DIY Photoshop Brushes

DIY Photoshop Brushes


One of the most popular searches involving Photoshop on the web is, perhaps not unsurprisingly, for free Photoshop brushes. Photoshop brushes can be used for a range of editing and creative tasks and while it’s fun to find and download great looking brushes it’s also possible to create them yourself and to do this very easily.

Here’s how to create your own Photoshop brushes:

Step 1


Open an image that contains something that you want to create as a brush. It can be something as simple as a coffee stain on a piece of paper or a photograph that you’ve taken of a texture, statue, graffiti or other shape. The best brushes are made using high quality images so plan your brush to be around 1,000 to 1,500 pixels in width and height. The maximum allowable size is 2500 x 2500 pixels.

Step 2


To make your brush you’ll need to isolate the area that you want to turn into the brush. So start by double clicking the background layer and click Ok to turn it into a regular layer. Make a selection around the area to make a brush from, choose Select > Inverse and press Delete.

Step 3


Brushes are grayscale images so you can control the contrast and the look of the brush by converting the image into black and white using your preferred method of doing so.

Here I have selected Image > Adjustments > Black & White. This adjustment lets you tweak the black and white result to get the desired amount of contrast in the brush and to determine which colors are taken towards black and which are taken to towards white.

Step 4


Select any light areas around the image that aren’t to be included in the brush and remove them. If you don’t do this, anything that isn’t white will actually pick up paint when you use the brush later on. I selected these areas using the Magic Wand tool with a Tolerance of 5 to get everything which was white or nearly white.

Step 5


Select the area to include in the brush. If you have removed from the image everything except what you want to include in the brush Control + click (Command + Click on the Mac) on the layer to select the image.

Choose Edit > Define Brush Preset, type a name for the brush and click Ok. If the option doesn’t appear in the menu, your proposed brush is too big so size the image a little smaller and try again.

Step 6


Create a new image and test your brush. It is the last entry at the foot of the brushes palette. It’s a good idea to test it at 100% Opacity using black or dark “paint” on a white background and “white” paint on a black or dark background. If it needs fixing, return to the brush image, make your changes and select and create the brush again. You will need to reselect the new brush in the Brushes palette – it is always the last one in the list. Even if you name the two versions the same name the second one doesn’t overwrite the first.

For brushes like this which has a photographic quality, select the image layer, press Control + I (Command + I on the Mac) to invert the image, select it and make a second brush that you can use to paint with white.

Step 7


When your brushes are complete, save them to a file so you have them on disk. If you don’t do this, you will lose them if you replace your brushes. Choose Edit > Preset Manager and select Brushes in the Preset Type list. Select the brushes to save, choose Save Set and type a name for the set.

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Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at

Some Older Comments

  • Gover July 21, 2011 01:14 pm | Free scripts, hacks, exploits, tutorials etc. All these and more!

  • albertaoldie June 12, 2011 01:55 am

    Another useful brush is to create your name and or logo and then save it as a brush. One mouseclick and my photos are imprinted with my name, and can be transormed to scale for any resolution picture I am working on. A great time saver..

  • Dallas wedding photographers May 13, 2011 05:29 am

    Thanks for sharing this info, it works perfectly, just created brush following your instructions.
    Lydia@Dallas wedding photographers

  • JuEgoS May 1, 2010 11:49 pm

    Thank you for the tutorial and all the explanations.

  • Mark December 18, 2009 02:41 am

    I just launch Brushnet : Brushnet. A new collection of free Photoshop Brushes.

  • Mike Minick December 1, 2009 11:41 pm

    I shoot a lot of portraiture and I downloaded and use brushes that are shaped like different kinds of eyeshadow, eyelash and eyeliner shapes. All I have to do is choose the shape that I want and then choose the colour that I want and apply my digital makeup. If you apply them on a seperate layer, you can use 'edit...transform' to alter the shape and size once of the applied brush 'object' and then collaspe the layer at the end. Mike M

  • Photoshop Brushes | Brushes For Photoshop November 20, 2009 11:27 pm

    good tut! Thank for share!
    Photoshop Brushes | Brushes For Photoshop

  • Photoshop like! November 8, 2009 09:42 pm

    I have tons of Photoshop brushes, but in a lot of cases I don’t even know what I have, and there is no easy way in Photoshop (at least up through CS3) do look at them without loading them and seeing those small icons in brush pallette.

  • msannie February 4, 2009 01:30 am

    I use a small app called Preset Viewer that lets me view all my Photoshop brushes, shapes, patterns, photos, styles, and compositions. It's handy!

  • jmarklabbe February 2, 2009 02:14 pm

    once your brush is complete, make a seperate layer and start clicking all over with your newly created brush,... use white as your brush color (for your signature, logo, copyright symbol watermark),... then double click your layer to activate the effects dialog window and select emboss,... try pillow emboss - with different depth size blah blah blah,..etc,.. then click ok,.. on your "watermark" layer change the layer mode to "multiply",.. voila you have yourself a transparent looking watermark that protects your image yet does not obstruct the image using your new created brush!

  • Ed February 1, 2009 10:53 am

    I learned this trick last week and created a copyright. It is great to just click a brush and tadah a customized copyright.

  • Deirdre January 31, 2009 02:08 am

    Thank you for the explanations. Perhaps I will play with this concept for a Valentine's card.

  • nina_s January 31, 2009 12:03 am

    Great tutorial! I've been wondering how to print my name on the picture without having to type it over and over again. This come in handy!! Thanks!!!

  • chuckiesd January 30, 2009 04:45 pm

    Nice tutorial. I will created my own brush on my Photoshop.

  • JMarkLabbe January 30, 2009 07:26 am

    think of it as an easy way to protect your photograph,... by using the brush feature to "watermark" your photograph,.... create one using your logo or signature etc etc, than you could stamp your low rez pic with out the feature of someone stealing it from the web,.. or for sample prints,..

  • Reznor January 30, 2009 05:56 am

    For mere photographers, custom brushes aren't much of a deal, they can't do much with a buddha shaped brush. You should imagine a custom brush like a stamp. If you've made a lot of custom brushes, you can stamp all those pictures on the canvas and create a piece of art.
    Or imagine you want to make a christmas card, you can photograph a christmas tree, make a brush out of it and put it on your card. Of course it's possible to just cut out the tree and paste it to the card, but you can save a brush and use that same tree every year for your cards.
    There's an unlimited amount of creative things you can do with brushes, an ordinary photographer won't necesserarily be interested in them, but Photoshop is not just for photographers, it's for designers and they have enough ideas to make use of brushes.

  • Rafin January 30, 2009 03:11 am

    wow..i just made a brush right now thanks to this amazing tutorial !

  • Joanne January 29, 2009 11:28 pm

    John and Deidre

    Brushes are used a lot in Digital Scrapbooking as scrapbook STAMPS. You might use a brush like this for your scrapbooking. Or you might want to create a logo for a business.

  • Rob Chinn January 29, 2009 10:23 pm

    @John and deidre -

    If the photograph was something that you used a lot in your work, or for a particular project, it would make sense to create a brush out of it I suppose. I think the main point of this article is to show you how to make your own brushes, not ow to make this particular brush.

    I create my own brushes fairly often for grunging up photos or to add texture to something. Creating a brush just makes it a handy way to apply it with a lot of control on how it is applied (especially when you work with a pen-and-tablet based input device).

  • Rob Chinn January 29, 2009 10:17 pm

    Thanks b. That software is the basic idea I had, but it is rather slow on my G5 and has no way to organize them in to groups. I think Adobe should build this functionality in to Photoshop, or at least Bridge. It's a huge opportunity for some programmer... wish someone would take advantage of it on the Mac.

  • B. Moore January 29, 2009 03:11 pm

    @Rob the link above was for windows only.

    Try this
    This guy wrote a java version which is cross platform.


  • B. Moore January 29, 2009 03:06 pm

    @Rob here is the app that you been looking for abrViewer


    Oh ya.... Thanks Helen for the excellent tip/post!

  • Deirdre January 29, 2009 09:08 am

    I'm with John --

    can someone please explain to a Photoshop newbie what brushes are for? I assumed they were digital equivalents to actual paint brushes, but apparently they are something else? How would you use this brush? And what' the benefit of it being in brush form rather than, say, clip art?

    Thanks in advance

  • Mark January 29, 2009 06:03 am

    Thanks DPS for this great tutorial. Very easy to follow and I've always wondered how to do this. Very cool. Thanks.

    And yes John, you are missing something.

  • alaina January 29, 2009 05:18 am

    Thanks. Hope it works for PSE7.

  • John January 29, 2009 04:03 am

    I'm sure I'm missing something, but why would you want a brush shaped like this?

  • Rob Chinn January 29, 2009 12:43 am

    Does anyone know of an app that will look at a folder of photoshop brushes and give you a preview of all the individual brushes and their native size? Something like Mac's FontBook for previewing and grouping brushes together. If there isn't anything like that out there, that would be a killer app.

    I have tons of Photoshop brushes, but in a lot of cases I don't even know what I have, and there is no easy way in Photoshop (at least up through CS3) do look at them without loading them and seeing those small icons in brush pallette.