What is a photoshop brush?
In this tutorial, the term “brush” is a little misleading. Rather than using brushes for digital painting, we will use a Photoshop brush as less of a brush and more of a stamp. Photoshop brushes are similar to bitmap .tiffs, but they work better for pixel-based projects, and they are semi-transparent. Photoshop brushes are especially useful for adding textures and making graphics or digital collages.
Bitmap TIFF vs. Photoshop brush
Bitmap TIFFs are more commonly used in Adobe Illustrator. They work best for vector-based graphics. When you make a bitmap TIFF, the white parts of your image become transparent. In order to make a bitmap TIFF, you must first adjust the threshold of the image, which flattens the image to black and white.
Photoshop brushes work best for pixel-based projects, although they can be saved as .psd files and imported into Illustrator. The main difference between Photoshop brushes and bitmap TIFFS is that Photoshop brushes maintain some value when the opaque parts of the image become transparent.
To learn more about bitmap TIFFs, click here.
What You Need
For this tutorial I will be using Adobe Photoshop CS6, however, the process should be similar for Creative Cloud users.
You can use any image you want, but note that your image should be at least 1200 px by 1200 px to be considered high quality. Images with a white background tend to work out better. I’m going to use a stock photo of a gentleman walking, so we can put him several different places.
Open your image.
Desaturate the image.
(Image → Adjustments → Desaturate)
Adjust the contrast using curves or levels. For the purpose of this tutorial, I’m going with levels.
(Image → Adjustments → Levels or Image → Adjustments → Curves)
It’s important to make sure that the blacks are as dark as we can make them. Using the black eyedropper tool, click on a part of your image that should be pure black.
Other than that, the amount of contrast is just a matter of personal preference.
Select your image with the rectangular marquee tool. (Don’t worry about trying to cut out your image perfectly- so long as it has a white background, the process will do this for you.)
Make a brush!
(Edit → Define brush preset)
When you complete this step, you should get a dialogue box that looks like this. You can name your brush anything you like.
Now, to save your brush so you can access it for future use, select the brush tool in the left tools panel.
Then, select the brush options drop-down panel in the upper left corner.
The brush you just made should appear as a thumbnail in the very last row.
Click on the little gear icon to the right of the brush size and select “Preset Manager” from the drop-down menu.
You should come up with a dialogue box that shows you thumbnails of all the brushes in your palette. Again, the brush you just made should show up as the last thumbnail.
Make sure your brush is selected, then click on “Save Set” and save your brush as an .abr file.
The next time you load Photoshop, you can access your brush by loading it into the brushes palette.
Apply brush accordingly.