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How to instal Photoshop brushes (and where to find them for free)

Digital artists shouldn’t be limited to a single on-screen cursor any more than physical painters should be restricted to a single paintbrush. Photoshop brushes open up endless possibilities for both photo editing and digital art, from adding texture to creating a digital watercolor from a blank canvas.

Adobe has hundreds of Photoshop brushes that are included with a Creative Cloud subscription, but most of them don’t come pre-installed. Here’s how to find and install Photoshop brushes.

How to find free Photoshop brushes

Image used with permission by copyright holder

While there are plenty of great third-party Photoshop brush packs out there, you should explore what’s already included in the Creative Cloud subscription before you buy additional brushes. Adobe has created Photoshop brushes from real paintbrushes, and now offers several different brush packs created by artist Kyle T. Webster.

To access the brushes, start in Photoshop’s brush panel (from the menu, navigate to Windows > Brushes). In the flyout menu in the upper right corner of the panel (which looks like four horizontal lines), select “get more brushes.” This will take you to the Creative Cloud brush portal, where you can browse and download all manner of brushes.

Technically, these brushes aren’t “free” since you’re paying for them as part of your Creative Cloud subscription, but at least you don’t have to pull out your debit card again.

Installing Photoshop brushes

1. Access the brush panel

Start again in the brush panel and click on the brush tab (not the brush settings), if it’s not selected already.

2. Find and upload brushes

In the brush panel, click on the flyout menu (the button with the horizontal lines). Choose “Import Brushes.” In the pop-up window, locate your downloaded brushes and click okay.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

3. Organize your brushes

Brush packs are often organized in folders. Once a brush pack has been loaded, look for a folder in the brushes panel by the same name.

Installing new brushes may leave you with an overwhelming number of them. To organize your new brushes, simply drag and drop to re-order. Use the folder icon at the bottom to create a new folder, such as a favorites folder, then drag and drop brushes to the new folder for easy access later.

Using Photoshop brushes

You can see a preview of each brush to help you find the one that’s best for your project. To see bigger brush previews, use the slider at the bottom of the brush panel to increase the icon size.

Some brushes aren’t your typical paintbrush. Look in the upper right corner of a brush and an icon will alert you to its type. The paintbrush icon signals a standard brush, while the hand icon designates a smudge brush, for example.

Along with the standard options like the shape, size, and color, you can access additional settings in the brush settings panel. Here, you can adjust things like scatter and texture.

When it comes to Photoshop brushes, the only limitations are your own imagination. There’s a brush for virtually anything — and if you can’t find one that’s perfect for what you need, you can even create your own. But that’s a story for another time.

Hillary K. Grigonis
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