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How to Create Custom Brushes in Affinity Photo
  • By Nadine Spires
  • 22 Apr 2022
  • 22 Mins
  • Intermediate
  • Affinity Tutorials

How to Create Custom Brushes in Affinity Photo

Discover how to create your own custom brushes in Affinity Photo with this step by step tutorial.

In Affinity Photo you can create your own custom brushes, including adding an image. In this tutorial we will take you through the different brush types available. Custom brushes can be used to watermark images, add textures or decorative elements and more. So let’s get started as we create our own custom brushes in Affinity Photo.

For this tutorial we are using a hand lettered font called Islander, a wildflower svg bundle and this old house photo.

Create an Intensity Brush

We will start by creating an Intensity Brush. This is basically a brush that is created from a raster image depending on how light or dark it is. The brush uses a single color but if the image contains multiple colors, they will be turned into shades.

Let’s show you how this works.

Step 1 - Create a Brush Design

Open Affinity Photo and create a new document with dimensions 1000 x 1000 px with DPI set to 300. Be sure to check the box for Transparent background. Try not to make the canvas too big as this can slow the program down once a custom brush is made.

Create new document in Affinity Photo

Drag and drop your designs into the document. You can resize the images and rearrange them as needed.

Use the Move Tool top left to drag out a selection box around all of the elements. Then click + drag to the center of the page. You will see red and green guidelines appear indicating the design is centered.

Place design elements in Affinity Photo

For this example, we will be adding color just to show how the Intensity Brush works.

Step 2 - Color Designs for Brush

To change the color of a PNG file, first select the layer. Now, click on the fx icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. This will open the Layer Effects Panel. On the left side, tick the box for Color Overlay. Then click to access options.

Next, click on the Color Picker box and select a color. For this example we used a light pink.Change color PNG in Affinity Photo

Color the other two PNG layers with any color you want. If you want to edit the colors, just click on the fx symbol on the selected object layer.Change colors of other PNG layers

Step 3 - Save as a Transparent PNG

In order for this to work with a brush, we need to save it as a PNG. A PNG file holds the transparent background that is needed for the brush. Go to File > Export and in the Export window select PNG.

Click on Export, name your brush and choose a location to save to.

Export PNG design in Affinity Photo

Step 4 - Create an Intensity Brush

Now that your brush design has been saved you can close out of the document. Create a new document using any dimensions of your choice.

On the top right click on the Brushes panel. If you don’t see the panel go to View > Studio > Brushes.

The last brush category used will be visible. For now, we will save our brush to the Basic Category.Locate Brushes panel in Affinity Photo

Next to the Brushes panel click on the three lined or “burger” menu. Then select, New Intensity Brush.

Create New Intensity Brush in Affinity Photo

In the new window, locate where your brush is stored, then click on it to open. Now, it may look like nothing has happened. You need to scroll down to the bottom of the selected brush category.

Locate new intensity brush in Affinity

Step 5 - Test the Intensity Brush

On the left side toolbar, click on the Paint Brush Tool. Add a new pixel layer by clicking on the Add Pixel Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel.

Add new pixel layer in Affinity Photo

Quickly increase or decrease the brush size with the [ and ] keyboard shortcuts.

On the document, click once to “stamp” the brush design. As you can see, the color is not carried over. However, the lightness and darkness of each color was. This is a great way to create a shaded Intensity brush.Use new intensity brush in Affinity

Change the color of the brush by accessing the Color Panel on the right hand side.Change color of brush in Affinity Photo

When you paint with the brush, it paints a continuous design. This can create a bit of a jumbled mess as shown in the image below.Paint with new intensity brush in Affinity

So we will need to use the advanced Brush Settings to edit the brush. After a few edits this is how the Intensity brush looks now.Intensity brush settings adjusted in Affinity

Create an Image Brush

An Image Brush can contain colors but once created, these colors can’t be changed. You can try using the Layer Effects panel to add a Color Overlay. Image brushes are especially great for creating watermark brushes in Affinity Photo.

Create a color design and save it as a PNG. For this example we also added some text and applied an effect.

Step 1 - Add Text Effect

Once you have added your text, under the Layers Panel click on the fx icon. We ticked the boxes for Outer Glow and Gradient Overlay. Edit these as needed or use the other options to create a result you are happy with.

A Color Overlay was also added to the flower design.

Create text object for Image brush

Save this as a PNG then open a new document. This time, select New Image Brush under the “burger” menu for the Brushes panel.

Create New image brush in Affinity

Step 2 - Edit the Brush Settings

Locate the newly created brush, then double click to open the Brush Edit Settings. Go ahead and edit the brush to create the look that you want.

You can also use the top toolbar to edit the brush settings. We changed the Size and Spacing but left the other settings as is.

Edit Image brush settings in Affinity

Step 3 - Use the Image Brush

Your image brush is now ready to use. Create a new pixel layer then select the Paint Brush Tool on the left side. Adjust the size and any other settings from the top toolbar. Now begin painting.Use new image brush in Affinity

You will not be able to change the color of this brush. You could try adding a Color Overlay using the Layer Effects (fx) panel. But this will effectively change the brush to a single color. This may not always work as shown in the image below.Add color overlay to image brush

Create a Round or Square Brush

Square and Round brushes are based on shape. These are very basic brushes that can also be edited with the Brush Edit Settings. They don’t use PNG images like the Intensity and Image brushes. You just simply create them and edit as needed.

Step 1 - Create a New Round Brush

Go to the Brushes Panel on the right and click on the “burger” menu. Select New Round Brush and a round brush will be added to the brush category.

Create new round brush in Affinity

Scroll all the way down the category, then double click to access the Brush Edit Settings. Edit the brush settings however you choose, then use the Paint Brush Tool to test it out.Edit round brush settings in Affinity

Step 2 - Create a New Square Brush

Creating a square brush follows the exact same steps as creating a round brush. Select New Square Brush, then double click to open and edit the brush settings.Create new square brush in Affinity

Create a New Brush From Selection

You can create a brush from a selection that includes color images. This is the same as making an Image Brush but much faster. Instead of creating, saving and loading a PNG, you simply use the selection tool.

Create a Selection

The process of selection and using the refine tool is the same as removing a background. Except for this tutorial, under the Refine option, we selected the Output as New Layer.Save selection to new layer

The selection, or house, has been placed on a new layer.

Create Brush from Selection

Make sure that the selection layer is still selected, then click on the Brushes Panel. Click on the “burger” menu, then select New Brush from Selection.

Create new brush from selection

The selection or house will be added as a new image brush under the brush category. You can carry on to edit with the Brush Edit Settings. This is how our new brush from a selection looks.New brush from selection created

One issue you might face is that the brush pixels are quite large. This can cause performance problems and large files.In our case, the House selection brush is over 2000px. Under the brush is a small number, this tells you the pixel size.

Brush pixel size in Affinity Photo

Resize Document

We need to reduce the document size to make the brush more manageable. So, go to Document > Resize and in the window adjust the largest number to around 1500 px. Leave the other settings as is then click Resize.

Resize document for brush in Affinity

When you create a new brush from this selection, it will be smaller than the one we originally created. This will make it easier to work with.

Brush document resized smaller

How awesome is that? Now let’s quickly discuss renaming brushes as well as organizing them.

Organize your Custom Brushes

Now that you have created a few custom brushes, you will want to organize them. This includes moving to categories, editing, renaming, duplicating and deleting your brushes.

Create a Brush Category

Creating a category makes it easier to find the specific type of brush sets you want.

With the Brushes Panel selected, click on the “burger” menu on the right. Select Create new Category.

Create new brush category in Affinity

Rename Brush Category

A new “Brushes” category will be created. Click back on the “burger” menu and select Rename Category. Then give it a name in the window that pops up.Rename brush category in Affinity

Click the “burger” menu and select Delete Category to delete.

Multiple Brush categories can also be sorted by name or date.

Sort brush categories in Affinity

Sort Custom Brushes into New Category

Let us move our newly created brushes to the new Custom Brush category. Go to the Brushes Panel, then click on the category drop down menu. Now go to the category where your brushes are stored.

Select the custom brush, right click > Move to Category > Custom Brushes.Move custom brushes to new category

If you click back on Custom Brushes you will find your custom brush there. Do this for all the custom brushes or create categories for specific types of brushes.

A duplicate of your brush can be added to the category instead of moving it. In the menu, select Copy to Category instead of Move to Category.

Edit Custom Brush Shortcut

The Brush Edit Settings can be accessed through right clicking the brush. Then select Edit.

Rename, Duplicate and Delete Brushes

Right clicking the brush also gives you the option to Rename, Duplicate and Delete brushes.

Rename Intensity brush in Affinity

Each time you create a new brush using the settings in the “burger” menu, they are automatically saved.

Export your Brushes

After creating your brushes you may want to export them for sale or save to another location. First, select the brush category you want to export.

Next, click on the “burger” menu top right and select Export Brushes. In the export window, give the brush set a name and choose a location. These brushes will be saved as Affinity Photo brushes with the extension .afbrushes.

Export Brushes in Affinity Photo

There you go. You now know how to create your own custom brushes in Affinity Photo. Brushes are a quick way to add custom made designs or specific textures. Expand your growing brush library with your own creativity and ideas!

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