Can you give me some tips for creating a set of cool brushes for painting vegetation?
Michael Jackson, Wales
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.