How to Use Photoshop Brushes in GIMP

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How to Use Photoshop Brushes in GIMP

Not everyone realizes that you can use Photoshop brushes in GIMP, but this is a great way to extend the popular free pixel-based image editor. All you have to do is install them to use them, but you must have GIMP version 2.4 or a later version. 

Photoshop brushes have to be manually converted in earlier versions of GIMP. You can still find instructions for how to convert Photoshop brushes if you're using an older version, but this might be a good time to update to the most recent version. Why not? Version 2.8.18 is now available and it's free, just like the other earlier GIMP versions. GIMP 2.8.18 has a few convenient improvements and upgrades. It lets you rotate your brushes when painting, and they're more easily organized than in older versions. Now you can tag them for easy retrieval. 

When you start installing them into GIMP, you might find that it becomes a bit addictive. The ability to use Photoshop brushes is a very useful feature of GIMP that allows you to extend the program with the many free ones that are available online.

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Choose Some Photoshop Brushes

You'll need some Photoshop brushes before you learn how to use them in GIMP. Sue, our Graphics Software Guide, provides links to a wide range of Photoshop brushes if you haven't already selected some. I've chosen Sue's own set, Photoshop Brush Set Two, for this tutorial. 

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Copy Brushes to the Brushes Folder (Windows)

GIMP has a specific folder for brushes. Any compatible brushes found in this folder are automatically loaded when GIMP launches. 

You may need to extract them first if those you've downloaded are compressed, such as in a ZIP format. You should be able to open the ZIP file and copy the brushes directly without extracting them on Windows. 

The Brushes folder is found in the GIMP installation folder. You can copy or move your downloaded brushes to this folder when you've opened it. 

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Copy Brushes to the Brushes Folder (OS X/Linux)

You can also use Photoshop Brushes with GIMP on OS X and Linux. Right click on GIMP within the Applications folder on OS X and select "Show Package Contents." Then navigate through Resources > Share > gimp > 2.0 on Mac to find the brushes folder.

You should be able to navigate to the GIMP brushes folder from the Home directory on Linux. You may need to make hidden folders visible using Ctrl+H to show the .gimp-2 folder.

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Refresh the Brushes

GIMP only automatically loads brushes when it's launched, so you'll have to manually refresh the list of those you've installed. Go to Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Brushes. You can now click the Refresh button that appears to the right side of the bottom bar in the Brushes dialog. You'll see that the newly installed brushes are now displayed.