This is not a tutorial about making brushes. There is already a superb tutorial on making and organizing brush tips at

Cape Cod Mouse Brush Tutorial

This tutorial is for those who ask 'What can we do with brushes other than just paint with them in various colours?' I want to give you just a few ideas to set your imagination working.

The brush I am using throughout comes from Katherine Lawson's brush collection. It and other beautiful brushes may be downloaded from

Katherine Lawson's brushes

I have used a wood background, but any contrasting textured or coloured background will do.

There will be many times when we shall find a selection of the brush shape useful. If you are using a solid colour brush, all you need to do is click on it with the magic wand and it is selected,but it is very difficult to make a selection from a shaded brush like the one above. There are too many shades of yellow in the brush image for the magic wand to select it all at once. If we use the magic wand to select the background, there are lots of enclosed areas in the brush pattern that we should have to add one by one with shift/click. But there is a way to make a selection marquee for the brush.

First, set your foreground colour to black. Then open a new image, 110x110 pixels, background colour white, image type 256 colours (8 bit).
Now choose your brush tip. Click on the brush tool (picture left). Use View/Toolbars and check control panel. On the control panel click the button I have outlined in red on the picture on the right. From the drop down menu which appears, choose Custom. After a short wait while PSP reads in all the brush tips in your brushes folder, they will be displayed and you can scroll through them and choose the one you want to use.
Click in the centre of the image you created, and because we are working in 256 colours, there will be no shading, but the brush shape will appear. (left) Click on the black area with the magic wand, with tolerance set at 1 on the control panel, to select the shape. (right) Now use Selections/Save to Alpha channel so that the selection will be available in any image we make. Although we no longer need this black and white image, you must not close it because the brush selection is associated with it.
Variation 1 - drop shadow

Open a new image, 110x110 pixels, background colour white, 16 million colours, and fill it with whatever texture or colour you wish to use as background. Choose your foreground colour and and click on the brush tool. Your brush should still be operative, but if you have changed back to the normal brush, reselect your customized brush and print a copy in the centre of your new image. You will have something similar to my first illustration of the brush on this page.

Use Selections/Load from Alpha channel to select the brush. If the selection marquee is not fitting exactly around your brush, select the move tool (cross with arrowhead points) and with the right mouse button held down, move it till it exactly outlines your brush shape.

Use Image/Effects/Drop shadow, with shadow colour black, opacity 100, blur 6, and the two offsets at 3. Click OK, uses Selections/Select none, and we have our first variation on the basic brush - a simple one but effective.

Variation 2 - brush in a cutout.

Make a new image as for variation 1. Reload your selection from the alpha channel as before, and now use Selections/Modify/Expand with the setting at 1. The marquee will grow and become less detailed. (left).

Use Image/Effects/Cutout with these settings: Fill interior with colour - unchecked; interior colour - does not matter; shadow colour - black; Opacity 85; blur 11.4; both Offsets at 4. Click OK.

Choose a foreground colour a little lighter than the background colour or texture you have in your image. Use Image/Effects/Drop Shadow with Colour - foreground colour. Opacity 100; and all other settings at 1. Click OK, use Selections/None and you have a cutout box a fraction larger than your brush size. Choose a new foreground colour and put a copy of your brush in the box.

Variation 3 - adding hot wax

This variation adds something to variation 2. Make a copy of variation 2, and reload the selection from the alpha channel. Adjust it as before if it is not fitting perfectly around the brush image. Choose a very light shade of your background colour or texture as the foreground colour. Use Image/Other/Hot wax coating. Use Selections/None and the background will be raised and emphasized while the brush colour is muted. You can get very different effects with this variation by changing the foreground colour before applying the hot wax. In the border to this page I used the brush colour for the hot wax, instead of a pale shade of the background.

Variation 4 - layers

Make a new image as before, fill it with your background, choose a foreground colour, and put a copy of your brush on it. Choose a new and contrasting foreground colour. Use View/Toolbars and check Layer Palette. Click on the button at the bottom left of the layer palette so that a new layer is created. In the properties box which will appear, change nothing except the layer name. Give the layer the name of your new foreground colour and click OK. The new layer's button will be depressed showing that it is active. Now return to your image and put a copy of the brush in it. This copy will be placed on the new layer. You can now use the move tool and move it relative to the copy on the background.

My background image is green and the layer one yellow. I have left them exactly aligned, and you can see that we now have a two colour image. The shading in the yellow brush is green. You can change the effect again by lowering the yellow layer slider. If you return the slider to 100 and offset them you get the impression of a green drop shadow.

But what if we leave them aligned, and the layer slider at 100, but change the yellow layer's blend mode, using the drop down selection to the right of the layer slider, which reads normal at the moment. Below are just a few of the effects available with a background and only one layer. You can make a huge range by adding more layers and blending them differently.





All the effects I have given you here are possible with PSP and no plugins or filters. Try all the other effects and filters that are part of PSP5. Using imported filters, or Blade Pro or Eye Candy opens up a whole new world of possibilites for you to explore.

And how was the lettering in the header to this page done? I used the edge border tile, made with the same brush, as a pattern flood fill.

Have fun with the vast array of beautiful brushes that web artists have created for you to collect.



Carol Brooksbank 2003
This tutorial may not be copied to any other website nor distributed in any way. It may be downloaded for personal use only. Links to my tutorials at are welcome.


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