A lot of people don’t realize how easy it is to create your own photoshop brushes. If you find yourself drawing the same elements over and over you can save a lot of time by creating a brush of that particular element. A good example of this is creating grunge elements to dirty up a design.
So for the sake of this tutorial, I’ll be walking you through creating a grunge Photoshop brush.
When creating Photoshop brushes there are a couple of limitations you should be aware of.
First, you’re basically working in levels of transparency using greyscale colors. Black is solid, white is 100% transparent and shades of gray represent different levels of transparency. The closer to black the more opaque it is.
Second, brushes have a max size of 2500×2500 so make sure you work within those size limitations. I usually try to create my brushes as close to 2500×2500 as possible since brushes tend to size down better than they size up.
Now that you know the basics, let’s start making our brush!
Step 1. Choose and Prepare the Image
Open the image in Photoshop & crop it down to a square. Since the image is 1300×1942, select the crop tool and set both the width and height to 1300px. While you don’t have to work in a square, I find that it creates more consistent brushes.
Select a nice and grungy portion of the image then click the checkmark to commit the current crop operation.
Step 2. Make the Image Greyscale
Since we’re essentially working in greyscale anyway, even though the image is colored, let’s go ahead and make it greyscale so we can better see exactly what is happening.
Click on ‘Create New Fill’ or ‘Adjustment Layer’ and select Black and White.
This will bring up an option box where you can play with different settings if you like. However it’s not necessary since we’ll be adjusting the levels in the next step.
Step 3. Adjust the Levels for Better Darks and Lights
Now we have our black and white image but it’s not quite as rich in shades as we need it to be. We want to try to get a full range of shades to give the brush as much depth as possible.
Click on ‘Create New Fill’ or ‘Adjustment Layer’ again and this time select Levels
Now we get another option box where we will adjust the settings. Use the left slider to adjust the darks and the right slider to adjust the lights. Use the middle slider to make subtle adjustments either way.
You can see in the image below which settings I decided on. Feel free to adjust it to your own preferences. You’ll most likely want to leave the output levels as they are.
In the image below you can see how much of a difference adjusting the levels made.
Step 4. Shape the Brush
While what we have now would make a good brush, there isn’t much use for a perfectly square grunge brush. Those hard edges have to go.
First let’s give the brush it’s general shape. Select the Lasso Tool and use it to cut out any abstract shape from the image.
I’ve made the texture transparent in the image below so that you can see the shape I cut out.
The middle is what we now have selected, but we want to delete the edges instead. So go to Select and choose Inverse. This will reverse our selection so that the edges are now selected instead of the middle. press delete to get rid of the edges then press Ctrl+d to get rid of the selection.
In the image below you can see what we’re left with.
Now we need to grungy up those edges. So select the Eraser Tool and choose any non-solid brush you like. I chose Texture 3 from Assorted Brushes.
Now just start dabbing around the edge getting rid of those hard edges. You’ll probably want to vary the brush size a bit as you go around and may even want to change brushes. Note that you don’t have to be perfect here, we’re still going to do more shaping in a minute.
You can see my outcome in the image below. I also did a bit of deleting in the center area of the brush just for some variation.
To finish shaping the brush and make it exactly the way you want it, select the clone tool and either keep the same brush you’ve been using or choose a different non-solid brush.
Use the clone tool to make the edges a bit grungier and fill in the overall shape a bit more. Make sure you leave plenty of white space around the edges as well as having some white space within the brush. Below you can see my final image.
Step 5. Create a Brush from the Image
Now that we have our brush exactly the way we want it, it’s time to actually save it as a Photoshop brush. Go to Edit and select Define Brush Preset.
A box will pop up asking you to name the brush. Give it a name and click OK.
Congratulations, you’ve just made your first photoshop brush. It’s immediately available to use in your brush inventory. But do not stop here, you still need to save a copy of your brush so you don’t lose it later.
Step 6. Saving the Brush
As I said above, all new brushes automatically appear in your brush inventory. However, you still need to save a copy of it in an .abr file since loading new brush sets can get rid of your current inventory.
To do this select the brush tool and open the Brush Preset picker.
Click on the little arrow in the top right corner of the box and select Preset Manager.
The Preset Manager will show you all of the brushes you currently have loaded, including any new brushes you’ve just created. You can save individual or multiple brushes in a single .abr file.
Select the brushes you want to save (use Ctrl to select multiple brushes – selected brushes will be outlined in bold) and click Save Set.
Name your brush set and you’re finished!
You can use this process on any image to create a brush of that image. Just make sure you’re using royalty free images to start with to avoid copyright issues.