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Creating, Loading and Saving Brushes in Photoshop Elements

by Erin Peloquin on July 19, 2011 · 20 comments

Last week’s Photoshop Elements tutorial covered brushes in Photoshop Elements.  You’d think it was plenty long enough to cover everything, but this is Elements after all.  You can learn and learn and learn and still not get to the end of the info!

So we’re going to wrap up today.  After this, you’re on your own, because there is not one iota of brush-related info left in my head….

What are Other Uses for Brushes in PSE?

Brushes in Elements do much more than painting on layer masks.  I’ve already mentioned, for example, how to create a watermark brush.

You can find eyelash brushes to enhance portraits.  Brushes can create picture frames.  They can add talk bubbles, like in cartoons.

You’ll also find that many people use them as stamps for scrapbooking.  For instance, you could create a stamp of your child’s name in a specific font and use it throughout a scrapbook, rather than having to recreate it with the text tool each time you needed it.  Or, you could create, purchase or download for free decorative elements like buttons, swirls, birds, or anything else to use as stamps in Elements.

How To Create a Custom Brush in Photoshop Elements

Step 1.  Create a new file whose area in pixels is as large as the largest size you will ever need the brush to be.  The brush can be no more than 2500 pixels on the longest side.

If you just wanted to create a name stamp, you would pull up the text tool, write and format the name large enough to fill up this file, and then go to step two.  However, if you want to create a brush from a shape or object, you either have to create it yourself in Elements, or find one from somewhere.  The Elements Shape Tool and the Content Palette are great places to begin your search.  The key, when creating a brush, is to make it large.  It’s easy to decrease brush size once you’ve made it, but hard to increase it much and retain good quality.

A photo can easily become a brush as well.

I didn’t get any fabulous photos of the Cathedral in Sheffield, England, even though our apartment looked out at the steeple.  Rather than putting a lackluster photo like this in my scrapbook, I could make a scrapbook page with photos of my family and use a brush that looks like the steeple for embellishment.

 

This method works best on high-contrast photos like the one above where you have an easy-to-select background.

First, I used the marquee tool to select a rectangular area around the steeple.

Next, I copied the selection and pasted it into a new file, using File/New/Image from Clipboard.  This command creates a new document of exactly the right size.

I clicked once with the Magic Wand tool in the sky to select it.  I typed control+shift+i to invert the selection so that only the steeple was selected.

At this point, I have a few options.  I can make a brush that looks like a silhouette – just a solid color shape of the steeple.  Or, I can have one that retains a little texture and shading.  The choices look like this, in black and orange (because you can use any color you want on a brush, right?).

For a solid brush like the first two above, after making your selection, go to the Edit Menu and select Fill Selection With.  Choose Black as the color.

For a brush with some texture, adjust the amount of texture that shows by making a contrast adjustment with either the Levels or the Brightness/Contrast adjustment layers, if necessary.

I could even create a new layer and stroke my selection (Edit menu), to leave me just an outline.  Kind of like a steeple cookie cutter.

Step 2.  Either way, after you’ve made and perfected your selection, go to the Edit Menu and select Define  Brush from Selection.  Name the brush, and that’s it.  You’ve created a brush now!

 

Where to Find Custom Brushes in Elements?

If you need some special brushes but don’t want to make them on your own, finding tons of them is a short google search away.  Start with searching “free Photoshop brushes” or narrow it down by subject:  “photoshop steeple brushes.”

Compatibility isn’t an issue with brushes – if they work in full Photoshop, they’ll work in Elements too.

Here are some of my favorite sources of brushes:

Ali Edwards at Designer Digitals

Deviant Art – lots of freebies here

Adobe Photoshop Marketplace

 

How to Load Brushes in Photoshop Elements?

Once you’ve located new brushes, you need to download them and save them somewhere on your hard drive.  Next, load them into Photoshop Elements by selecting the brush tool and clicking on the drop down arrow in the brush type picker.  See the graphic below.

Click on the double arrow circled in orange in this picture:

 

Select Load Brushes, and navigate to the location where you just saved the new brush.   Click on Load, and now you can use the brush or brushes in Elements.

If this is a brush that you want to keep in Elements permanently, you will need to complete one more step to save it.

 

How to Save Brushes in Photoshop Elements?

For one new brush that you’ve created, make sure it’s selected.  It will default to the category that was active when you created it.  So, if you have a category where you know you want the brush to go, activate it before creating the brush.  Then, click on the Brush Type drop down menu and click on the double arrows to select Save Brush.  Choose a name, and you have a new brush.

If you want to create a new category for your brush or brushes, first create the brushes with your Default category active.  Click on the Double Arrows and select Preset Manager.  Within the Preset Manager, select all the brushes that you want to put in a new category and select Save Set.   You want to save your brushes in this location:

  • in Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7, look on your C drive/Program Files/Adobe/Your Version of Photoshop Elements/Presets/Brushes
  • on Mac, look on your main (not user specific) Mac HD/Applications/Your Version of Elements/Presets/Brushes

For brushes that you loaded into Elements, while they’re active, click on the double arrow and select Save Brushes.  Navigate to the location above and name the collection of brushes something memorable.  Click Save and they will appear in their own category set the next time you open Elements.

Ok, I really think that’s enough on brushes, don’t you?  But if there’s something I left out, post a comment below!

 

 

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