How to make a Dirt, Debris and Snow Brush in Photoshop

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: October 29, 2018

Category: Tutorial

Without doubt, Brushes are one of the most powerful and creative tools within Photoshop.

If you’re new-ish to Photoshop you might, as I did, think that Brushes are for those folks who can draw but that’s certainly not the case.

Here’s an extract from my new book, The Photoshop Toolbox that takes you through a great way to make a special effect brush to add dirt, debris or even snow into your pictures – all done using a little bit of soil from your garden.

Photoshop Toolbox

Creating a Dirt, Debris and Snow Brush

Here’s a photograph I took of a sheet of A4 paper with a small amount of soil that I sprinkled on it which I have then opened and cropped in Photoshop.

Photoshop Toolbox

Go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate to remove any colour from the picture, and then go to Image > Adjustments > Levels. Drag the white point to the left to brighten the white areas and drag the black point toward the right to darken the soil.

Photoshop Toolbox

Press D on the keyboard to set the Foreground and Background colours to their default of Black and White. With White as the Foreground (press X to swap foreground and background if necessary) then grab the Gradient Tool from the Tool Bar and with the Foreground to Transparent Gradient option click and drag around the document from the outside inwards to soften the outside of the picture.

Photoshop Toolbox

Now create the brush by going to Edit > Define Brush Preset, naming the brush ‘debris’ (or whatever you like) in the dialog box and clicking OK. If the Define Brush Preset option is greyed out, then this is likely because the size dimensions of the picture you have are larger than 5000px. If this is the case go to Image > Image Size and reuce the longest edge to 5000px and click OK.

Now we’ve created a basic debris brush, but let’s take it a step further and adjust the Brush Settings. Start by creating a new blank document around 3000px by 3000px at 300 pixels/inch (ppi) with a white background.

Open the Brush Settings panel and make the following changes:

  • Click on Brush Tip Shape and set the Spacing to around 35%
  • Click on Shape Dynamics and set the Size Jitter to 100% and Angle Jitter to 100%, and tick the Flip X Jitter and Flip Y Jitter checkboxes.

Photoshop Toolbox

  • Click on Scattering, tick the Both Axes checkbox, and increase Scatter to around 120%, Count to 3, and Count Jitter to 50%
  • Click on Transfer and set the Opacity Jitter to 75%. Finally, ensure that no other options in the left hand column have check marks.

Photoshop Toolbox

Now we have a debris brush that we could also use as a snow brush with maybe a few more tweeks of the Brush Settings. The settings I’ve used here are just to show how easy it is to change the attributes and look of the brushes in Photoshop, but I highly recommend you play with these to see what looks / effects you can create.

Photoshop Toolbox

Having made all these changes in the Brush Settings panel, we wouldn’t want to have to repeat these steps every time we use the brush, so we can save the brush along with the settings as a preset.

Click on the menu icon in the top right corner of the Brush Settings panel and choose New Brush Preset. Give the preset a name, such as Debris 1, and then choose whether the preset includes the brush size, all of the settings, and the colour. I tend to leave all of these checked. once you’ve made your selections, click OK.

Photoshop Toolbox

This exact same brush is now available for you to use at any time…

Photoshop Toolbox

Best of all, no matter what colours your foreground and background are, or what brush and settings you are currently using, as soon as you choose this brush from the Brush Preset picker, it will be there for you with the exact same settings, colours, and brush size.


You can check out my new book, The Photoshop Tool box published by Rocky Nook over on Amazon, by CLICKING HERE

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  1. Anthony Crothers

    Excellent post, thanks for sharing, very much appreciated.

    • Glyn

      More than welcome mate 😉

  2. fran hogan

    Thank you! Very useful for my work

    • Glyn

      Hi Fran
      Great to hear it’s useful
      Glyn 😉


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