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Download: Photoshop Brushes Series 40

15 watercolor and other wet brushes By Dave Nagel
I've had a surprising number of requests for a collection of watercolor-style brushes for Adobe Photoshop. But with the limitations of Photoshop's paint engine, that's a bit of a trick. Unlike programs like Corel Painter and Synthetik Studio Artist, Photoshop doesn't give you the ability to create anything that truly behaves like wet media with spreading, smearing and diffusing effects. Nevertheless, we can get part way there.

This latest collection of brushes for Photoshop represents really my first effort at trying to emulate not just the look, but the feel of watercolor brushes. The total watercolor experience really isn't possible in Photoshop at this time for the simple reason that brushes in Photoshop can't interact with pixels that are already laid out on the canvas the way that a wet chemical-based paint would interact with paint that's already on the canvas.

So my approach to creating these watercolors is sort of a three-opart approach. First, you have the base brushes that behave like watercolors in that they have wet edges and those edges simulate diffusion to a certain extent by appearing to spread out a bit from the point of contact. Here's an example of one such brush in action so you can see how that works.

Part 2 would be the application of these watercolor brushes using Photoshop's Blur and/or Smudge tools. In this way, when you create overlapping edges on the canvas, you can then go in and add diffusion of those edges manually.

Here, for example, are some brushes with hard overlapping edges.

And here they are when "diffused" using a combination of the Smudge and Blur tools.

To do this, you select the Smudge or Blur tool from the Tools palette, then select one of the watercolor brushes from the Brushes palette. You can then draw over the edges where the watercolor strokes meet on your canvas to diffuse them. You can vary the intensity of the blurring or smudging interactively (by choosing "Other Dynamics" in the Brushes palette and adjusting the strength according to Pen Pressure), or you can set the strength manually in the top Tool Options bar.

The third step is sort of an additional one. I've included two "salt" brushes that marginally simulate the application of salt to a watercolor painting. You do this by choosing the Eraser tool in the Tools palette, then selecting a salt brush from the Brushes palette and painting over the pixels on your canvas.

Here's a sample of that.

Obviously this isn't really the same as the salt brushes you can use in a program like Painter because there's no diffusion of the media, but it's getting there.

The brushes
Our latest collection of Photoshop brushes includes 15 total brushes designed to create wet paint effects. These fall into four categories: watercolor, ragged, splatter and salt.

Watercolor. There are eight total watercolor brushes in this collection. They're all similar to one another to a large extent, although I have included some variations in size and behavior. Here are some samples, some using a simple stroke, some using multiple strokes with diffusion applied as described above.

Nagel Series 40 Watercolor 1

Nagel Series 40 Watercolor 2

Nagel Series 40 Watercolor 4

Nagel Series 40 Watercolor 5

Nagel Series 40 Watercolor 6

Nagel Series 40 Watercolor 8

Salt. These are simple brushes designed to be added to watercolor effects, simulating, to some extend, the application of salt crystals to wet watercolors. Use the Eraser tool when you apply there.

Nagel Series 40 Watercolor 3 with Salt 2

Nagel Series 40 Watercolor 8 with Salt 1

Ragged. The two Ragged brushes in this collection are designed to look like watercolor paint applied with a rag or cloth. Nothing too tricky here.

Nagel Series 40 Ragged 1

Nagel Series 40 Ragged 2

Splatter. The three Splatter brushes in this collection represent some of my earlier attempts to create watercolor brushes. They didn't work as watercolors, but I think they're still valuable, so I've included them in this collection. They have some liquid qualities to them, but they have more of a particle-like behavior to them.

Nagel Series 40 Splatter 1

Nagel Series 40 Splatter 2

Nagel Series 40 Splatter 3

All of the brushes in this collection are fully dynamic for size, scattering, color variation and other parameters. They can also be modified to suit your particular needs. Most are based on fairly large image samples, and you can adjust the base size up or down to suit your needs.

Remember that you can find even more free downloads by clicking here.

Download and installation
This week's brush collection is compressed in a Zip archive, which can be decompressed using any Zip utility. (Simply double-click the file in Mac OS X to decompress it.) These brushes support Photoshop CS and Photoshop CS2 in Macintosh and Windows environments. They are also supported by recent versions of Adobe Photoshop Elements. These brushes will not function in Photoshop 7.

As always, this latest collection (Nagel Series 40) is free to download and use for commercial and non-commercial purposes.

Download: Nagel Series 40 Brushes (100 KB)

Once you download the brush file (, expand it. (The expanded file will be called NagelSeries40.abr.). Then move the .abr file into the Brushes directory in your Photoshop folder (/ Adobe Photoshop /Presets/Brushes) to make it accessible from the Brushes palette's flyaway menu once you launch Photoshop.

Then launch Photoshop. Open your Brushes palette, and click on the flyaway menu at the top right. There you'll find the new brush collection, listed in alphabetical order with the other brushes in your Brushes directory. You can install this collection simply by selecting it. After you select it, the new brushes will appear at the bottom of the list of available brushes. (Note that if the brushes do not appear in this flyaway menu, you can load them manually by selecting "Load Brushes" from the menu. A dialog will appear asking you to locate the brush file on your hard drive.)

If you have any questions, be sure to visit me in our Adobe Photoshop forum at DMN Forums by clicking here.  And remember that you can find our previous downloads by clicking here.

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Related Keywords:photoshop brushes, free download, watercolor, salt, splatter, painters, adobe photoshop, artists, wet media

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