Growing Your Digital Painting Skills with Custom Foliage Brushes
Are you interested in maximizing your ability to paint more detailed and interesting foliage for your digital paintings? Painting that jungle scene or haunted forest just became a lot more fun and engaging. While Photoshop does come stocked with some useful grass and leaf brushes, being able to create your own custom foliage brushes will provide you with a lot more creative control when painting an environment digitally.
If you're interested in creating any type of custom brush in Photoshop the first aspect to consider is color. Brushes in Photoshop are defined by grayscale information. While you can make a brush from a colorful image, converting it to grayscale will provide you with a clearer path to follow when constructing your brush preset.
Basically, any pixels that are 100% white will become entirely transparent and pixels that are 100% black will become completely opaque. Values of gray in-between black and white will vary in translucency. Knowing this information to begin with will aid you in achieving the look and feel of your brush and how it translates visually to the canvas.
The second aspect to consider is the size limitations of your brush. The current maximum size limitations for a brush in Photoshop are 5,000 by 5,000 pixels. So ideally, the larger you create the brush the better. The reason for this is that you can't increase the diameter of your brush beyond the original size in which it was created without it appearing blurry.
Think Logically with Your Patterns
When it comes to creating a brush for painting leaves, grass, moss, bark, and other various types of foliage you will most likely want to consider the design and arrangement of any images or patterns you use. If you're going to design a leaf brush that will scatter leaves when you paint, then the arrangement of the leaf pattern for your brush preset will make or break the visual look of the scattered leaves that are applied to your canvas.
Let's say you have some images of leaves that include their stems. By arranging all the leaves with their stems pointing inward during the creation of the brush preset will yield you better visual results. This way you won't have random stems sticking out everywhere when you scatter the leaves during your painting process.
By having the pattern arranged with the stems pointing inward, you can create the illusion that all of the leaves are organically connected to the same body of foliage rather than having the appearance of being piled on or glued together.
If you're designing a brush preset to paint grass, being mindful of how the grass will be scattered across your canvas is also important. Try drawing individual blades of grass that vary in length and width for your brush preset. This will give you a result that doesn't feel visually repetitive or stamped out. Additionally, creating a variety of grass brushes that all differ in this regard will allow you paint a ground area that feels natural and more organic.
Fine Tune Your Brushes
Once you have nailed down the design of your custom foliage brush, you can begin to dive into the brush panel and adjust settings on how you would like the brush to be applied to your canvas when painting. This is where you can adjust the scattering, shape, color dynamics and so much more.
Explore different settings to see how your foliage design can be applied when painting. Once you've defined the functionality of your brush preset you can save it out from the brush panel for future use on projects of your choosing.
Ultimately, it's the degree to which you use these types of brushes that will determine the quality of your work. Custom foliage brushes can be an effective addition to your digital toolbox when it comes to fleshing out environments that call for strong nature elements. By combining them along with some of the basic default brushes that come stocked with Photoshop you'll be able to create quality work that has that extra touch of detail and polish. Check out a great tutorial on Creating Foliage Brushes for Digital Illustration to learn step-by-step how to create custom foliage brushes.