An Introduction to the Photoshop Brush Engine


The Photoshop brush engine allows you to create your own brushes, starting from a brush tip shape that can be just a circle or a sampled image. This shape is repeated along the stroke. To avoid this looking boring, Photoshop gives you some tools to vary these shapes along the line to get a more complex look. Especially when working with a pressure sensitive stylus there are great ways to get a natural feel to your brushwork.

How to get started

Open a new blank file where you will be able to test your new brush.

Select the Brushtool (or press B) and than click on the “Toggle the Brushes palette” button that is shown on the image on the right (or press F5).

The window that opens is the brushes palette. Here you will create and edit your brushes.

How The Brush Settings Work

The brush engine of Photoshop is based on brush marks. These brush marks can have different shapes. They can just be circles or sampled monochrome images, where the black parts are the parts with the most opacity.

If you draw a line either with your digitizing tablet or just with a mouse, there will be drawn brush marks along this line at an certain spacing interval.

In the brushes palettes the first two menu-items, Brush Presets and Brush Tip Shape, just determines the basic shape of your brush marks.

The others; Shape-Dynamics, Scattering, Texture, Dual Brush, Color Dynamics and Other Dynamics; offer you the tools to modify the way these marks are drawn on the canvas.


Some of the modifications you do with a brush are based on so called jitters. jitters can work in 2 different ways.

If you choose a control, your graphics pad doesn’t support, there will be an exclamation point left of the drop-down menu warning you.

Brush Presets

Here you can choose an already existing brush to start. This not just includes every option of a preset brush. If you want to start from the scratch you should just select a simple round brush.

Brush Tip Shape

This is were you really start to set up your own brush. In the top of this menu you can choose the basic shape of your brush. This can be a simple circle, a square or a more natural shape by using a sampled image.

Shape Dynamics


With Scatter the position of you brush tip is randomized around its original position. If Both Axis is enabled every single brush mark will be randomly scattered around a certain radius depending on the scatter. If Both Axis is disabled it will only scatter in the right angle from your line. If you choose a control for scatter you must set it higher then 0%, otherwise it won’t do anything.

If you increase the Count there will be more Brush marks scattered around every spacing interval of the stroke. This value makes only sense used in combination with scatter. It works different than spacing. Because spacing determines how much space is left between every interval. The count determines how often your brush marks is drawn on each of these intervals. Without scatter all these brush marks of one interval would be drawn over each other.


The texture menu gives you the possibility to add more structure to you brush, by laying a texture over your brush.

Dual Brush

This is the most complex option, but also offers you the most interesting effects.

In this menu you can choose a second Brush and define certain properties for this brush (they work the same way as for a normal brush).

This Brush then will be overlayed in one of the same modes as you could choose for texture over your original brush.

The effects that can be created by this menu are heavily effected by what combination of brush tips you choose, what mode you choose, but also scattering one or both of the Brushes influences the outcome. You should just play around with the options and try different combinations.

Color Dynamics

Other Dynamics

Other Brush Options

A little bit about me

My name ist Marcus Blättermann.
I’m majoring in communication design and work as a freelancer for illustration, print- & webdesign. If you like my work you can .

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