brush strokes; and Preserve, called Protect Texture in CS5, helps in getting a consistent texture.
How To Share your brush
Sharing art work is always fascinating. If you have a team or friends that want to use the brush you made, you can share the brush with them easily.
Go to Edit >>Preset Manager. Press Shift and Click on your new brush and then select Save Set. Name it appropriately and save it on the desktop for quicker attachments. Now email this file to whoever you want to.
The recipients only need to double click on the file to get it added to their brush sets.

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