Photoshop Brushes

Photoshop brushes can accomplish all kinds of cool effects, from realistic to painterly. Today we will try of a number of brush tricks and techniques.

Water Drops

Source File

  1. Create a new layer named drops above the Background layer.
  2. Select the Brush tool and set it to a 100% hardness.
  3. Paint just a few spots of different sizes on the logo with any foreground color. The color will not matter later, as you will see.
    water drops photoshop brushes 1
  4. Click on the Add Layer Effect button at the bottom of the Layers Panel. Choose Drop Shadow. Increase the Size to 10px.
  5. In the same panel, click on the words for Inner Shadow. Set the Blend Mode to Overlay.
  6. Click on the words for Blending Options: Custom. Under Advanced Blending, set the layer’s Fill Opacity to 0 (zero).
  7. Click on the words for Bevel and Emboss.
    1. Set the Technique to Chisel Hard.
    2. Set Depth to 540% and Soften to 11px.
    3. Set the Angle to 90° and the Altitude to 20°.
    4. Push the Highlight up to 100%.
    5. For the Shadow, change the color to white and set the blend mode to Color Dodge.


  8. Click OK to apply your layer styles.
  9. Paint on some more drops or “write” your name.
    water drops photoshop brushes 2
  10. Save your file.

Custom Brush

  1. Create a new file:
    1. File > New
    2. Width: 400px
    3. Height: 400px
    4. Resolution: 72 pixels/inch
    5. Background Contents: White
    6. Click OK.
  2. Create a new layer named brush.
  3. Select the Lasso tool.
  4. Draw a very abstract shape on the brush layer.

Tip: Draw your shape fairly large. You can later size it down in the brushes panel. If you make it too small, it can lose quality when you try to size it up.

I achieved the hole in my shape by doing a loop.

Step 2 lasso

In order to show how varying values can affect the transparency of a brush, we will fill your selection with a gradient. The lighter the area, the more transparent the brush will be.

  1. Select the Gradient Tool.
  2. In the options bar, open the gradient picker.
  3. Select Black, White (the third one).
  4. Drag a gradient across the selection from top to bottom.
  5. Ctrl-D to deselect.
step 3 gradient

Because the background color is white, we don’t need to have the brush shape selected to create a brush tip from it.

  1. Edit > Define Brush Preset. Name your brush and click OK.
  2. Select the Brush Tool in the Tools panel.
  3. Open the Brush panel (Window > Brush).
  4. Click on Brush Tip Shape. Locate the brush you just created – it should be the last one in the menu (but it might not).
Step 5 tip shape
  1. Click on the words Shape Dynamics in the list on the left side of the Brushes panel.
    1. Drag the Size Jitter slider all the way to 100%.
    2. Drag Angle Jitter and Roundness to 100% as well.
  2. Click on the words Scattering in the list on the left side of the Brushes panel.
    1. Make sure the Both Axes checkbox is checked.
    2. Drag the Scatter slider to the right to get an effect in the preview window (at the bottom of the panel) that you like.
step 5 scatter

In order to use all these modifications to your brush in the future, you’ll need to save the Tool Preset. Unless you do this, you will lose all these scattering settings the next time you change any brush settings.

  1. In the Options Bar, click on the down arrow for Click to open the Tool Preset picker (see the top red circle below).
  2. Click on the right-facing arrow at the top of the picker to access the flyout menu (see the second red circle below).
  3. Click on New Tool Preset.
  4. Give the brush settings a name and click OK.
step 6 tool preset

Unfortunately, your brush preset won’t be available after today because our computers are reimaged with each restart. However, it will create a permanent preset just about anywhere else.

Now let’s try your brush.

  1. Turn off the visibility of the brush layer and create a new layer above it called painting 1.
  2. Select a foreground color and paint a stroke on the new layer.
step 7 paint
  1. This brush is probably too large for most uses. Reduce the brush size using the Options Bar or using the [ key on your keyboard.
step 7 brush size
  1. Create a new layer at the top of the stack named painting 2.
  2. Change your foreground color.
  3. Paint a few strokes.
  4. Save your file.
step 7 paint

Mixer Brush

Photoshop’s Mixer Brush tool allows you to paint in Photoshop in a way that mimics real painting. In particular, it allows you to mix colors.

Source File

  1. Start by selecting the Mixer Brush tool, which is in the flyout for the Brush tool.
  2. In the Brush Preset picker in the Options panel, click on the settings gear and select Reset Brushes…
  3. In the Photoshop file you downloaded, follow the settings for each box and paint a little of the sample color given (choose your own colors for the last one).
  4. Paint only on the layer that says PAINT ON THIS LAYER. It already has some white color on it to mix wet with for some of the experiments.
Photoshop Brushes mixer brush experiments

Mixer Brush Painting

  1. Find a high-resolution photo online.
  2. Download it and open it in Photoshop.
  3. Duplicate the background layer.
  4. Select the Mixer Brush tool.
  5. In the Options bar, turn off Load The Brush After Each Stroke and turn on Clean The Brush After Each Stroke.
  6. Experiment with using the Mixer Brush to smear and blend the existing pixels.
  7. See if you can make the photo look more like a painting. Here are some hints:
    1. I found the Moist setting works well for this.
    2. Switch brushes to achieve various textures.
    3. Use the Alt key to select from colors and textures already on the canvas.
    4. Use small brushes for details and larger brushes for big areas.
Brad Pitt mizer brush Photoshop painting

Video: Self Portrait using Mixer Brush Timelapse