Photoshop Tutorial: Creating Watercolor, Scatter and Smoke brushes in Photoshop

by Annabelle Yeoh from 123RF

Guest Article from 123RF Our friends out at have sent this tutorial to brighten your brushes collection -- and they even send along links to the suggested files. We all know that understanding how to make your own brushes can really come in handy. After all, many times, you could use a brush when working in Photoshop -- but none are available, and you need to make your own. So here, Olga Popova will illustrate the simple steps in createing your own brushes using references and simple adjustments in the brush panel.

  • Software: Adobe Photoshop CS6 Extended
  • Difficulty: Beginner
  • Completion Time: 30 minutes

Images Used For This Tutorial
GO Hand-drawn backgrounds © Olga Popova
GO tribal feathers © Liudmila Horvath
GO Smoke background: © rangizzz 33456095

Easy Watercolor Brush

Step 1

Open up your watercolor reference in Photoshop. We’ll first need to adjust the paint splatter to show more detail.


Add a new adjustment layer of Brightness/Contrast. Adjust the Brightness to -46 and the Contrast to 29.


Step 2

Now go to Edit > Define Brush Preset and give your brush the new name, 'Watercolor Brush.'


Step 3

Click to select the option for Pen Pressure Sensitivity for Opacity, and have fun trying out your new brush!


Simple Scatter Brush

Step 1

A scatter brush is perfect for creating a cool, randomized effect.

Open your feather reference into Photoshop and use the Lasso Tool (L) to select one feather. Go to Edit > Define Brush Preset, and name it 'Feather Brush.'


Step 2

Let’s go to your Brush Panel (F5). Select the Scattering option and place a check mark for Both Axes. Then select Brush Tip Shape, moving the Spacing to 30%.


Step 3

Have fun trying out your new scatter brush!


Realistic Smoke Brush

Step 1

For this last brush open your smoke reference into Photoshop. For the best brush effect, we need to invert the picture so that the background is white and the smoke is gray. To do this, go to Image > Adjustments > Invert.


Step 2

For more contrast in the smoke, add an adjustment layer of Levels. Set the Shadows to 14, the Midtones to 0.75, and the Highlights to 212.


Step 3

Once you’re done, merge the layers together. Experiment with different colors for a delightful smoke effect.


All done! Creating custom brushes in Photoshop is just that easy! Follow these simple steps and have fun making your own!

Special thanks go out to Annabelle Yeoh and 123RF in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong for sending in this tutorial! 123RF is a royalty-free digital media library offering a wide variety of budget-friendly commercial and editorial images, video footage, audio clips, logo designs and illustrations.
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