Photoshop Brushes Part two - Let’s make our own.

In the concluding part of his coverage of Photoshop tools (read Part 1 here), Paul Morton shows how illustrators can create their very own unique brushes. 

The first point to remember is that any mark made on the screen can be turned into a Photoshop brush. Even a photograph can be captured and ‘stamped’ into your artwork. You can type text, convert it to paths and then use that text image as a brush.

TIP - This can be handy when used to ‘stamp’ your copyright details, contact details etc onto an image to save time actually typing out the words. 

So, to save a mark as a new brush shape always follow these steps.

Picture 1 - Rather than draw my new shape, I’ve used the path tool to create a shape called ‘single hair’. Once it’s made active and filled with black you can then save as a brush... (pic 2)

Menu / Edit / Define Brush preset ... 

Name your brush, I’ve called mine ‘fuzzy’ (pic 3)

 You’ll now see ‘fuzzy’ listed as the final brush preset in the drop down list, (pic 4) and like we learnt in part 1, it isn’t of much use until you start tweaking the settings. First of all open up the spacing (pic 5) so that when you ‘paint’ the single hair shapes are nicely spaced (pic 6).

Then using these settings to multiply the single hair shape (pic 7) you will begin to see just how versatile your brush is becoming. With a rusty red foreground colour and brighter orange as the background colour, we start to get some interesting marks.

We can further exploit the settings by usefully controlling the direction of the fur strokes, (pic 8) and thus, we can paint a pom-pom shape.

Mixing colours and controlling flow and opacity, plus switching to a black background, gives us this. (pic 9)

TIP - Another amazingly useful function I’ve not yet mentioned, is that any brush can be used to stroke along a path. So if you need a particular shape, but don’t feel confident drawing freehand, create a path, and then ask PS to stroke it with your new brush. It could be a single line (pic 10) or an elegant shape that would be impossible to control by hand (pic 11). 

But of course you don’t need to restrict yourself to the initial single hair, especially if you’re after realistic fur. Pic 12 shows a brush created from a collection of random shapes and the resulting effects achieved.

 Your brush shapes can be saved, exported, emailed to a friend etc.

TIP - There are thousands of useful free brushes online, made available by the community of generous PS users. 

 I’ll briefly show you one final “Hair and Fur” brush. I downloaded this and tweaked it, and you should still be able to find it online. Although you’d never guess from its peculiar single-dab brush shape (it’s that white squiggle on the blue square) this is one of the most realistic brushes around for painting hair, and many artists have used it to great effect. Take a look at my settings (pic 13) and then how I gave myself a quick 10 minute hairy makeover in pic 14.

 TIP - Rather than resort to expensive and difficult to master 3D programmes, I’ve instead been using various hair and fur brushes for a number of years now.

 Fellow SCBWI illustrator Mike Brownlow includes various PS brushes amongst his array of illustration tools and techniques. He says, “Brushes can be great when used judiciously, and are really useful. I just wish I could work out a better way of organising them.” Here’s how Mike employs his subtle craft, carefully using fur brushes, and others, in his successful Boris the Troll books.

Obviously all the considerations and the settings that I’ve mentioned so far in connection with fur and hair, can equally be applied to any other texture or effect that you’re after. Without going into details here’s a collection of my own foliage brushes, (pic 17) the actual brush shapes are shown at the top along with the resulting effects.

 And in this jungly/forest book illustration, you’ll see how I’ve made good use of a few of them.

Finally, let me show you how to create a textured pastel/chalk brush. (pic 20) In the vignetted oval we can see the actual brush shape, and below, the settings used to achieve these soft pastel-like marks.

TIP - The background is a scan of pencil on cartridge and the texture used in the brush settings aims to emulate this so that the colour sits on top of the cartridge, unless more pressure is used, and then the colour sinks into the texture. 

And below, these soft, watercolour-like marks in pic 21 were made with the 3 brush tip shapes at the top.

TIP - Your original brush shape needn’t be filled with 100% black. Remarkable effects can result from faded softer brush shapes. 

 One final thought, having created a favourite brush, don’t limit yourself to ‘painting and drawing’ with it. You can deploy your brand new brush as an eraser or as the smudge tool for some further exciting effects.

 I’ll leave you with another image from Mike which cleverly demonstrates his adept use of textural brushes to great effect.


Paul Morton lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, from where he runs Hot Frog Graphics illustration and design studio. 


  1. This is brilliant Paul, you are a master and your hair is so convincing!

  2. I've printed this out to study after I've downloaded PS. Thanks!

  3. Thanks, Paul. I really need to learn how to use Photoshop step by step instead of just diving in and randomly playing with it. This is really useful.

  4. Thanks guys. I'm always available for answering questions, maybe doing other mini tutorials if you want to suggest any topics.

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  6. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. free professional lightroom presets

  7. Wonderful work. Thank you for sharing, hair looks very convincing. This is a good tutorial. I love to edit photos, one photo with a hairy guy I edited on And the hair turned out like a native, I advise always edit your work. This is the path to success.


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