Anything Photoshop or Photography


Image of a Valentine Garden
Happy Valentines Day! Hope all are celebrating with some wonderful treats! How often do you lose those favorite brushes or ones you created? This has always been one of my biggest frustrations when using Photoshop because I either forget to save my created brushes, they get lost in the long list of other brushes in the Brush Preset Panel , or I did not give it a name that will remind me why I made it and how I used it. It has taken me a while to get a total grip on this, but I think I have finally figured out how to keep my brushes a lot more organized and easy to find. This week I am going to go give you the info on how to save your new brushes as an .abr file and next week on how to save your brushes as Tool Presets using a .tpl file extension and when to use both file types. With a little bit of effort, your brushes can be organized so you can find them quickly when needed. UPDATE: As of Photoshop CC2018, the information in this blog is now out-dated. Check out my newer blog to see what has changed at What Is New in the Photoshop Brushes Panel and Using the Smoothing Slider blog. For all versions older than CC2018, this blog is still relevant.


How do you save a brush? After making a change to a brush in the Brush Panel (see first Quick Tip below to locate) where the PS brush engine resides and changes are made to a brush, the new brush now must be saved in the Brush Presets Panel (Windows -> Brush Presets or click Brush Presets button at top middle of Brush Panel) so it can be used again with your new settings. Both of these brush panels have at the bottom a little Create a new brush icon that looks like a square with the right corner folded up. Just name the brush and check the size box if you want it set (I always check this). Now it is listed at the bottom of the Brush Presets list – see my SJ Heart Leaf Brush at the bottom of screenshot below (this brush was used as the heart background brush in the above image). This brush was created using a basic Heart shape and adding settings from the Brush Panel’s Dual Brush, Scattering, Color Dynamics, and Texture sections. As you can see the PS default name for the brush was Heart 1 – that name did not mean much to me. Instead it was named to something indicating it was my brush using SJ at the beginning, and changing the name to how the brush was used as shown in the top image .

Screenshot of Brush Presets Panel


This would seem like enough, but if you decide to append other brushes into the Preset Panel list , it is very easy to lose your new brush or accidentally delete it when replacing brushes. Therefore, if you like the brush, it should be saved as a set by itself, or with a number of your favorite or created brushes in a set – only the Preset Manager will let you select specific brushes to save as a Set. To do this, the Preset Manager must be opened – it is easiest to just click on the icon where the blue arrow is pointed in the screenshot above in either the Brush Panel or Brush Preset Panel or use the Brush Preset Panel pop-out menu item.  All the currently loaded brushes are listed in the Preset Manager.

Image of Preset ManagerThis screenshot shows what the Preset Manager will look like with the PS default brushes loaded and my one created brush. My brush is highlighted in the list for saving. After pressing the Save Set button, the brush file (with just one brush inside it) is saved. Many different brushes can be saved and the file can be named anything. On the top line of my explorer list, the brushes loaded in my Brush Preset Panel (file name SJ CC2016 brushes as of 021216) is listed so they can be reloaded back into PS after writing this blog. This set obviously contains lots of brushes as can be seen by the large file size versus the 20 KB file that only holds the SJ Heart Leaf Brush, where the set and the brush file have the same name. Just press CTRL+highlight each brush that you want to save in the current set. The brushes can be removed by CTRL+highlighting the brushes and brushes can be moved around to place in a different order.

The biggest tip I can give is to occasionally save all your brushes. If you have to reload PS due to a software problem, having those brushes backed up is very helpful. There are two ways to save all the currently load brushes. Can go to the pop-out in the Brush Preset Picker and select Save Brushes. Or you can go into the Preset Manager and just click on the first brush in the Preset Manager, press CTRL+A to Select All the brushes, then save down as a set like I did with my large file. If you decide to Reset or Replace brushes to the PS Default as shown here, it will ask you if you would like to save the current list of brushes. Say Yes and name, and the set will be listed underneath the PS brushes in the pop-out menus – note it does not show up on list until Photoshop is exited and reopened. This has saved me a few times!


Photoshop can drive you a little crazy with some of the redundancy in the program. The Brush Preset Picker is just another way to view the loaded brushes, but it is not exactly the same as the Brush Preset Panel. Brushes can also be saved from this panel. To open right click on a mouse or Wacom pen, or press on the second icon over in the Options Bar. The size, hardness or angle can be quickly adjusted on the fly in this drop-down panel. I keep it set to the Large Thumbnail view so I can the brush more clearly when just looking for a type of stamped or static brush to add to a painting. I do not use it all the time but many artists find it very handy. The wheel cog pop-out panel in the upper right corner is almost exactly the same as the one shown in the screenshot image of the Brush Preset Panel.

Image of my Brush Preset Picker


  • A quick way to open the Brush Panel which contains the brush engine – with any Brush Tool selected (including Clone Stamp, History, Smudge, etc), just click on the third icon over in the Options Bar that looks like a folder with paintbrushes in a can on it – hover over it and it says Toggle the Brush Panel. The panel will turn on and off as needed.
  • Some handy Shortcut keys for Brush Preset Panel:

Select Previous brush:  , (comma)
Select Next brush:  . (period)
Select First brush in Brush Presets list:  SHIFT + , (comma)
Select Last brush in Brush Presets List:  SHIFT + . (period)

  • As you can see, there are several sets of brushes PS provides that can be used as starters for your own creations. Just click on the pop-out menu in the Brush Preset Panel or Picker to see the list, along with any sets of brushes you saved in the default PS brush folder.
  • Stack the Brush Presets Panel on top of the Brush Panel and when the toggle button is used in the Options Bar, they will both open and close together. Very handy to tweak a brush quickly when painting. Just drag the top of the Brush Panel underneath the Brush Presets Panel until you see a blue line appear – they will now be connected.
  • To see same choices in pop-out menu as Brush Preset Panel or Picker in the Preset Manager, press the little wheel cog in upper right where the  way you view the brushes and names for each loaded brush can be changed. I prefer showing mine as a Large List, but that is just my preference.
  • With the latest version of PS, in the Brush Preset Panel and Picker, the latest 7 brushes used will be shown at the top of the panel. See in the Brush Preset Picker screenshot above to see my last 7 brushes and size that was used. By clicking on them, the brush is instantly loaded with the and brush settings changes that you had used. It does not save the brush changes, but for simple size changes, it is very handy!
  • Be sure to save your favorite brushes frequently!

I hope you found this information helpful – it can be very confusing if you are just learning about PS. Now at least you can be comfortable that any brushes you created can be loaded back onto your computer easily. Next week I will cover the Tool Presets and how they differ from the brush presets and when to use them. Until then, have a very fun holiday!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Info This is actually an image of some colorful leaves taken at the entrance to the Jacksonville Zoo. I actually painted them using Photoshop’s Default Action called Mixer Brush Cloning Paint Setup.  Two of my textures were added underneath – my Pastel Watercolor texture and on I painted in Painter I call SJ Fireworks set to 86% layer opacity. It created the nice blue and golden tones I wanted behind the cut out painted leaves. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Lens Effects’ Toy Camera Yellow Green Low Contrast with Camera Shake turned off. This helped blend in the painted leaves into the painted texture. Two layers of valentines were used – one just a little valentine shape with the default Bevel and Emboss applied, and one using the brush loaded above to give a painterly valentine feel. The text used the Selima Regular font with an light yellow outer glow to help it stand out. That was it!

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Why Use the Tool Preset Panel? Photoshop Painters Listen Up!

7 responses

  1. Thank you so much for this, Syd.
    You put so much into this, and it is a wonderful source of information.
    I just love “The Heart Garden!.”
    Those colors are so wonderful together.
    Happy Valentines Day to you.

    02/13/2016 at 5:20 pm

    • Thanks for the kind comment Lisa. Sometimes I write a blog so I will remember what to do! This was the case here! And I really like my Heart Leaf Brush.

      02/15/2016 at 1:16 pm

  2. What a stunning Valentine’s card! Hope you had a good day:) Love the heart leaf idea, and the color palette.
    I am afraid my brushes are never recycled if i use them once a year, like for Christmas… Guilty as charged. Thank you so much for sharing all these great tips!

    02/16/2016 at 6:34 am

  3. Pingback: WHY USE THE TOOL PRESET PANEL? PHOTOSHOP PAINTERS LISTEN UP! | Digital Lady Syd's Fun Photoshop Blog

  4. Thanks so much for this! I totally blanked this morning and could not for the life of me remember how to save my brushes! LOL So easy, but it was gone. Great detailed article with lovely images. You have a “follow” out of me!

    03/15/2016 at 11:10 am

    • Glad this blog was helpful! That’s what it is here for!

      03/18/2016 at 1:21 pm

  5. Pingback: HOW TO CREATE MY FAVORITE BRUSH | Digital Lady Syd's Fun Photoshop Blog

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