Creating and using custom brushes

In addition to creating ordinary custom brushes, as described in the preceding section, "Editing and creating brush shapes," you can turn an element in your image into a brush. This process works a tad differently in Version 6 than in previous versions. After you select the area that you want to use as a brush, you now choose Define Brush from the Edit menu instead of from the palette menu. You're invited to give your brush a name; if you're not feeling inspired, just press Enter and accept the default, Sampled Brush 1.

The size of your custom brush mirrors the size of the selection. That is, if you select an area that's 20 pixels wide by 10 pixels tall, you get a 20 x 10-pixel rectangular brush. Because you can't resize a custom brush as you can a regular brush, check the pixel population of the selection and adjust the image accordingly before choosing Define Brush.

You can modify your custom brush as follows:

♦ Brush options: After you press Enter, Photoshop displays a variation of the New Brush dialog box. You can change the spacing of the brush shape and specify whether Photoshop antialiases the edges or leaves them as is. If the brush is sufficiently large, the Anti-aliased check box appears dimmed. All custom brushes are hard-edged when you use the pencil tool.

When you display a drop-down dialog box like the one shown in Figure 5-22, you close the dialog box by either pressing Enter or by clicking an empty area in the program window. You also can simply start using the tool in the image window. Press Escape to close the dialog box without making any changes. Also remember that if you want your custom brush to take up permanent residence in the Brush drop-down palette, you must save the brush as outlined in the next section, "Saving, loading, and editing brush sets."

Figure 5-22: After using Edit^ Define Brush to create a custom brush, click the brush icon to display these additional brush options.

♦ Brush color: The foreground color affects a custom brush just as it does a standard brush shape. To find out more about setting the foreground color, see Chapter 4.

♦ Opacity and brush modes: The settings of the Opacity slider bar and the Mode pop-up menu, both now located on the Options bar, also affect the application of custom brushes, as do the choices you make in the Brush Dynamics dropdown palette. For more information on these options, keep reading this chapter.

You can achieve some unusual and, sometimes, interesting effects by activating the smudge tool's Finger Painting option and painting in the image window with a custom brush. At high Pressure settings, say 80 to 90 percent, the effect is rather like applying oil paint with a hairy paintbrush, as illustrated in Figure 5-23.

Figure 5-23: I created this organic, expressive image by combining the smudge tool's dipping capability with four custom brushes. I don't know what those finger-like growths are, but they'd probably feel right at home in an aquarium.

Tip In addition to giving you the flexibility to create a brush from some element in your image, Photoshop ships with a file called Assorted Brushes, which contains all kinds of little symbols and doodads you can use as brush shapes. The next section explains how to load these brushes; Figure 5-24 shows an inspirational image I created using brushes in the Assorted Brushes collection.

Figure 5-24: Yes, it's Boris, the sleeping custom-brush guy. If you suspect this image is meant to suggest custom brushes are more amusing than utilitarian, you're right. The brushes from the Assorted Brushes file appear on the right.

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