Photoshop brushes tutorial

I printed out my monthly calendar pages, cut them in half and trimmed them with my paper cutter, and hole punched them to go into my new organizer. Then I numbered the pages to end up with something like this:

Click for larger view…
New monthly calendar page for organizer

The picture above is a Photoshop-created mock-up, because I’m too lazy to drag out my scanner. Ironically, though I decided to use Photoshop instead of scanner to “save time,” I ended up taking more time because I decided to turn the process into another step-by-step tutorial! So, here is how I put together the picture above. The following techniques will be covered:

  • Resizing the canvas, cropping, deleting, and other basic stuff
  • Creating a custom brush for the Rollabind/Circa hole-punches
  • Modifying brush properties to make your life easier

First thing I did was to open one of my monthly pages in Photoshop. You can do this by dragging and dropping the Illustrator or PDF file from an explorer window into the Photoshop work area. A prompt will come up asking you what properties you want to set for the import; I just stick with the default and end up with this in Photoshop:

Opening PDF in Photoshop

Now, select the Rectangular Marquee tool (the rectangle with dotted lines, or use the keyboard shortcut “m”). Use the Marquee tool to select the upper half of the calendar, then go to Image > Crop.

Um… you could also just use the Crop tool to do the same thing. I happen to have my Crop tool set to specific dimensions that I don’t want to change just yet, so that’s why I went through the extra step of using the Marquee tool.

Cropping document

Now, increase the Canvas size by going to Image > Canvas Size. I wanted to increase the size so that the canvas would be approximately the same proportions as my actual piece of paper, so I went to 600×400 pixels and locked the existing layers to the bottom of the canvas.

Increasing canvas size

Here’s what it looked like after doing that:

Results of increasing canvas size

Create a new layer and drag it underneath the existing layer. Fill this layer with white (I used the paint bucket tool).

Filling new layer

Increase the Canvas Size again by going to Image > Canvas Size. This is so that there is room for the drop shadow effect that we’ll apply in the next step.

Increasing canvas size again

In the Layers palette, click the “f” icon to select “Drop Shadow” from the list of layer effects. In the dialog box, you can change the settings — I decreased the distance slightly and increased the shadow size, but you can do whatever you want.

Applying drop shadow effect

Now, let’s make a custom brush that we’ll use for the special rollabind/circa hole punches. Make a new document (I made mine 100×100). Make a new layer and draw a [raster] black circle.

How to: I used the Ellipse tool (keyboard shortcut U, then type Shift-U to cycle through the available shapes). In the options bar, select the “Fill Pixels” option (circled in diagram below) so that you can draw a raster shape on the new layer (instead of a vector shape or path). Set the foreground color to black and draw your circle.

Creating custom brush

Use the rectangular marquee tool, select the upper half of the circle, and delete.

Creating custom brush 2

Now use the Rectangle tool to draw the other part of the special hole-punch shape, on the same layer. Here is my final hole punch shape:

Creating custom brush 3

Go to Edit > Define Brush Preset. In the dialog box, type a name for your new brush. Photoshop automatically grabs the non-white pixels in your document to use as the brush shape.

Naming custom brush

You can close the brush shape document if you want.

Now, select the Eraser tool. Set the Mode to “Brush” and then select the new brush shape by clicking on the little arrow next to the brush shape preview, scrolling down, and selecting your new brush. You can change the size of the brush by changing the Master Diameter.

Setting eraser to use custom brush

At this point, you could manually click on the white/drop-shadowed layer to make your hole punches, carefully eyeing the distance in between each hole punch and hoping it’s close. BUT you can make your life a whole lot easier by making some simple changes to the brush properties!

Open the Brushes palette. Select “Brush Tip Shape” from the list of options. Decrease the diameter (if you need to), and then drag the spacing slider to the right to increase the amount of space in between brushstrokes.

Changing brush properties

The cool thing about doing it this way is that now you can click-hold at the beginning of where you want your hole punches to start, hold the Shift key (to constrain the movement of the brush to a horizontal straight line), and then just drag. The brush will automatically have your defined spacing in between — no need to eye and calcuate the best point to click next.

Using eraser

This is getting long, so I’ll just say that I used the text tool to add the “handwritten” numbers to the calendar, then saved the whole thing as a web-optimized .jpg (or .png).

I never touched the Brushes palette until I went to a Photoshop workshop and saw Bert Monroy select a “leaf” brush and play with the palette options to come up with a cool easy way to paint leaves. The key is to play with the “jitter” settings under the Shape Dynamics option — it makes the brush act more randomly. You’ll also want to play with the Scattering >Scatter and Count jitter settings. For some tonal variations, play with the Color Dynamics settings.

Just by playing with those settings and using a basic leaf shape, here is an example of what I did with just one simple stroke on the page:

Example of brush setting results

I’ve found this useful for making “grunge” effects using Photoshop brushes as well.

Have fun! If you actually learned something from this and used it in something, feel free to post a link to your results in the comments field. I’d love to see what you’ve done.


4 thoughts on “Photoshop brushes tutorial

  1. thanks! that was a well thought out tutorial that I could read and not actually participate but could remember and do later! I can’t say that about a number of other ppls tutorials!

  2. I’m curious about how you cut this in half with seven days in a week! My junior circa notebook is on its way and this is a form that I will need. Thanks!

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