Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Hello everyone!! Beckie here, bringing you the latest installment of Tips and Tricks!
Have you ever wondered how brushes are made? Ever thought of making your own brushes? Well, you certainly CAN!
As for the uses of brushes, well, there are MANY. At the most basic level, a brush in digital scrapbooking takes the place of a rubber stamp, a marker, and a paint brush in “real life”. Brushes in PS and PSE are extremely versatile! Previously I showed you how to create a watercolor effect with brushes (and there are a few tips and shortcut keys in there, too!). Today, we’re going to take the real thing, that is – a paint splat on a paper plate – and turn it into a brush that you can use over and over, in any size or color!
:::Take a Photo:::
We’re starting with a plain old purple paint splat I created on a paper plate, which I then photographed. When you’re taking a photograph like this, be sure to get good focus. In this case, I put the focal point in a point of contrast between the purple paint and the white plate. This gives your auto-focus something to really “grab onto” and produce a crisp image.
:::Extract and Trim:::
Open your image in Photoshop (or PSE) and use the magic wand tool to remove most of the background. The magic wand tool looks like, well, a magic wand :) (shortcut key =W). I set the tolerance to 50 and used it to select the paper plate, then deleted it. Then I used the eraser tool (shortcut key = E), made it huge (increase size using ] ), and erased all of the remaining stray background (like the wicker table). Then, just to “clean up” our workspace, I used Image –> Trim. I used my default settings of “top left pixel color”, and then made sure all the check boxes at the bottom were selected (top, left, bottom, right). This is what I ended up with:
PSE users: I have PSE8 and I can’t find an easy way to “trim”, even after searching on-line. I did, however, find references to actions that mimic the PS Trim function. The other workaround I can think of is to use the marquis tool, draw a rectangle or circle that closely follows the dimensions of your image, and CTRL+C to copy the selection. Then, do File –> New–>Image from Clipboard. You shouldn’t skip this step because you don’t want to have stray pixels away from your image inadvertently included in your brush.
:::Work in Grayscale:::
It’s important to understand that brushes work from grayscale. So when you create a brush, it will retain the variation of values between white and black. One important step when creating a brush is to use the Levels tool to create as much distinction throughout the range of black and white as possible. First, convert your image to black and white. Go to Layer –> New Adjustment Layer –> Black and White. (And for PSE users: Shift+Ctrl+U) The method of converting to black and white here isn’t important at all, so feel free to use any method you prefer – even a photo action works fine!
:::Improve the Contrast of your Image:::
Now, we will significantly improve the “range” of black and white values in the image by using the Levels tool.
- Click on the half-moon icon to create a new adjustment layer. Select “Levels” from the list.
- The histogram that opens is the distribution of color in the image, with black on the left and white on the right. In my histogram (see below), you can tell there is no true black in the image because the graph doesn’t hit the left wall. There is true white in the image, however, because the histogram does trail off to the right and eventually meet the right wall. However, because so little of the image hits the right wall, there’s not much true white in the image, therefore not giving much contrast between black and white for our brush. So we’re going to fix this!
- Move the sliders around as necessary until you like the contrast between black and white in your image. I slid the black triangle all the way up to the edge of the graph, creating a “true black” in my image. Then, I slid the white slider (on the right) in closer to the middle so that I brightened the image up enough to create more true white than what originally existed. You might not want to do that to a photo because it will cause clipping (loss of detail), but for our purposes, it just puts more contrast in the brush strokes. Here’s what the image looks like in black and white, before and after the levels adjustment:
- The last step in preparing our “splat” is to adjust the size of the image. The largest a brush can be is 2500 px, so go to Image –> Image Size and set the largest dimension to 2500. Then click “OK”. (PSE users, it’s Image –> Resize–> Image Size)
Ok - flatten all of your layers (if you have multiples) and then ensure your layer is selected in the layers palette. Press CTRL+A to select all, then go to Edit –> Define Brush Preset (PSE Users: Edit –> Define Bush from Selection). Give your new brush a name, then click OK! that’s it!
The next time you use your brush tool (shortcut = B), your new brush will be at the end of the list of brushes!
Here’s a sampler I created with my new brush, showing different colors and opacities. You can also rotate brushes and play with the other settings “wet edges”, etc, just like I referenced in the watercolor tutorial.
:::So, what else can you do using this same technique?:::
- Make your own signature! Write your name on paper, and then follow the same steps to turn it into a brush! You can even skip the “levels/contrast” step for a simple signature! Or, how about getting your kids to give you a signature sample so you can put it into your scrapbook pages, like when you scrap their artwork?
- Use digi watercolor/paint to create “bigger” brushes. Instead of creating a splat from real paint, create one in PS/PSE. Again, those same techniques from the watercolor tutorial are perfect to create brush strokes and splats. Create your work of art, then convert it to grayscale and save as a new brush.
:::A few other tips & ideas:::
- To get the most from your brushes, you really should play around with everything brushes can do. Go to Window –> Brush to display the full brush toolbar. Here, you can play with all the settings and rotate your brushes before you stamp them (rather than stamping them, then rotating the layer).
- A pen tablet is a wonderful accessory for playing with brushes :) Put one on your birthday/Christmas list now!
- Create your own custom patterned paper with brushes
- Watermark your photos before you post them online (create your own watermark brush)
- Draw borders to accent journaling, photo placement, etc
- Use a brush (like the large one created today) as a clipping mask for photos and paper.
Well, that’s it for today! I hope you have fun trying to create your OWN custom brushes! I’ll see you back here on Friday with a cute little hybrid project :)