How to Create Custom Brushes in Photoshop (CS2/3/4)

Brushes are one of the most powerful tools available to a designer. The application of commonly-used effects and image elements can be greatly simplified by using brushes, and making your own couldn't be easier. In this tutorial we will look at creating your own custom brushes and brush sets from images you have created.

1. Create a blank canvas with a white background, making sure colour mode is set to RGB. Resolution isn't important for brushes, so leave it at the default value (usually 72, or whatever resolution you last specified). Size can be whatever you want up to a maximum of 2500x2500 pixels, but it's a good idea to make your brush as large as possible as it's always easier to scale down than up. The white background is important as any white areas in the brush will be completely transparent.

Fig12. Now to create the image that will become your brush. Depending on your needs this could be anything, from a vector shape to a full-canvas texture, but this part of the tutorial will focus on using a cut-out raster image. Once you have an image that you want to turn into a brush, open it up and select the area you want to use, then Fig2copy and paste it onto your new canvas. Remove any areas you don't need, then go to Edit > Define Brush Preset. Any colours in the image will turn grey. These greys represent levels of opacity on the final brush, black being 100% opaque. If you need further control over the final output, for example to ensure a given area Fig3remains opaque, you can desaturate the image and adjust it before defining the brush (for a solid shape, you will need to paint all of the the non-white areas with pure black). Once you are happy, give it a name and click OK.



Fig63. After clicking OK, feel free to test out your newly created brush on a new layer, but do not change to a different brush set or your brush will be lost as it has not been 'saved' at this point. To avoid this, you will need to save the set before you continue. Your brush will appear at the bottom of the brush list in the currently selected set. Right click on each of the brushes in the list (except the one you just created of course!) and select Delete Brush.


Once you have only your own brushes in the list, click the small arrow in the top-right corner of the brush list and select Save Brushes.... Give the set a unique, preferably descriptive name, make sure the path is set to the presets/brushes folder within your photoshop install directory and click Save. After photoshop is restarted your brushes will appear in the set list under the name you specified.

You can append new brushes to the set at any time by loading the set, creating your new brushes and re-saving the set under the same name. You can also rearrange, append and rename brushes within a set using Edit > Preset Manager

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