Explore creative brush tips
Enhance your creative projects with natural-looking brush strokes – George Cairns mimics real-world brushes, pencils, charcoal and other natural media
Mimic real-world brushes, pencils, charcoal and other media in Photoshop
Many of Photoshop’s tools are brush-based. By changing the size, softness and opacity of a brush-based tool, you can fine-tune the way it alters the pixels in an image. If you use a graphics tablet then you can use changes in stylus pressure to create lighter or darker strokes and work with more precision.
You can also use brushes to mimic natural media. Select the Brush tool, then click the Brush Preset picker and scroll down to find more creative shapes, such as Chalk, which produces a grainy texture. You’ll also find creative brush tips, such as Leaves, which scatters random leaf shapes. By clicking the Brush panel icon you can modify the way a preset shape behaves, such as making the leaves scatter in less dense clumps.
To make Photoshop’s brush tips behave like their real-world counterparts, the Brush panel and Brush Preset picker offer a range of bristle-brush tips. These deform as you paint, and leave bristle-like strokes on the image. By combining a bristle-brush tip with a tool, such as the Mixer brush, you can turn a photo into a painting, as you’ll see in the tutorial across the page.
But first, we’ll demonstrate how the Brush panel changes a bristle-brush tip’s attributes, so you can produce more realisticlooking strokes.
STE P BY STE P / Imitate real-world brushes 1 Choose the Mixer brush
Open the start image. Go to Window> Workspace> Painting. Create a new layer and name it ‘Painted Petals’. Hold the mouse button down over the Brush tool’s compartment in the Tools panel and choose the Mixer brush. Select the Round Watercolor erodible tip.
2 Paint and smear
Set the size to 90 pixels. In the Options bar, choose Very Wet, Heavy Mix. Tick Sample All Layers. Click the transparent ‘Painted Petals’ layer. Paint strokes that follow the curves. The Mixer brush samples colours from the image below and turns them into wet paint smears.
3 Check your progress
Click the ‘Background’ layer’s eye icon to hide it. The Mixer brush’s paint-like strokes create a simplified version of the petals, while preserving colour and tone. Make the ‘Background’ layer visible and continue using lots of short strokes to paint in the rest of the petals.
4 Add realistic mistakes
When you mix real paint, colours can pollute other colours, especially if you don’t clean your brush regularly. To add authentic mixes of different colours, untick the Clean Brush icon in the Options bar. Now paint on the yellow stamen and then paint on the purple plant.
5 Impressionistic effects
Create a new transparent layer. From the Brush Presets picker, choose the Flat Point Medium Stiff bristle-brush tip. Set the size to 50. Paint over the leaves to render them as rough-and-ready paint strokes. Create a new transparent layer and go to Edit>Fill.
6 Add a canvas texture
Set the Contents menu to Pattern. Click the Custom Pattern window. Select the gear icon in the thumbnail window and choose Artists Brushes Canvas. Click Append. Choose Yankee Canvas. Click OK. Set the pattern layer’s blend mode to Overlay and reduce Opacity to 13%.