Illustration • Free Resources Free Photoshop Brushes: Syd Weiler’s Nature Set

This suite of brushes helps you add leaves, grass, and snow to an illustration. 

Creating custom brushes is part of illustrator, animator, and former Adobe Creative Resident Syd Weiler’s creative process; she frequently creates brushes that she uses to add environmental elements to her work. This set of tools—more than 20 of them, which she created for Adobe Create—includes brushes that mimic foliage, grass, and snow, as well as some inkers Weiler developed in 2017.  

Either click on the .abr file you downloaded to open Adobe Photoshop and import the brushes, or go to Window > Brushes, and select Import Brushes from the menu at the top right. We encourage you to use the brushes in both personal and commercial projects—and please tag @AdobeCreate when you share your creations on Twitter or Instagram, so we can admire them! However, please don’t redistribute these brushes.

In the article below, Weiler talks about the inspiration behind the brushes and takes us into her creative process:


In late 2014—as a junior in college, having just changed my major to illustration—I had saved up enough cash to go out and buy myself a hardware upgrade. That purchase, a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, changed how I worked.

Inspired by homesickness and missing autumn colors while living on the Gulf Coast, Weiler created this autumn scene.

The day after I opened the Surface’s box, I sat at the desk of my campus job—renting out recreational equipment—and doodled an autumn scene.

It was my third year living on the Gulf Coast, and I had missed the leaves changing at home yet again. Out of homesickness, I painted. I kept it very loose, very “scribbly,” using a few early attempts at custom brushes—several made from scratch, several brushes from Kyle T. Webster’s Megapack, which I’d picked apart and reprogrammed to do what I wanted. All in all, this piece took most of a three-hour shift, with breaks for doing my “actual” job.

I had gotten into streaming my work process to a live audience around this time as well—one of the earliest pieces I remember sitting down and working on for viewers, late in the evening, was this autumn field, shown below. 

These two pieces have been regularly pulled and cited as style/light inspiration by many of my professional clients in the years since. While I’m pleased that they’ve lived that long, they just don’t match my current painting abilities or tool-creation skills. I cringe a little each time the first piece—now five years old—is shown next to a piece I’ve developed (with new skills) in the years since.

But these pieces, along with others done at the time, were formative to my process. In letting myself play in my digital sketchbook, I figured out how to translate what I was learning in school to my pieces on-the-go.

Several years, and many paintings and projects, have passed. With recent pieces, I’ve found myself feeling frustrated when I finish a work: looking back, my process has felt nebulous and unsolidified to me. Larger illustrations are intimidating in many ways—there can be a lot to balance. I needed to take a step back and re-summarize how I like to paint, and move forward from there.

I started off with a rough sketch, combining elements from the two older pieces I’ve just described—namely compositional elements and color scheme. At this stage, I like to establish the feeling of a painting—how I want the light to lay, where I want the biggest and most dominant shapes to be, and secondary aspects like atmospheric fade to create the feeling of depth.

I knew I didn’t want to leave the figure for last, as often I do, since I don’t really enjoy character work as much as I do environmental design. Integrating figures can be tricky for me—here, I chose to bring the character light in, and let the softness define the illumination of the rest of the piece.    

After placing the figure into the original sketch, it was already feeling more solidified—and an efficient plan for the rest of the painting became evident.

From here, I revisited my value structure, pulling the foreground elements into shadow (and mentally noting that they would be mostly blurred and filtered, with less hard detail!). I began cleaning up my environmental shapes, adding edges and fixing some tangents. 

At this stage, I was very pleased with my progress—my self-discipline isn’t usually this good; I’ll want to dive in, make brushes, and noodle with them immediately. However, when I indulge myself, I’ll often run into plenty of construction issues later on. I really have to force myself to focus on the meat of the piece before I get to have my dessert.

Designing brush sets has become as much a creative outlet for me as the final illustration pieces themselves. I love finding shapes that work harmoniously, invoking textural feeling in a piece. For both client or personal projects, I find myself curating brushes that fit the needs of the piece, and flexibly loading them in and out of my Adobe Photoshop brush organizer—I can also hand these tools off to a client if need be.

When Create approached me to make some fall- and winter-themed brushes to give away, I knew I wanted to have fun making new tools that would hopefully inspire users to experiment with their own process.

First and most important to this piece: foliage—two old, two new! I didn’t sweat it here. I went for a walk and observed shapes as my neighborhood transitioned from summer to fall, and then made what felt right. 

I also really love little, nitty-gritty details in an image—making brushes that make those easier to add is a guilty pleasure. I love grass and cattail shapes, so I built a few brushes that felt nice together. 

In 2017, I took on Inktober: I made dozens of textures and smears, scanned them, and made a digital ink brush every day. The pack was fun, experimental, and not entirely useful; however, I learned a lot from making it.  I’ve included three inkers with nice texture to them in this pack.

Click on the image above to watch a recorded timelapse of Weiler “noodling” and putting the finishing touches on her illustration.  

Add in some other grass, and voila! A panel of tools to fill out a painting!

After getting this far with the piece, and for keeping myself in check for so long, my reward was noodling. I love to noodle with my brushes. I like to get in there and paint clumps of leaves and dirt and shapes—it’s so satisfying. 

And then it started snowing.

The quietness of the first snowfall here at home brought back the memory of painting another piece, years ago, around the same time of year.


The process I’d used with the pumpkin patch worked again. I sat down and reworked what I liked from this painting into a new piece; it came together very quickly.

Instead of making many, many brushes to choose from, I only needed three. Two “snow-laden branch” brushes, and a “flurry” scatterer added atmosphere to this scene quickly. 

Consciously picking apart my process in this way has left me feeling refreshed. It’s been a while since I did a mental recap of how I like to construct things visually - If you’re feeling similarly bogged down, I’d recommend giving yourself a similar prompt. Sit down and paint what you want—have fun—but analyze your steps. Make things a little easier for yourself in the future! 

Enjoy the brushes, enjoy the holidays, make something for yourself, and start your 2020 with a clear mind. 

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