Master Photoshop Brushes: Step-by-Step Illustration Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Get familiar with the Brush Tool
  2. How to select a brush
  3. Set brush properties
  4. How to create custom brushes
  5. How to use brush presets
  6. How to manage brushes
  7. Use brushes for digital painting
  8. Use brushes for photo editing
  9. How to create textures with brushes
  10. Final Illustration

Imagine you're in front of a blank canvas with a paintbrush in your hand, ready to create a masterpiece. Now replace that canvas with your computer screen and the paintbrush with Photoshop's Brush Tool. That's right, the power to create stunning digital art lies right in your hands. Today, we're taking a deep dive into how to use brush in Photoshop for illustration. So, let's roll up our digital sleeves and get started!

Get familiar with the Brush Tool

Think of Photoshop's Brush Tool as your magic wand. With it, you can draw, paint, and add texture to your illustrations. It's like having an art studio at your fingertips!

But before we start creating, let's get familiar with the Brush Tool. Here's how you can locate it:

  1. Open Photoshop (surprise, surprise!).
  2. Look at the Tools Panel on the left.
  3. Spot the icon that looks like a paintbrush. That's your Brush Tool!

After you've located the Brush Tool, it's time to take it for a test drive:

  1. Select the Brush Tool by clicking on it. You can also press the B key on your keyboard. (B for Brush, easy to remember, right?).
  2. Now, head over to your document window.
  3. Click and drag in the document window to start painting. See, you're already becoming a digital Picasso!

Note: Want to change the color of your brush? Don't worry, we've got you covered. Just click on the two overlapping squares at the bottom of the Tools Panel. A color picker window will pop up. Choose your color, click OK, and voila! Your brush is now dipped in your chosen color.

There you have it, the basics of how to use brush in Photoshop for illustration. Stay tuned as we dive deeper into the world of Photoshop Brushes in the next sections!

How to Select a Brush

Okay, so you've got a handle on the Brush Tool. Now, let's explore the different brushes available in Photoshop. Do you know what's awesome about Photoshop's brushes? There's a brush for every mood, every style, every anything! Let's learn how to select the brush that best fits your artistic vision.

Follow these steps to select a brush:

  1. Make sure your Brush Tool is selected. Remember, B for Brush!
  2. Look at the options bar on top. See that drop-down menu next to the word "Brush"? That's the Brush Preset Picker. Click on it.
  3. Now you'll see lots of different brush shapes and sizes. Feeling overwhelmed? Don't worry! Hover over each brush to see a preview of how it looks.
  4. Got a brush that caught your eye? Click on it to select it.

Note: The size of the brush can be adjusted too! Just right next to the Brush Preset Picker, you'll see another box with a number. That's the brush size. Click on it and slide right for a bigger brush, or slide left for a smaller one. Remember, the bigger the number, the bigger the brush!

And there you go! You've just chosen your paintbrush in this digital art studio. Next, we'll set the properties for our brush to make it behave just the way we want. Sounds exciting, doesn't it?

Set Brush Properties

So, you've picked your brush—great job! But, did you know you can tweak your brush to make it act just the way you want? That's right! You can adjust brush properties like its size, hardness, opacity, and flow. Let's dive in and see how you can do this.

  1. First off, let's tackle brush size and hardness. Remember that options bar on top? Find the box next to the Brush Preset Picker. Here, you can enter a specific number for size, or use the slider that appears when you click on the arrow next to it.
  2. Next up: hardness. This determines how soft or sharp the edges of your brush strokes are. A hardness of 100% means sharp edges, while 0% gives you soft, feathered edges. Experiment to find what works for your illustration!
  3. Moving on to opacity. This controls how transparent your brush strokes are. Lower opacity means more transparency. You can adjust this in the options bar too, right next to the flow setting.
  4. Finally, let's look at flow. This controls how much color is applied when you paint. Lower flow means less color. Think of it like a faucet—the lower the flow, the less water (or color) comes out. You can adjust this next to the opacity setting.

Remember: These settings aren't set in stone. You can adjust them at any time while you're working on your illustration. Experiment and find what works best for your style!

Now, you're not just using a brush in Photoshop, you're controlling it! But what if you want a brush that's completely unique? Well, that's where custom brushes come in. Ready to create your own brush? Let's go!

How to Create Custom Brushes

Creating your own brushes in Photoshop—sounds like a pro move, right? You bet! But guess what? It's simpler than you might think, and it's a fantastic way to bring a unique touch to your digital illustrations.

  1. First things first: you need to create a new document. For this, go to File > New. Size doesn't matter too much here, but a good starting point is 500x500 pixels.
  2. Next, grab your Brush Tool and start designing your brush. This is your moment to let your creativity loose. Just remember one thing: black areas will paint, white areas won't, and grey areas will paint semi-transparently.
  3. Once you're happy with your design, go to Edit > Define Brush Preset. Give your brush a name and hit OK.
  4. And voila! You've created your first custom brush. You can now find it at the bottom of your Brush Preset Picker. Time to test it out and adjust its properties to your liking!

Pro tip: Custom brushes are perfect for creating complex effects quickly. Imagine needing to draw hundreds of leaves for a tree or a field full of flowers. With a custom brush, you can do this in a few swipes!

Creating custom brushes in Photoshop is a powerful way to personalize your digital art and save time. So, why not give it a try?

How to Use Brush Presets

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a digital painting, wishing you could change up your brush style without all the fuss? You're not alone—this is where brush presets come in handy!

  1. First, let's find your brush presets. Click on the Brush Preset Picker, which you'll find on the options bar when you have your Brush Tool selected.
  2. Here, you'll see a collection of pre-made brushes. Hover over each to see a preview. This can help you choose the right one for your project.
  3. Once you've selected a brush, you can adjust its properties just like any other brush. Change its size, opacity, flow, and more to suit your needs.
  4. When you've found a combination you like, don't forget to save it! Click on the 'Create New Brush' button (it looks like a piece of paper with a folded corner), give your new brush a name, and hit OK.

Remember: Brush presets are there to make your life easier, not limit your creativity. Feel free to modify and experiment with them—you never know what you might discover!

Using brush presets can help you streamline your workflow and achieve consistent results in your digital illustrations. So, next time you're working on a piece, why not explore what the preset brushes have to offer?

How to Manage Brushes

Now that you have a collection of your favorite brushes and presets, let's talk about how to keep them organized. Managing your brushes in Photoshop is easier than you might think!

  1. To start, select the Brush Tool and open the Brush Presets panel. Here, you'll see all your brushes and presets.
  2. To organize your brushes, click on the "Presets" button and select "Preset Manager" from the dropdown menu.
  3. In the Preset Manager, you can rename, delete, or change the order of your brushes. Simply drag and drop to rearrange them.
  4. If you want to group similar brushes together, you can create a new brush group. Click on the tiny folder icon at the bottom of the Brushes panel and give your group a name. Then, just drag and drop your brushes into the new group.

Well-managed brushes can make your illustration process smoother and more efficient. So, take a few minutes to organize your brushes—it's a small step that can have a big impact on your work!

And remember, managing brushes is not a one-time task. As you continue to use and create new brushes, make sure to revisit your brush management from time to time. You'll thank yourself later!

Use Brushes for Digital Painting

Embracing the brush tool in your digital painting journey can be a game changer. Think of it as dipping a virtual brush into a palette of limitless digital paint—exciting, isn't it?

Let's explore how to use brush in Photoshop for illustration. When painting digitally, you can use a variety of brush types. Some mimic traditional painting tools like oil brushes, watercolor brushes, or pencil brushes, while others offer completely unique effects.

  1. Start by selecting the Brush Tool and choosing a brush from your Brush Presets. Try different brushes and see how they apply color and texture to your canvas.
  2. Remember to adjust your brush properties. Playing with opacity and flow can dramatically change the look of your strokes. This can help you create depth and texture in your digital paintings.
  3. Use different brushes for different parts of your painting. For instance, you might use a soft round brush for blending colors, and a textured brush for adding detail.
  4. Experiment with color blending. Photoshop brushes can blend colors in ways similar to real-life painting. Try painting with one color, then select a different color and paint over the first one. You'll see the colors blend together, creating a smooth gradient.

Finally, remember that digital painting is all about experimenting and finding what works best for you. So, don't be afraid to try different brushes and techniques. Who knows? You might stumble upon a brush stroke that becomes your signature style!

Use Brushes for Photo Editing

Ever wondered why some photos have that extra 'oomph' while others fall flat? The answer often lies in the subtle magic of photo editing. And, one of the most powerful tools you can use in Photoshop for photo editing is — you guessed it — the brush tool.

So, how can you use brushes in Photoshop for photo editing? Let me walk you through some steps:

  1. Firstly, open the image you want to edit in Photoshop. Remember, it's always a good idea to work on a duplicate layer of your image. This way, if you make a mistake, your original image remains untouched.
  2. Next, select the Brush Tool from your toolbar. Your choice of brush here will depend on what you're trying to achieve. If you want to subtly adjust exposure in certain areas, a soft round brush works well. If you're looking to add specific textures or effects, you may want to use one of Photoshop's many specialized brushes.
  3. Once you've selected your brush, adjust its properties. You can change its size, hardness, opacity, and flow to suit your needs. If you're making subtle adjustments, you'll likely want to keep the opacity and flow on the lower side.
  4. Now, it's time to start painting on your image. The brush tool can be used to adjust exposure, saturation, color balance, and more. For example, you can use a low opacity brush to gently paint over an area that's too bright or too dark, effectively dodging and burning your image.

And there you have it — how to use brush in Photoshop for illustration, specifically for photo editing. Just remember, less is often more when it comes to photo editing. It's all about enhancing the beauty that's already there, not covering it up.

How to Create Textures with Brushes

Textures can add a whole new dimension to your illustrations, making them look more realistic, or giving them a unique, stylized feel. The good news is, creating textures with brushes in Photoshop is a breeze once you know how to do it. So, let's dive right in, shall we?

  1. Start by selecting the Brush Tool from your toolbar. For creating textures, you might want to experiment with some of the more unusual brushes Photoshop has to offer. Brushes that have a bit of randomness to their shape or opacity can be great for creating natural-looking textures.
  2. Next, set your brush properties. When creating textures, you'll often want a lower opacity to build up the texture gradually. You can also play around with the size and hardness of the brush to see what works best for the texture you're trying to create.
  3. Now it's time to start painting. Don't be afraid to layer different brushes and colors to create depth in your texture. Remember, in nature, few things are perfectly uniform, so avoid making your texture too consistent. A bit of variation can make it look more realistic.
  4. Once you've created your texture, you can use it as a base for your illustrations, or layer it over existing artwork to add depth and interest.

And that's it! Now you know how to use brushes in Photoshop to create textures for your illustrations. The world of textures is vast and varied — from the roughness of a tree bark to the smoothness of a pebble — so don't be afraid to experiment and find what works best for your art.

Final Illustration

The final step in our journey of mastering brushes in Photoshop for illustration is putting all our newfound knowledge into practice. So, how about creating a final illustration using the brushes and techniques we've explored? Let's give it a shot.

  1. Start with a sketch. You can do this directly in Photoshop or scan a traditional sketch. This will serve as a guide for your painting.
  2. Next, select the brush that best suits your illustration. Remember the properties we discussed? Make sure to adjust them accordingly. A softer brush for background elements and a harder one for the details can work wonders.
  3. For textures, remember to use different brushes, layering them and adjusting their opacities to create a more natural look. Whether it's the roughness of a rock or the smooth surface of a lake, your brush choices can make all the difference.
  4. As you paint, remember that the size of the brush matters. Larger brushes are great for blocking in large areas of color, while smaller brushes are perfect for adding intricate details.
  5. Once you're satisfied with your painting, save it and give yourself a pat on the back. You've just created an illustration using brushes in Photoshop!

And there you have it. Using brushes for illustration in Photoshop is a versatile and powerful skill. But like any other skill, it requires practice. So, keep experimenting, keep learning, and most importantly, keep creating. Who knows? Your next masterpiece could be just a brush stroke away.

If you enjoyed our step-by-step guide to mastering Photoshop brushes and want to delve even deeper into digital illustration, don't miss the workshop 'Illustrate with Adobe' by Olaoluwa Olatunbosun. This workshop will help you further develop your illustration skills using Adobe's powerful tools, making your digital art truly come to life.