Anything Photoshop or Photography

FINDING A PHOTOSHOP BRUSH IN A BIG SET

Drawn and painted image of a Red Legged Honey Creeper Bird

So how do you keep all your great Photoshop brushes organized and how do you remember what they look like for a given effect? This blog shows what I have been doing to combat this huge Photoshop brush debacle! I have two tips on how to do this.

For the past several months, Kyle T. Webster (Adobe Brush Evangelist) has been creating videos on how to use some of the different brushes in his PS sets. It got me to thinking about how to see these brushes and their strokes quickly to decide if I wanted to apply any to an image. Since Kyle has over 2000 brushes to download, with 400 in his Megapack alone, it can get very confusing. (Note: To download these brushes, open PS and go to the Brush Panel’s upper right corner drop-down menu and choose Get More Brushes. If you are on the PS subscription service, you will be able to choose any of his sets.) And if you are like me, I am always on the lookout for other great brushes such as the fabulous GrutBrushes (he gives a free one away every Monday so check him out – you won’t be disappointed with them), Aaron Blaise brushes (the wonderful Disney drawer with lots of nice brushes and wildlife tutorials – watch for his great sales), and Maddy Bellwoar (Adobe Create artist that has some beautiful painterly brushes and great weekly painting videos), to name just a few. Just these few artists’ brushes create a huge amount to organize!

For a quick bit of info on the image above (which was really just a practice image BTW and not finished), it was drawn by following a video by Maddy on Behance called Painting Beautiful Birds in Photoshop. Below most of her videos is a link to download a free set of 44 brushes and many were used on the blue bird she painted. Below is my stroke page for these brushes. (See my American Goldfinch Tidbits Blog for more info on Maddy and her brushes.)

First Tip: Create a Brush Group with Duplicates of Brushes Used in Image

The first tip is what I now do anytime a new image is painted. It is very important that the layers are labeled with the different brushes being used so you know where they were applied in your painting – then you can see how to create a similar effect in another painting.

  • When painting, click the “Create a New Group” in the Brushes Panel – click on Folder icon at bottom and name it. See in screenshot below.
  • A duplicate of any brush being used is created as I paint. To duplicate a brush, highlight the brush to copy and press the middle box with a (+) icon next to the Group icon. Sometimes the duplicated brush will show a different name (the Soft Airbrush below shows a name of Soft Round 200 730) so it is renamed back to the original and sometimes the initials of the brush artist, like MW is added if needed. (You can save any brush you want this way – just rename and decide if you want the Tool Type, Size and Color saved with the brush in the New Brush dialog box.)
  • Then highlight and drag the duplicate brush to the new group. Below is an example of all the Bird brushes used so far for the top image.
  • When finished, be sure to save the Group of brushes by highlighting all the brushes in the Group – then in upper right drop-down menu, choose Export Selected Brushes and Name the file on your computer (I usually use the image name and place in a special folder called Project Set Brushes). It will save down as a PS brush .abr file. If you add more brushes later, the file can always be saved over with the added brushes. To open file in PS, go to the drop-down again and select Import Brushes – go to the file and double click and it will be shown at the bottom of your brush list. Very handy to have!
Image of brushes used in bird image.

Second Tip: Make Brush Stroke PSD Files for Reference in Bridge

Kyle recently created a really interesting video called Brush Hour: the Fall 2021 Brush Set on his Fall 2021 set of 26 brushes where he drew a Halloween-looking guy like below. For this image it was really good practice to try and emulate what he did just to learn how to use the brushes. (I also learned how to stack drawing layer effects in this video.) No Brush Panel Group was created since most of the brushes used were in the his Fall 2021 set.

Drawing of a vampire in Photoshop

To keep brushes straight in all of Kyle’s free sets from Photoshop, or any others I have downloaded, a Photoshop PSD document was created for each stroke, and anything else can be placed in it. Two files are usually made with big sets of brushes – often my own little sketches using the brushes are added. Below is an example of my Fall 2021 Brushes Set showing each brush – the ones liked are marked with a dot. (For the vampire pix, the Double Edged Hatch, Boxit, Circlez, Ripopolo, Pigmentia Edge, and Ratchet brushes were used just to create the background. Then Pigmentia and Rachet were mainly used to create the character but also a little Concept Pencil and Vincent for Vincent Van Gogh were also used – you can see I liked several of these brushes.)

Examples of Kyles Fall 2021 Brushes

Below is the sheet created of Maddy’s Free Brush strokes. (Click on the image to see better in Flickr.) The third brush in the top row is one I created (from a Maddy video) based on the second brush – it has been saved with the brushes in this set file. The Canvas Size (go to Edit -> Canvas Size) was extended to accommodate all the brush strokes in this set (it would be hard to print the files out this way as it needs two files for printing).

Image of Maddy's Free Brush and Variations

The PSD file is saved and placed into a folder to access in Adobe Bridge (mine is called Paintbrush Example Files). This way the files can be reviewed very quickly to see where the needed brush is located or to find a good one to use. Below shows my folder of some of the PSD files in Bridge.

If there is an interesting technique being used, select the Note Tool (toggled with the Eyedropper Tool and several others) to include this info with your image for extra reference – this can show brush change info, like adding a Color Dynamics section to it or changing the spacing of the brush. Or if a change is made to a brush, it can be saved with a name showing what was done to it as shown in the SJ Soft Shading and Blending-no opa transfer brush in Maddy’s Blue Bird Group above.

It takes a while to do this, but it has saved so much time now that they are available. Getting the backlog of Kyle’s and Grut’s brushes set up took a lot of time. And having the brushes in a folder when painting is also very handy, especially if I am trying to get a similar look to a painting or drawing from a previous image. And it is a great way to learn how to use the brushes with your stroke style! Wish I had been doing this all along!

I hope this is helpful to some of you who are like me and collect who knows how many brushes. Hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful weather like we are having here in the States. Fall is such a great time of year!…..Digital Lady Syd

6 responses

  1. Barbara Lawson

    Can’t thank you enough for these ideas! I also love Kyle’s and Daddy’s brushes and have been struggling with various ways of organizing and documenting them. Your methods are much better than mine! BTW I found Maddy, her brushes and lessons via your earlier post and have learned so much from her. Thank you so much.

    10/24/2021 at 10:20 am

    • Thanks Barbara, glad you found the tips useful. This has been such a problem for me for a long time – once Kyle’s brushes became part of PS, it was definitely brush overload!

      10/24/2021 at 2:10 pm

      • Barbara J Lawson

        Syd, I agree completely about struggling with this. I know they have the “Brush history” at the top of the panel, but I can’t tell which is which from the small icon and I usually use a lot more brushes than they show there. I wish they’d create a “tray” that would hold the brushes we use while working on a project. Then we’d have the option of either emptying the tray, or saving it as a set for the future. Your method of creating duplicates of the brushes used for a project is a fabulous solution, but Photoshop could make the process more automatic and save a lot of steps!

        10/31/2021 at 1:39 pm

      • Totally agree Barbara – I really like that about Painter where you can drag your brushes down into a palette drawer with your changes and not have to copy them every time for starters. BTW, Humble Bumble has Corel Painter for 2021 on sale for $30 for 3 more days – I just upgraded this week. Lots new for me to learn about their brushes too.

        10/31/2021 at 4:00 pm

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