Process: Scary Good Photoshop Brushes

Photoshop brushes are a lot of fun and can add a natural feel to the art often lost when working digitally, especially in vector. There are so many options with Photoshop brushes its easy to get spooked. I try to pick just a few or even just one to work with to prevent getting carried away. Here is some behind the scenes on a recent brush experiment.  

It’s that time of the year where vampires, ghouls, skeletons, pumpkins, bats start to lurk in my sketchbook. I chose a little bat to work with to try out some new Photoshop brushes. 

Bat character sketch.

Bat character sketch.

I sketched all kinds of Halloween critters in my sketchbook, but I liked this little guy. He was a quick little sketch done with a ball point ink pen (which is what I draw with more often than not). 

The sketch is placed in Adobe Illustrator. When placing the sketch I checked “Template” which will put it on its own layer, screen it back a bit, lock the layer and open a new layer for which to work. Ready to go. I like using Illustrator to build the shapes. You could do it in Photoshop, but I find it easier to do in Illustrator. 

Sketch placed in Illustrator. 

Sketch placed in Illustrator. 

I should note that lately I haven’t taken the time to scan my sketches. I snap a photo of them with my iPhone. Dropbox syncs the photo with my “Camera Uploads” folder and I go place the photo from that folder to Illustrator. Much faster and it works even when I am away from the studio (and the scanner). 

Now I’m ready to draw my shapes in Illustrator. Yep, the Ye Old Pen Tool. As I look at the sketch, there are some details that I think I will do in Photoshop. Such as the “fingers” on the wings, lines on the hat bill, etc. So I’m not going to build anything in Illustrator for those. 

Shapes drawn in Illustrator.

Shapes drawn in Illustrator.

With my shapes drawn, I consider colors. I pictured the bat purple or dark blue with a pink nose when I started, so I know those will be in the palette. Now I fill in the shapes with colors. They don’t have to be exact, I can tweak or change them in Photoshop later. 

Rough colors applied to the shapes. Ready to take into Photoshop.

Rough colors applied to the shapes. Ready to take into Photoshop.

Export those shapes to a PSD from Illustrator, and then crack open Photoshop. Grab a brush and start painting. This is the fun part and has the most traditional feel in the process. I highly recommend having a tablet like a Wacom Intuos or Cintiq to get the most out of the brushes. Trying to draw with a computer mouse is like trying to draw with a bar of soap. I’ve never liked it and got rid of my mouse years ago. If you are an artist who is going to use the computer, invest in a good tablet. You’ll love it. 

That's really it. Have fun painting! Here is the finished character in Photoshop. 

Finished character in Photoshop.

Finished character in Photoshop.

You can make your own Photoshop brushes, but these guys have some awesome Photoshop brushes. They are very inexpensive and cover a range of techniques like inking, gouache and watercolor. Try out some of these awesome brushes:

Kyle Webster Brushes
https://gumroad.com/kyletwebster

Dave Opie Brushes
http://spacemandave.blogspot.com/2014/04/dry-media-brushes.html

Cale Atkinson Brushes
https://gumroad.com/caleatkinson

Happy Halloween!

Scott