The brush tool in Photoshop is a versatile feature that lets you create some cool elements with only a couple of mouse clicks Photoshop brushes use strokes to draw lines and shapes in your project. They enhance images in PhotoShop and fix flaws.

They are preset that control the shape and stroke of lines used to add special effects such as creating digital art, hand-drawing a design, or making custom graphics or designs.

Photoshop comes with several preset brushes for general styles. There are also brushes you can download to add to your creative toolbox. In this article you’ll learn how to install and uses brushes in Photoshop.

Where Are The Classic Brush Sets?

If you’re using the latest version of Photoshop and can’t find the assorted brushes and other classic brush sets, you are not alone. Many tutorials show you how to access them from a previous version. Below is how to find where they are hiding.

  1. Start by selecting the Brush Tool on the left-side navigation.
  1. Right-click anywhere on your canvas to open the Brush Preset Picker.
  1. Click the gear icon in the upper-right. Choose Legacy Brushes at the bottom of the menu and click OK to restore them.
  1. Photoshop will put the Legacy Brush set back into your list of Brush Presets.

How To Install Brushes In Photoshop From Photoshop

Follow the same steps as above by clicking on the Brush Tool and right-click somewhere on your canvas.

Right-click on your window to open the Preset Manager and click on the Gear icon just as we did above. This time click on Get More Brushes.  

After clicking, you will be directed to a browser window that opens Adobe’s New Releases for Spring 2020 Brushes.

Let’s download the second brush called Watercolor.

Notice that the file type is an ABR file. Click OK to download the file. When you add brushes from this location, Photoshop will add your download at the bottom of the Brushes panel.

To locate them, follow the same steps. Click on the Brush Tool, right-click inside the Photoshop window, and scroll down to the bottom of the brush list. Watercolor will be at the bottom of the list.

How To Install Custom Brushes Not From Photoshop

Download the zip file from wherever you get it. There are many available on Creative Market as add-ons.

Unzip it and look for the .ABR file. From Photoshop, go to Edit > Presets > Preset Manager.

Click on Load, navigate to your new brush file (make sure it is a .ABR file), and click Open. Your new brush file will appear at the end of your brush list.

You can move the brushes you use most often to a higher position in the list by dragging them up.

An alternative way to access your brushes is to click on the Brush Tool icon on the left-hand navigation. Scan the top bar navigation to get familiar with the various brush tool settings.

Click on the arrow next to the paintbrush in the top bar.

The number under the starburst in the top navigation will open the list of brushes.

The side panel shows the brush settings as well all the available brushes.

How To Use Brushes In Photoshop

The brush tool enables you to do some amazing things with your Photoshop projects. To get started, click on the Brush Tool from the toolbar on the left.

Choose a brush to start with and click into the image you are creating. Take note that by clicking once, you will see a single placement of the brush stroke.

Or, you can hold down the mouse and drag the cursor to create more strokes.

The top toolbar lets you control the mode, opacity, flow, and size of any brush by changing the settings. Note that you must make the changes prior to applying the brush.

To access more advanced settings, open the brush panel by clicking on the brush icon in the square on the top navigation.

Tweaking these settings will help you learn how each one affects the way different brushes work.

Below is a screenshot of different brush strokes in various colors and sizes.

Change the size of a brushstroke using the settings in the navigation bar or use the shortcut. To make a stroke larger, click on the right bracket on your keyboard. To make it smaller, use the left bracket.

To change colors, use the color palette on the right side next to the pop-up advanced settings box.

How to Use the Hard-Round Brush

This brush has solid hard edges. It is a good tool to use for filling in base layers or creating textures.

Start by clicking on the Brush Tool. Then use the drop-down at the top next to the brush icon to display the brushes available to you. Select the Hard Round brush.

In the image below, I used the Hard Round brush to add texture to an existing sketch.

Use the Soft Round Brush

Soft round brushes vary in hardness. You can set them to 0° for a completely soft edge. Or adjust the harden level higher for more balance.

Use the Soft Round brush for general blending, adding details, and improving light and shadows as shown in the sketch below.

Familiarize Yourself With Brush Terms

There are a massive number of options when it comes to different brushes and how to use them.  Learning Photoshop’s settings and terms will help you understand how to best use Photoshop brushes for your projects.

Some key Brush terms include:

  • Size refers to how small or large, or thick or thin the brush stroke is.
  • Strokes that create realistic effects such as grass are called bristles.
  • Flip: Reverses X or Y axis of a brush shape.
  • Using sample size resets a brush to its original settings.
  • Round or square brush hardness refers to the fuzziness on the edges with 0° being the softest and 100° the hardest.
  • Change the look of the airbrush on tablets by changing the pen pressure.
  • The Spacing setting refers to the amount of space between marks in a stroke.
  • Stroke smoothing values range from 0 to 100 (the smoothest).

Have fun playing around with and testing out all the cool and creative things you can do with Photoshop brushes. The best results require extensive experimentation and practice.