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Turn a Beetle into a Brush in Photoshop

Beetle Brush Preview
Beetle Brush Preview
Photoshop is so flexible, it lets your artistic side go wild. In this tutorial, you’ll create a custom Photoshop brush using a photo of a beetle. You can adapt this method to make a custom brush out of any image. We’ll also work with Photoshop’s dynamic Brushes panel.

 

What You Should Know First

 

Source File

We’ll start with a photo of a beetle in my husband’s hands. We found the little guy in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains (click on it to view and download the full size version):

Click this Image to Download the Source File
Click this Image to Download the Source File

You can use just about any image for this technique, but the easiest ones to work with will have a solid-tone object against a contrasting background.

 

Part One: Prepare the Beetle Image

  1. Open the beetle photo in Photoshop.
  2. Select the Crop tool from the Tools panel.
  3. Click and drag a square around just the beetle.
  4. Press Enter/Return on your keyboard to complete the crop.
Crop the Beetle
Crop the Beetle
  1. View the Layers panel (Window > Layer).
  2. Copy the image to a new layer by pressing Ctrl+J (Cmd+J on Mac).
Copy to a New Layer
Copy to a New Layer
  1. If the top layer is not highlighted in the Layers panel, select it by clicking on it.
  2. Run the Threshold command: Image > Adjustments > Threshold.
The Threshold Command
The Threshold Command
  1. Use the Threshold Level slider to set the level so that the beetle is mostly black and it is surrounded by mostly white. I found that I liked it at 72.
  2. Click OK.
Threshold Level
Threshold Level
  1. That’s close to perfect, but there are some shadows to clean up under the left leg and rear end. Zoom in by selecting the Zoom tool in the Tools panel Zoom and clicking on the beetle’s back end a couple of times (if it’s zooming out, click on the icon with a plus sign in the Control Panel.)
  2. Now select the Brush tool in the Tools panel Brush.
  3. In the Control panel, click on the drop down arrow to the right of the text Brush:.
  4. In the drop down box, double-click on the size 19 hard-edged brush.
Hard Brush 19
Hard Brush 19
  1. Press D on your keyboard to set the Foreground/Background colors to the defaults of black/white.
  2. Press X to swap the white and black. We want to paint with white.
White Foreground
White Foreground
  1. In the Layers panel, change the Opacity of the top layer to 10%. This will allow us to see where the beetle’s edges are against the shadows.
10% Opacity
10% Opacity
  1. Now, paint away the shadows on the top layer. Here I am painting under that back left leg.
Paint Away the Shadows
Paint Away the Shadows
  1. Paint out the shadows to the left of the leg, and under the tail too.
Paint Away the Shadows
Paint Away the Shadows
  1. Now you can zoom back out (Alt/Opt+click with the Zoom tool) to see the whole image.
  2. Set the opacity for the top layer back to 100%.
Zoom Out, Full Opacity
Zoom Out, Full Opacity
  1. Increase the size of your brush by pressing the ] key on your keyboard a few times.
  2. Paint away the remaining black areas that are non-beetle.
Paint out the Non-Beetle Blacks
Paint out the Non-Beetle Blacks
  1. Save your file.

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