Six Blender Brushes for Sculpting

How to Create Custom Brushes in Blender Using AI Images

With AI-generated images, we can create custom Blender brushes that accurately reflect the desired texture and shape for the 3D sculpting projects. In this article, I will show you how to prompt in the AI art generators, further prepare the images in the editing software, and then transfer the result as a texture to create a unique brush in Blender.

This Guide Covers

AI Generators and Software

To create a Blender brush based on an AI image you’ll need an AI service like Midjourney or Dreambooth, a photo editing software, and a desire to make your own sculpting brushes. For this guide, we’ll be working with Midjourney (v3 & v4) for our generations and photoshop for the editing. This workflow would be similar to other services. If this is your first time working with AI generators we cover Midjourney basics in our AI Art for 3D Print Design article.

Veins - Prompt Results in Midjourney
Veins – Prompt Results in Midjourney
Prompts by Amber W. @ohheyvoid

The Prompt

Ah, the prompt. An eloquent run-on sentence that only makes sense to its creator and a machine. You’ll need to play around with your prompt structure depending on your AI of choice. The Midjourney prompts that worked for us involved some variation of;

– photoshop brush of [topic], black background and white details
– photoshop brush of [topic], white background, black details
– [topic] texture, black and white –version 3 –tile
– Texture of [topic], black and white –version 3 –tile

We are currently working on customizing a metahuman and needed vein brushes. Here are a few images we generated with the prompt;

– Photoshop brush of large veins, black background and white details –ar 2:3

The reason we extended the aspect ratio (–ar 2:3) was to give us some variation in the next step.

Cleanup in Photoshop

The following will cover image cleanup in photoshop, but the workflow would be similar in other image editing software.

Veins - Cleanup in Photoshop
Veins – Cleanup in Photoshop
©3DWithUs – Image: Amber W. @ohheyvoid

Step 1: Open an Image + Black Fill

Open a new image. Be sure to choose a square aspect ratio and fill the first layer with black.
Keep in mind a larger size will improve artifacts when scaling your brush. The smaller image size can cause fuzzy brush edges when scaled.

Step 2: Frame Your AI Brush

Drag/Import your AI-generated image on top of your black layer. Size the AI-generated image to fit your brush frame
The reason we did a 2:3 aspect ratio for our vein generations was to give us options for orientation in this step.

Step 3: Clean Up the Edges

You want to make sure that your brush doesn’t have any hard edges. Paint black over the ends of your line-work with a soft brush. Also don’t allow your line work to go to the edge.
The cleanup should look something like this;

AI Generated Veins
AI-Generated Veins – Cleaned in Photoshop

Step 4: Adjust Black & White Settings

We need to clean up the black and white values in your image. This can be done by adjusting your Brightness and Contrast (Image > Adjustments > Brightness & Contrast).
For good measure we would also recommend adjusting your Levels (Image > Adjustment > Levels. )
These settings will vary for each picture. As a rule of thumb, I like to bring in the black and white node a smudge closer to the center and that does the trick.

Adjustments - Brightness Contrast - in Photoshop
Adjustments – Brightness Contrast – in Photoshop

Step 5: Flatten Your Layers

Next you’ll need to make sure the background of your intended brush is black and not transparent.
This can be done by selecting your ai-brush layer and black fill layer and hitting CTRL+E.
This will merge the two layers into one. I was preparing multiples in one photoshop file, so my layers looked something like this;

Managing Layers in Photoshop
Managing Layers in Photoshop
©3DWithUs – Image: Amber W. @ohheyvoid

Note: If you notice a discoloration in your blacks after merging your layers, be sure to repeat the previous step (Step 4) on the individual layers.

Step 3: Blur Your Black and White image

We’ll need to blur our black & white images before exporting. This is because blender brushes are displacement/height/alpha maps. With any height/displacement map in Blender the whites of the image will be raised, the black will be lowered.

Blur - Gaussian Blur in Photoshop
Blur – Gaussian Blur in Photoshop

Because we’re going to be using these brushes for sculpting we want to create a Height/Displacement Map.
The fastest way to do that is to blur our already black and white images using Gaussian Blur.
We went with a 2.5 radius, but feel free to experiment with your values.

Note: The blur helps with the transition from the black and white values. The sharper your image the sharper the edges of your displacement will be.

Step 4: Export Your Displacement/Alpha Maps

If batch exporting, use the Export Layers as Files option. (File > Export > Layers to Files)
For your Blender brushes save your images as PNG-24s.

Export Displacement Alpha Maps
Export Displacement Alpha Maps

NOTE: If you notice any artifacting on your brush stroke, you may need to make sure your file is higher than 8 bit. This can be checked in Photoshop via Image > Mode. Make sure that you have 16-bit or higher selected.

Load the Texture into Blender

Step 5: Choose & Duplicate a Blender Brush

Get into SCULPT MODE and choose any of the blender brushes to build off of. For the sake of my vein project, I’ll be choosing to build off the Sculpt Brush.

Choose and Duplicate a Blender Brush
Choose and Duplicate a Blender Brush
©3DWithUs – Image: Amber W. @ohheyvoid

Open your Information bar (‘N’) and select the Tool Tab. Then hit the Duplicate Button. This will duplicate the brush so you can modify it.
Feel free to rename it something related to your brush.

Step 6: Import Your AI-Alpha Map as a Texture

The next step is to bring in your displacement/alpha map by creating a new Texture.

Import Your AI-Alpha Map as a Texture
Import Your AI-Alpha Map as a Texture
©3DWithUs – Image: Amber W. @ohheyvoid

To do this you’ll go down the texture’s toolbar. Create a new texture, Rename It, Open your AI Alpha Brush. (The blurry ones you just exported from photoshop).

Step 7: Set Your Brush Texture

This may automatically happen, but if it doesn’t you’ll want to return to your BRUSH Tool bar (‘N’) and set your brush to use the texture in the “Texture” bar.

Set Your Brush Texture in Blender
Set Your Brush Texture in Blender
©3DWithUs – Image: Amber W. @ohheyvoid

You can experiment with your Mapping type. At default, it will say “Tiled.” I personally work with “Area Plane” and “View Plane.” And leave everything else default.

BONUS TIP: Make Sure Your Sculpt Surface is HIGH POLY

Remember your sculpt surface needs to be HIGH POLY in order for these displacement maps to work as brushes. If you’re not getting the results you want, try a Dynotopo workflow, a voxel remesh workflow, or add a multi-res/subdivide modifier with a 5+ subdivision.
Remember, if you want more detail, you need more polys.

Quixel Mixer and Photoshop Brushes

Just like in Blender, I made custom brushes using Quixel Mixer and Photoshop. If you want to create your own custom albedo brushes for Quixel Mixer using your AI Images from Midjourney, check out my quick tutorial. Alternatively, if you prefer Photoshop, I have another tutorial on how to transform your favorite AI Images into custom brushes. I hope these tutorials will give you an idea or two.

What’s Next? – Conclusion

Creating custom blender brushes with Artificial Intelligence is a great way to guarantee original tools for your projects. If you’re interested in learning a little more about character design we’ve got a great walkthrough for 3D Character Design Workflow in Blender. For other ideas on how to utilize AI in your workflow, we can definitely recommend AI-Generated Reference Images for 3D Printing.

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