How to Install Brushes

It can be quite frustrating being a GIMP user, and seeing people in various art forums saying "Here, I've made a brush set!" and then not knowing how to actually set things up so you can use them. So here's something about that.

A. You CAN use Photoshop brushes

With GIMP 2.6, you can use Photoshop (.abr) brushes. With GIMP 2.2, you CANNOT use Photoshop brushes. I can't remember if you can use Photoshop brushes with GIMP 2.4, but since 2.6 is the current version, it doesn't really matter.

You install the .abr brush in the same way as you would install a GIMP brush (see below).

B. You can use GIMP brushes

If the brush maker has actually made brushes for GIMP, that is. Most don't because most don't use GIMP. However, there is, for example, a GIMP Brushes section over at Deviant Art, some of which are original, and some of which are converted Photoshop brushes.

What you then need to do is download the brush or brushes to your own PC. If there are brushes they're often in an archive file like a ZIP file. In that case, unzip the file somewhere in a temporary working folder/directory.

What you should have then is one or more files with either a .gbr or a .gih extension. They are the brush files. In order to use these in GIMP, they have to be moved somewhere where GIMP looks for brushes; the brushes directory. On a Unix/Linux system, this would be, for example:


(if you were fred and you were using version 2.6 of GIMP)

I don't know where it is on MS-Windows (since I don't use MS-Windows), though I have been informed that it is

C:/program files/Gimp2.0/share/gimp/2.0/brushes

Then when you start up GIMP, it will find these new brushes, and you can use them with the brush or pencil tools.

C. You can convert "imagepacks" to brushes

Some people give what they call an "image pack" with their brushes. This is a collection of the original image files the brushes were made from. They are usually jpeg or gif files.

Fortunately, recent versions of GIMP makes this easy. Just use
Edit -> Copy
to copy the current layer, and then
Edit -> Paste as -> New Brush

This converts the current "copied" thing to a brush and puts it in the brushes directory for you.

One thing that can trip people up with converting GIMP brushes is that there is more than one type of brush. There are normal brushes, there are colour-preserving brushes, and there are "pipe" (animated) brushes (which can either be "normal" or colour-preserving). An un-animated brush has the .gbr extension, and a pipe brush has the .gih extension. (Don't worry too much about pipe brushes, what we're concerned with is the colour-preserving ones)

A normal brush comes from a greyscale image, and takes the current colour when you use it, as you would expect. A colour-preserving brush preserves the colours of the image it's made from, it doesn't take the colour from the foreground colour as with a normal brush. The "preserve colours" brush is signalled to GIMP by it having a transparent background and/or not being greyscale, rather than being greyscale with a white background.

What I've noticed sometimes with people converting GIMP brushes is that they accidentally make something a colour-preserving brush when it should be a normal brush, because the image has a transparent background and they don't change it. So if the imagepack has black-and-white images which have transparent backgrounds, remember to (a) flatten the image and (b) make the mode greyscale, before you convert it to a brush.

Huh? What's an Image-Pack Again?

An "imagepack" is a package of images. It's a term which I've seen used on places like DeviantArt to mean that, when they have made a set of brushes, they have also made a set of images, which are just ordinary .jpg or .gif or .png files.

That is:

  1. Someone makes some (Photoshop) brushes.
  2. These brushes are in .abr files
  3. They have made another set of files which are NOT .abr files. These are picture-files, usually .jpg or .gif files.
  4. This second set of files is called an "image-pack". Not everyone makes an imagepack. If they do, sometimes they include it in the same ZIP file as the .abr brush files, and sometimes they make a separate ZIP file with just the image files in it.

I have also seen people refer to a single picture file as an image-pack, if it shows all the brushes in the set.