Digital Painting 101: Using Texture Brushes in Adobe Photoshop

This post is part of a series called Digital Painting For Beginners.
Quick Tip: Improve Your Digital Paintings With Adjustment Layers in Adobe Photoshop
How to Incorporate Selection Tools Into Your Workflow in Adobe Photoshop
Today we're going over the great mystery of painting with texture brushes in Adobe Photoshop. How do they work? And is there truly a difference between texture brushes and standard ones?

Standard Versus Texture Brushes

The difference is pretty obvious. While standard brushes have that smoother quality about them, texture brushes have the grit and feel of the real world environment. In fact, digital art is often quite easy to pick out from traditional styles because of this difference.
Have you ever seen a photo that's been "too Photoshopped"? Well, the reason we've all become familiar with this technique is because everything in the world has texture. So naturally when you compare the real life texture of skin to the retouched faces adorning your favorite magazine covers, your eye picks up the trick. 
But don't feel misled. My point is just that both types of brushes have their place in your digital painting arsenal. Experiment often to see which works best for different scenarios.

An Example of Texture Brushes

So your favorite artist just posted a complete set of all the brushes they use. Now that you have them downloaded and installed, your art will magically transform into the style it was always meant to be. Right?
Trust me―I wish, otherwise I would've personally downloaded every brush pack ever made.
But sadly, the only things that will transform your technique are patience, time, and of course, lots of practice. I suggest you get familiar with standard round brushes as well as digital painting techniques in general before moving on to textures. 
There's no doubt about it, the standard round brush is your one true love. You'll need it for most details. But the great thing about texture brushes is their ability to add instant realism with the application of some grit. Check out these different ways you can utilize them for your future paintings. 

Standard Versus Texture Brushes

As I mentioned previously, everything in the real world has texture. In fact, if you've ever had problems achieving realism, it's probably because your painting looks too smooth. Remember that reference to airbrushing from before? Well, drop your normal boring brush and pick a grunge one. Make any painting come alive by applying the appropriate texture to your piece. 
The great thing about painting in Photoshop is always the convenience. If you want to paint a fuzzy sweater, pick a fuzzy brush! From skin and clothing to grunge and other natural details, utilizing these brushes is the easiest way to achieve the texture you need. 
What if you want the look of a beautiful oil painting without all the mess? Well, experiment with different texture brushes to simulate your favorite traditional art styles, from oil to acrylic and watercolor paintings. Even create your own unique pencil sketches without wearing out a single lead tip. Search the web for brush packs and you'll notice that many use actual paint splatters to achieve that traditional art effect. 
I love these brushes. Here are some of my personal favorites and why. 
A grunge brush looks like dirt. I mean that as a compliment. These are my go-to brushes for any time I want to add realism to a piece. The potential of these brushes is truly limitless, but make sure to always adjust the Opacity accordingly for the best result. 

Grunge Texture Brushes

Skin brushes are clusters of fine, grainy textures to simulate the look of pores. They instantly transform a regular portrait from digitally smooth to photo-realistic. These brushes also have the versatility of grunge brushes in that you can use them to apply grainy textures to your work. 

Skin Texture Brushes

There is nothing more beautiful than nature. Cloudy brushes have the ability to capture the effortless movement of hair, clouds, and other flowy details. 

Cloudy Texture Brushes

Not sure which brush to choose? When in doubt, make your own!  
Hit F5 on your keyboard to bring up the Brush panel. Making sure that your Brush Tool (B) is selected, select any brush from the panel of presets.

Select a Brush from the Brush Panel

Check the box next to Scatter. Adjust the Scatter to 120% for a more dispersed texture. You can play with additional features like Texture or Shape Dynamics until you're satisfied with your new brush effect. But for this example, I'll just stop at these simple changes.

By simply adjusting a few quick settings, you've just made your own custom brush! 

Your Finished Custom Brush

The science of digital painting is understanding how to apply the tools you have to your exact painting needs. Today you've learned that painting with texture brushes is one great way to add realism to any piece or even to try out a new style. Do you already have a favorite? Let me know in the comments! I hope you have a lot of fun experimenting with these brushes, and wish you lots of luck! 


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