How to Use Photoshop Brushes in GIMP

It's just a matter of putting them in the correct folder

Female photo editor reviewing digital photo proofs

Hero Images / Getty Images 

GIMP, the popular free pixel-based image editor, comes with a few decent brushes, but they're rather limited if you want to do anything more than the basics. Fortunately, GIMP makes installing and using Photoshop brushes very easy in versions 2.4 and beyond. All you have to do is place the brush file in the proper folder. 

For GIMP versions older than 2.4, however, you have to convert Photoshop brushes manually, and instructions are probably still available. A better approach, however, is to download the latest version; the program remains free, and updates typically enhance stability and capabilities. One major improvement over older versions, for example, is the ability to organize and tag your brushes so that they're easier to use and find. Installing a Photoshop brush is quick and effortless, and once you know how, you might find the practice addictive.

Choose Some Photoshop Brushes

You'll need some Photoshop brushes, of course, before you learn how to use them in GIMP. A huge variety are available online, and many are free to download.

GIMP tends to lag behind Photoshop in some ways. The latest Photoshop brushes may not be supported in GIMP.

Copy Brushes to the Brushes Folder (Windows)

  1. Open File Explorer, and copy the Photoshop brush file you want to import in to GIMP.

  2. Navigate to the root of your C: drive.

    Windows 10 C drive
  3. Select Users followed by your username.

  4. In your user's folder. Select View at the top of the File Explorer. Then, check the Hidden items box to show hidden files and folders.View

    Windows 10 show hidden files
  5. Now, choose AppData from your user folder.

  6. Select Roaming > GIMP > 2.10.

    Windows 10 AppData roaming folder
  7. In the GIMP folder, find and open brushes.

    Windows 10 GIMP folder
  8. Paste your Photoshop brush file in the brushes folder.

    Windows 10 Photoshop brushes pasted GIMP

Copy Brushes to the Brushes Folder Mac OS

The process for Mac OS is slightly different, but you're still simply moving the brush to the appropriate place:

  1. Right-click on GIMP within the Applications folder on OS X.

  2. Select Show Package Contents.

  3. Navigate through Resources > Share > gimp > 2.0 on Mac to find the Brushes folder.

Copy Brushes to the Folder on Linux

The process on Linux is very straightforward. You'll just need to copy the brushes in the right folder in your Home directory.

  1. Select the brush files that you want to add to GIMP, and copy them.

  2. Press Ctrl+h in your Home folder to see hidden files.

    Linux show hidden folders
  3. Navigate to:

    /home/username/.config/GIMP/2.10/brushes
    Linux config GIMP directory

    Replace username with your actual username and 2.10 with the version of GIMP that you have.

  4. Paste your brushes in to the directory. Then, you can press Ctrl+h again to hide the hidden files again.

    GIMP brushes pasted

Refresh the Brushes

GIMP automatically loads brushes when it's launched, but only then — so you must manually refresh the list of those you've installed.

  1. With GIMP open, go to WindowsDockable Dialogs > Brushes in the main menu.

    GIMP enable brushes dialog
  2. Locate the refresh icon in the Brushes dialog. If should look like an arrow with a circular tail. Press it to refresh your brushes.

    GIMP refresh brushes
  3. Open the brush tool, and look to see if your brushes are there. If you're having a problem, you can always try restarting GIMP.

    Photoshop brushes imported in GIMP