top of page

How to make your own Photoshop Brushes from photograph + a free goodie

Updated: Feb 12, 2019

There is no better way of adding a personal touch to your illustration works then making your own brushes, right? In this post I'll show you how you can expand your personal brush collection and treat yourself with new digital goodie by using Photoshop and free stock photos. Also, there is a surprise at the end...

Inspired by the awesome Skillshare class True Grit: Handmade Textures & Halftones for Designers & Illustrators by a Sydney based Illustrator and founder of Andrew Fairclough, who thought me a lot about editing photos and making your own textures, I decided to to a quick blog about how I make my own brushes in Photoshop by following his tips and tricks on making textures from photos.

Custom brushes give my illustrations cerain organic touch I just looove so much. For years I've been trying different free downloadable ones, but once I've learned how to make my own brushes, I admitt it, I became quite opsessed with creating those digital goodies. Here are some tips and tricks on creating your custom brushes in Photoshop using free domain photos - we'll do a bundle togather which you'll be able to download for free by the end of this post.

Getting your resources ready

I frequently use Unsplash to find beutiful free photos, gifted by the world’s most generous community of photographers. For this excersise I decided to use sea and waves photographs as an inpiration, coupled with some stone, ice and brush stokes photos to achive the natural look. Feel free to use any other natural phenomenon or material like wood, stone, sky etc. Download the photos on your computer and you're good and ready to go!

blue textures
Gallery I decided to go for.

It's time for some Photoshop action!

Editing the photo

Open a new Photoshop document - I usually go with standard A4 size set to 600 or 1200 dpi depending on the quality I wish to achive but both is good. It's imortant to set your color mode to grayscale as we will be concentrating on just the shades, highlights and everything in between. Place one of the textures you downloaded into your newly opened file, resize it to fit your canvas and click on Layer - Smart Object - Convert to Smart Object by which we are making sure photograph stays untouched while we do all the editing so we can always go back to it's original state.

Next up is adjusting Levels. Click on Image - Adjustments - Levels which opens a new panel. In the Levels panel adjust the sliders in a way that gives you a lot of pure blacks and whites and little midtones in between. I prefer going with more whites that black, but it's up to you how tick of a brush you want to create. Then go to Image - Mode - Bitmap. Window pops up and you clik ok - I do want to flaten my layers. In the next window, keep your resoulution high as it is and as a Method use 50 percent Treshold. Your image shoul now be made dispersed black spackles on a white backround.

Making the brushes

By now you should have something like previews shown in the image bellow. First open you Brush Panel and in the panel's drop down menu click on New brush group in which all our our newly created brushes will be stored and give it a name. Next up is creating selections from your edited photo and creating your brushes. Pick a Lasso or any other selection tool and find those little interesting spots on the image. Make a selection of shapes you find ineteresting. Click on Edit - Define Brush Preset. Repeat the process a couple of times until you have around 5-8 differenet shapes defined as brushes.

creating brush in photoshop
Brush creating process - from photo to 50% treshold and interesting shapes on the far lefz

Open the Brush Settings panel which gives a lot of adjustments you can make to brushes you defined earlier and that's exacly what we are going to do. Go to Image - Size and change it to around 2000 px in width and lower the resoulution to 300dpi. Create a new layer (I usually use paint bucket to paint it black).

Making the brush pack a.k.a Playtime

Click on the first brush you defined and it's setting will automatically be shown in the Brush panel. Since we worked with a pretty large scale document, it's best to change the brush tip size first to meet your planned purpose- I usually use from 5-20px for pencil-like brushes, 20-50px for dry brushes and 50px+ for coloring and shading ones.

Rest of the settings are up to you - take your time, explore and play with all the settings can do and you can even see the adjustments you make in the preview at the bottom of the panel. Mostly I play with size jitter, spacing, angel jitter, scatter, texture, pen pressure, and roundness. Meanwhile, as I change the settings I try my brush on a separate layer with a white brush on my black colored background.

When you are happy with the look go to drop down menu of the Brush Panel and click on New Brush Preset and give it a name. Be sure to keep the Capture bruhs size in Presets option ticked to be able to see the defined brush stroke size in your Brush panel. Now that you brush is saved to your brush panel keep playing with the settings - change the angel jitter, increase the scattering, decrease the roundness - it's up to you but be sure to be testing your brush strokes as you change the settings - something interesting will surely come out. Again, as soon as your happy with the look repeat the proces of saving it as a new brush preset. As soon as you get bored with the play, take another one of the brushes created from selections in the previous step and continue playing with it's settings. You'll see, posibilities are really endless.

Free Photoshop brushes pack for download

By following this exact steps I created my "Waves pack" with 12 distinct brushes that I am making available free for download here on my website. I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on the set as well as your brushes so send me links guys, I am excited to see all your works!

download waves brush pack


bottom of page