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Concept Brushes

Lesson 6 from: Advanced Techniques with Brushes in Photoshop CC

Lisa Carney

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Lesson Info

6. Concept Brushes

Next Lesson: Impressionist Brush

Lesson Info

Concept Brushes

For me personally, the concept brush is something that I click and drag and build up, but it's the same idea, maybe be a better way of saying it, is like a picture, like a concept brush is a picture, and a stamp brush is a picture item, and it's just how you use it. There's clouds, there's rocks, there's mountains, there's grass, there's particles, there's light in all sorts of ways, it's really, they're really fantastic. I really love these, and right now I'm just gonna talk about adding a couple elements into a piece. So I'm gonna look at adding clouds to a scene that might want some clouds to it, and birds, I love the bird brushes. It's hard to say, but I love the bird brushes. Alright, so let's take a look at this. So, adding clouds. So let's go to my brushes, and be honest, I'm not sure if I have 'em loaded, but I'm not concerned, I'm gonna throw away my stamp brushes because I like to have a clean window. You can click and drag them over, or you can simply click on the folder, an...

d then click on the icon that is a trash can in your brush folder. Please do not hit the delete key. When you are on your brushes and you hit the delete key, it's gonna delete what's on your layer. Do not hit the delete key. Should I say that louder? Don't hit the delete key. Alright, cool. Do you see I have this folder called ABR? I have stuck a bunch of concept group brushes inside there, so that I can find what I want. Now I could probably work on my naming system because there's a lot of concept brushes in here, but the key that I ended up getting to, and I'm really kind of big believer of talking about the the real world stuff here, is do what you got to do to get your brushes where you need 'em. So if you have to put, if you're afraid that you've not saved them, save five of 'em in there. Clean it up later. Better to save, than to not save, okay? I'd like to show you the sausage-making, as I like to call it. So I have a bunch of cloud brushes and clouds from dust, cloud number four, I have a gazillion cloud files all over the place, and in fact I think I have some other ones here, and I think I have one more set I'd like to load, bare with me one moment, my loves. I love my shrub brush. You finally get really attached to your brushes and the you tend to use them too much. Alright, Cloud One. I'm gonna use Cloud Three. Cloud Three happens to be my current favorite. This happens, you get brushes you fall in love with, and that's just it. Alright, so what I've got here is I've got a basic scene, and I'm just gonna add some clouds. Now, I'm gonna show you the settings. We're gonna start talking about the settings as we go on through the day. Right now, these are already preset. There's Shape Dynamics, there's Transfer, and there's Smoothing, and I'm gonna close this up, and I've got the color black, gonna zoom out just a little, and I'm just gonna start laying this down. Now, here is the beauty of the brushes. So I'm just gonna lay this down a little bit, I'm barely, barely, barely pressing, and now I'm gonna add a new layer and I'm gonna call it Add White. And now I'm just gonna add some white on top of that. And here's the thing about these brushes, is someone else, far better than me has actual figured out Pressure settings, Transfer settings, tilt scattering, that is just magnificent. I have made a bazillion dust brushes in my life, and then you finally come across someone else who's got that scattering down. Now, they may have done it with a cloud, I'm gonna steal those settings. I'm sorry, I'm gonna copy, investigate, write down, whatever the settings they have, I'm gonna use those settings for my brushes, and I'm gonna encourage you, throughout the class and as we go through, I'm gonna have these boxes with all the settings highlighted for you, so you can do the same. Maybe this cloud is not quite what you want, you want a puffier cloud, but you really like the flow of the brush. You're gonna copy these settings and you'll be able to duplicate it and have it look the way you want it, okay? So that's not, it's nothing, it's just a little bit of clouds. Fantastic. Alright, now we're gonna add some birds. Birds, actually I think I'm just gonna turn it off and on and show it to you, because I think you guys can figure this out. The birds brushes, it's just a stamp brush. Here it is, Lisa's Birds. Now, I'm gonna go to the Brush Settings, as I said to you a hundred times, I'm gonna keep going to the Brush Settings. When I saved this brush, do you know what I forgot to do? I forgot to turn the spacing off. I'm not panicking. Are you guys panicking? I'm not panicking. You just turn the spacing off. Now, on a brush like this, this is easy enough to just turn it off. No harm no foul, and then... stamp there you go. So I don't really need to save this as a second brush, but I could if I want to. I just want to show you how you might find these things, cause I'm afraid you guys are gonna open up these brushes and then go, "Oh, that doesn't look like I what I wanted it to." And then there is the ubiquitous clouds, some dark clouds. Oh you know what I added to this? I was fancy. I added some trees. Do you guys want to see this tree brush? I love this tree brush. I am so afraid you guys are gonna see my bad spelling. I have this momentary panic, where I'm like, "Oh my God, they're going to see I can't spell." We've established I can't spell, haven't we? Alright, this brush it's called the Pine Forest Brush. I'm gonna select. I'm gonna select black. I know you guys can't see my icon, I'm going to make it a little bigger or I'm going to zoom in actually. And the more I brush, it just keeps, I'm barely touching the tablet. So if you have a mountain scene and you can't see your brushes, I mean, I'm sorry, your trees, you can't see the forest from the trees, you know someone had to say it, it was gonna be me. And look, it's just the most gentle little brush. It's so pretty, it's got this lovely Transfer on. Let me turn the Transfer off, the Transfer is what makes it. Do you see that? The Transfer is what makes it, makes it fade, but isn't that pretty? Easy peasy lemon squeezy. You should have like Brush Sunday, a day where you just make brushes, like pot roast only it's brushes. Alright, I know that was a little weird, I'm sorry. It could happen, someone could do it. By the way, people will buy your brushes. If you make brushes, they will come. You can use filters and what not to make items like a bubble. We, the other day in Filter class, we made used polar coordinates to make a bubble brush. And then this is where we're gonna start talking about the settings. Do you remember I was saying that the dust brush that I use, or the cloud brush, some guy out there in internet land had figured the best Transfer rate, and what has happened is, I figured that out that he figured out a Transfer rate, and I started looking at this. And this is the, how do I want to describe this? Do you know Kyle, who made all these brushes? What Kyle mastered is this. He mastered figuring out all these settings, all these settings have been there, it is nothing new he just figured out what to do with them. So because he has figured it out, we can look at it and make our own settings. So what I'm gonna try to do throughout the class, cause I think this is really helpful for you guys to know, is when we look at a brush, like a concept brush, like the bubble, and you want to talk about how to get it to look variegated and more natural how you're gonna do that is changing these settings. Excuse me. And so what I've done is highlighted, like, you don't see 17 settings here, do you? You only see the four that really matter. So I'm gonna try to isolate only the little settings that might matter, that will make these kind of changes, and what I'm kind of hoping happens as we go along here, is that you guys will understand what you need to do to make your own brush. So I made a bubble brush, but what if you want this to be a little dragonfly? Or you want it to be a butterfly? And, or pixie dust? I'd like you to be able to take these settings and do the exact same thing. So, in fact, we might be able to do that, let's see. Let's see if we can do that together. Alright, Keynote, you want to let me out. Keynote does not want to let me out. Gremlins have attacked the machine. Okay, gremlins are out of the machine. It's all good. Alright. So I'm gonna take this bubble brush, and let's take a look at this. Alright. So, I have made, we have made, yesterday a brush, and we have a handout in the Filter lass on how to make a bubble brush out of polar coordinates, but I just want to show you the brush in it of itself. Alright, so this is our basic brush. This is the, I'm going to make it a little, little smaller here, and I'm just gonna stamp this. So that's the brush, okay? That's it. Not so sexy, but that's it. If you start changing these around, and start changing your scattering and your settings, so first of all, we're gonna go to Brush Tip Shape and we're gonna go to Spacing, excuse me, and we're gonna change the spacing. Look, there is no rhyme or reason, what's gonna happen is you guys are gonna find what works for you. Other people, we all have different choices of how far away you want them, you're gonna choose. Now we're gonna go to Shape Dynamics, and this is where things start changing. If I take the Pen Pressure off, and the Size Jitter down to nothing, okay, that's one boring brush, correct? Well, she's nice, she's not very exciting... What if I take the Size Jitter and start changing that saying, "Okay I wanted to change 77 percent, but what is the control?" Ah, well if I put it to Pen Pressure, that means with the tablet, my pressure is gonna determine how big or small it gets. You can change the Angle Jitter, but on something with a highlight I'm gonna suggest you don't, because the Sun is supposed to all come from the same spot. Alright, Scattering. This is really fun. I love the scattering. Let me just turn this off for a second. Alright, so there's your brush, it's all kind of in a line. If you start scattering, you can start changing your spacing, how far away they scatter from each other, and then if you do both axis', then it scatters completely, 360, okay? Now you can change the count, so how much? So, alright, it's getting a little complicated. Gonna change how much it spaces, and then the count. Now, what might happen for some of y'all at this point, this might start getting a little confusing. So at this point you might want to take your hands off the machine and go, "Okay, what am I doing? I don't know what this is gonna look like on the piece. Why don't I go over here and draw?" That's too many. Why don't I take the count way down? I just took the count way down. Oh okay, that's getting better. So I've not committed myself, I've taken a step off, and I'm like, "Okay, what do I have going on here? This is getting better." This is where going slow is better, by the way, you really wanna go slow, especially when you're doing this kind of work. And then go back to Shape Dynamics, maybe, and change how much your size, let's go look at that. And look, this is all personal. Some people want more, some people want less. It's all up to you. And once you get to a place that you like, once this works for you, is there anything else I want to change? Let me see. We've got Brush Tip Shape, oh Transfer. The Forever Transfer. Now, I love the Transfer brush. Excuse me, the Transfer setting. If, like the tree I just showed you, if you guys want to have it fade out and look further in the distance, you're gonna want to put Transfer on. I love Transfer, and you can change the Opacity, so how much lighter or darker it gets, you can change the Flow, do you see the density changing? And again, let's just leave the Pen Pressure where it's at. So now, it's a little lighter. Now, what happens for me with the Transfer, I actually really like that look and how it it gets lighter, but then it gets a little hard to see the piece, doesn't it? Just a little bit harder? But what I would rather do, personally on this brush, is I'd rather leave the Transfer where it's at, and then just Command J that layer, mask it out. So what I did is I copied that layer, and now I'm gonna just pick a generic paint brush, and I'm gonna mask in the brushes, the bubbles, just in a few different areas so that you get that high-low, that you get a little bit more contrast and a little bit more density only where you want it. So that is like a finishing touch I'll do. That's my own personal preference. You might just want to set the brush up to be a one-stop shop, it's totally your call. But hopefully going through this a little bit is showing you how you can make a brush closer to your liking. At this point I beg of you, remember you have saved nothing. I have saved nothing at this point. So if I actually made all these changes and I like it, I need to, and I really want to stress this, click on that button and say, "Another Bubble Brush." Please, I beg of you. And I only say that because, you know, 17 times I have not done this. And then if you come back later and you go, "I was so wrong, that original brush was so much better." It's right there. I still have the original brush. This brings me to my next point. Where you save your brushes is really important, so you wanna make sure you put all your brushes somewhere where you can find them, and you can arrange them so once you start doing this, do you remember we talked about this before? Make sure you put your brushes where you like them, okay? With either making the brush, or using it, do you have to have a pen and pad, or can you do it with a mouse? You can do it with a mouse, but you really want a tablet, yes, it depends on what you're doing. Especially, I'm gonna say because I actually know the kind of work you do, you want a tablet. No, you can do it with a mouse, and there's some settings up here under Brush Pose, and I'm gonna tell you right now, I am not an expert at this, but under the setting, Brush Pose, you can mimic some stuff that you need to do. So yes, it is 100 percent possible, I'm not an expert at that, but yes. Yeah, you do not need a tablet for this. You want a tablet for this, but, so you're gonna want to investigate Brush Pose more, okay? And I'll get you a tablet for Christmas. Alright, cool? (Class laughs) Excellent. Here's the thing, I've got a huge tablet. You don't need a huge tablet, it is perfectly usable to have a small, little table, and they work just fine. It's just a gesture, I like a little more room, I'm a little loud at times. Anyway, you can see it's kind of a nice effect, and it's easy, it's a easy little brush. For those at home who did not get to see the Filters class, there is on the handout, I just wanna be really clear about this, on the handout you will have step-by-step, how to walk through and take the polar coordinate. It'll show you how to make, this is the setting, it's gonna say, "Hey, here we're gonna start." These are the steps to use the filter polar coordinate and lens flare, to make a brush. And I want to be clear about this, cause it's not maybe so clear, after you've made your brush, excuse me, you've made your your sphere using filters, and the handout will tell you how to do it. Please, please, please, remember, you must make it inverted and black and white because, have you noticed, all the brushes are just in Alpha Channel? What's black is where the paint will actually be used. What's black is what the paint will be used. So it's kind of the opposite of our thinking as we look at pictures. And then the other critical, critical thing is you need to mask it out. You want it on Transparent. And then as we did before, you Edit, Create Brush, and you name it, and then set all these lovely settings up, and you shall have some bubbles. Alright, I just want to talk about this for a second and show kind of how much difference just a Transfer could make and just a settings change could make, with the same brush, and also I have said this and I'm gonna say this all day, you can take a brush head you like, so this fern is made from that brush head, and if you like the settings that it did, you could change it and make a, I used a orange leaf from my house, and only thing different that I did is, on this fern, do you see this little tab? That little tab is what made the stem. That's the only thing I took out. I just used the brush as it was, and I was able to use it using its setting. I just did not want the tab on there, and one of the goals I have for this class, is that you guys can take the information that you're getting and make your own brushes. The other thing that's really critical to understand, and again, it's a little bit of a data thing, is, this is where the juicy bits lie, so stay with me gang, I know this gets a little dry. This brush tip, that brush tip, and that brush tip, are virtually the same. This just has a little more texture to it, that is all. The difference in these brushes is this brush tip, the Shape Dynamic is on Fade and Angle Jitter. These are the settings. This exact basic size brush tip, the big difference is on Shape Dynamics, it's on Pen Pressure. Do you see that? And Angle Jitter is on Direction. Now, I have specifically highlighted these things so you can look at this and you can see what's different about 'em, so that you can make your own brushes and test these brushes. Let me see if I have this file open for you. Alrighty. Yeah, this is just a basic drawing, and oh well I guess I could show you how I made the brush tip for the orange. So when you have an image, my iPhone, the iPhone is gonna be your friend, you can go ahead and just use a levels move, Command L, to darken it up, and then that way you have a dark leaf, and then I just put it together and made a little leaf like that, and I used the old fern as a guide, just to look at what the old fern was, and then, that's fern one, and that's orange leaf, just to replace. And, do you remember I said Sunday, Pot Roast Day, you should be making brushes? This is what I'm suggesting you do. Take your brush and go, "Okay, I like that fern one. What does the brush tip look like? Alright, how can I use that and how do you take a brush tip from somebody else?" How do you take a brush tip from somebody else? Alright, let's talk about that. So if you guys are gonna want to copy a setting, what you're gonna need to do is get their brush, let's go find our trees, alright, here's my orange leaf, here's my fern two, here's my fern one. Let's go to fern one. And let's go to our Brush Settings. Alright, let's go to Shape Dynamics, and let's go to Brush Tip Shape. I'm gonna turn the spacing off for a second. This is detective work, you guys ready? You're doing some detective work. If you get a brush offline, and you get this fern brush, and you think, "This is rockin', I really dig it." What you might want to consider doing, is doing this. Taking it and going, "Okay, what is it?" How else are you gonna know what this is? You gotta turn everything off, the scattering, and then go to your document. Now, look at your flow, make your flow 100 percent, and then make a new layer so you can work on this. We talked about this in the other class we've had here at CreativeLive, I often like to make a blank layer on top. Everything else, I can leave it all below, I don't have to get rid of anything, I just want to hide it for a second, and on a blank layer on top, I'm gonna do this new work, and I'm gonna take this tip, make sure I have black as my foreground color, and I'm just, oops, I have not turned off something, turn everything off. Okay, and I'm just gonna click. Alright, I now have his brush tip head, okay? So if I wanted to, I presume it's a him, it might not be a him, I can just take my Marquee tool, and go Define Brush Set, and make it start making a new brush, okay? I can start all over again. Or I can take my own brush and go, "Okay, I wanna make my own brush." So, do you remember I just made that orange leaf? And heck fire, I could even, for giggles, put a little stick in there to make it connect. Alright, so now what you want to do is you need to know the settings, right? I need to know those settings that he has. I'm a little lazy and I don't like to have a ton of, I don't know how do you say it? A lot of files up, a lot of stuff, so what I would do is I would copy the Brush Settings. Do you guys know how to do screen captures when you're trying to get information? Do a screen capture, and then you have the settings. So what I've done here, and you're gonna see this all over today on your handouts, I have the Shape Dynamics and I have the Brush Tip Shape, and all the information I have, I need, is right here. You guys have that on the hand out cause I gave you, what I'm trying to teach is how do you figure out somebody else's brush later, not a handout I've given you. Alright, so I'm going to turn that off, and for us right here I'm gonna go to the Keynote. Alright, so what I'm gonna do real quickly is I'm just going to select that brush and I'm gonna say, Define Brush Preset. Let's call it Lisa's Orange Leaf, okay? So now, once I have that set I'm gonna go to my Brush Settings, and now I've got a problem, I can't see both things, so I'm gonna do a little jiggle jiggle joggle here, and I'm just gonna put my Keynote here, and see if I can raise that percentage. You guys are gonna be smart and you're gonna have your printout in front of you, right? Yes you are. Did I mention smart? I have my own set of printouts. (Class laughs) I'm so proud of myself. Alright, cool. So I'm gonna look at these settings here. And this you guys, this kind of example is a perfect example of why I've given you guys this, so while I'm on the Brush Settings, alright. You're gonna go slow, and you're gonna go, "Okay, my Brush Tip, turn spacing off. Okay. Brush Tip, no, the brush spacing is 89." And I want you to be this goofy about it, alright? Now, my little stick is not quite enough, is it? That stick needs to connect, so when you're doing this you- well actually, maybe it will stick, maybe it'll be alright, let's see, alright, I'm gonna keep going. I've got spacing at 89, then I want you to go like this and go, "Okay, look Shape Dynamics. Take your hands off the controls for just a second. Alright, it's on Fade. Control Fade. Oh that's cool. Minimum to - oh Fade 35." I want you to be that goofy about it. Like, "Okay, now what is the Fade 35 doing and why does she have that? Why don't I change that to Fade 15? Oh." Now, what I'm praying is happening at this point is you guys are starting to understand how these brushes work. Like, "Aww, look at that. I just made these tiny, that's awesome." I think it's awesome. Alright, so I'm going to say, "Screw it. I'm gonna go with Fade 15 cause I think that's much better." And then the other control, control the Angle this one is very, very important, Directional. Now, you're not really gonna know what that does until you come here to your image and you start drawing, and you could see what it's doing. So what I'm going to do real quickly is just delete that so we have a clear. Oh I see, it controls which way I'm going. I've now realized I think I made my brush tip upside down, but we're not gonna worry about that right now, we can redo that later. And the other thing, oh, wait a minute, what's going on? She's got that red box. You can't see this, the red box goes even further. That means I didn't finish. The directional... is at 21 percent. Directional, 21 percent. Oh, the counter's off? 9 percent. And do you see how goofy I look sitting here looking at my piece of paper? This is what you're gonna do. Oh, Flip the Jitter. Now let's see what it does. And then come back, Control Direction, Control Off, Roundness was 21. I just hit the Delete key, you guys, because I wanted to delete on the layer. The other thing you gotta remember when you're on your Brush Settings, you gotta go back to your layer if you're trying to clear your layer. So, go back. So I'm just going back to my layer, and I just want to clear that. Alright, let's try it now. Oh, oh wait, now this is a whole different thing. Oh, why did that happen? Why did that happen? Do you remember when I hit the Delete key? It popped me up here. This is gonna happen. I swear to Buddha, this happens all the time. Did I mention it's been six months that I've been working on this? Six months. Because this is what happens. I feel so much better. There we go, see? Now you're finding your settings. So this is how you start. You know what I kind of like though? I kind of like that Transfer. Oh no, a Transfer's not gonna work with this. Alright, I'm gonna leave this here, and this is gonna be your process, does that make sense? Experiment, but the key, so the takeaway here is you can make your own tip head, just copy someone else's. The other thing that's really important is take your time, and look at someone else's brushes. I think if I had to figure this thing out all by my own, without looking at someone else's reference I'd never get there, or it would take me forever. Someone else has done all this work, figure it out, use theirs, print it out. Did you see me trying to do the screen next to each other? Not so bueno, right? No. Print it out, have it next to you. I've already done a lot of work on this and hopefully throughout the course of the class I'm gonna show you hair brushes and a bunch of scattering brushes and halftone brushes and all the data is already right here and then you have it next to you and you make your own brushes. Cool?

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Brushes Companion Handout
Adobe Stock Contributor

Ratings and Reviews


Knowledgeable Lisa is the best teacher. She makes learning Photoshop fun. Great course. Lisa has a great teaching style. She mixes in a great speech cadence, great voice up and down and pausing, jokes, and is extremely knowledgeable and fun to watch. Awesome course. Really helpful course for getting my feet wet with brushes.


This is a comprehensive overview of Ps CC Brushes, what they do, how they work and how to control, manage & modify them. I found it extremely useful to learn about the functionality/features that Ps CC brushes can provide even though I'm a photographer and not an illustrator or painter. I will never ever be able to employ everything Lisa explained & demo'd in the class - she covered a wide gamut of info. But she served the purpose, in this class, of being essentially what I'd call an 'idea sparker'. Once you see how she works with brushes and you find out how you can adapt (or create) brush tools to suit your personal artistic style the options for creativity are unlimited. I might re-title this class "Oh the Places Brushes Can Go" (apologies to Dr Seuss and his classic graduation gift book 'Oh, the Places You'll Go...'). Keep in mind a few things about this class (& back away from it and your credit card if you don't note a few key facts...): (1) It is called 'Advanced Techniques' - it is for intermediate to advanced Ps users, not newbies unless you're a child prodigy who picks things up really fast, (2) This is not a 'Paint with Lisa' class - we don't all paint a butterfly like a color by numbers together. Rather we learn about Ps brushes, how they work, what they look like and how to modify them and change their dynamics for different types of artistic/retouching/post-processing uses. Each person will have to experiment - there's no one 'this is it' formula that can be provided, (3) Lisa talks and thinks fast and has a pretty amusing patter too (she's clearly very intelligent!) - so be prepared to hit the Pause button. She repeatedly advises during the class, don't overload your brain with all there is to absorb with regard to Ps Brushes. Take breaks to try the info she shares & see what works for you before going on to a different section of the class. Don't buy this class thinking you'll whizz through it in 15 minutes & figure out how to complete a job you've committed to deliver in 2 hours, (4) There's a large packet of material that comes with a purchase of the class (descriptions, definitions, brush settings, drawing examples, etc.). Item #4 is the only thing I'd ding this class on. While the handout material contains lots of really really useful info it is - sadly - microscopic print. The text is exceedingly difficult for my poor old eyes to read. I value that there's plenty of white space on the pages to write notes as Lisa talks - I've done so prodigiously. But the print in that accompanying brushes class guide needs to be larger. I honestly wish I could enlarge the print in some way (unless it is a PDF that I can alter & I haven't figured it out). If there is a way to re-print with larger type font sizes someone please let me know! Bottom line: I highly recommend this class to more advanced Ps users who want a comprehensive overview of Brushes and working with them. It's definitely not a class for someone who wants a linear, step x step, "do this then do that" type of recipe class. As I've noted above, it's best as a way to learn about richly varied Ps tools you may have only had superficial exposure to previously; and get enough new knowledge to make you dangerous (and, dare I say it, boldly creative!).

Skye Taten

Lisa is the BEST teacher!!!!! Everyone should take this class!!!!!!! This class is utterly phenomenal!!!! Lisa is so knowledgable and so very talented. She is incredibly smart, super funny and so very helpful. This class contains so much valuable information, and at this price it's a complete steal. This class has forever changed my life!!! I'm so happy to have a new skill set. Thank you Lisa from the bottom of all of our hearts you are completely incredible and have touched all of our editing in photoshop lives forever!!!!! You are so very talented thank you so much for sharing your incredible skills and knowledge with us, you are a true beautiful talented soul. xoxo, Skye

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