You might already know how to import and use brushes in Photoshop, but there are times where you want to create your own custom brush using an image that you have. This tutorial will explain how to create custom Photoshop brushes using any image you want.
There are thousands of photos that can be customized into brushes. Usually, the popular options include clouds, flames, smoke, leaves or textures. Choosing an image that will have the object stand out from the background will make the task of making it a brush easier. Also, a larger file will be more versatile, especially if you will be creating a brush from only a small part of the image.
Once you have chosen your image, open it in Photoshop. First step is to create a layer copy of the image. The quickest way to do it is through the Cmd+J shortcut on Mac (Ctrl + J for Windows). This is to preserve the original image you are working on, so that you can return to it if needed.
Now that you have the copy of the image, you will need to select the object that you will be creating the brush from. If the object is different in color from the background, the quickest way to do it is by using the ‘Color Range…’ option in the ‘Select’ section of the Photoshop toolbar.
Once you click ‘Color Range…’ it will open a new panel where you can sample the color you will be selecting. Use the ‘Fuzziness’ slider to adjust the falloff of the selected color range.
If ‘Color Range…’ selection method does not work you will have to use the Pen tool to outline the object you will be creating the brush from; however, for some brushes, e.g., smoke, fire or water splashes it will be an extremely tedious task.
When you have an outline of the object copy it to a new layer using Cmd+J shortcut on Mac (Ctrl+J for Windows). To view the layer better, it helps to set it against a black or white background to allow you too see all the detail of the area that will become your brush. If you are satisfied with how it looks you are ready to make it a brush; however, often you will find that you need to make further adjustments to the image for it to be an effective brush.
There are a number of adjustments you can make to prepare the image to be used as a brush. Usually, converting it to gray-scale will help you see the detail and shadows the brush will create. The best way to convert the image to grey-scale is to use the ‘Channel Mixer’ found under the image adjustments in the Photoshop toolbar.
Check the ‘Monochrome’ option in the ‘Channel Mixer’ panel and experiment with the sliders for the different channels to find a balance that you are satisfied with.
For the image used in the example it is obvious that the person’s arm will have to be erase before it can be used as a brush – in your case there might be other details that need to be erased. A quick way to mask the arm is to use the ‘Clone Stamp’ tool in Photoshop that you can access through keyboard shortcut ‘S’. Using the tool, clone parts of the image on top of the arm – experiment with the Opacity and Flow percentage to find the right mix for a realistic blend.
If you are ready to convert the object into a brush, disable the other layers to only view the one that will become your brush, go to the ‘Edit’ section in the Photoshop toolbar, find the ‘Define Brush Preset…” option and give a name to your brush.
To check if the brush has imported correctly, select the brush tool using the keyboard shortcut ‘B’ and open the brush gallery by clicking the arrow next to the currently selected brush thumbnail. If you can see your brush in the gallery you can start using it. If you’re not sure how to use brushes, visit our tutorial.
Did you find this tutorial useful? Have a look at our guide on how to cleverly use the Photoshop brush tool to create a double exposure effect.