-Mercury Graphics Tutorial: Brushed Background-

Apr 25 06:05 2006 Crystal Shards Print This Article

You'd be suprised at how many people make silly mistakes when making their backgrounds. Well, I am going to show you how to make (hopefully) decent backgrounds that look sharp and hopefully are useable in your next graphic endeavor.

First,Guest Posting make a document and reset your colors by pressing d. For this tutorial, I will be using a 450x100 sized file. Fill the first layer with black.

Next, pick a good brush set. I'm going to be using a crystal-like brush set because I think it looks cool. You might be asking: what makes a good brush set? Well, if you want a covered background, you are going to want to have a brush set that actually takes up space. Because of this, tech brushes are usually bad background tools. They are used more for foreground. Foreground brushing will be covered in another tutorial. So what to use? Usually abstract, grunge, and crystalized brushes are good to use.

So make a new layer and have the brush you want to start out with ready. Make sure your foreground color is white; what use is brushing on black with black? You can fiddle around with opacities as you like, but I like brushing with 100% opacity and then fiddling around with layer settings. Also, try to use different brushes, even from different (yet somewhat similar; they usually yield better results) brush sets. Using the same brushes over and over gets boring.

NEVER DRAG WITH YOUR BRUSH. Always ALWAYS click one at a time. That way, you can see detail easily.

ALWAYS BRUSH IN BLACK AND WHITE. Adding color later is easy; we'll get to that soon.

Here's what you should have when you've completed this step:

[Example 1]

Okay, that looks neat, but not very eye-catching. So make a new layer, and with black, brush over that. Continue making layers and brushing with alternating black and white brushes, all black in one layer and all white in another. Make sure to keep the balance even: not too much white, not too much black, and not too much of any color on one side.

Okay, so after quite a bit of brushing, I got this:

[Example 2]

All right, it looks cool, but it doesn't stand out quite enough. I'm going to fiddle with my layer settings until something nice shows up. In my case, the black really overshadows out the white. If that's the case, I put the black layers on soft light or overlay, but sometimes you can get some cool effects using the other settings. Half of graphics and design, however, is your own instinct. Always do what YOU think looks good.

All right, so after I fiddled around with the settings I ended up with something I could stand. I put some black layers on Overlay and some on Soft Light.

[Example 3]


If that's still not spiffy enough for you, you can always press ctrl, shit, alt and E and get a new layer with all the layers on it, if that makes sense. My 8th layer then, looks exactly like all my other layers have been put together in one layer.

You can do ANYTHING here. Usually I use Gaussian blur or sharpen, but anything under brush strokes tends to look great.

After you're done doing whatever, go ahead and put it on soft light or overlay. You can put it on something else if you like, but that's what I recommend.

Here is what my signature looks like after I Gaussian blur and sharpen the layers and set them on overlay:

[Example 4] Gaussian Blur and overlay

[Example 5] Sharpen and soft light

[Example 6] Angled Strokes (50, 15, 3) and hard light

Remember, experimentation is usually your friend!

I'll stick with angled strokes and hard light, because I did that last and I'm lazy.


Okay, that looks pretty awesome, but what signature is in black and white? Not many. So there are two ways to color a signature. I'll show you both.

The first way is to make a new layer, and fill it with a color of your choice. For this example, I'll pick orange. Put that layer on Overlay or Color, and you'll get this:

[Example 7]

That's a pretty bland way of coloring though. Perhaps you'd like something a little more advanced? If not, then you're done. You just need to add a picture, text, do some blending, and you have a signature or wallpaper or whatever you were making. But you're done with this tutorial.

So you want to try something more advanced? Okay. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance, name the layer if you want, and press OK. You should get a menu that looks like this:

[Example 8]

That's excellent. What you want to do now is slide the rules until you get a color you like. There are three areas to mess around with: Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights. The shadows menu lets you decide what color you want the shadows to be, the highlights area lets you decide what color you want the very light points to be, and the midtones menu covers everything else. Remember, everything in moderation, so try to avoid going any lower than -50 or higher than +50 (except sometimes in shadows).

So when you're done (I'm still doing orange, I did a darker red for shadows, yellowy highlights, and a standard orange midtone effect), you should get something like this:

[Example 9]

Now, I have to admit this isn't my best looking banner. Hopefully it's coming out a lot nicer on your end. Sometimes these things take several tries, unfortunately.

All right. That's cool. If you're happy with your result, you can end now. BUT! If you want to add even more to your work-of-art-in-the-making, continue on.

Okay, you see how it has a layer mask on it? Click it. Make sure you're in black and white (you should be, as it's a mask) and go to Filter > Render > Clouds and press ctrl and f until you get a decent look. You should get something like this:

[Example 10]

Okay, now what? Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Color Balance, name the layer if you want, and press OK. Now, go and do the same thing over again. You can do a completely different color or you can do a lighter or darker version of what you have now. Then do the same thing we did before Example 10. You can do this as many times as you feel necessary. Here's what I got in the end (I had to change my one layer from hard light to soft light to get this, though. It was far too dark):

[Example 11]

That's all! Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and it helped you become a better graphics artist!

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About Article Author

Crystal Shards
Crystal Shards

Name: Crystal Shards (Crystal)
Staff Position: Head Forum/Web Administrator and Founder of Mercury and Mercury Forums
Join Date (current board): August 17, 2005
Age: 16
Birthday: April 26
Location: Netherlands
Homestate: Indiana
Short Biography: Crystal was born in Germany and because her father is in the military, she has travelled around the United States and Europe. She has lived in Kentucky, Indiana, and Missouri in the United States, and in several places in Germany. Currently she resides in the Netherlands, a couple of hours away from Fritz.
Interesting facts: Crystal has been to 19 countries in Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia. She has been to nine states as well.

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