How to Create Great Abstract Artwork via Custom Brushsets and Particle Effect

In this tutorial, I will show you the steps I took to create this cool Abstract Artwork via Custom Brushsets and Particle Effect in Photoshop. I will demonstrate how you can create your own brushset and use them to add particle effect to the image to spice it up. Have a try!

Here is a preview of the final effect for this tutorial: (click to enlarge)

Alternative Light Version:

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OK let’s get started!

To complete this tutorial, you will need the following stocks:


Some Grunge Brushes

Step 1

Create a new document sized 1200px * 800px, fill the background with a light grey colour, and some random lighting and grungy texture on it as shown below:

Load the “girl” stock image into Photoshop, cut out the girl from the rest of the image, place her to the lower left side of the canvas:

To bring out some light on the girl image, add the folloing two adjustment layers onto it (make sure to tick the “use previous layer as clipping mask” option when adding them)



and here is the effect so far:

Step 2

Now create new layer, and random paint some abstract textures around the girl:

Now apply a layer mask on this abstract painting layer. On the layer mask, use a mixture of grungy, halftone, and hard circle brush, as shown below:

Now let’s add some light strips. Create a new layer and grab a soft round brush, do a single click on the top edge of the canvas:

Compress it down as shown below:

Rotate this light strip as shown below:

Duplicate this light strip layer a few times, scatter them around the girl for more effect:

and here is the effect so far:

Step 3

I decided to turn this image into a darker version (just my personal taste), so I went ahead and add the following two adjustment layers on top of all previous layers:


Add the following layer mask on the Levels adjustment layer: (as you can see, I apply some light grungy texture, plus some hard circle brush on where the girl is)


Layer Mask on the Curves adjustment layer:

and here is the effect so far:

Step 4

Now we can practice some Pen Tool techniques. Create a new layer and draw a work path as shown below:

Right-click on the path and choose “Stroke Path” with a 9px hard circle brush:

Make sure you tick the “Simulate Pressure” setting:

Now you will have a curvy line, you can use free transform to distort, rotate it for more variety:

In the mean time, you can try a softer and bigger brush for stroking the path, also scatter the duplicated curvy lines around for more effect:

Step 5

Now let’s make a custom brush for adding some little particle effect. Create a new file called “brush” (size 200px * 200px) and use a the Pen Tool to draw a shape like this:

Right-click on the shape and choose “Fill Path …”:

Fill it with black colour:

Now make the background layer transparent: (after you fill the shape with black colour)

Now go to “Edit > Define Brush Preset…”:

Save this brushset, then bring up the brush presets (F5) and apply the following settings:

Shape Dynamics


Other Dynamics

Tick the Airbrush, Smoothing, Protect Texture options. Then try and do some random painting on the canvas (create a new layer first) and test out the effect:

Combine the Free Transform tool, distort, rotate and warp the particles for extra effects:

Apply the particles random on the canvas as shown below: (you can also adjust the brush size, flow and opacity as you go)

Step 6

OK let’s do some final tune-ups. I flattened the image and duplicated the background layer, apply the following Smart Sharpen filter on the duplicated layer:

Color Balance

Layer Mask on the Color Balance Adjustment Layer:


and here is the effect you’ll have:

The main part of the tutorial concludes here, however you can still experiment different colour balance settings, filter effect and so on:

a light version:

OK that’s it for this tutorial! Hope you enjoy it and find it useful and inspirational. If you have any question, drop a comment below and I will try my best to help you out.

Cheers and have a nice day!

Categories: Photo Effect

Tags: ,,,,,

  • amazing tut, thx

  • Gregorivs

    I was surprised to see the custom brush come together so well! Please post more about making custom brushes to create abstract effects!

  • PSDMaterial

    An other great tut James :)

  • jordan

    I absolutely LOVE!!!!! the affect the flux capacitor had on the futuristic flow of this picture it didnt even feel like i was tearing a fabric in the space time continuum

  • Leeh

    I don’t know how to “apply layer mask” on step 2 and 3 D:
    anybody helps me?

  • Brilliant tutorial, very straight forward – thanks! I will try it asap!

  • Jshan

    Woow asemmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  • arie


  • WS

    :( the link is broken :(

  • Ken

    Maybe a photo between the steps from the layers on the right side , would be great. Great tutorial thanks !