9 Photoshop Brushes and How to Use Them

Posted on January 23, 2020 | Updated on June 11, 2024

As a graphic designer, Photoshop brushes may be one of the most common things you use in the program. Photoshop comes preinstalled with a number of brushes, but you can also add on to those choices with a limitless variety. No matter what effect you’re going for, there is probably a brush that will get you there.

There are well over 1,000 brushes you can choose from when using Adobe. However, you can also modify brushes and save your own presets, making the possibilities for brushes almost endless. If you aren’t quite sure how to work with brushes or create your own presets, there are excellent tutorials online that will walk you through the steps.

You can use brushes for drawing or to fix lighting, create patterns and so much more. With so many different Photoshop brushes from which to choose, it can be difficult to know the best ones. We’ve spent a little time sorting through what’s out there and found nine different brushes we think you’ll love. Although there are many places you can download brush sets for free, we highly recommend starting with the Adobe “Get More Brushes” feature in the brushes panel. With that in mind, these brush choices are all available via the Adobe Creative Cloud. Simply download, make sure Adobe Photoshop CC is running and double click the set to view it.

1. Abstract Paint Brushes

One of our favorite Adobe Photoshop brushes is actually a collection of special effects brushes that come preinstalled on Adobe Creative Cloud. These are so simple to use. Gain effects such as paint splatters. This brush set is perfect for a grunge look and has a youthful quality to it. You can also create an abstract painting look through the use of these brushes or turn only parts of an image into something unique.

2. Dry Media Brushes

We love these dry media Photoshop brushes for creating some refined areas in your photos or adding to elements. Notice in the image above how the dry media brush allows you to add to the top of the tree. I’ve done part of the tree to show you how you might extend it a bit to make the tree look fuller. You can adjust the settings to allow more light through or less light through, depending upon the effect you’re going for.

3. Letterers

Of course, you can just overlay some simple text onto your designs. However, one thing that is a lot of fun is the lettering Adobe Photoshop brushes pack. You can create fancy letters that would otherwise take hours for you to create on your own. There are many different ways you can use this pack, including using a simple horizontal line to offset regular text from the main part of your image.

4. Runny Inkers

The runny inkers collection of Photoshop brushes is so much fun. You can create a fun flyer for a children’s event or add some youthful splashes to your website header. This set creates blotty looking line work. Instead of drawing from a fine line into a thicker line, but this set varies the pressure so lines are all different. You can utilize this set to create a hand-drawn look to your illustrations.

5. Bristle Cut Real Oils

If you download the Megapack, you’ll get a selection of real oils. We adore this bristle cut brush. You can make it a little transparent and brush it over your skyline to create a unique painted look. Of course, that is just one of the potential uses for this and the other oil painting Photoshop brushes in the package. We used white for the color choice here so it would show up good in the image. However, you can create a more subtle effect by grabbing one of the colors from your image.

6. Spatter Smudge

Also in the megapack is an FXBox collection of Photoshop brushes which includes the Spatter Smudge box. This tool creates a bit of a grunge look. The results are very subtle. Look at the skyline where we added some spatters of color to sort of muddy it up. It looks almost as though some stars are starting to peek through the sunset or as though the lens of the camera was a bit dirty.

7. Watercolors

There are dozens of different options for downloading watercolor brushes, but we decided to stick with Adobe’s selection for this article. If you don’t like the look, you have the option of choosing different brushes, many free. For the image above, we went with Kyle’s Real Watercolors with an 80 point tip and simply chose a color close to the shades in the photo and brushed over the areas you can see. You can create a more subtle or stronger effect depending on the brush chosen and the colors used.

8. Impressionist Blender

For the image above, we used the Impressionist Blender 2 at 277 pixels. You can adjust the size of the dots, transparency or other factors to get the impressionist painting look you’d like. You can make only the sky impressionist or the entire image. There are a lot of different ways to utilize the impressionist brush pack.

9. Gouache

This brush set was inspired by artists from the 1950s and 60s who created Golden Books. They used a combination of wet and dry brushes to create the tilt of the lines and vary the look. You can utilize the Gouache brushes to add lettering or draw illustrations to your work. Works best with a pen tablet that recognizes tilt.

Unlimited Choices

Using only the Photoshop brushes Adobe provides will give you enough variety to keep you busy for weeks on end. Of course, there are other free brushes and paid brush sets out there, but we recommend starting with these add-on sets. You can always add more later.

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About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at www.eleanorhecks.com.

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