Many users only ever use the circular brush tool in Photoshop and miss out on one of the most satisfying ways of freehand digital drawing and a quick, simple way to create interesting effects. Click on the brush tool on the left hand toolbar, it’s the eighth one down, at the risk of stating the obvious, it’s shaped like a paintbrush. Once selected your cursor can be used as a brush tip and at the top left of the screen, to the right of the word brush, it shows you the shape of your brush tip, the default is a nice simple hard round tip.

How to use Custom Brushes in Photoshop

Click on the arrow to the right of this and the brush menu pops up. The menu allows you to change the master diameter (how wide your brush is) and brush hardness (how soft your brush edge is) but you’ve probably already used these. Underneath the hardness setting is a grid showing several different pre-set brushes, slide down the slider on the right and there’s a bunch more to play with, including a star and leaf that give some nice dappling stamp effects. Try choosing a few different brush tips and experiment with the results.

Once you’ve exhausted the possibilities of the pre-set brush tips, and default options always become tired and recognisable quite quickly, you can move onto creating your own bespoke ones. Take any image you like, it can be anything, photo, texture or graphic, and convert the image to black and white. Then select Edit, Define Brush Preset and Photoshop will create a brush tip from your image. Images with a distinct shape and a sharply defined white background work best, but anything can be a brush tip, so try experimenting and create some results that are uniquely your own.

[Image via: Russ Payne]