Toy Tech: Creating Digital Brushes



We all know Photoshop CS6 comes with a wide assortment of digital brushes, but few toy designers venture into the amazing customizable controls that can make their brush look and do just about anything. 

The customization of presets within CS6 alone is worth the asking price, but in addition to that you can load third party brushes into Photoshop that mimic real world markers, dry brushes and watercolors. If that’s not enough you can make your own brushes from scratch.

In the digital painting featured in this post, the entire illustration was painted using a digital dry brush. If you look at the background brush strokes you’ll see just how lose the painting actually started out—almost abstract. These initial brush strokes were just indications of basic forms defined by a universal light source.  

The areas of importance gradually emerged in greater detail to express the raw emotion in the character’s eyes and facial features. When you look close at the over all illustration, it’s interesting to note how little is actually painted and how much is just suggested. This is key to creating visual energy.

Customized brushes allow you to work exactly how you want to and in exactly the way your personal style requires. This not only speeds the creative process, which is under the weight of deadlines and the revision process, but also gives you greater control of your unique vision.


The process of creating digital brushes from scratch is straightforward, as shown in Step 1 in the diagram above, just make an image you want to use as a brush. In this case, a dry brush with softer edges and a tonal value variation to keep the digital paint from looking flat.

Once you like your brush, it’s time to add it to your brush library by selecting it with the marque tool, Step 2, then go to Edit and scroll down to Define Brush Preset. This will bring up a dialog box, Step 3, which gives you the opportunity to name your new brush.

Now, go to the Brush Window to select your new digital brush and try it out. Most likely it won't be perfect but at least you’re in the ballpark. Simply tweak the individual presets to get just the right look and feel you want. Once you like a variant, save it out and the dishes are done.

You may discover that you can get several effects from one custom brush by playing around with the preset sliders—that’s the beauty of Photoshop’s customizable interface. Simply save out as many variants of your original brush design as you like, creating a wide range from larger block-in brushes to smaller detail brushes.

Defining brush variants will help speed your workflow and give you tool sets that are well organized and specifically tailored to your personal and professional tastes. After all, you are a highly creative individual with your own unique style and vision. Make sure you take full advantage of all the tools available to you by diving deeper into CS6 and experimenting with the open interface and preset controls.

Leave a Reply