Organizing your Photoshop Brushes

April 21, 2017

We recently started a tutorial series on Photoshop Brushes (Installing Brushes in Photoshop). Today let’s look at how to organize our brushes so we can easily find what we need when we need it.

Screenshots for this tutorial will be created using Photoshop CC2017. Photoshop Elements instructions are included at the end of this tutorial.

This is a screenshot of the brushes (.abr) I have loaded in Photoshop.  You can see that the scroll bar on the right isn’t even all the way down to the bottom of the Preset Manager, so although you can see a lot of brushes here, there are a lot more that aren’t even visible.

There is a mixture of brushes here: some grunge, some watercolor, some bokeh, some texture, and so on. I find myself scrolling up and down a lot to find what I need, and I also find this to be frustrating and a waste of time.

If you have a lot of brushes and find yourself in the same situation, with just a little work you can ease your workflow.  And the good thing is you will only have to do this once.

  •  I have all of my .abr files in one folder. This is a screenshot from my computer folder structure. (It will be easier to complete this task if all of your .abr files are in one folder.)

Once you have moved all of your brush folders into one main folder, create sub-category folders according to the type of brushes you have. This is a screenshot of some sub-category folders.

  • Next, move each of your brushes into the proper folder category:  for example, foliage and flower brushes would be moved to your “Nature” folder. Continue this process until all brushes are in sub-category folders.
  • Open your Preset Manager (For a quick review of the Preset Manager: Installing Brushes in Photoshop), and click on Load.
  • Navigate to your first sub-category folder; click on it to open it. In the image below my sub-category folder is “Nature” and I have 2 brushes from Jilbert’s Bits of Bytes inside this folder. (I’ve created these folders for demonstration purposes, and just put 2 folders here to keep things simple. You will, most likely, like me, have many brushes in each category.)

  • I will click on the first .brush folder “jilbert_brushes_stamped_nature1” to open it and locate the .abr file. Next, I will click on the .abr file itself to select it, then click Load.
  • I will repeat this process for as many brushes as there are in this sub-category folder. (In my case, there are only 2, as I set this up for demonstration purposes only.) Once I have loaded both of these .abr files, they can be seen at the bottom of my brushes panel.

  • Now, in the Preset Manager,  I will click on the first Jilbert brush, hold down my shift key, and click on the last Jilbert brush to select them all, then click on SAVE SET. You can load and choose as many sets as you would like to include here, from as many designers as you like.
  • I will be asked to name this brush set. I will name it “Nature-composite” since that is the subject of the brushes, that is how I would search for them, and the brush we are now creating contains all of my nature-oriented brushes.
  • I will also be able to decide where I want to save this file, and I will save it in my main ABR Folder.
  • In my main ABR folder, I now can see my original folders by subject name, with the original .abr files inside each folder, but I now also have one “Nature-composite” .abr file.

You can categorize your brushes however you like. If you prefer to have all brushes from one designer in one big .abr file, you can do that. If you most often search your brushes by topic, then organizing the way I have described here is best.

So now, when I want to find a nature brush, I can just load my Nature-composite brush and easily view ALL of my nature brushes, rather than loading multiple nature brushes from multiple designers, trying to find the brush I want.

If I am finished with my nature brushes, it’s easy to just load another composite brush for whatever brush type I need to use next. You might choose to “Replace Brushes” with the next composite set you load so that you don’t have too many brushes to sort through or so many that they slow down the performance of your computer.

For Photoshop Elements Users:

You will follow the same process, however, you will load all of the brushes you would like to include in a composite brush by choosing “Append.” Once you have all the brushes you want to be loaded, choose “Save Set” and continue the process noted above.

I hope you have found this helpful!

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