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How to Create a Brush

Lesson 21 from: Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World

Karen Alsop

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Lesson Info

21. How to Create a Brush

Lesson Info

How to Create a Brush

Yet when we photographed Alice, we actually photographed her hair separately, and that was both so that we could add some hair to the scene but also so I can show you how to create a brush. You can create a brush from any image. We're going to create a brush from Alice's hair, and this is going to be used to cut back into Alice's hair to soften it off. So I've got a whole lot of hair here, the first thing that I would do is crop down, because for the brush, I only need that section. It's also sightly overexposed, so I'll bring that down. I want a lot of darks and lights. For the brush, we need to have a lot of contrast so that it works really well as a brush, so when I cut it out, I'm going to increase the contrast, but at the moment, the first thing that we need to do is take away the green. Now if you have something that's not on green screen, you can simply take away whatever color it is behind, so we can do it the same way, so imagine that you've shot on white. You would just need ...

to take the white away. But this is why shooting on green screen again is easy because we just use color range and take that off. So in here, we're about to create a brush, so I'll go through the steps. First of all, color range tool. We're getting rid of the green. We can turn the fuzziness up a little more because what we're looking for are the fine textures of the hair, maybe go in and select a little more green. Bring that fuzziness down, so we just work it until we can sort of say like, we look at this scene here, at this image as the brush. So if you picture this as the brush, this is like your end result. So I'm looking for texture. I'm looking for softness. I'm making sure that all the green's gone, but I'm wanting to see this is the final brush, this is what I'm going to use. So seeing green in the hair actually isn't an issue because the brush is going to be black and white, okay? So something around those lines is good, we can see the curls in her hair, we can see all of that, so I'll press okay. Now we can mask that out by just clicking on the mask tool, and there's a section up here that I just need to paint out. The other thing that I've done with one of my other hair brushes is I softened off the top. I'll change my brush type. And the reason that I do this for this hair brush, which I will be including in the course, so you guys will all get this brush that I'm creating right now. By softening off the top of this brush, it makes it flexible, it gives me a soft end that I can paint back with and a hair brush end. I'll go with the soft brush, hardness zero. And I'm just rounding that section off. And in this section here, just making sure it's solid. So if I'm to use this brush and turn it round, I've got an edge I can use to cut back into, paint back as though it's a circular brush. This works really well with the art pin as well which I'll show you once we've created the brush. Okay so now my hair brush is almost ready, but it's not able to be turned into a brush. If I go to edit and define brush preset, it's grayed out. So there's a few things that you need to do to make a brush. One of them is, it needs it be in grayscale. Now I can turn this into black and white, and the other thing is, it needs to be no larger than 2000 pixels by 2000 pixels. So we need to change the size. Image size, and pixels, at the moment it's way too big, so we'll change the height to 2000. Press okay. Now, we still can't do it because it's not a flattened image. So we've got it to a point that I'm pretty happy with. I do want to darken this section off as well, so when it's a brush, I've got that solid area in the middle and then it softens off to that hair brush, so to do that I can actually play levels adjustment layer. Make that area darker and then invert, and then just paint that in, so that section... This is all in just creating a very, very useful brush. So you can create brushes in all different ways, this is to create a multifaceted brush that you can use. So now that I've got the brush how I want it, I can create a duplicate layer on the top, so one way of doing that is shift control alt E. And this layer here now can be turned into a brush, because it's flattened. Say you can either flatten the whole thing if you're ready to turn it into a brush. You don't need to work as non-destructively when you're creating brushes because the purpose is just to create a brush, or you can duplicate that layer and put it on top, you can merge them all together. So that actually is a merge, a physical layer. So we go into define brush preset. Now you can save. This is what it's going to look like. You can call it something, so, Alice hair. And press okay. You end up with the brush straight away, and where that goes is down below, so in your brush library there, it's the last one. There's a few more things that I wanna do to this brush. At the moment it doesn't rotate. So if I go back into Wonderland and new layer. Whoops, and I need to zoom out because it's actually quite a big brush, 2000 pixels. I wanna change my settings of this brush to be how I would normally use it, so you can go into your brush presets, over to brush, and here is where you can change everything. I'm only gonna do a couple of things to it. We're going to shape dynamics, and if you have one of this art pins you can turn on brush projection and that will enable you to turn it around, and for what you're doing here, this pin is invaluable, so it's an art pin, works with all the working templates and by having a pin that can turn, you can mask in at any point. If you don't have one of these pins, you can set the pin up at the angle that you want and you can change it so that the angle sorta changes as you move it along so it gives it some variety, so angle (mumbles) will change, every time you tap it, it moves. So you might wanna set it up in that way. But I am going to turn on brush projection and I am going to control it this way. You can save it as a new brush preset. And I just turned off capture brush size in preset. When you see all those numbers here, the numbers are not the number of the brush, it's actually the pixel size of the brush, so that can be confusing. You can be looking for a number, it might not be in order, it's actually the pixel size of the brush, so I just turn it off because it doesn't matter to me, I change the size of it as I'm working anyway. So I'll turn that off so now I've got my brush, I need to be able to mask back on Alice's hair, just to clean it up. So zooming back out. Just this section here. What I'm going to do, got mu brush, make it smaller, 'cause it's really big, lots of detail in it. Turn down the flow. And just kinda paint in to the hair. So instead of it being a soft brush, it's sort of painting back, I can go back and forth, so I can press X, bring back some of the hair, take away some of the hair. Bring back some of the hair. It's giving the texture of the hair and it's cutting in with their actual hair which is amazing, so, if I wanted to paint more hair on, just as a color, this is what it would look like, I could select color of her hair. I'm on low flow so it's hard to see. So that's how the brush looks, but I don't use it for that, so it's very rare that I would actually paint a particular color with a brush. It's more so for masking, for masking back with levels adjustment layers and for masking back on particular images. So we've used it there, I think the rest of the hair's looking pretty good so we're going to add some hair to that. So that brush will be part of the pack as well. Any questions about the brush creation, (mumbles) anyone? We did have a question earlier that someone was wondering if your brush that is compatible with Photoshop CS on Windows 7, are there any compatibility issues? As far as I know, it should be fine. They are just standard brushes, so they should work through most of the versions of Photoshop. And I definitely use them on both Mac and PC, so.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

The Story Art Journey eBook
Planning a Composite Video Tutorial (Large download - 1.2gb)

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Photoshop Brushes
Photoshop Hair Brush

Ratings and Reviews

Judy Mitschelen

I've found many great instructors at CreativeLive and Karen ranks right up there at the top! With her relaxed, thoughtful manner of presenting, I was immediately hooked. Her organization, clear explanations and demonstration, and on target response to questions are superb. This course covers an amazing range of skills and tricks of the trade. Whether you're interested in getting better shots to work with, better workflow at the computer, or better output at the end, Karen covers it all.


Karen is very talented and a great teacher and I enjoyed every minute of the course. But what I found to be the best part was seeing what an amazing person she is. The video of compositing the disabled children to make their dreams come true had me in tears. It has inspired me to use my talents to help others and not learn photo manipulation for self enjoyment. God bless you Karen.

Endigo Rae

This was such an amazing class! Karen is so talented, inspiring, and such an amazing teacher. Very forthcoming and open about all of her techniques. I'm so looking forward to jumping into compositing, I feel like this is definitely something my soul desires to explore and Karen has made it so easy and accesible through her beautiful course! Thanks so much Karen and CreativeLive!

Student Work