Image from illustrations I made for the android app Karkoona

How to create a spray paint brush in Photoshop or Gimp.

After getting multiple requests about how I made a custom brush with the spray paint texture used in the image above I decided to write this tutorial. Included are instructions for both Photoshop and GIMP. Most steps are the same for both Photoshop and GIMP, if not I will include explanation for both. I use the brush mostly with the color black selected and only adjust the opacity to my liking.

1. Creating a brush file

Start by creating a new file with a 500 pixel width and height and white as background color.

2. Adding a layer

Add a new layer and be sure to make it black.

3. Adding a layer mask

Add a (white) layer mask on the black-colored layer. After that, select the gradient tool, select black as front color and set the gradient mode to: color to alpha. Now create a gradient in a way that the image is in the middle of the gradient. For example, start the gradient at point A and end it at point B as illustrated below.

4. Texture

Set the blend mode to dissolve and opacity between 20–30%. You will now notices there are particles on your image.

5. Open a new file

Open a new file with the same properties as stated in the first step. Copy the layer with the particles to the new file and paste it on a new layer.

6. Re sizing

If you did everything right you now have a white background layer and a layer with the black particles. Select the latter and re size the layer to around 1500 x 1500 pixels.

7. Blur and Shape

We have to add some blur to make the brush look a bit better. In Photoshop do this by adding Gaussian Blur with a value of 0.2–0.3%. In GIMP add a Gaussian Blur with a value of 2.

If you want a round brush, like I use most of the time, you have to select the particle layer and create a circle. Invert the selection and remove the corners (the white parts in the image below). Now you’re all set and done.

8. Exporting

We created our own brush! In order to use it we have to export it.

For Photoshop you have to go to edit, define brush preset and give your brush a name. That’s it.

For GIMP you have to go to export give your brush a name and change the file extension to .gih. Select the folder Program Files/GIMP 2/share/gimp/2.0/brushes

Press enter and you will now see the export settings. Change the description to whatever name you want to give the brush. Set the cell amount to 2 and ranks to 1. Dimension should also be set to 1. Press export and you’re done.

9. Brush with color

If you want to use the brush with a color instead of black you will have to set the image mode to gray scale in other for it to work.

Exporting in Photoshop will be the same as mentioned in the previous step. For GIMP you will first have to merge the layers and then export it with cell amount set to 1 and the other settings the same as above.

10. Using the brush.

For Photoshop, use the pencil tool and select the custom brush to create hard edges on the texture or use the brush tool with the custom brush selected to create soft edges on the texture. When creating a shadow with the texture use the eraser, with hard edges turned on, to create those textured shadows. Play around with the brush size to get your perfect brush.

I hope this tutorial helped you enough to start working on your own illustrations with custom textures. Let me know how your artwork turned out in the comments or share a link of your work. Have fun illustrating!

Written by: Twan Hoven. View my work on: Behance