The world of GIMP brushes can be both impressive and intimidating. As one of the most popular graphic design programs, GIMP has many resources and features that can overwhelm new users. The number of brush options on websites such as Deviant Art and other resource centers also presents a nearly paralyzing level of possibilities for veteran graphic designers.
Between brush masks, brush spacing, brush opacity, and more, any brush comes with thousands of potential variations. We have compiled this brush list of the best options for GIMP users. Whether standard brushes or abstract brushes, we have scoured various brush categories for the most dynamic tools.
What Are GIMP Brushes and How Can They Be Used?
GIMP, like many graphic design programs, features brushes that allow graphic designers to draw or stamp their canvas with uniquely shaped images. Brushes can create unique line features or even simulate traditional art media depending on the images and settings. It’s not uncommon for many graphic designers to embrace a massive collection of brushes.
Parametric Brushes vs. Raster Brushes
GIMP offers parametric and raster brushes. The parametric brush is a vector-based brush, designated by the brush files extension (.vbr), that’s versatile and scales well. A raster brush, usually designated by the extensions .gbr and .gih, is a brush based on an image file. Raster brushes do not scale up as efficiently as vector brushes, which can lead to issues if a brush is scaled up beyond its native dimensions.
Custom brushes can be created in vector and raster form. However, the difference is significant between them. Vector brushes need to be comprised of geometric shapes. Based on a bitmapped image, a raster brush has no such limitation. With a bit of manipulation of settings, such as opacity, brush size, and paint dynamics, vector brushes can simulate natural media brushes to a degree. Note that most natural media brushes are usually raster images.
Can I Use Photoshop Brushes in GIMP?
Adobe Photoshop is an industry-standard graphic design tool. However, GIMP should not be overlooked. One way GIMP serves as an affordable alternative to Adobe Photoshop is by using Photoshop brush files. Many graphic design experts create fantastic brushes for Adobe Photoshop, but GIMP can also use most of these brushes.
Your brush list can expand significantly if you grow your options to .abr files (Photoshop brush files).
How to Install GIMP Brushes
The brush tool is fundamental in any graphic design program, and GIMP offers a robust set of options. One vital option is the ability to upload custom brushes. There are many collections of brushes for GIMP and Photoshop that can expand your options when it comes to graphic design work. GIMP makes it very easy to install new brushes to supplement your regular brushes.
In GIMP, select the Edit menu and choose Preferences. You’ll be presented with two panes in the window, and the leftmost pane features folders. Expand Folders and select Brushes. Click on the writeable folder in the directory, usually designated with your computer username.
Next, click the File Drawer icon to open the brushes folder.
Now, move your new brush file into that folder. Once done, you can return to gimp and press the Refresh brushes button.
Alternatively, you can also refresh the brushes from the brushes tab in the layers palette, as shown below.
Your brushes are now ready to be used in GIMP.
How to Install Photoshop Brushes in GIMP
Thankfully, installing Photoshop brushes in GIMP is the same as installing GIMP brushes. Simply follow the steps covered in the previous section and move your .abr files into the GIMP brushes folder. Once the brushes are reset, they’ll be ready to use in GIMP.
Once the brushes are installed, there’s really no difference in using brushes specifically created for GIMP as opposed to using brushes created for Photoshop.
Can I Create My Own GIMP Brushes?
One of the most exciting elements of GIMP brushes is that users can create and distribute their creations – even monetizing their work. GIMP makes it particularly easy to develop brushes as well. To start a new brush, select Create a new brush in the brushes dialog box (or right-click and choose New Brush).
From there, set the brush’s dimensions to whatever size will serve as the basic brush size. For higher-resolution work, a large brush is a better choice. Using your layers and canvas space, you can create a brush that you see fit – just remember that transparent elements in the image also allow the brush to have transparency. Be sure to include a transparent background layer.
When you’re happy with your brush concept, you can export it. Simply right-click the canvas and select File > Export As. However, ensure that your exported brush is put into the GIMP brushes folder.
Free GIMP Brushes to Download
We’ve put together this impressive collection if you want to expand your collection of brushes in GIMP. As GIMP can also use Adobe Photoshop brushes, many of the listed brushes can also be used in that software.
We’ve searched the best brush repositories on the internet, including Deviant Art and other websites, to find the best brush sets to elevate your toolkit. As always, check the license details before downloading or using any resources.
Deviant Art user Chrisdesign offers an animated GIMP brush that simulates natural textures associated with authentic painting materials and techniques. This set combines watercolor splatters and dry paintbrush marks to give designers a good option for mixed media projects. This is a GIMP file format brush, so don’t expect to use this set in Adobe Photoshop.
One of the best parts about digital artwork is how well you can simulate natural media. Take, for example, this set of real pencil brushes for GIMP by user elmerucr. The traditional media style will make an excellent addition to your brush library as the brush strokes simulate the basic properties of a pencil. The tool also featured three sizes: 7×7, 10×10, and 16×16 pixels.
Scribbles and Doodles is a fun, creative brush set that can be used in Adobe Photoshop and GIMP. This collection, by redheadstock on Deviant Art, focuses on weird and wacky scribbles. The brush designs range from doodles of faces and symbols that evoke childhood. The scribbles, meanwhile, feature random hatches and smudges, as you might see on a sheet of notes.
Suppose you want to expand your collection beyond default brushes; try this set of 100 free stroke brushes. This dynamic brush pack includes handmade painterly and ink-derived stroke patterns. While the formats for brushes in this set are geared toward Adobe Photoshop, GIMP users can also use them.
Expand your library of brushes in GIMP with this collection of 18 high-resolution watercolor brushes. These are designed for Adobe Photoshop but are also compatible with GIMP. These nice brushes should help add texture to your projects, and they’re free to boot!
Bittbox, the creator of the previous set of watercolor brushes on the list, created a second library of brushes in a similar style. The collection features 20 high-resolution watercolor brushes set to around 2500 pixels per brush, resulting in a compelling brush set. Be sure to add this one to your list of brushes, as it’s free.
Spray paint brushes are always fun, and this grunge brush pack is an excellent addition to any collection. These brushes come in a set of 10 and feature the random splatters you might find with a malfunctioning sprayer. These can add a lot of street flair to your work.
Jobey Buya’s abstract rush set features 12 high-res paint splatters. These digital design brushes evoke the feeling of physical pain and, while designed for Adobe Photoshop, are excellent for GIMP. You’ll be happy to see these paint splatters in your brush panel.
Bittbox has another collection of hi-res brushes, embracing the chaos of splattered paint. The brushes in this free set evoke various paint and paint thicknesses to create a messy aesthetic. With such large brushes, this set makes for high-quality paint emulation.
Powder explosion can make for some fantastic imagery, and this Photoshop brush set is excellent. Combining different powder explosions and image layers can create some dynamic effects. Alberto Seveso’s brush set is a free download and is also usable in GIMP.
Grunge-style brushes are a trendy genre of brushes because they often add a lot of texture to an image relatively quickly. This set of grunge brushes comprises scans of splatters and stains. These grunge brushes should be a solid addition to any digital paint application process. These also happen to be high resolution as well, so they scale well for different designs.
These GIMP texture brushes by Jagged88 on Deviant Art provide some excellent options for adding a little more texture to any image project in GIMP. The five brushes can easily be installed via the brush file manager and present a wealth of design options. These are great for smudging and painting.
Seudavi’s Rust Brushes set is an excellent start if you want grungy and rusty brushes. These brushes are made from reference photos of rusty shapes and marks that have been processed into convenient art brushes. There are 13 brushes in the set to work with as well.
Ardcor’s Ultimate Grunge Brushes set is an impressive collection of 135 brushes. The set even features paint splatters by combining brushes from reference photos of rust and stains. Now that is one monster pack of brushes.
The scratched-out effect of these brushes is quite striking. The brush set can simulate an erased blackboard or aim for scribbles, textures, and more. This is great for a weathering effect in any digital illustration project. Scratchout Brushes is another excellent resource from Readheadstock.
Special Effects brushes are a set of brushes that can be used in Photoshop and GIMP. Rather than being basic “stamped” effects, these brushes have unique settings that allow them to simulate certain media, leaving the guessing work out for designers. This set features grunge, glows, splotches, and more.
K04sk GIMP Brushes, while hard to say, makes brilliant painterly effects pretty quickly. The set is based on the painting style of a popular Deviant Art user and provides options for brilliant stamp and stroke effects. The collection features a variety of brushes, too many to get into here, but well worth playing around with.
With over 190 brushes, this set of ink strokes is quite impressive and versatile. The brushes range from big slabs to thin strokes and ink splotches and rings. The collection is also free for commercial use. While the brushes were designed for usage in Photoshop, they are also quite compatible with GIMP.
Rather than simulating natural media, this brush set emphasizes stamping. These paisley brushes by Redheadstock feature elaborate patterns that work well in Photoshop and GIMP. You can easily add a fun texture to your designs between classic shapes and embellishments such as flowers and swirls.
PkGam’s eclectic collection of brushes for GIMP can be hard to define. There is no actual theme to them – they’re just handy. This includes a fine texture brush and an oily bristled brush. There is also a bokeh brush and a blocky brush that simulates a palette knife. The set also features a texture tool, ensuring each brush has a unique flow pattern.
Realistic charcoal brushes are always a fun painting option in any digital design program. All the texture without the charcoal dust, after all. The sole brush of this set is versatile and easily adjusted to meet whatever need an artist may have. This brush is a perfect starting point if you seek to emulate charcoal illustrations.
Aaron Griffin’s set of brushes he uses for his paintings is a powerful collection of tools. Griffin’s paintings are fantastic and evoke natural media, and he was kind enough to make his tools available to aspiring illustrators. If you want a good set of brushes to practice digital painting, this is an absolute “must download.”
Another stamp-style brush set, the swirls and flourishes presented in this collection are pretty eye-catching. While these can be used for drawing, they’re best used as stamps to add a little heraldry to different designs. These ornamental brushes work for both Adobe Photoshop and GIMP.
This collection is a companion to the prior set of swirls and flourishes. This collection adds even more ornamental stamp designs. Many are particularly useful for corner designs such as interfaces or adding to photographs. Some sets even feature eye-catching flowers.
Could 100 free cloud brushes be useful for you? If so, this is a great set to download. The cloud brushes are designed for Photoshop and are based on real cloud photos. However, they are also compatible with GIMP. You can paint skylines as you see fit using these brushes.
Final Thoughts on GIMP Brushes
Whether you are just getting into the program or are a veteran designer, these GIMP brushes will add some fun to your workflow. These brushes can range from stamps to natural-media strokes, but they’re all great ways to extend your creative toolkit in GIMP. So if it’s time to refresh brushes in your collection, give this list a look.