How to use Photoshop Brushes?

Watch this tutorial to paint with e→d films' Nature Mega Pack 001

Daniel Gies gives tips on how to use a selection of 75 Nature Photoshop Brushes he is always using

An animation studio making and selling digital assets such as Photoshop Brushes for animation production

Hello my name is Daniel Gies, I am the creative and technical director at e→d films and in this video I am going to give you a quick tour of our Nature Mega Pack. Which is a pretty extensive Photoshop brush set that we’ve used and expanded on over many many film productions. If you are interested in grabbing the brush collection or checking out anything else on the store, we have a lot of freebies and goodies over there, you can get there from the links down below. Well that being said this video isn’t about making pretty paintings it’s about showing you what’s going on in the brush kit and what you can do with it.

The general brush used in every painting: The Texture Brush

In the first section we have the texture painting brush, this is a general all around brush for creating texture or for painting. I usually like to use it with a low flow rate, so I have a (10%) ten percent flow rate and maybe (50%) fifty percent opacity. If you have a faster computer go into this section here (brush panel) and reduce the spacing even more for a smoother brush.

Create tasteful ground cover with these detailed leafy Photoshop brushes

Then we get into leaves and the leaves here I would say keep your flow pretty high and keep your opacity high. Most of these brushes are designed for creating really nice alpha channels. So if we were to do something like this with these leaves and take a couple of these and put something together really fast. We have created some sort of a shape here, so now what I will do is just lock this (lock transparent pixels) and I’ll use my texture brush, i’m not going to focus on colour much, I’m going to focus more on value, because I want to move really fast, there we go. So we have kind of created this light and dark shape here, like that. And what I can also do here, if I CTRL+click (the layer’s thumbnail) and go select, transform selection, ind of to a different spot, maybe rotate it a bit, there we go. I’m going to click CTRL + SHIFT + I to invert it and I’ll put some dark in here. So you’ll see very quickly, I use this technique all the time, you can create quite a bit of detail with a very strong alpha channel. The point of having a strong alpha channel is that in animation, unless you are doing clouds or fog or something really stylized you do want fairly strong alphas because you don’t want everything to look like it’s blending together. If we were to compare this is with something that had a really light alpha channel, what you get as soon as the camera is moving you can see through everything and it starts to break the illusion.

Photoshop brushes for creating both alpha channels and painterly aesthetics

Most of our brushes and that’s what is so special about this kit, are designed to create both really good alpha channels and some really nice painterly loose aesthetics. Most of these I like to use at full opacity, usually I will call those a matte brush because I use them for matting, an alpha matte. Some of them are directional, for this one you can create branches. For this one it’s just a really good general painterly loose foliage brush, this one has a little less of a solid matte on it so it’s not called a matte brush, so you can see that there it blends. Again like I was saying earlier if this was on top it looks fine like this but as soon as it’s moving you can start to really see through it.

Make a variety of plant areas with the versatile moss brushes

In the next section we have plants, so with plants we have this really nice moss brush. I use this a lot, I usually use it to create soft edges or mossy undergrowth. See it is quite large, it can be combined with a bunch of different brushes to create some really nice lush planty areas. Let’s move really quick, we’ve got this moss bud brush that kind of goes like this, you can kind of pull it along to create little structures, use moss bud B. I try to have a couple of varieties so that you don’t always have the same edge on them. I wish Photoshop would enable a way to swap through brush tips but it doesn’t exist yet.

360 degree brushes to create quick leafy structures great for added texture to

This guy here is for a 360, pull it around, you can follow it, it’s like a fur brush, you can use that to create these little leafy structures. These are a little more interesting, these you can kind of flip back and forth, I’m using the tilt. It’s a stamp brush so you can actually use the tilt feature, you can use this to create a variety of different plant structures. Then we have the micro plants, these are kind of more for little really tiny mossy plants, and this is a really bristly one that you can pull out in all directions. I won’t go through each and every one of these, we just have a number of different plants. This one if for things that are a bit more thorny or kind of pine needly feeling. This I like to use a lot, this I kind of use as a stamp, I don’t usually drag it around like this, I kind of create these little clusters of them here and there. And this one uses tilt, so you kind of have to tilt it. If it’s not working or you don’t have tilt, then I would just disable the tilt, you’ll probably see a little exclamation mark beside, if you go to shape dynamics there will be pen tilt there would be a little exclamation mark saying it’s not possible, that way you kind of just rotate it manually or find another way to rotate the brush.

These brushes are like our 360 brushes and we have these featured in a number of different kits and this allows you to create a lot of diversity with a single brush tip. This one here, let’s just hide this, this one is made for creating grounds, so you can go like this. You can go both ways, shrink it down, look at how rapidly you can create a pretty cool double-sided piece. The reason we have double-sided pieces is because we are doing animation. If I want to have another one for instance, I can have a number of pieces vanishing into the fog and instead of it looking like it’s repeating I can use this one piece and have another one like that. That works really nicely. We have some other things like fern stacks, again this is a matte brush so it has a really strong silhouette. Then we have this one here which is a little hand painted , elaborate little plant structure here. And this one that I use to make my ferns.

Rock builder brushes for making up your groundcover or defining little caves

The next section are the rocks, with the rocks, these are a little more painterly, these are not matte brushes. These are actually designed to help you create rock structures inside a pre-existing painting for instance. So let’s say we have this like, this could be snow, this could be anything, it doesn’t really matter, let’s brighten it up a little bit, give it a highlight there. So what I can do with these rock brushes, we have two of them, we have positive rocks, now positive space rocks is where you use a dark to actually define the rocks, so something like that. These are very large, you can get them quite big, there’s a lot of detail. These were hand painted rocks, so they are not photographs. Then we have a negative rock, and the negative rock is the  inverse, so this one you want to use a light for. Usually my workflow with these are let’s say I put a rock here like that, I would then grab my eraser and I would get rid of a bunch of this rock and just use a piece of it. These can be stacked together to create all kinds of your own rock setups if you want. These are stamps, so they are using the tilt feature, however you don’t have that enable, but I use the tilt feature which allows me to combine a whole bunch of rocks together and I can create all kinds of interesting shapes.

Then I can come back in with my texture brush here and start defining more areas of light and dark and maybe really quickly create this cave entrance or something like that. This allows me to make some really interesting stuff quite quickly. Let’s take some of these little leaf things and put some leaves coming out of it, there we go. So we’ve got this cool little cave entrance already happening super fast.

Tree builder brushes for silhouettes and added tree textures like bark and foliage

The last bunch of brushes are the builder trees. Now the builder trees were inspired by Aaron Blaise and these brushes are designed so that you can make some really nice trees. The first section is mostly silhouettes, so this helps you build a really quick tree silhouette for instance. So I have a few different versions, there’s this one that’s a bit better for pine bark, this one I guess is more for a poplar or birch, and this one here is something a little smoother. These can all be mixed together of course, to create different feelings, largely use these with your flow and opacity at (100%) a hundred percent. Let’s say I’ve created this tree, really more of a rough bark at the bottom and some of these branches here. If I use the eraser here I can get some things that are a little more bespoke or custom. Once we have the bark or the general trunk of the tree done, see we can do something like that it doesn’t look particularly good but it doesn’t really matter at the moment. Once you’ve done that you can come in with some of your texture, so I am going to come in with the texture brush really quick here, I’m just selecting the background colour here, putting it to (30%) thirty percent, we’ll just get some light on one side of this trunk here. Trying my best to do something that is semi-accurate, so we are imagining that we have sky light that is left focused, predominantly left strong. Whoops I should probably put that on, ok there. Put a little bit of light on this side of course, and then light from the sky here.

Now that I have gone and painted some texture on this thing, then what we have in the trees is some barks, a lot of different barks. You can either use them as darks or lights, but you can see, you can use them at full strength it doesn’t really matter it’s up to you, but these are designed to give you that extra bit of texture, there’s more painterly ones, there’s these really aggressive ones, so this will create a really strong bark. Some of these are taken from photos and some of them I painted, sort of a mix of the two. Some of them are a little fuzzier or softer than others. This just gives you a really quick way to create a really nice bark texture. This one is probably too fine for the resolution of this painting, but there’s a lot to play with. This one is a little more painterly, see you can put that together. You can use some light as well, so if we were to take this and go a little bit lighter with it, gives us a couple little highlight details here and there which is cool.

The last thing we have are the stamp brushes, these aren’t designed to be alphas as much, these are definitely more to be used in a painting, they have a translucency to them. If I were to use these I would definitely paint underneath them. WIth these you can even create your own brushes by assembling new branches. So if I take these I can mix them all together to make a very specific type of tree. These again are all hand painted so they are not photographic, it kind of has an illustrative quality to it, so if we zoom in it, well we can make them bigger, they are quite large. Mix them all together and make a gnarly tree. If you don’t have tree unfortunately you’ll have to find another way to rotate these, you can rotate them manually, or try and link it up to a hotkey, I don’t know if that is actually possible, but essentially that is what that is for. This little guy is for your foliage if you want to put leafy bits on these guys. I would usually do that on a seperate layer because I usually add effects to my foliage in my animated projects. Let’s say you did this for your foliage and then you go back to your texture brush here, let’s lock the opacity and then we can kind of paint on top of these leaves, give them a little different, interesting values. If we want we can select this again, select, transform selection, and then move them over here go like this and then let’s just invert it and then we will go nice and dark. You can see how quickly, with this brush I’m able to get get some pretty solid tree drawing, then if I am kind of finished with that, I can take what I have done, so you can have something that is more of your own, let’s say you take some of the Kyle T. Webster brushes and let’s just do a drawing brush, a pencil or something, we can come in and start adding our own flare to it, if you want it to be more toony or whatever, you can use this as sort of your starting point and then start polishing it up and make some of your own choices all over it.

The goal of this stuff is to give you a really nice solid starting point really fast, something with a lot of richness and variety that’s very high resolution, that you can then start building your own paintings from. You’ll see from the examples I’ve done quite a wide variety of things with it, everything from finished illustrations, to concepts, to animated projects both finished and works in progress. This 2.5D set right here in Maya uses the nature pack extensively for all the textures on the rocks and the ground cover. You can see how I have filled it up quite nicely with just a few pieces. This method is very effective for both After Effects projects and 3D projects.

Nature Mega Pack brush set perfect for all 2D and 3D projects

In this scene here I’ve used the nature pack extensively for creating my silhouettes and filling in all the details for all of these layers here. You can see I am using the texture brush once I’ve done my silhouettes, coming in putting in colour and blocking in my main light and dark. Usually when I build these scenes I start fairly neutral, I try not to have any crazy highlights or crazy direct sunlight because it might change depending on what I am animating in the scene. Once the colour is blocked in I create a specific tile that I can reuse over and over again to add detail to the ground cover, I will use a variety of brushes to create some detail here in the scene, and then I will use the alpha channel of that as a selection mask and then just adjust it here and here I have inverted it and I am painting on the back side and you can see how I automatically get some really nice detail. Then if I paint with a positive mask selection I can start adding in some highlights. Very quickly I can start fleshing out these scenes with colour and light creating a lot of variety and detail while still maintaining a painterly aesthetic.

Digital painting in Photoshop can be made easy with the Nature Mega Pack brushes and these tips from e→d films

I think that about wraps this up. I hope there was something in there that was of use to you, if you interested in picking up some of the brushes or checking out some of our stuff you can head over to the e→d films store it will be in the description below.