Unlimited PS Actions, graphics, videos & courses! Unlimited asset downloads! From $16.50/m
  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Brushes

How to Create Custom Water Drop Brushes in Adobe Photoshop

This post is part of a series called Photoshop Brushes from Scratch.
How to Create a Custom Smoke Brush in Adobe Photoshop
How to Create Custom Shattered Glass Brushes in Adobe Photoshop
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Water drops are one of the most ubiquitous of naturally occurring elements. They are like tiny liquid prisms that can capture light and reflections. The very fact that they are so common and so small does nothing to detract from the inherent majestic beauty of a single drop of water. 

For something so simple in nature, they are remarkably difficult to accurately reproduce in digital artwork. Instead of trying to reproduce the shape and randomness of them, it's much easier to capture the effect and use it as an assortment of custom brushes in Adobe Photoshop. This water drop brush Photoshop tutorial will show you exactly how to do that.

If you're looking for the best water drop brush Photoshop sets, scroll down after this tutorial and find our selection of premium Photoshop brushes from Envato Elements.

Water Drop Photoshop Brush Set
This Water Drop Photoshop Brush Set is available on Envato Elements

What You'll Learn in This Adobe Photoshop Brush Tutorial

  • How to make your own water drop brush in Photoshop 
  • How to use your water drop brush
  • How to add water droplets to photos

1. How to Capture the Water Drop Effect

Step 1

The materials required for this project are very simple: 

  • a small pane of glass (I removed this one from a medium-sized picture frame) 
  • a method of holding the glass, like a spring clamp
  • a simple glass of water

Step 2

First, be sure the glass is clean of any dust or oils. Avoid touching the glass with your fingers, as the smudges will be visible in the photos. Use the clamp to hold the edge of the glass, making sure the grip is firm so the glass doesn't slide out!


Step 3

In my experience through several tests, the best way to achieve clean images of water drops is to shoot outside against the sky. The problem with trying to shoot in a studio setting with controllable light is that the reflections are nearly impossible to eliminate: not only reflections off the glass surface, but also in the water drops themselves.

A much easier solution is to wait for a day when the sky is all the same color, either heavy cloud cover or perfectly clear, and find a way to rig the clamp to hold the glass above you so you can shoot up through it. I used a light stand that extends nice and high. 

Rig the clamp outside on a cloudy day

Step 4

A common tendency is to use a spray bottle to generate the water drops. I found that creates more of a mist with small droplets. I prefer big, fat, juicy drops of water that can be easily seen. So my recommendation is to just dip your fingers in the water and flick the water onto the pane.

splash water onto the glass

Step 5

Now it's time to shoot the drops. Try to frame the shots so the background is clear, and make sure you pay attention to the focus point on the camera. For my camera and lighting, I found that f/5.3 with a shutter speed of 1/1000 worked really well. Take several shots focusing on different water drops. Then clean the glass and do it all over again!

Water drop photo

2. How to Process the Photos

Step 1

Open one of the photos and add a Curves Adjustment Layer. Move the outside curve points inwards to meet the edges of the histogram. Then add a central curve point and move it downward slightly until the drops have a good degree of contrast.

Use Curves to increase contrast

Step 2

Click on the Lock icon next to the Background layer to unlock it. Then select both layers and go to Layers > Group Layers. Rename the group to be Water Drops.

Group Layers together

Step 3

Use the Quick Selection Tool (W) to create a selection around the largest, best defined drops. 

Select Drops with the Quick Selection tool

Step 4

Click the Refine Edge button and adjust the selection edge. For our image here, the selection required a small Radius setting of 1.0, Smooth of 9, Feather of 1.4 px, and Contrast of 31%. It's important to set the Output to Layer Mask so the selection will add a mask at the group level.

Refine Edge

Step 5

Add a new layer underneath the water drop group and fill it with white. This should show the water drops in sharp contrast.

White Background

Step 6

When we added the curves adjustment layer, it was needed to increase contrast with the background. Now we will change it to smooth out the tones within the drops. Open the curves Properties panel and adjust the central point of the curve to give a more even transition of tones within the drops.

Curves adjustment again

Step 7

Click on either the photo layer or the white background layer to make them active and go to Edit > Define Brush Preset. Photoshop asks for a brush name, and when you press OK, this new brush is added to your list of Brush Presets.

Define the custom Brush

3. How to Use Our Water Drop Brush Photoshop Set

I fully encourage you to create practical effect brushes on your own. It's not a very difficult task, and it is incredibly rewarding. Cultivating the skill to transition a visual effect from practical to digital will open up new possibilities for your digital designs. But if you don't have the time or capability to create these brushes on your own, I've included mine here for you to use.

Download the attached file for this tutorial, CustomWaterDrops.abr. Then go to Edit > Presets > Preset Manager. In the Brushes section, use the Load button to navigate to the downloaded file.

Load the water drop brushes

This will add five new Water Drop brushes to your list of Brush Presets.

Water Drop Brush Gallery

Your Water Drop Brush Photoshop Effect Is Ready

Congratulations! You've completed our tutorial on how to add water droplets to photos. Go be amazing! Use these water drop brushes to add an interesting natural element to your digital artwork.

add water droplets to photo effect

4 Best Water Brush Photoshop Packs From Envato Elements 

In this tutorial, you've learned how to create your own water drop brush in Photoshop and how to add water droplets to photos.

Now, to save you some time and still achieve professional results, check out these premium water brush Photoshop sets. 

Get all of them and enjoy unlimited downloads of Photoshop brushes with our Envato Elements monthly subscription.

1. Water Drop Photoshop Brush Set (ABR)

Water Drop Photoshop Brush Set

You've got to try this water drop brush Photoshop pack. With 50 water brushes included, your final result will never be the same. Enjoy the high-resolution water drop brush Photoshop set, and easily add water droplets to photos.

2. Rain Brush Photoshop Pack (ABR)

Rain Brush Photoshop Pack

This rain brush Photoshop set will give your images a realistic look. These water brushes come in high resolution (5000x5000 pixels).

You can use the rain brush Photoshop pack in many ways. Duplicate the layers to make the effect more intense. The sharpen filter will make the rain look sharper. On the contrary, apply the blur filter to get the opposite effect. Have fun with this water brush Photoshop set!

3. Water Splash Brush Photoshop Set (ABR)

Water Splash Brush Photoshop Set

A water splash brush Photoshop pack can be a great addition to your collection. There are 30 water brushes in high resolution. Use this water brush Photoshop set to add photo overlays and interesting visual effects.

4. Photoshop Water Ripple Brush Pack (ABR)

Photoshop Water Ripple Brush Pack

This Photoshop water ripple brush set is a great tool if you're a graphic designer. The water brush Photoshop pack comes with 45 brushes in high resolution (2500x2500 pixels). You can use the water brushes for any project, and they're compatible with any Photoshop version.

Discover More Photoshop Brush Tutorials and Resources

I hope you've enjoyed this water drop brush Photoshop tutorial and the selection of water brush Photoshop sets. 

Now, if you're wondering where can you get more Photoshop brush content, I've got you covered. Check out these useful resources and tutorials:

Create Your Water Drop Brush Photoshop Effect Today! 

Can't get enough custom creative brushes in Photoshop? Remember to check out the massive library of Photoshop brushes, actions and presets, and all the creative digital resources available on Envato Elements!

Creating your own library of digital resources pulled from real-world practical effects is a skill that will pay off exponentially in the future. Instead of searching stock sites for interesting textures, try creating some for yourself! I'd love to see them in the comments below.

Looking for something to help kick start your next project?
Envato Market has a range of items for sale to help get you started.