Monday, October 27, 2008

Photoshop Brushes

Want to know more about brushes? Well this week, we will learn how to upload and save them, how to recolor them, resize them, scatter them around, and even how to make your very own from scratch! This tutorial, as all of my others, was made using Photoshop CS3, but I think most this can be accomplished in Photoshop Elements as well (although the navigation may vary depending on what version you have).

Uploading, Loading, and Saving
Let's start with how to upload them into Photoshop. If you've downloaded a new brush set or a kit that includes a brush set, you will be looking for a .abr file. This is what you will upload into Photoshop. Make sure you have Photoshop open and that you know exactly which folder you saved your .abr file in so you can access it. First, on your tools menu, click on your brush tool.

Then, look to the top of your screen and click on the drop down menu beside where it says "Brush" and shows a little picture of a brush. When that pulls down, there should be a little arrow... click on that to display your options as to what to do with your brushes.

Then choose Load Brushes...

Now simply navigate through your folders and choose your desired brush set. Making sure it's an .abr file, simply click on it and then click Load. For this tutorial, we'll use my From the Heart Vol. II brushes as an example.

Now, when you pull down your drop down menu of your brushes, your new brushes should be loaded at the bottom of the list.

A couple of things to note here. Loading your brushes does NOT mean they are Saved. They will stay there even after you close out of Photoshop and reopen it, however if it freezes on you and you have to end the program due to "not responding", you will use any "Loaded only" brushes and the program will default back only to what was actually SAVED. But don't let that scare you. Because actually, you probably don't *want* to actually save all of your brushes. Reason being that brushes take up a lot of space inside Photoshop. So saving them all will usually result in slowing your program down considerably. So I almost always simply load my brushes, but keep the .abr file saved in my documents in case I need to reload them. But should you want to save them, just choose your brush tool and click on your drop down menu as well as your little arrow to display your options. Then choose Save Brushes... (instead of Load Brushes...) and then repeat the above process.

Now, say your brush set also came with individual .png files of each brush included. I LOVE when brush sets come like this. Because then, I can simply load the ones I know I like, or load them as I use them. This too will save space inside Photoshop. Turning these .png files into brushes is actually quite simple.
Open your .png file and then from your tools menu, choose your Marquee Tool. Your cursor should change to a thin crosshair.

Now, start above the left corner of your .png file and then click, hold, and drag diagonally down to draw a box around your .png file. When you release your mouse, you should have marching ants around your file.

Now go to Edit and choose Define Brush Preset.

Now simply name your brush (or leave it as it defaults).

**NOTE: If you are working with a .png file and you draw your box with your Marquee tool all the way around the file, Photoshop will automatically name your brush the same as the .png file.

Sometimes, a brush set will come with 1 .png and/or 1 .jpg file with all of the brushes on one page. In this case, you would repeat the same steps we just discussed, only when you choose your Marquee tool, you would only draw your box around the specific brush you want like so...

After you have chosen Edit and defined your brush preset, you will need to type in a name for it. I definitely suggest making the name something to the effect of "from the heart 2-taylormade01". This way, when it comes time to use it, you will remember what it's called and who made it.

Using Brushes, Changing the Size, Changing the Color
Now that you have your brushes loaded (or saved) in Photoshop, let's talk about how to use them.

When you're ready to place them on your layout, simply choose your Brush tool, scroll down to find the one you want and double click on it.

**NOTE: To make your brush list longer to show more brushes at once, look for the little "dotted triangle" on the bottom right corner (like above) and click and drag it down.

Once you have chosen your desired brush, your cursor will change to show an outline of that brush (to help you see where to place it on your layout). (**NOTE: Be sure you have your CAPS LOCK button off. If it is on, you will be unable to see your brush outline. Turning it off should make your brush outline appear.)

The first thing you will want to do is create a NEW layer. If you don't, then when you stamp your brush onto your layout, it will be attached to another layer (like your background paper or a layer with another element). So if you attempt to resize it or move it, it will resize or move everything on that layer.

Now, depending on the contents of your layout, you will probably want to change the size and the color of your brush (as all brushes automatically default to blacks and grays). To change the size, pull down the drop down menu of your brush tool and slide the "Master Diameter" lever back and forth. (You can also use your bracket keys to change the size. The "[" key will make your brush smaller and the "]" key will make it larger.)

To change the color of your brush, simply choose your foreground color to your desired hue. Once you have done all of that, simply click where you want to add your brush.

**NOTE: Some brushes tend to be made with a lower opacity level. This may be because the designer meant it to be that way, or it was possibly created using a color other than black. If this is the case and you want your brush darker, you can do one of 2 things. You can either click several times to create more opaque appearance. Or you can click once and if you decide later that you want it darker and more opaque, you can simply duplicate your brush layer 2 or 3 times and then merge the layers all together. See the difference when I click the brush several times on its layer...

Sometimes, to be a bit extra creative, you may want to make your brush multicolored. There are a couple of different ways to go about this.

One is to duplicate your brush layer and use your layer styles to change the color of the top brush. You can do this by clicking on the fx icon on your layers palette and choosing Color Overlay like so...

Or by choosing Layer Style and then Color Overlay like so...

Once you choose Color Overlay, change the color...

Now choose your Eraser tool from your tool menu. Choose a round brush and make it small with the Hardness set at 100%.

With the top layer active, begin erasing the desired portion of the brush to let the color of the bottom layer to show through.

Once you have that done, click on the bottom layer and begin erasing everything that you wish to remain in your top layer color so that it does not show through around the edges.

This is what your finished multicolored brush will look like.

Now, if you have a more simple, clean-lined brush, it is a lot easier. Like this one (Mod Stamp from the B-Side Collab by Paislee Press+TaylorMade... available at Oscraps). No need to duplicate the layer (in most cases). For isolated portions of the brush, simply choose your Paint Bucket tool from your tool menu and click on that portion of the brush. Since it is not touching any other part of the brush, it will only color that part.

But say you wanted to make each solid circle a different color. For the bottom 2 solid circles, since they are touching other parts of the brush, the Paint Bucket tool would not work because it would fill everything. So here, you can just choose your Marquee tool (in this case, you would left click on your Marquee tool and choose the Elliptical shape. Then just draw a circle around your desired area.

Now choose your Paint Bucket tool and click INSIDE the marching ants. The Paint Bucket will only fill what you have selected.

Making Your Own Brushes
Making your own brushes is probably easier than you think. And you can make them from anything!!

Say you have an element in a kit that you really like, but you would rather use it as a brush. Just as we did above with brush sets that have .png files included, simply open your desired element, choose your Marquee tool and make your selection around the edges. Then choose Edit and Define Brush Preset and there you have it. Here is the element (Rosette from Big Easy collab by Vicki Stegall + Paislee Press... available at Oscraps) as it came in the kit...

And here it is after we have turned it into a brush...

Now... say you want to sort of scatter it across your page or your photo. You could keep stamping it in different sizes, but here's an easier way. Make sure your Brush tool is active and it is set on your brush of choice. Then open your Brush Presets choosing Windows and then clicking Brushes or by clicking the little Brush Presets icon. (I'm not sure what the Brush Preset icon looks like in Photoshop Elements, but if I remember correctly, it is somewhere along the top options bar... probably somewhere by where I have "OR" on the screenshot below. If you don't see it, just click on Windows and go that route.)

Let's start with Brush Tip Shape. Click on that and then play with the settings. Here, I changed the spacing so that they are not all on top of each other, but evenly spaced out.

Now click on the words Shape Dynamics and play with those settings. (Again, click on the words as this is how your options come up. Simply placing a check mark there only determines whether or not you want to include this feature in your new brush.) Here, I changed the Size Jitter, which made each one a different size, the Angle Jitter, which turned them each at a slightly different angle, and I chose to Flip X Jitter, which flips some of them. (*NOTE: I did not change the Roundness Jitter because my brush is round and it flattens each one a bit... I didn't want my circles to look squished.)

Moving on to Scattering. The Scatter option just allows you to determine just how scattered you want the brushes. But I also changed the Count, which increases and decreases how many brushes it is scattering, as well as the Count Jitter which appears to place more brushes in certain spurts than others.

Look at how different our brush now looks. I'm going to stop here, but you get the idea of what these settings can do. So don't forget about them when creating your own brushes or even when personalizing an existing one. It can put a GREAT new spin on things!!

Now, in order to save this new scattered brush, just click on the Create New Brush icon and give it a name (keeping in mind the designer's name and what kit the element is from if applicable).

Now, you simply choose your new brush and with one swift stroke, click and hold your mouse as you swipe it across your layout...

Now... let's say you want to make a completely NEW brush. Your photos are a GREAT place to look!!! For example... take this photo... you can take the bubbles and turn them into a brush!

Choose your Marquee tool (in this case, your Elliptical Marquee would work best) and draw a circle around one of the bubbles. (I made the background of the photo lighter just so the arrow would be easier to see.)

Now, making sure the photo layer is active, hit CTRL+C and CTRL+V. This will copy and paste the selection you made onto a new layer by itself. Then, make your photo layer invisible by clicking the little eye next to it...

Now simply follow the above steps to make it a brush. (Edit + Brush Preset + Name.) Now you have a bubble brush.

Then... you could even take it a few steps further and add some layer styles to it to get a really cool effect... like this...

(Not sure if you can read those layer syles or not... I used the Blue Inner glow on the styles palette, then i clicked on the fx icon to add a very slight drop shadow and a Bevel Emboss, as well as a hint of a Gradient Overlay. You can just play with the settings in each layer style until you get a look that you like.)
Ok... whew... I think that covers just about all I know about brushes. There is probably more... with Photoshop, there always is. hahaha. So if I figure out some more tips and tricks about brushes, I'll be sure and do a "Part 2".

(Brushes on preview ad: Different Strokes by Fei-Fei's Stuff... available at

In the meantime, I would LOVE to know what you think of this tutorial. Please feel free to leave comments, or you can certainly email me at

You can also find a PRINTABLE version of this tutorial (and all of my others) in the Tutorial Section at Oscraps!


Nichole said...

Has anyone told you lately how incredible you are????
These tutorials are a lot of work, and sooo very helpful!! And FREE!!?!! I love that you take the time to do these. And I really appreciate all the hard work that must go into them. It really shows how much you care.
Thank you Amanda. !!!

I couldn't believe you can make a brush out of a picture. I thought that was soo amazing, and I can't wait to try it. You should know,
most of the knowledge I have of my PSE6.0, came from you. And I am never more proud of a lo I do, than when I try something new and it works out. There is a sense of accomplishment and pride I take from it.
So again thank you!!! I can't say it enough.


Anonymous said...

That's so cool, Amanda, thanks very much. PSE V4 for Mac doesn't seem to have an fx button, but I worked the rest out-and knew a bit already, but the Hue Jitter and Scatter bits were a revelation to me. Thank you.

Bush Girl (sorry - can never find out what my password is on Google, so always have to publish annonymous - but you know who I am LOL!).

Aagje said...

Wauw!! Amanda!!! this is great!!!
Thank you so very much for this tutorial, can't wait to play (I'm on my work now and peeking at the internet ssssst!!).

Sunny Side Up said...

Thank you so much for sharing what you know. Ü i never knew that presets for brushes existed till i saw your wonderful-wonderful tutorial. i love all your tutorials. they are easy to follow. thanks again. looking forward for more great tutorials. Üinto

Roben-Marie said...

Oh, my! Thanks so much! Your tutorials are the best and I really appreciate you sharing! I have been using brushes for a while, but learned a few things in this tutorial. :)

MariaT said...

Great tips! I never thought of making an element into a brush to easily scatter and resize.

lighthousegal said...

Thank you so much for all your tutorials. My layouts aren't great works of art, but each time I add a new technique they subtly get better. I have really been afraid of brushes - I just did not know how to use them and did not have the time to really figure it out. Now that I have the basics, I can play to my heart's content! Thanks again!

Ann said...

Thank you Amanda for this tutorial, I know how to use brushes but I learn some more things about brushes;-)


Beth said...

sooooo soooo excited to try this!!! you just nabed a "spot" on my list of things to do tomorrow!!!

SeaShelly said...

Thanks so much~!
You are a master in the tut world~!!! Your kndness and generosity are most appreciated~!
HUGE hugs Darlin'~

Anonymous said...

Fantastic. What a great tutorial. Thank you so much:)


balena said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This is sooo very helpful. And very easy to understand. Love your tuts. Hugs

MOTY said...

Thanks so much for this! Brushes confuse the heck out of me and you answered most of the questions that I have about them. Now if I could just figure out what to do with them in my LO's. I'm just not creative enough!

There is one thing I do want to know and that is how to make your own handwriting a brush or font. Any clues?

Thanks again for the tutorial. Very helpful!

Anonymous said...

I love it again, especially the scatterbrush, saves me a lot of time. Txs again!!


Kate said...

High fives Amanda! It is amazing how helpful you have always been anytime I have asked you for anything - and to come to your blog and find these wonderful tutorials that help me learn new shtuff just proves again how awesome you are!

lime said...

Finally I think I can say that I get brushes, thanks to you :D

iNg said...

tnx for this tutorial.
i have a question though. i followed every step in making a .png file to a brush but everytime i click on the edit, define brush preset cannot be activated/clicked instead the define pattern is only the one activated/can be clicked. what could be the reason for this?
tnx again.

iNg said...

hello... amanda...
tnx SOOOO MUch for replying. yah, i was able to turn it to brushes now. tnx... tnx... tnx...

Anonymous said...

thank you thank you thank you! everything i have actually learned seems to come from you! just when i was wondering how on earth to get those new brushes downloaded, i find your tut! awesome job, it's so clear and easy to understand and on top of that, you just have the greatest style and taste! i love your work and all of your tut's! thanks for sharing all your knowledge!

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