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Learn how to create custom brushes in Photoshop

Tips on using, making and working with custom brushes in Photoshop.

|  Adobe Photoshop
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Extend canvas

Open your image and extend the canvas, if you need to, so there's space for out custom brush shapes to flow into.

Adjust the background

Our background is grey and we want it to be white so we used the Magic Erase tool to remove the colour by clicking on part of the background. Now the background is empty we can create a new one for our instrument to sit on. We want the background to be white so with the foreground colour as white we selected the Fill tool and clicked on the background to change it to white. Select the Elliptical Marquee tool and draw an oval in the centre of the image.

Draw Oval shape
Feather the selection (Select>Modify>Feather) and inverse it (Select>Inverse).


Inverse the selection
Make sure the background layer is selected in the layers palette and go to Hue/Saturation. Drag the Lightness slider to the left to darken the edge of the background slightly. You should now have a background which has a circle of white in the middle and grey towards the edges.
Adjust hue/saturation

Add colour

Create another new layer (Layer>New Layer) and call this one 'colour'. Use the Eyedropper tool to sample colour from the object your shapes are going to be 'flying' from then with the Paintbrush tool, draw in a funnel shape out from your object on the colour layer you've just created. It may look a little messy at the moment but trust us! It will work.


Layer Mask

Next we need to make a layer Mask on this layer. To do this click on the circle that's sat inside a rectangle at the bottom of the layers palette then hit Shift + backspace to fill the mask with black. This will hide the paint you've just applied to the image.
Layer Mask

Add the custom shape

Now we are going to add the notes that are going to 'fly' from the end of the bass. This will be done in two stages: one, painting white notes onto the end of the bass to give the impression they've cut away from it and two, adding black notes that will be scattered through the air to the right of the bass.

Duplicate the layer which has your object on, which in our case is the bass, so any changes you make won't be applied to the original then select the Paintbrush tool. Look to the toolbar at the top of Photoshop and click on the arrow next to Brush.
Paintbrush tool
This will open a menu where you can adjust the size of the brush you're using and the shape of the brush that's selected. To change the shape of the brush click on the arrow that points to the right and a menu will drop down that has a list of brush types. We're using musical notes so have selected Musical Notes from the drop-down menu. You can find several types of brushes online if you're looking for something that's not already built into Photoshop. When you click on the brush type you want to use Photoshop will tell you it will replace your current brush selection just hit OK.

You can now spend ages clicking and creating individual brush shapes until you have created the scattered effect we're looking for, however there's a much quicker and easier way to do this. Go to Window>Brushes to open the Brushes dialogue box. Here you can custom create brushes which means we can make one click and create several notes at the same time instead of having to click and repeat the process over and over again.

Custom Brushes

Custom brushes

Tick and click on Shape Dynamics adjust the Size Jitter slider to 100% and if you want the individual shapes to appear at different angles change the Angle Jitter slider. The more towards 100% you drag the slider the more uneven the shapes will be. Next click on Scattering and drag the slider to the right to scatter the shapes. We also adjust the Opacity Jitter in the Other Dynamics menu to alter the shade of some of the notes. Once you're happy with your custom brush selections close the window.

Custom Brushes Options

Use your custom brush

Apply your custom brushMake sure your foreground colour matches the shade of your background, in our case it's white, double-check the new object layer is selected and with the Paintbrush tool, click over the end of your object so it looks like the shapes have cut into it. If you make a single click one shape will appear and each time the size and angle of it will change. However, click and drag the mouse and the scatter effect you created will be applied. Take your time with this, changing the opacity and size of the brush to alter the effect. If you make a mistake there's always the history tab where you can go back and remove your previous steps. Or as you duplicated the layer you can always delete it and start again.

Noted painted
To add the flying shapes to the image click on the layer you created a mask on, making sure the mask in selected and click and drag your mouse over the layer. Thanks to the Layer Mask your shapes will only appear on the part of the image you originally applied colour to. Again, play with the opacity and size of the brush to alter the pattern. As you are working in a mask it can look a little obvious where the edge of the shape finished but by switching the foreground colour to black and clicking the brush along or near the edge of the shape will break this line up, making the pattern appear more random and dispersed.

Finished image:

finished image after using custom brushes

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