Tree Brush In Photoshop
By Neil Blevins
Oct 1st 2009

Several people have asked me how I made the tree brushes I used in this painting, so this tutorial discusses the process. The technique can be used to make all sorts of different types of brushes, but for this one I'll focus on trees as my example.

First, take a photo of a tree against the sky. Dusk usually works pretty well.

Bring it into photoshop, crop off the parts you don't need. And then turn it Grayscale using Image->Adjustements->Desaturate. Apply a Levels and adjust the levels so you have pure black and white by moving the lower level up, and the highest level down. Adjust to taste.

The brush is probably too big, so consider reducing the size of the image, maybe to 3-400 pixels in height. A smaller brush means you can paint with it faster on slower computers

Also consider adding a Sharpen Filter if you feel the photo is a little blurry overall.

Now select the whole canvas using Select->All, then Edit->Define Brush Preset. Give it a name like TreeA.

Now switch to the Brush Tool. Find your brushes palette, you should see a new brush at the bottom which is the brush you've just created.

Adjust the Shape Dynamics as shown. This gives each stroke of the brush a slightly random size, and give it a tiny bit of irregularity by randomly flipping the image on its x axis on every stroke...

Under Brush Tip Shape, adjust the spacing a bit. This is so each stroke doesn't bunch ontop of each other too much...

Adjust Scattering as show, to vary the position of each stroke slightly...

Now, and this is very important, you will lose all the settings you just set next time you switch brushes unless you save the brush again, giving it a new name...

Feel free to delete the original brush if you'd like.

Now create a large canvas, maybe 3000x3000 pixels, and test out your brush...

Adjust the parameters until you get something you like.

Also, you may notice that you'll recognize the same shape repeating at the tips of the trees...

To fix this, just go back in and paint out a few of the branches anywhere you see repetition with a small hard circular brush, like any of the ones that ship with Photoshop. The tree brush can get you 95% of the way there fast, but the last step is manual.

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