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How to Create Realistic Watercolor Photoshop Brushes From Scratch

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Final product imageFinal product imageFinal product image
What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial, we will create realistic watercolor brushes for Photoshop from scanned paper using watercolor brushstrokes and washes.

But what if you need ready-to-use, professional watercolor brushes for Photoshop? Scroll down after this watercolor brush Photoshop tutorial to discover a great selection of premium watercolor brushes from Envato Elements.

Get this watercolor brush set for your digital projects from Envato Elements.Get this watercolor brush set for your digital projects from Envato Elements.Get this watercolor brush set for your digital projects from Envato Elements.
Get this watercolor brush set for your digital projects from Envato Elements.

If you prefer watching this watercolor brush Photoshop tutorial in action, follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

Prefer to use Adobe Illustrator? Try this article instead:

What You Will Learn in This Watercolor Brush Photoshop Tutorial

  • How to make a watercolor brush in Photoshop from scratch
  • How to make watercolor brushstrokes on paper
  • How to digitize watercolor brushstrokes 
  • How to create and use a watercolor brush in Photoshop

Tutorial Assets

You will need the following in order to complete this watercolor brush Photoshop tutorial:

  • a sheet of watercolor paper
  • any medium-sized brush
  • a small jar with water
  • any set of watercolor paints
  • a scanner that has the ability to scan A4-size paper

1. How to Create the Strokes on Watercolor Paper

Step 1

Prepare your brush, paper, and paints, and then pour the water into the jar.

Preparing instrumentsPreparing instrumentsPreparing instruments

Step 2

Put a small amount of water on the paper with your brush.

Creating water wash on the paperCreating water wash on the paperCreating water wash on the paper

Step 3

Start adding paint to the water on the paper using the edge of your brush.

Adding paints to waterAdding paints to waterAdding paints to water

Step 4

Continue to add paint until your stroke looks like the picture below.

Finishing first brushFinishing first brushFinishing first brush

Step 5

Now let's create a second watercolor stroke. Draw a long stroke with one horizontal movement.

Creating second watercolor strokeCreating second watercolor strokeCreating second watercolor stroke

Step 6

To create the last one, use sharp movements by holding the brush by the tip.

Creating the last watercolor brushCreating the last watercolor brushCreating the last watercolor brush

Step 7

Now we need to wait a while for it all to dry.

Drying watercolor brushesDrying watercolor brushesDrying watercolor brushes

2. How to Digitize Watercolor Brushstrokes

Step 1

We need to prepare the scanner glass to avoid stains or unwanted elements on your brushes. You can use a wet wipe to clean the glass.

Preparing scanner glassPreparing scanner glassPreparing scanner glass

Step 2

Once you have cleaned the scanner glass, put your paper on the scanner.

Putting paper into the scannerPutting paper into the scannerPutting paper into the scanner

Step 3

Set the following settings in your scanner preferences: A4 paper size, 300 dpi. Then start scanning. The color of our scanned paper can be different from the color of our strokes, but it is much more important for us to preserve the structure.

Scanning the paperScanning the paperScanning the paper

3. How to Create a Watercolor Brush in Photoshop

Step 1

We're one step closer to learn how to make a watercolor brush in Photoshop. Now, it's time to use our scanned images. Use Control-N to create a new document and use the following settings: 1500 x 1000 px; 300 dpi.

Creating new documentCreating new documentCreating new document

Step 2

Go to File > Place and put your scanned paper into the document.

Placing the scanned documentPlacing the scanned documentPlacing the scanned document

Step 3

Resize your scanned paper to the borders of the document, so one of the brushes will be placed in the center, and click Enter.

Resizing the paperResizing the paperResizing the paper

Step 4

Select your layer and use the Shift-Control-Alt-B key combination and set the following settings: Reds: 40%; Yellows: 60%; Greens: 40%; Cyans: -25%; Blues: -25%; Magentas: 80%.

Adding blackwhite effect to the layerAdding blackwhite effect to the layerAdding blackwhite effect to the layer

Step 5

Go to Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast and use the following settings: Brightness: 35; Contrast: 25.

Changing brightnesscontrast of the layerChanging brightnesscontrast of the layerChanging brightnesscontrast of the layer

Step 6

Right-click on the layer and then select Duplicate Layer.

Creating Duplicate of the layerCreating Duplicate of the layerCreating Duplicate of the layer

Step 7

Create two more duplicates of your layer using Right-click > Duplicate.

Creating Duplicates of the layerCreating Duplicates of the layerCreating Duplicates of the layer

Step 8

Make all scan layers Invisible except the first.

Making layers invisibleMaking layers invisibleMaking layers invisible

Step 9

Select your first layer, go to Select > Color Range, and click on the white area on your image. Click OK.

Selecting colorsSelecting colorsSelecting colors

Step 10

Now the white background of your image is selected. Delete it using the Delete button.

Deleting background of your layerDeleting background of your layerDeleting background of your layer

Step 11

Then click on any part of your document to Deselect the previous selection and select your stroke using the Lasso Tool.

Selection your brushSelection your brushSelection your brush

Step 12

Go to Edit > Define Brush Preset, select any name you want to use for your brush, and hit the OK button.

Creating first brushCreating first brushCreating first brush

Step 13

Our first brush is almost ready to use. Select Brush Instrument and then select your watercolor stoke. After that, hit the Brush Settings icon.

Opening brush settingsOpening brush settingsOpening brush settings

Step 14

Put ticks on Shape Dynamics, Color Dynamics, and Transfer.

Setting parameters of the brushSetting parameters of the brushSetting parameters of the brush

Step 15

Go to the Shape Dynamics panel and set Size Jitter to 90% and Angle Jitter to 50%.

Setting size and angle jittersSetting size and angle jittersSetting size and angle jitters

Step 16

Go to the Transfer panel and set Opacity Jitter to 25%.

Setting opacity JitterSetting opacity JitterSetting opacity Jitter

Now our brush will create realistic-looking washes:

Step 17

Now we need to cut the second stroke from the background as we did before, and after that go to Edit > Define Brush Preset and create Watercolor Brush 02.

Creating Watercolor Brush 02Creating Watercolor Brush 02Creating Watercolor Brush 02

Step 18

Open the brush settings and go to Dual Brush, and then select your first brush. Set the Mode to Multiply, Size to 450 px, and Spacing to 72%.

Setting parameters for second brushSetting parameters for second brushSetting parameters for second brush

This way, we can combine the brushes and add grunge scrapes to our brush texture.

Step 19

Now we need to cut the second stroke from the background as we did before, and after that go to Edit > Define Brush Preset and create Watercolor Brush 03.

Creating third brushCreating third brushCreating third brush

Step 20

Open the brush settings and go to Shape Dynamics, and set Size Jitter to 100% and Angle Jitter to 75%.

Setting size and angle jitters parametersSetting size and angle jitters parametersSetting size and angle jitters parameters

With these brush settings, we can create ink splashes.

Awesome Work, You're Now Done!

Using these methods, we can create different types of watercolor brushes for Photoshop using a scanner, watercolor paper, and paints.

5 Best Watercolor Brushes From Envato Elements and Envato Market

You've learned how to make watercolor brushes from scratch in this watercolor brush Photoshop tutorial. Now, if you want watercolor brushstrokes ready to use in Photoshop, we've got you covered. 

We'll review some of the best watercolor brushes from Envato Elements. If you're a digital creator, you'll love our subscription-based marketplace. 

Enjoy unlimited downloads of watercolor brushes for Photoshop from Envato Elements. Enjoy unlimited downloads of watercolor brushes for Photoshop from Envato Elements. Enjoy unlimited downloads of watercolor brushes for Photoshop from Envato Elements.
Enjoy unlimited downloads of watercolor brushes for Photoshop from Envato Elements.

For a low monthly fee, enjoy unlimited downloads of the best watercolor brushes. You can also get unlimited premium fonts, graphic templates, actions and presets and more. Now, let's review some watercolor brush Photoshop sets from Envato Elements:

1. 202 Watercolor Brushes (ABR)

202 Watercolor Brushes (ABR)202 Watercolor Brushes (ABR)202 Watercolor Brushes (ABR)

If you're looking for a complete watercolor brush set, this is the one for you. This watercolor brush Photoshop pack comes with 202 unique brushes: 106 abstract, 22 floral and 74 extra brushes. Use them to create your own brush masks and digital works of art.

2. AquaFlow Watercolor Generator (ABR, AI, ASL, EPS, PAT)

AquaFlow Watercolor Generator (ABR, AI, ASL, EPS, PAT)AquaFlow Watercolor Generator (ABR, AI, ASL, EPS, PAT)AquaFlow Watercolor Generator (ABR, AI, ASL, EPS, PAT)

This is another complete watercolor brush set for the digital artist. These are some of the best watercolor brushes we've got. This watercolor brush toolkit can be used on Photoshop and Illustrator, and has everything you need for watercolor creations. In this pack, you'll get:

  • 54 brushes (ABR)
  • 36 seamless watercolor patterns (PAT)
  • 108 photoshop layer styles (ASL)
  • 150+ bonus vector illustrations
  • 50+ brushes and patterns for Illustrator

3. Watercolor Brushes for Photoshop (ABR, PNG)

Watercolor Brushes for PhotoshopWatercolor Brushes for PhotoshopWatercolor Brushes for Photoshop

Do you like tropical paintings and illustrations? Then this fun watercolor brush set is perfect for you. Create beautiful and colorful watercolor illustrations in no time!

This watercolor brush Photoshop pack comes with 15 hand-drawn brushes and 15 flora and fauna PNG illustrations.

4. Watercolor Brush Set (ABR)

Watercolor Brush Set (ABR)Watercolor Brush Set (ABR)Watercolor Brush Set (ABR)

Check out this watercolor brush Photoshop pack with 50 unique brushes. The watercolor brushes are handcrafted and easy to use.

You'll get 50 dynamic watercolor brushes and 50 stamp watercolor brushes in this set.

5. Creative Masking Kit (ABR, PSD)

creative masking kitcreative masking kitcreative masking kit

This watercolor brush set is from GraphicRiver, where you don't need a subscription. You can buy watercolor brush Photoshop packs like this one at a time. Here you'll get 102 handcrafted Photoshop brushes:

  • 43 strokes
  • 11 small mask brushes 
  • 14 dynamic brushes 
  • 2 painting effects: watercolor and oil painting
  • and more

Explore More Brushes and Start Creating Today!

I hope you've enjoyed this watercolor brush Photoshop tutorial! Now you know how to make a watercolor brush in Photoshop from scratch.

If you want to check out more awesome resources, we've got these for you:

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