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10 Exciting Fun Ways to Use BRUSHES in Photoshop

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

10 Exciting Fun Ways to Use BRUSHES in Photoshop

Photoshop Brushes: 10 ways to use them

by Stephanie Gill

Photoshop brushes seem to leave people with the same lingering question, “What the heck are brushes good for?”

Personally, the term “brushes” was confusing to me more than anything else. When I thought of a brush, I thought of the typical paint brush that you would use to paint a picture on canvas. But when I opened up the brushes category in Photoshop, I saw more than what you would typically consider to use in this manner.

There were all sorts of round brushes: some with hard edges, others with softer, faded ones – and all of these available in every size conceivable. Then I got really confused when I saw star shaped brushes, brushes that looked like leaves and blades of grass, etc. Normally, if you used a paint brush in the shape of a star, it wouldn’t really work once you stroked it across your page… At this point I realized that, although being called “brushes” in Photoshop, some of these tools with specific designs are really meant to be used as stamps. Once I looked at these designs as more of a stamp than a brush, I found all kinds of ways to use them.

Ok, so now that we know brushes are not only for making strokes and can also be used like a stamp, lets tackle the big question: “What the heck are brushes used for?”

1) Brushes are what you use when you clone, erase, heal, and mask something on your photo. Usually the round brush is most often used for these techniques, but sometimes you need a realistic texture, a finer line, or a certain shape.

For example, on the photo below I used textured brushes to clone the red background over the messiest parts of her on the sides of her head. Then I used brushes made for skin to clone over stray hairs and blemishes. These brushes have a texture like quality to them so that you don’t get a flat look. I even used the skin brushes to paint on some more eye shadow. Then I used a round brush to clone the missing bead from her necklace. And to finish it off, I used an eyelash brush to stamp on her new lashes.

brushes-in-photoshop

2) Brushes are a fun way to add artistic flair to a photo. Here I have used texture brushes to add an aged effect. Then I used tree brushes to make the photo into a unique piece of art.

using photoshop brushes to add trees

3) Sometimes your photo is just missing that extra element, or if you’re like me you can’t figure out how to get the grass and the clouds both exposed in some photos. In that case, well, then use a cloud brush to add your clouds!

how to add clouds in photoshop using brushes

4) Brushes are a must for making logos, business cards, advertisements, and holiday cards. There are an endless amount of brushes for every idea/style/theme you can think of.

Here I used the brushes to frame my photo and add shapes to my card.

making cards using photoshop brushes

5) Brushes are also great for adding borders to your photos. You can make them dark and very literal or soft and faded.

add borders in photoshop

Now that we have some new ideas and uses for brushes, lets talk about how to find them. Its easy to find all kinds of brushes that you can download for free. Usually when I need a certain brush, I go to Google and type in “free Photoshop holiday brushes” or “Photoshop skin brushes”, and it gives me plenty of brushes right away.

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Thank you to Stephanie Gill of TinyTot Snapshot Photography for this fantastic tutorial on some unique, fun ways to use brushes for more than just “making stokes of paint on your photo.” She has demonstrated 5 ways you can start using brushes today. I have briefly explained 5 more ways you can use brushes too.

6) Watermark: turning a logo or text into a brush so that you can watermark your photos.

7) Textures: hand creating texture overlays that can be used to add depth to photos.

8) Digital painting: Using the brush as an artistic tool to smudge, blend and push pixels turning your photo into a “painting.”

9) Detailed masking: by altering the hardness, softness and size of your brush, you can use the brush tool on layer masks and quick masks to retouch, extract, and make selections, as well as target where a particular adjustment effects your photo.

10) Digital Scrapbooking: brushes are often used for embellishments and designs

Please add how you like to use brushes in the comment section.

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20 Comments

  1. Tina
    July 13, 2009 at 12:28 pm —

    This is rad! I always just associated brushes with digital scrapbooking. I NEED that eyelash brush!

  2. Debbie McNeill
    July 13, 2009 at 12:41 pm —

    I would like to see more details on taking a graphic logo and turning it into a watermark.

  3. July 13, 2009 at 12:56 pm —

    I cant wait to read more! Thanks MCP and TinyTot snapshot photography!!!

  4. Jennifer B
    July 13, 2009 at 1:00 pm —

    this is so helpful! I love the cloud one – they turned out great! Thanks for the info!!

  5. July 13, 2009 at 1:05 pm —

    can’t wait to use some of these great idea’s – you are AWESOME!

  6. MariaV
    July 13, 2009 at 2:12 pm —

    Nicely done, Stephanie. Thank you.

  7. July 13, 2009 at 3:07 pm —

    Some great ideas..thanks!

  8. July 13, 2009 at 4:04 pm —

    Thank you Jodi and Stephanie. You guys rock!!! It is all so helpful and fun…love the texture aspect!

  9. July 13, 2009 at 11:16 pm —

    Thanks so much for this – I am clueless when it comes to brushes. Now I’m super excited to PLAY!

  10. July 14, 2009 at 12:36 am —

    This was great! That eyelash brush and the cloud brushs…those are amazing!!!!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  11. Sherri LeAnn
    July 14, 2009 at 5:16 am —

    Wonderful post – enjoyed reading through it
    thanks for all the ideas for using brushes

  12. July 14, 2009 at 10:19 am —

    i like the eyelash brush where can i get it? thanks for sharing i really learned a lot!!!

  13. July 14, 2009 at 10:54 am —

    Would love to see some tutorials on composition and cropping… also on how to create custom workflow actions.

    Great topics that I would love to see here: how to choose a new lens, starting a new photog business tips, how to set up a professional website and gallery.

    I love all the MCP actions… just bring them on!

  14. Debbie
    July 14, 2009 at 12:15 pm —

    Me, too. Was going to ask for a tutorial on using the brush as a watermark. Thanks!

  15. Roger Shackelford
    July 14, 2009 at 6:02 pm —

    I would like to learn more about creative ways for using text in photos. I am considering making a kids sports photography company for additional summer earnings, if I get an art teacher job/classroom this fall. I am aware of different work flow management software made by labs and camera manufacturers (e.g. Hasselblad), but would like more coaching on options for posting images for customers to order from directly online. I had previously done this with weddings and a local lab posted/sold the work for a percentage of the profits. I have not yet seen your actions for editing, but would imagine more on editing and work flow for kids sports photography.

  16. Peggy Arbeene
    July 15, 2009 at 11:03 am —

    Hi Jodi – can you please do a blog on how to add the eyelashes using the brush and add eyeshadow .. would love to try that .. have a great day.

  17. Great post! I loved the eyelash brush!

  18. July 19, 2009 at 6:17 pm —

    Can we see how to do the eyelash brush?
    Thanks so much!!!!!

  19. September 12, 2010 at 7:37 pm —

    Thanks for sharing a grate collection of photo shop brushes

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10 Exciting Fun Ways to Use BRUSHES in Photoshop