Ever wanted to know how to make a brush in Photoshop from an image? In this tutorial, we'll take a look at how to make a custom brush in Photoshop, and how to make a Photoshop brush from an image. These concepts will apply to many different images and brush types. So, if you've ever been curious about how to make a brush in Photoshop, you're in the right place.
What You'll Need
Here is what you'll need for this tutorial:
An Image for your Brush—we'll use these:
Optionally, artwork to apply and test out your custom Photoshop brushes, such as:
You're welcome to download these photos and work along with the walkthrough. Alternatively, you can use an image of your own—it doesn't necessarily have to be feathers. These concepts will transfer to any image you'd like to turn into a Photoshop brush.
Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:
How to Make a Brush in Photoshop From an Image
One of the first and most important steps when it comes to learning how to make a brush from an image in Photoshop is the image itself. For this demonstration, we'll start simple, with this isolated photograph of a feather.
This is a strong and straightforward choice because we won't have to worry about heavy background edits or a lot of cleanup around the subject of the photo. When choosing an image for your brush, keep things like this in mind. Either look for a photo that's a strong choice for converting into a brush or prepare to spend time cleaning up and isolating your subject.
Begin by opening up your chosen photo in Adobe Photoshop.
In order for Photoshop to best interpret our image as a brush, we need to make sure the image is presented properly. In particular, black is used to register what is part of the brush. We'll need a black image on a white background.
However, shades of gray are also included in this—and that's why we can create beautiful, photorealistic brushes, as we will with this feather image.
In this case, let's go to Image > Adjustments > Invert to make the background white and the image black. This inverts those colors for us.
Tip: It's important that our subject is either on a transparent background or a white background—not off white or a gray value. Photoshop will pick that extra value up as part of the brush.
Next, let's create a New Document by going to File > New. We'll make a document that's 750 pixels wide by 750 pixels high.
According to Adobe, a brush can be up to 2500 pixels by 2500 pixels in size. Choose whichever size you prefer, but a square aspect ratio is recommended.
Click Create, once you're happy with your document settings.
Let's go back to our feather image. We need to copy and paste this into our new document.
First, select the image by going to Select > All. We can tell it's selected because of the dashed lines surrounding the image after we do so.
Then, copy the image by going to Edit > Copy.
Return to our new document. Then, go Edit > Paste to paste our image into this document. Photoshop pastes our image on a new layer, as shown in the example below.
Here's an example of what this looks like. You'll notice that the image doesn't fit the space properly, by default.
To resize our image, make sure the layer containing this image is selected. Then, go to Edit > Free Transform. Click and drag on the resize handles around the perimeter of the image. You'll notice that this likely goes outside of the size of your canvas—that's to be expected when the image is larger than this space.
You can also easily rotate your image by clicking and dragging outside of the resize handles, when the cursor looks like a pair of rounded arrows.
Resize and adjust your image until it fits this space appropriately.
In this case, our original image was beautifully isolated, so it makes preparing this image really straightforward. If your image is more complicated, make sure to take time to clear and adjust the background. Any leftover content could be carried over into your brush.
Go to Edit > Define Brush Preset to begin.
Next, Photoshop will show us a preview of our brush and ask us to give it a name. We shouldn't see any background content in the preview. If you do, make sure to cancel and erase any excess content in the background of your image. It should either be white or transparent. Any grayscale artifacts may be "picked up" as part of the brush.
Name your brush, and then click OK.
Now, our new brush is active and selected. I recommend testing it out in a new document, in a number of different colors and sizes. It will behave like a default brush.
Even without experimenting with the Brush Settings, we can already achieve some pretty interesting textures with our new brush. Notice how the little details and qualities of the photo are transferred to the brush.
You can repeat this process with as many different photos as you prefer. Here is a second feather brush I created with this striped feather photograph, using the same process a second time.
This one doesn't require us to invert the background and foreground. Instead, I simply went to Image > Desaturate, to make it monochrome. That helped me preview what it might look like, and it helped me clean up any excess value.
Then Define the brush. It's that simple—use this process to create as many brushes as you like.
We can also turn to our Brush Settings to customize our newly created brushes. To open them, go to Window > Brush Settings.
For example, let's say we don't like the way the feather is positioned here. We don't have to start over from scratch. Instead, under Brush Tip Shape, we can simply click and drag the angle to change the direction of the feather.
Tip: You can save your changes as a new brush at the bottom of your Brush Settings—just click on the plus sign to do so. Otherwise, these changes can be temporary and on an as-needed basis.
Apply your brushes to all kinds of different photos, illustrations, and more! That's precisely what I did with this cloud photograph—just have fun placing feathers. Use the Eyedropper Tool to select colors from your photo, so they can more easily match the setting.
But let's take what we've created and try applying it to a more complex image. This beautiful photo manipulation was created by Abbey Esparza, and you check out her step-by-step process in this tutorial:
Here's a look at the image we're going to work with. You could apply your custom brushes to any image you'd prefer. Start by opening it up in Adobe Photoshop.
Begin by creating a New Layer on top of your photograph or artwork. You can do so in your Layers panel, which you can open by going to Window > Layers.
The plus icon, at the base of his panel, will create a new layer for you. It's advisable to add this content on a new layer, so we don't necessarily affect the original photo. This makes it easy to edit and move our new additions.
Select a Foreground Color for your brush. We'll match the dark color of the angel wings here with the Eyedropper Tool.
Then, with the Brush Tool active, click to place your first feather on your New Layer.
Let's use our Brush Settings to tweak the brush as we draw. So, for example, let's say we want the feather to face in the opposite direction. We can Flip X or Flip Y within the Brush Tip Set Settings to change the orientation. Again, we can also drag the angle to rotate the brush.
Remember, you can also resize your brush, as you would any other brush in your collection. In the case of this image, we wouldn't want every feather to look the same. Variation in size would make this look more natural.
Create new layers as needed, if you want to keep some of your feathers separated for further edits. For example, I would recommend putting the feathers further in the back on their own layer, separate from the larger feathers in the foreground.
To help make the depth of field here look more realistic, you can add a blur to some of your feathers. I applied a Gaussian Blur (via Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur) and used the Blur Tool to achieve this effect.
If you'd like to know even more about photo manipulation and other cool effects you could add to your feather brushes, make sure to check out Abbey Esparza's full tutorial. The results are awesome, and she breaks it down in a way that's so simple to follow. Check it out!
Check Out These Inspiring Photoshop Brushes
Now that we've explored how to convert an image to a brush in Photoshop, maybe you're looking to add more brushes to your collection. There are so many options, once you understand how to create a brush in Photoshop—you could work with clouds, water, leaves, birds, and so much more. The possibilities are endless, and designers have come up with so many creative concepts that you can download and use right now.
Check out these inspiring Photoshop brushes today.
Add some pretty butterflies to your next composition with these lovely Photoshop brushes. Use blending modes to add some color, or keep them black and white for a monochrome effect.
Easily add some realistic fire to your work with these fire Photoshop brushes. Change up the hue, layer them, and experiment with sizes to create stylish flames and bursts of color.
If you're looking for something abstract, check out this stylish pack of Photoshop brushes. You get 87 brushes to choose from, and they make a great addition to abstract backgrounds, textures, and more.
Adding a water ripple effect is simple when you use a Photoshop brush. Choose from 45 different ripples in high resolution, and add this effect to whichever color or texture you prefer.
Create beautiful galaxy scenes with this set of nebula Photoshop brushes. The brushes themselves were sampled from actual photos of the stars, and the result is an inspiring, realistic aesthetic.
Want to Learn More about How to Make a Custom Brush in Photoshop?
Now that we've looked at how to make a Photoshop brush from an image, what kind of brush would you make?
Want to know even more about how to create a brush in Photoshop? We've got all kinds of free tutorials for all kinds of different Photoshop brushes. From questions about how to convert an image to a brush in Photoshop to learning how to make a brush from an image in Photoshop using other images and aesthetics, there's plenty more to see and try.
Check out these free tutorials from Envato Tuts+ today.
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