Images / photos as sources for brush strokes

How to create Photoshop / Painter brushes from a photo / image tutorial for CC 2018 - CS5 etc.

Create brush tip from image in Photoshop

images and photoshop brushes how to create tutorial
  1. Open image in Photoshop

  2. Rectangular marquee tool and select area of image

  3. Edit menu

  4. Define brush (to create brush tip from image selection)

  5. Give the brush tip a name

  6. OK

Video tutorial on the subject by (youtube)


Would always suggest that you take your own photos or drawing / images and define that image as a new brush. You can use the entire image but you can also use only part of a photograph as a stroke


Photo letter brushes


sourceThe key thing is to have an image to create as a Photoshop brush. You can use all kinds of photos such as faces, animals, trees, etc anything you want to turn into a powerful stroke for your paint tools in PS and PS Elements etc.


The photo, of course, must be owned by you. Another option is, of course, public domain


My favorite choice for image brush strokes has to be Poser. Even there it is best to check the license for the use of the rendered image in Poser (or Daz Studio). As you can render all kinds of things in 3D tools such as heads and faces and boxes and trees etc, they can in turn be captured and used as a great source for all kinds of strokes in Photoshop as well as other applications such as Affinity Photo and Painter.


british library flickr imageAnother great source for images has to be Flickr and the British Library collection. Many of the images on that channel are public domain as they are sketches and diagrams from the 18th century as well as the 19th century etc so they make an amazing source for all kinds of designs to be captured. In some cases with old images such as those you will need to do a little tidy up with the work such as cleaning the edges of the design as well as reducing the noise in the diagram. As with all things relating to images, please read the license descriptions very carefully so you know that you can use it as a source for a stroke as well as a source for patterns and other presets.


British Library Flickr collection


adjustmentsBrush strokes are grayscale and not color. I generally always keep the source color image as well as the modified grayscale photo especially as any conversion to grayscale can result in many variations simply but the subtle change of values in adjustments or conversion tools (there are many on the web but Photoshop does include a number of ways to do this conversion)


The best tool to use is probably the adjustment 'Black and white' (I would not recommend the image mode approach and changing into grayscale as that has no options)


You can go to the adjustments perhaps via the layer menu and use the black and white adjustment. Modify the red and green channels until you create the black and white you want from your photo. As it is a live layer, the properties of the b&w can be changed over and over and different strokes can be saved from this.


Apply the adjustment and then go to the edit menu and define command for the photo (or selection, you don't need to select the entire image)


Another option would be to use effects and there is an amazingly good black and white / grayscale tool as part of the NIK plugins set and that was (for a while free) and available via google but it is now apparently with a company called DxO and is no longer free. Another interesting B&W tool can be found on the Topazlabs site


nik plugin silver efex strokeIf you want to use the NIK tools then go to the filter menu in Photoshop and then NIK collection and then Silver Efex Pro and tweak the image by using the various presets and sliders to create the perfect black and white design.


OK, you still have to tweak the edges unless you want sharp edges around the edge of your stroke. You can modify the edge by using a number of different methods such as using brush strokes set to white (with some element of blurriness perhaps) and stroke around the edge of any photo / image. Or use a selection around the edge of the part you want to use as a stroke and select menu and inverse and use the feather command to add some feathering to that selection and fill that with white and then go to the edit menu and define the photo as a stroke for future work.


photoshop plugin grayscale for photosYou can also find plugins on this site that can be used to create amazing black and white / grayscale designs for use with the strokes. If you purchase the plugins set, you will find a grayscale plugin included with the set. It contains many variant grayscale settings that can be used to create all kinds of interesting strokes. As with all plugins, you can apply the tool to a selection which can be feathered. For example, open a photograph and then use the rectangular marquee tool to select the inner part of the photo. Go to the modify commands and feather and set it to 40 or so. Goto the filter menu and Andrew's Plugins AP [color] and select grayscale. Select one of the items in the top dropdown such as saturate 3 (that creates a lighter de-saturated image). Apply OK. You will now have a de-saturated image to work with and define via the edit menu


Black and white / grayscale plugins on graphicxtras


smart objectYou can also do much of the above using the artwork as a smart object. Use the photo as a smart object via the layer menu convert to smart object command and then use the smart adjustments 'black and white' and also add into the mix tools such as smart filters such as blurs via the filter menu.


You will then see the adjustments and filters added to the photograph in the layers menu and that can be used as a source for the preset. Either use the entire image or select part of the image and then use the define command in the edit menu


frameYou can also add an edge to an image before defining as a new stroke. This is probably better than just using a photograph with a sharp edge (of course, if you have a photo with a very clear background which can be deleted or filled with white then you can quickly create an edge that way also)


Open a photo and then go to the rectangle tool and set foreground to black. Goto the layers panel and unlock the background photo and then go to the layers menu and layer mask and reveal. Now select the thumbnail in the layers panel and add the rectangles around the edge of the photo (whether this is the opened photo or smart object it does not matter)


Of course, all kinds of different shapes can be added around the edge or perhaps even strokes. All can be added t the artwork and then you can again go to the edit menu and use the define command to store it to the presets panel.


vintageYou can always use books etc as a great source for all kinds of dabs though if you want to actually use them as a set of strokes, probably best to find a very old Public domain book (and I would suggest checking with your local laws on what is out of copyright etc). You can then select any page as an image for Photoshop brushes creation (using a scanner to import it or perhaps a camera)


The text comes from a book from about 1740 and I doubt if the writer is around now (I guess)


videoYou can also use photos from videos. Why would you use a video instead of a photo. Well, one of the big advantage of a video is that there are 1000s of frames to choose from as well as effects that can be added in Photoshop as well as other applications such as Painter etc and a single frame can be selected and then defined as a brush stroke. Just more the video head throughout the video.


You can use the video time line panel on importing a video or film. You can then scan through the film using the video head and find strokes to define via that.


If you are good with scripting in Photoshop, you probably can create a quick script to run through all the frames in a video and then use the define command for each frame. OK, you will end up with 1000s of strokes by that approach and many will perhaps be the same. It is probably best just to scan through the video and select your favorite designs.


capture dab painter photographOK, I have been using the main graphic application but clearly there are many others such as Painter that can also use the photos as a great source for new strokes. How you do this is much the same as with Photoshop but the key difference is there is no define command. The same initial approaches to create core design is the same such as applying filters and effects to turn the image into black and white as well as adding edge effects to the design before you make your final artwork. In Painter, go to the effects and tonal control and adjust color and set the saturation to 0. Select a brush such as pens and pencil and color covered pencils and set the color of the stroke to white and draw around the edge of the image. Once you have created your edge, you can then go to the select menu and all and then go to the brushes menu and capture dab command. Once you have done that, you can go to the general panel and you will see the dab type will be listed as captured. Set the method to cover and set the sub category to soft cover and you can then apply the photograph as a new amazing stroke in Painter


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