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Create a Smoke Brush in Photoshop

Tutorials Basics 12498 Views May 16th, 2013

In this quick tutorial for beginners I will explain what is a Photoshop brush and how can we create a Photoshop brush using a smoke image. You will see that you can create brushes from everything, including photos, vector shapes, other brushes and so on. You can check out one of my previous tutorials to learn how to create a custom made dotted brush using the default round brush.


Hi, hope you are ready for a brand new Photoshop basic tutorial. This tutorials is only for beginners, so if you are a newbie I will show you how to create your own Photoshop brushes.

You all know there are thousands of brushes already made by other people but it is always good to know how to create one yourself. First I will tell you a little bit on how the Photoshop brush works. I will not make a brush from the scratch, I will use an image instead to create a simple smoke brush.

Let's start!

What Is A Photoshop Brush?

A brush is actually very similar to the real life tool brush that we paint with. In Photoshop a brush is an black image with different opacity variations that can be used for different tools. The most commonly ascociated with "brushes" is the Brush Tool, but a brush once loaded appears in the Brush Presets List of many other Photoshop Tools like the Eraser Tool, the Burn/Dodge Tools, the Stamp Tool and so on. The idea is to be able to draw, erase, clone using that image(brush) as some kind of a mask.

Every Photoshop version has a default set of brushes but it also gives you the oportunity to load new ones created by other people or to make your own brushes, to save and use them.

Photoshop Brush Secret

I like to experiment rather than read tutorials so I have discovered the secret of making brushes on my own rather quickly. Actually my first Photoshop brush set, Floral Brushes , started as an experiment on how to create brushes. I started with a white background layer. I drew a simple flower shape, color #ff8a00, opacity 100% and saved the brush. Then I wanted to use the Brush, with the same orange color and the same opacity 100% and realized that my brush was not identical with the original image! Why is that, I wondered??!?

I repeted the experiment this time changing the color of the initial flower in black. Using the brush with the same settings as before (color #ff8a00, opacity 100%) I obtained an orange shape with 100% opacity. A little confused at first, and maybe a little I still am.

So I have realized that there is a connection between the color of the initial image and the opacity of the final brush. And to compare two different colors, let's say orange with blue in matter of opacity, you need to transform them in gray scale. So the secret is that every image is transformed in gray scale. And then the rule is that white has opacity 0% and black has opacity 100%. Every tone in between has proportional opacity. So a brush is the initial image, colored in whatever color you choose for the brush and with different opacity levels according to the initial image's grayscale.

Make a Photoshop Smoke Brush

Ok, now let's make a brush from the beginning to the end using a photo. I will start with choosing the stock image. The perfect images when you are trying to make a brush out of them, are the ones that have a black or white background, these are the most easy to transform to brushes. So following that idea I decided to make a smoke brush. I found this smoke image, which I opened it in my Photoshop.

Remember black is 100% and white is 0% opacity. So if I define the brush as it looks now, our brush will have a solid background and a transparent smoke and we want obviously the opposite. So of course we need to invert the colors. For that go to Image, Adjustments, Invert or simply press CTRL+I. You can notice little on the white background, areas that are not part of the smoke. So we need to make that spots white so that in the brush to be invisible (opacity 0%)

Always use a soft round brush to obtain beautiful edges. If you use the eraser Tool always make sure you have a white background layer under. You can use the Dodge Tool, trying to make that spots white. In both cases try not to affect the smoke shape and to look as realistic as possible. When you are sure it is the right image, simply go to Edit, Define Brush Preset.

Now you can use the brush to paint, erase and so on. Let's create a white background layer. Pick the color #1a5cd6. Go to the Brush Tool and choose the brush that we have just made from the list. This is how our smoke brush looks like.

For a cooler effect, create a black background and use white for the smoke brush. Create a new layer above, change its blending mode to Color. With different Colors paint over the smoke shape. You will obtain a beautiful result.

In a same way you can create a fire brush; see how you can use a fire brush in Photoshop

Learn more about the multiple use of brushes from this collection of useful Photoshop brushes tutorials for beginners.

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