Feb 21 2011

photoshop techniques: creating and using custom brush presets

This is an easy one. The brush presets can be set to simulate painting or drawing in a variety of media, or for “stamping” an instance or mulitple instances of the same motif. It comes in handy for creating a big, starry sky

using the brush presets that are already on board.

However, nothing could be easier than creating your own highly detailed brush presets from line art or even photography.

First, select a candidate images. These could be grayscale, color, or black & white. Bear in mind that when used as a brush, they will take on the foreground color or, if a grayscale or color image, they will end up being a monotone. Portions of the original image that are white will become transparent when stamped.

In this example, I used a series of 10 butterfly images from a Dover publication (copyright-free and made available for your use). They had been scanned as black & white line art at very high resolution (1200 ppi).

(right-click and choose Save Image As… in the contextual menu to download a full-scale version of an image)

Viewed at 100% magnification, they appear a little rough, however at smaller scale, fine details are revealed and a near grayscale effect is achieved. Use at full size. Once they are stamped onto a layer they can be scaled down, if necessary.

Open them in Photoshop and choose Edit > Define Brush Preset…

In the dialogue box, enter a name (or keep the same name) and click OK.

That’s all there is to it!

To use them, select the Brush tool: and locate the butterfly images that you have just defined in the Brush Presets panel:

Select one of the images.

Set the Foreground Color, as desired: and click on the document. Scale and rotate, as desired using Edit > Free Transform…

To create a montage, such as the one below, I added a new layer (Layer > New > Layer…) before stamping a new butterfly. That way, I could experiment with color, tone and layer blending each one, individually.

Note that color or grayscale images can also be used as the source for brush presets:

(from Insects by E.A. Seguy)

Note, however, that when the preset converts colors to grayscale:

Which means that I get to color it my way.

And, for those who prefer not to go to all the work, I’ve saved the set of butterflies brush presets as a free download.

To install, double-click to uncompress the .zip file. Save the .abr file in Applications (or Program Files on a PC) > Adobe Photoshop > Presets > Brushes. The next time you launch Photoshop, they will be available as brush presets. Or, you can load them from the Preset Manager which can be found by clicking on the small menu icon in the top, right corner of the Brush Presets panel and chosing Preset Manager…