In our latest DIY Photography Hacks post we show you how to make custom Photoshop brushes from your own photographs to help give dull backgrounds a patterned finish.
Portraits are often taken with a plain background because you want your model to be the main focal point of the image – and a fussy backdrop can detract from this.
However, plain backgrounds can be more of a curse than a blessing. Getting the wrong colour can result in an image that is clashing and jarring or, conversely, a shot that is flat and dull.
In our photo, the empty backdrop makes the image look quite bland. It doesn’t add anything to the subject, it doesn’t give a sense of location, and the colour is too close to the skin tone.
However, this can be lifted with a subtly patterned background using custom brushes. In this DIY Photoshop tutorial, we’ll convert our portrait to black and white and learn how to get perfect greyscale tones.
We’ll transform two images into brush tips and print them on the background in the style of patterned wallpaper.
Finally, we’ll make the pattern look more realistic by using the Eraser tool to emphasise the sense of overlap.
Step by step how to make your own DIY Photoshop brushes
01 Convert to mono
Open your start image and press Ctrl+J to create a copy of the original photo. Right-click on the layer, select Rename Layer, type in the word ‘Mono’ and click OK. Next, go to Enhance>ConvertToBlackAndWhite. Select Scenic Landscapes from the style list, then move the Blue slider to +16 and the Contrast slider to +10.
02 Prepare your photos
Open the first of the images you’d like to make into a brush pattern and go to Enhance>AdjustLighting>Levels. Under the Input Levels histogram, move the Black slider to 40, Grey slider to 1.10 and White slider to 210. Open any other images you’d like to make into a brush and use the same slider settings as above. Although the photos look very contrasty and blown-out, this is exactly what’s required to create custom Photoshop brush tips.
03 Create your brushes
Beginning with our first image of the key, we drew around the key, close to the edges, with the Rectangular Marquee tool. To do this, go to Edit>DefineBrushFromSelection and type ‘Key1’ when prompted. We repeated the process for our second key but named it ‘Key2’. Then we switched to the model photo, clicked on the ‘Mono’ layer and pressed Ctrl+J to copy it. Rename this layer ‘Brush’. Select the Brush tool, click on the Brush Preset menu and your newly created brush tips will be at the bottom of the list.
04 Do the DIY
Here we selected ‘Key1’ from the Brush menu. Change the Size to 600 pixels and the Opacity to 60%. With your new brush tip at the ready, start clicking on the new layer, printing the key pattern evenly over the background. We did the same with ‘Key2’, but changed the size to 300 pixels and printed it between the gaps of ‘Key1’. Select the Eraser tool and with a size of around 200 pixels and Opacity of 100%, remove any of the brushes that extend into the model.