Can you give me some tips for cre­at­ing a set of cool brushes for paint­ing veg­e­ta­tion?

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Michael Jackson, Wales

John replies

When cre­at­ing cus­tom brushes in Pho­to­shop your main aim is for each brush to leave an eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able shape or mark. If you’re able to gen­er­ate a crisp sil­hou­ette, then your viewer will be able to iden­tify what you’ve painted from a dis­tance. They’ll also be able to dis­tin­guish be­tween sim­i­lar shapes, such as tree leaves and petals on a flower.

Al­ways use a can­vas size of 1,000x1,000 pix­els when cre­at­ing a cus­tom brush. This will en­able you to scale down your brushes while re­tain­ing their crisp­ness. Scal­ing up a small brush shape will re­sult in a pix­e­lated mess.

If you’re us­ing an es­tab­lished brush stroke or photo tex­ture to cre­ate your brush, al­ways turn it to 100 per cent black against 100 per cent white. If you can’t do this, at least try to re­duce the lev­els of grey. The next step is to in­tro­duce some de­tails, such as dents, nicks, scratches, holes, or another shape within the brush shape.

Fi­nally, you should try to be creative with the set­ting in the Brush dialog (the short­cut is F5). I love ad­just­ing the Scat­ter­ing and Shape Dy­nam­ics: have fun tweak­ing the min­i­mum di­am­e­ter value. Then, un­der An­gle Jit­ter in Con­trol, set the brush to Di­rec­tion. If you then click Brush Tip Shape you can change its shape, which can pro­duce pleas­ing re­sults, as can ad­just­ing the Spac­ing set­ting, which is key to con­trol the rep­e­ti­tion of your brush’s shape when you use it.

In this ex­am­ple I take a 100 per cent opaque brush with an iden­ti­fi­able shape and then eras­ing

into it, to give it some in­tri­cacy and en­ergy.

Here are the set­tings I use to quickly cre­ate vis­ually in­ter­est­ing veg­e­ta­tion. No­tice how the shape is still read­able, even when it’s du­pli­cated and grouped.

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