How to Install Brushes in Adobe Photoshop

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Adobe Photoshop is one of the top image editing programs on the market today. With it, you can spruce up existing photo images and create new graphics from scratch. A top feature in Photoshop is the ability to use brushes to stylize images. Read on to learn what Photoshop brushes are, where to find them, how to install them, and how to use them.

Instructions in this article apply to Adobe Photoshop version 6 and later, although the command and window names may differ in later versions.

What Are Photoshop Brushes?

Accessed from the Brush tool in Photoshop, brushes enable you to customize images, enhancing colors, creating soft effects, and more. Similar to actual painting in the three-dimensional world, you can use brushes on a Photoshop document to create lines and shapes of set sizes, shapes, and colors based on your preferences. Best of all, you don't have to settle for the preset brushes included in Photoshop. Instead, you can install unique brushes to meet your needs. You can install brushes in two ways: from an online source or from Adobe Creative Cloud.

Install Photoshop Brushes From an Online Source

Free Photoshop brushes are easy to find online. Popular places to find brushes include DeviantArt, Brusheezy, and Tumblr.

Many Photoshop users prefer this option because it's a good way to connect with and support other artists online.

To install a brush from an online site for use in Photoshop, complete the following steps:

  1. Download the Photoshop brush or brush pack you've chosen.

    If the brush comes in a .zip archive, you must extract the file before you can install the brush. Photoshop Brush files use the .abr file name extension.

  2. Open Photoshop. Then, from the Edit menu, select Presets > Preset Manager.

  3. In Preset Manager, from the Preset Type list, select Brushes.

  4. In Preset Manager, select Load. In Finder (Mac) or File Explorer (Windows), browse to the brush file you downloaded. Select the .abr file, and then select Open.

    By default, Photoshop stores all brush files in the following locations depending on whether you use a Mac or Windows machine:

    • Mac: /Users/your_user_name/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop version#/Presets/Brushes (where your_user_name is the name you've given your user profile and version# is the version of Photoshop you're using)
    • Windows: C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop version#/Presets\Brushes (where version# is the version of Photoshop you're using)
  5. In Preset Manager, select Done to confirm the installation.

  6. From the Window menu, select Brush Settings. Your newly installed brushes appear on the Brushes tab.

Install Brushes From Creative Cloud

You can also find royalty-free brushes through your Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Creative Cloud is installed with and required for all versions of Photoshop later than PS6.

  1. On your computer, double-click the Creative Cloud icon to open the Creative Cloud desktop application.

  2. On the Assets tab, select Market > All Categories > Brushes.

  3. Find a bush set you like, and then select the cloud icon to download it.

  4. From the Window menu, select Brush Settings. Your newly installed brushes appear on the Brushes tab.

Use Your New Brushes

Test your new brushes on a transparent layer so that you don't affect any static images you have open. To add a transparent layer to a document, select Layer > New > Layer. The image appears the same, but you'll see the layer you added in the settings to your right.

  1. Access your brushes in Photoshop by selecting the brush icon on the Options bar.

    You can also select B on your keyboard to access brushes.

  2. On the Brushes tab, select the brush you want to use.

  3. To use a brush, select within the Photoshop document once. The brush appears like a stamp. You can also select, hold down, and move your cursor around the document to paint with the brush.

  4. To adjust the size of the brush, select the right Bracket ( ] ) on your keyboard to increase the size of the brush or the left Bracket ( [ ) to make it smaller. To adjust the hardness of the brush, select Shift+] on your keyboard to make the brush harder or Shift+[ to make the brush softer.