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Painting with Vector Brushes

Painting with Vector Brushes in Photoshop

In this tutorial we’re going to look at combining a photograph with some vector brushes and tools.

It is recommended that you already have knowledge of making selections and using layers before attempting this tutorial.

1. First of all you need to decide which photograph you are going to use. It helps to use an image where you can make out a clear outline of the subject you wish to use. Silhouettes are great for this.

For the purpose of this tutorial, I am going to use an image which I downloaded from

Freelance Designer Vector Brush 1

I chose this image as the subject has a clear outline which will make the tutorial easier. Once you’re happy with the process you can experiment with other images.

If you’ve got your image, let’s get started. To begin with, we need to remove the background from the image. Before you can delete the background you may need to unlock the background layer. As you can see in the image below, the background layer has a padlock on it. To remove this, double click on the layer and give the layer a new name, then press OK.

Freelance Designer Vector Brush

Freelance Designer Vector Brush

There are now many ways to remove the background, such as using the mask tool, or simply using the eraser to rub the background out. In this instance I was able to use the magic wand tool. You can use whichever you prefer.

For this image I thought it would add to the finished effect if the black and white areas of the image were separated into layers. Using a combination of the magic wand and the mask tool, select the white areas of the image. Once you’ve got your selection, go to Edit > Cut | Layer > New Layer | Edit > Paste. Rename your layers to ‘Black part’ and ‘White part’.

It’s possible that you will get little holes between the black and the white parts of the image when you do this. This is easy to tidy up. Drag the black layer so that is bellow the white layer. Then, with the black layer selected, use a black paintbrush to paint in the gaps. You don’t need to be too tidy at this point. Once you are happy, Ctrl + click on the white layer to select its pixels. Then with the black layer selected, press delete on your keyboard. Your black and white layer should now fit perfectly together.

If you’ve struggled to get this far then open the file Vector1.psd which already has the two layers in.

2. Create a new layer and call it ‘background’. Drag this layer so that it is underneath all of your other layers. Open the blending options for the layer, and turn on ‘Gradient Overlay’. Change the gradient style to Radial.

Then click on the gradient preview to change the colours of the gradient. I changed the colour on the left side of the gradient to #37475C and the right side to #0E1428 but you can use any colour you like.

3. We are now going to use a variety of vector brushes to paint on the image.

There are many free Photoshop brushes available on the Internet. In my example I have used the following brush sets available from

  • BT_Motion_Splatter
  • Deco_Flowers_Photoshop_Brushes_by_Coby17
  • Graphic_Identity_-_Fantasy_Floral_Part_3
  • GVL___Vines_Brushes___set_2_by_gvalkyrie
  • Snowtime
  • SS-vector-foliage

To use these brushes you will need to download them onto your computer. Once downloaded, unzip and open the folder, go to Edit > Select All |  Edit > Copy. Then go to
C:\Program Files (x86)\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS2\Presets\Brushes
C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS2\Presets\Brushes
And then go to Edit > Paste. These brushes will now be available to you in Photoshop.

To use the brushes, switch to the brush tool and open the brush presets.

Click on the arrow in the top right corner of the brush presets dialogue box and then click on Load Presets. Select BT_Motion_Splatter and then click on Load. Then return to the Load Presets dialogue box, and load each of the brushes in turn.

When you load brushes in this way, they are added to your current choice of brushes. When you have lots of brushes installed it can be very hard to find the brush that you want.

By clicking on the arrow in the top right corner of the Brush Presets dialogue box, you can see a list of all of the brushes that are available to you. If you click on one of the brush sets in the list it will load that set only. Choose the brush pack BT_Motion_Splatter. Click OK to replace your current brush set.

Your brush presets will now only have the options from the selected brush pack.

Create a new layer, and use one of the motion splatter brushes to paint some splatters behind Michael’s hands. Rename the layer to something suitable.

Create another layer and load another brush set. Adjust the size of the brush and add some vector art to your image. Keep adding layers and changing your brushes until you have something like this:

Have fun doing this and experiment

When you’re done, on each of your layers, experiment some more by adding gradient overlays, outer glows and inner glows, all of which can be found in the blending options for the layers. This should give you something like this:

If you’re not happy with your own results then open the file Vector2.psd

4. Next, we’re going to add some swirls around Michael’s feet. Create a new layer and name it vortex. Load the Splatter Brush set by Altrikdout. Use a brush size that will cover your whole picture and add a single splatter to your image:

Then go to Filter > Distort > Twirl. Turn the angle up to 999 degrees and click OK. Then click on Edit > Free Transform, and resize your swirls to fit around Michael’s feet. Drag the layer so that is directly above your background layer. Add a gradient overlay to the layer.

If you’re not happy with your swirls then open the file Vector3.psd

5. Now to add the final swirls to the image. Create a new layer and name it swirl1, then load the dry media brush set. Again, this is another area where you can experiment. I used the Pastel Medium Tip with a brush size of 29.

Use the brush tool to paint a large swirl that weaves around your subject. Create another layer and call it swirl2. Add another swirl around your subject. Add a gradient overlay to each of your swirls.

Now, using your eraser, erase parts of the swirl so that it looks like it goes behind the subject.

Then erase parts of the swirls so they look like the go behind your vector details.

6. Finally, select the first brush from the BT_Motion_Splatter brush pack. Increase the size of your brush so that it covers your whole picture. Now with one of your swirl layers selected, tap the mouse button to erase part of the swirl. Keep tapping the button until you are happy with the result. Repeat for the other swirl.

And that’s it. You’ve reached the end of the tutorial. What I suggest now is that you experiment with the colours. Add a gradient overlay to the black and white layers. Experiment with the blending modes of the black and white layers and have fun. If you’re not happy with your own results then open the file Vector4.psd to experiment. Here are some more examples:


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