How I Use Custom Brushes to Create Rich Textures in Photoshop


Logo3-Portrait-GIF-300pxI love simplicity in my work. I make it my goal to show what I need to as cleanly and precisely as I can.

That being said, I feel something’s lost when you get too abstract. A lot of simple ‘vector’ style artwork looks lifeless to me. Functional, stylish, but lifeless. I try to get away from this. Working in Photoshop, I like to use very simple shapes to map out an illustration before adding grit with some homemade brushes. Let’s take a look at that process. Here’s a picture I whipped up late one night:

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Tetsuo (from Akira) fist bumping kaneda with his freaky arm.

Now how’d I make this?

Well, starting out, it’s useful to keep each element of an image on its own layer, so you can play around with shape, position and colour without messing up other elements. After drawing up the body of an illustration, in flat colours, and playing with the colour until it feels right, I’ll have something like this:

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An illustration pre-texture.

Basic, right? At this point, I use the magic wand tool to select areas I want to add texture to and, on a new layer, create a layer mask to work within. From here, I choose a brush which will add the right natural texture and start dabbing it onto the surface. Most of the brushes I use, I’ve crafted from photos taken during my travels.

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Dabbing texture over an image.

As I’ve already settled on my colour scheme by this point, I’ll usually make the brush black and simply lower its opacity (fade it out) to preserve the hues below.

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Texture applied to the monster arm.

In the end, I’ll often use the gradient tool to create some visual interest. Since the texture is masked out on its own layer, you can work with the mask (having selected it) and draw a black gradient over the textured area. This fades the texture out, creating a nice effect.

So, that’s how I build up my images from simple, flat colours to textured wonders! It’s such a fun way to work. If you use photoshop, play around and see what you can add to your art with your own textures!


Bonus: I’ve made one of the brushes used in this illustration available to download for free in my shop! If you use it, be sure to write a link back to what you made – I want to see!


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