Introduction: Custom 11x17 Printed Halloween Jitter Placemats

If you are having a party it is fun to have customized paper placemats for trays, and place settings You can also use this technique for small treat bags, origami paper, and of course other holidays and celebrations depending on the colours you choose, also makes nice wallpaper for computer screens.. For this one I like to use it for placemats with kids names on them, since you can just print them out on your printer on 11x17 paper. You can even let the kids create their own cutouts on paper, scan them and then make the brush out of their cutout. Later for XMAS you can use snowflakes or something like that. The personal part is what makes it fun.

What makes this possible is a little know brush function in photoshop that SCATTERS the pattern you make. In a few minutes you can make a custom random scatter of images or text with no actual talent!


printing access (11x17 paper (or other sizes))
(optional) clipart picture of a shape you want

time: 20 minutes
time once you know how to do it:  20 seconds...really.

This instructable shows you how to creat a brush with the word HALLOWEEN, but it is identical for an image as well, samples show show you the results with  pumpkins and bat clipart.

There are two steps.

1. Making a Custom Brush
2. Drawing with the brush set to SCATTER.

Step 1: Making an Image/TEXT for a Custom Brush in Photoshop

Making a Custom Brush In Photoshop

making a custom brush is trivial will give the summary in text first and then show you the step by step with screenshots (from photoshop CS2, but they will all do this)

short version:

Creating your own custom brush is really quite easy:

  1. Open an image, any image.
  2. Select all or part of the image.
  3. Go to Edit –> Define Brush Preset.
  4. Voila! New brush…

Step by step version:

1. Open photoshop

2. Open a new window of medium-ish size, here i used a defaut setting 800x600:

(image 1)
a. click on FILE at the top left and then NEW. // OR  // press  CTRL and N  buttons at the same time to get a popup  (CMD+N on a mac)
b. in the pop-up  the second row click the arrow after the word custom on the second line.
c. move down to the choice 800x600 and click it
d. click ok 

3. Type Halloween (here we are using text for the brush, but anything you draw here will become the image for the brush)

(image 2)
a. click the text tool  which is the "T"  icon in the toolbox  (if the toolbox palette is not open click on WINDOW and TOOLS first to make it show up)
b. when the text tool is active, the bar at the top changes to what is shown. Make sure the colour (red 2 on image) is black, if not click on that box and select black from the popup you get.
c. set the size of the brush (red 3 on image)__72pt  will work, any large number works, too large and it wont fit on your window when you type)
d. Pick a nice heavy font (choose from the drop down when you click the arrow (image red 4)
e. Begin typing on the left of the window (image red 5) Here I chose "Halloween" but you can draw or paste anything you want here.

(image 3)
4. I wanted my text taller so I stretched it

a. in the toolbox, select the black arrow at the top right
b. click on the word
c. pull down on the little square in the bounding box. It is fussy, if it just slides, click on any part of the window that is white, and try again.  It should stretch
d. click on the black arrow again and a pop up will ask you to click on "apply"

5. Whatever is currently in the window will become the image for your new brush. Anything you type or draw will be converted to shades of black and white and grey since brushes are only monotone.  If you drew a bat instead of typing, you would get that as your brush.  Click File and then Save  to save this image if you want it for later.

Step 2: The Brush Itself.

The Brush itself.

Whatever is in the window at the moment will become our brush. Here just the word Halloween.

(image 1)
1. At the top bar click EDIT and in the drop down click DEFINE BRUSH PRESET

2. Your image is now a temporary brush. You can find it in the brush dropdown by clicking on the BRUSH icon in the tool box

(image 2)
a. click on the paintbrush icon in the toolbox which will change the bar at the top
b. at the top will be the word "brush" on the left, click on the arrow to open the drop down
c. at the bottom right should be a buch of pictures of your current brushes. Pull the slider down all the way, your brush "halloween" is probably the very last one.
d. click on the icon for that bursh (it looks like Halloween very crunched)  here i had made others of pumpkins and bats if you had made more brushes they would be there too.
e. To change the size of the brush you are going to use you can type a pixel size in the box (default is 3px usually) slide the slider to the right or type a big number like 700 in the box and accept.

Now open a new window that will be your art. For a 11x17 placemat you should open a screen that size, but you can make wallpaper or any size you want .

If you want an 11x17 inch widow to create art:
(image 3)

a. At the top click FILE and NEW
b. In the pop-up, change the units from pixels to INCHES
c. change the resolution from 72 to 300 or 200 depending an quality you want
d. Type 17 in the width box and 11 in the height box for (11x17")
e. click ok (a new window opens)

Step 3: Scatter Settings

Scatter Settings

1. click on the paintbrush in the toolbox if it is not activated

2. If you drew right now in the empty window you would get a brush that just smears the word in a line. We need to make it scatter and change colours instead

(image 1)

a. Open the brush palette by clicking the F5 button on your keyboard
b. in the brush palette leave any defaults that are checked (probably smoothing), but also click these extra 4 boxes so they have checkmarks: Shape Dynamics, Scattering, Colour Dynamics, Other Dynamics
c. each one has its own sliders if you click on the actual words beside the checkmarks.

Feel free to experiment with all the sliders, they are easy to understand and they bottom graphic on the palette tries to show the results of your changes) I changed a few here just leave the others as defaults.

(image 2)
d. click on the words "shape dynamics" in the brushes palette to activate that category
e. set the JITTER slider to 19% (more makes crazier rotations)

(image 3)
f. click on the words "scattering"
g. check the top box "both axes", change COUNT to 2 (more makes denser images)

(image 4)
h. click on the words "colour dynamics"
i. FOREGROUND BACKGROUND JITTER set to 50% (higher or lower favours the colours in your current brush fore or back ground)
j. HUE JITTER 4% (this keeps the tone variations all say orange tones, higher numbers give more rainbow colours all at once), SATURATION JITTER 50% (doesnt do much), BRIGHTNESS JITTER 50%, (adds contrast dark and light to colours), PURITY 100% (lower and the colours go all grey)

(image 5)
k. click on the words "other dynamics"
l. set OPACITY to 50% (makes images transparent by percent shown)

save all the others at their defaults for now.

Step 4: Drawing Fun!

Your brush is now set to SCATTER. It will change to various colours, and spray out the brush shape (here the word HALLOWEEN) at different angles, colours, opacities, and dark and lights.  Have fun experimenting. click and hold to draw by waving around the mouse on the window. It fills up really quickly. For less scatter just click and release and get just a few sprays of the image.

(image 1, 2)

You can change the width of the brush for diffent sized spray. I like to make a nice grouping of really large size in the middle then make a new layer and do a medium one, then a new layer and do small ones on the edges.  Experiment! Then change some of the brush palette sliders higher or lower and see how the colours, sizes, etc change. For halloween make the foreground background colours the same to get more of an orange even tones ( you will get a few yellows and light greens)

(image 3)

To change the colours spraying out to orange:

a. with the paintbrush still selected:  click on the foreground swatch in the tool box
b. in the pop-up click on orange in the big box, if it isn't orange tones, click on the rainbow strip first. (or just type in the numbers you want for colour)
c. click ok

repeat for the background swatch.

Play with the spray until you get something you like.

To turn off the scattering, just click on any other brush in the dropdown of the top bar where you selected this brush. (you will have to go through the effort of checking the boxes in the brush palette if you want to activate it again (but the sliders settings stay until you close photoshop)

Make other brushes from clipart, or drawn shapes. Here I did some bats and pumpkins too. You can scatter any brush you make or the defaults you get with the program the same way.  Later for xmas do holly or santas! If you put different drawins on different layers in the layer palette, you can do different effects more easily and colours too. For new layers to draw on open the LAYERS palette

a. click F7 key
b. to make new layer click to highlight the layer in the layers palette below where you want it and at the same time press
SHIFT CTRL N buttons at same time ( SHIFT CMD N on a mac)

Step 5: Names and OTHER Words on Each Placemat

Names and OTHER words on each placemat

You can make a placemat for every person with their name on it. Just use the text tool and font of choice. You can add effects to it too.

(image 1)

I just added my name to the pumpkin art

(image 2)

Photoshop has some effects you can use. I made the word HALLOWEEN glow in yellow here.

a. activate the text tool ("T" icon in the tools palette)
b. pick your font and size and colour at the top like you did before
c. click once on the screen and then type
d. click on the black arrow in the tool box to end the typing

(image 3)
e.  to make the glow go to the layer palette
f.  right click anywhere in the box that is the name of your layer to open a popup
g. in the popup check OUTER GLOW
h. click on the words "outer glow to get it's popup
i. click on the colour swatch square and set your glow colour in the popup like any colour change
j. lower down changes the sliders for SPREAD and SIZE a bit (here 17% spread and 70px size)  to the right (if PREVIEW is checked at the far right, you can see the results you will get for each slider)

play with any other layer style sliders you want, it is not permanent.

When you have your art done. save your file and print it out!

a. at the very top left click FILE and in the popup click save or saveas..

Step 6: Placemats on Table

You can print them out for custom placemats, or other art projects. Origami, treat bags, wrapping paper, etc. Fun!

No artistic skill required!

Happy Halloween


Kiteman (author)2011-10-13

Nice idea.

(You could write another Instructable on how you put that party table image together as well!)

About This Instructable




Bio: Graphic Designer/Physicist in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. I specialize in Photoshop fantasy creations. I always need some work if you need something designed. My website ... More »
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