Creating Photoshop Brushes

What brushes do you use?

Not so long ago people used to always ask what software do you use?, but it’s since evolved into this. There are indeed some great brushes to download, but it’s amazing what you can do with the defaults, so don’t bother downloading cruft from others and let’s teach a man how to fish.

If you learn how to use the brushes panel, you can make a whole range of great brushes from the defaults. The following is assuming you have Photoshop and a pressure-sensitive drawing tablet.

Meet the tools

Photoshop's brushes panel
  1. Brush tip shape:
    Core options on adjusting the brush
  2. Shape dynamics:
    Allowing for pressure sensitive (variable) sized strokes
  3. Scattering:
    Great for patterns and textured brushes
  4. Dual Brush:
    Great for creating gritty textured brushes
  5. Transfer:
    Pressure sensitive fading

I find those specific options make the quickest and most effective brush changes, but explore the others too.
Check out a bundle of examples made from default brushes:


To mimic a pencil your brush will need to:

  • Vary in width (depending on how hard you press)
  • Vary in opacity (again, pressure sensitivity)
  • Have a pencil-like texture

Shape Dynamics:

Size jitter: Control: Pen Pressure
Minimum Diameter: 70%


Opacity jitter: Control: Pen Pressure

Dual Brush:

Brush Shape: Select a rough default brush, such as Chalk
Size: Adjust so the texture appears small within the brush stroke
Spacing: Adjust so there are ample gaps in the stroke
Scatter: Ensure it’s large enough to fill the brush stroke


Shape Dynamics:

Size jitter: 100% (Depending on how random you want it to be)


Scatter & Count: Adjust these to get a desired effect

Dual Brush:

Shape, size, etc: Same as before, select a suitable brush, size, spacing and scatter


Opacity jitter: Control: Pen Pressure


Hair is a bit different. You could simply draw hundreds of lines, but no one has time for that. Instead, work in multiple lines into one brush.

First of all you need to create a brush shape. Which is seriously easy:

  1. Draw the brush shape. In our case we want a few strands for hair, so three (or more) dots as shown. Don’t place them side by side, they won’t flow properly!
  2. Select this work of art with the marquee, and choose Edit > Define Brush Preset.
  3. You’ll notice your new brush is now in your brushes presets! It doesn’t work exactly how we want it yet though.

Shape Dynamics:

Angle jitter: Direction
(You’ll probably also want to reduce the Brush Tip Shape spacing to 1%)


The important part here is the direction – that basically means this custom brush shape we’ve made follows the angle the brush stroke is moving in.

The brush off (ho ho ho)

Some parting words: Basically experiment and play with the brushes panel. The above allows for quick brush creation, but there’s lots more you can do!
So go forth and make brushes and promise to never again ask what brush was used when you can just make it yourself.


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