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4.1 Custom Cloud Brush

One of the best ways of crafting realistic composites is to use custom brushes. In this lesson we see how custom brushes can be useful, and we develop our own cloud brush!

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4.1 Custom Cloud Brush

Hello everybody. Welcome back to Advanced Photoshop Techniques. We are now on chapter 4. Where we put all of these techniques together to create a more finalized piece. This is lesson 4.1 where we talk about custom brushwork. Custom brushes are one of the most useful and powerful tools within the program when it comes to creating advanced compositions in a piece of digital art that has several elements that need to be blended together in a realistic fashion is probably going to end up using some custom brushes in one form or another. And that's what I want to spend this lesson exploring is first of all how to create them, and then delve into how to use them and where you might want to use them. To begin with, we need to open up the brush panel. Make sure your brush is active and then you can go either to Window > Brush, Brush presets, both of those, hit the F5 key, or over here you have the icon that will launch these. Now in the course files for this lesson there is a set of custom brushes that I'd like for you to load. And we do that by looking in the brush presets, you're going to load brushes. And there's this grunge brush set by sonicgal007. In the course description there's a link to the website where you can download this directly from them, or even support them in their work. Anyway, we select that file, we hit load, and at the bottom of our brushes presets, we get a list of new grunge brushes. So let's take a look at what some of these look like when we use them. I'm gonna create a new file here, just a standard, default Photoshop size, and we'll just pick one of these, sample brush 12. And I need to make sure I've got a dark color to work with. And what it is is just a very grungy look in appearance to those brush strokes and when used this way you don't really stroke with them because it creates a very strange appearance. It's really more of a stamp and it's good for adding some texture and breaking up the sort of perfect look that tends to happen in a lot of digital artwork. But what I wanna do is use one of these brush tips to create an actual brush that we can use to help with some of the masking and some of the blending within our elements of our project. So I'm gonna select this sample brush 14 as the tip to start with and looking at this that's how that brush looks just as its base brush stamp. But I'm gonna go to the brush panel and adjust some of these in here. Leave the spacing set at 25, which is the default setting. What that slide does is adjust how much space you see in between each of the stamps of the brush. You wanna engage the shape dynamics so that the size jitter is set up to about 32 or so. Also the angle jitter I'm gonna increase that too. And notice down here in the preview what that does to that brush stoke. We see some breakup and some randomization of that brush tip as it's applied along the stroke. Engage the flip X and flip Y jitters and it adds some additional randomization too because it's mirroring that stroke randomly. To create even more I'll engage the scattering, and put the scattering up to about 90% or so. Now try stroking with that brush, and look at that, that's going to be able to create a really nice texture for us, and also work really well for creating irregular looking masked transitions, so things don't look like it's a perfect gradient fade, it's a more realistic type of change of appearance. Here's the thing you wanna remember when you're adjusting these brush settings. Once you get them in a way that you really like the way they look, you need to be able to save this. Cuz otherwise when you switch over to another brush, you're gonna lose these preset settings. So if you use this button down here, this Create New Brush. We can use this as a grunge brush. Then when you go back to your brush presets, you'll find that all the way at the bottom. This is the new grunge brush that we just created, that maintains all of those settings that we made. So that's great if we want to use brushes that are created by somebody else and just download and customize and use them. But what about creating our very own? In this project I found that it was helpful to have a cloud brush, a brush that I set up that I could actually paint clouds into the scene to help cover over some of those transitional areas or just even create more realism within the scene because it's a very cloud filled scene. In the course files there is this JPEG, this is the sky-49520 which is merely a cloudy area. In looking at this grouping of clouds here, it was my thought that, that would actually make for a really good cloud brush. So the first thing I wanted to do was create a very quick selection just around those areas, including that cloud grouping. Let's copy that to a new layer with Ctrl or Cmd+J, and hide that original background. Now the way custom brushes work in Photoshop. It discards any color information, so it's strictly on gray tones. So in order for us to understand how the brush is going to eventually work, we really should look at this as a gray-toned image. So let's go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate. And really we wanna have the most amount of contrast as we can in this, because these similar gray tones are really gonna cause a lot of problems. So let's increase the contrast with the levels command, through Image > Adjustment > Levels, and we'll pull this left handle far to the right to create a nice, dark outside area. That's looking pretty good like that. Now, we still get a little bit of gray down in here, which we can adjust by using the Burn tool. Set it to Burn, increase the size there. Let's try setting this then to the Shadows. That's doing a better job of darkening those gray areas without ruining, or destroying at least the light areas too. It's ignoring those. Now if we had used just a standard paint brush, this wouldn't have really worked. That's why I chose to use the burn tool, so that it still keeps a little bit of those lighter areas in there. Now, the intent for this is to be able to use it in a similar way that we set up that grunge brush. And I know from using these types of things before, that this detailed of an image tends to not look as good, as if it was a little bit softer. Especially if we're creating clouds. Now, these are clouds, and there's a lot of detail there. But I do find that if it's a little bit of blurring in there, it actually makes it more believable, in the final image, and it's a little bit more useful, too. So let's blur this some with Filter > Blur Gauzian Blur. Not too much, just about 2 pixels or so, that should work. And now strangely the way Photoshop interprets custom brushes is that the black areas is the positive. So, that's almost inverse of what we would intuitively think when we look at an image like this. But that's easy enough to fix, if you go to the adjustment's panel, there's an invert adjustment layer. That's what we're going to want in our custom brush. But as long as this invert adjustment layer is the active layer, it's not really going to record it properly for us. We have to have the focus on the layer that's below it there, of the actual pixels. So, then we go to Edit > Define Brush Preset. And we can have our cloud brush. And then we can go back over into the brush panel and set up things like the scattering and such for this brush. Way down at the bottom, we get the cloud brush that we just created. But now we need to start adjusting what we did before with that grunge brushes, the spacing, the scattering and the shaped dynamics with the size, the angle jitter and the flip jitters as well. If you're using a pressure sensitive graphics tablet, you can even turn on the transfer so that you can set the opacity of the pen pressure, and it will fade out the appearance of this brush according to how much pressure you put on the tablet. And then when you've got the settings as you like them, go ahead and create a new brush for the clouds too. So now that we've spent some time creating some custom brushes to use, we'll take our next lesson, lesson 4.2 on selections and compositing and see how we can use these brushes to create better masks and better composited elements.

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