By: Elyse                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimation

Software Used: Photoshop

Using Photoshop, we have all had this thought at one point: ‘’Man, wouldn’t it be great if there was a brush that could do all this, instead of me wasting my life on it?!’’ Well, in this tutorial, I will explain how I create my own custom brushes and how I use them in order to save me an incredible amount of time when I paint.

We will first try to mimic the stroke of a pencil – one of the main brushes I used to paint Sky Machina, along with a textured dry brush. At first, the brush creating process seems a bit tedious, but as soon as you get the hang of it you’ll pretty much fall in love with it. You can create a brush out of everything you paint! So first, let’s open a new file of about 500 by 500 pixels and draw whatever you want (let’s draw dots for the sake of this tutorial). Now go to Edit > Define Brush Preset (Fig.01 – 02). And that’s it! Well, that’s not exactly it, but following that the only things left to do are to rename your brush (Fig.03) and tweak it to get the effect you want, in the Brushes tab on the top menu.

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Opening the Brushes menu, we notice a bunch of options used to customize the basic brush that we just created (Fig.04). So, at this point, I suggest you open a new fi le with a white background to test the brush as you make the tweaks. You don’t need to change that much to get a decent result though. There might seem to be a lot of options but they’re all very intuitive and you can see the result right away in the Brush Preview window.

Here we’ll change the brush Spacing, since we want to eliminate the gap between each shape to make it look like a single stroke, so I’ll change the spacing from 25 to 5%. Notice how the stroke now feels even and continuous (Fig.05). I then check Shape Dynamics so that the lighter I press with the tablet pen, the thinner the stroke will be (Fig.06). You can just leave everything else at the default settings. Now skip to Dual Brush – this option is really where the party’s at! Here your brush can really become something special. For this brush I’ll use the triangular-shaped brush in the Thumbnails menu, which is full of tiny holes so it’ll give me the pencil look I’m trying to achieve. Simply change the values, as shown in Fig.07.

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If I try the brush at this point I already get the result I wanted (Fig.08). The only thing left now is to activate the Opacity change with the Pen Pressure so that, if I press lighter on the tablet, the stroke will be lighter too (Fig.09). It’s just more intuitive and easier to work with this way. Save the newly created brush under something like “Pencil brush” – and that’s it! See the difference (Fig.10)? Use this new brush as you would use a real pencil to create all the different opacities and brush sizes you need. It’s a really nice brush to do line art digitally, or simply to get a little more texture than you would get with a regular round brush for example (Fig.11).

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The other main brush I use, besides the regular hard-edged round brush found in the default Photoshop brush set, is another custom brush. This one is kind of like the one we just created, as it’s based on the same starting shape, but it has a texture associated to it. So let’s start with the same previous dots and save it as something like “Dry brush”. Again, in the Brushes tab menu, let’s play with a couple of the options … Firstly, drop the spacing to 5%, just like with the previous one, check Shape Dynamics and Other Dynamics, and leave everything else at default. Then check Texture, and leave everything at default there as well. Let’s step back at this point, save the brush we have here, and move on to creating the texture that the brush will use.

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There are a bunch of default textures you can find when you click on Textures in the Brushes tab menu, but none of them will help us here. So let’s make our own! A very quick and simple way I have found is to take a photo of concrete, or any similar surfaces, take it to Photoshop, play with the Brightness/Contrast until you have a really contrasted and uneven texture, invert the colors (Ctrl + I), desaturate it, and then go to Filter > Brush Strokes and throw an Accented Edges filter on it (Fig.12 – 15). This should do! Now all you have to do is go to Edit > Define Pattern, save it under something like Dry Brush Pattern (Fig.16), and it should automatically appear in the pattern library.

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Let’s go back to where we were with our dry brush. In the Texture menu, browse the patterns and fi nd the one we just created (Fig.17), adjust the scale to 60% and make sure that Texture Each Tip is checked. Select Subtract as the blending mode and leave everything else at 100% (Fig.18). The brush is now done, so save it and enjoy the texture madness (Fig.19)! To get a little more diversity with the textures, I used the brushes seen in Fig.20 as well. Everything else, though, was done with the two custom brushes just created (Fig.21).

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Excerpt from Digital Painting Techniques by © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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