How to use Photoshop Brushes as Photoshop Layers Tutorial

How to use Photoshop brushes as layers tutorial (such as using transparency)

Brushes as layers in Adobe ® Photoshop ® PNG

Many of the brushes sets contain PNG images that contain transparency and they can be used as layers when either imported via the place command (embedded or linked) or via the tools themselves added to a layer. You can apply them as a layer or multiple layers as well as apply layer styles to the stroke such as the red object below.


layers red


The advantage of using the PNG layers / Photoshop brushes as layers is that the layer (or layers) can be hidden or removed or re-positioned via the layer comps feature in Adobe ® Photoshop ® or just removed via the layer panel. Below, the panel and you can quickly remove the effects as well hide the object or even delete it via the panel




ABRs as Photoshop layers

Before applying any strokes, you can create a layer via the layer menu. You can then apply a single dab or multiple dabs to the layer. The They can also have layer styles etc applied and then they can be moved throughout the document as well as hidden or deleted at any point in the creative process. You can also add transformations such as rotations etc to the artwork though perhaps that should be limited or just perhaps add any transformations before you add the item to the layer or use it as a smart object and the underlying artwork is not changed and the transformations will not degrade the end result (too much - you still can't suddenly change the layer to 500 times the size of the original and expect the end result to still look good, smart or not, unless it is a vector in the first place and some of the sets are not just available in PNG but also EPS). You can find many brushes sets such as diamond brushes and distress circle brushes and Christmas brushes




Related sets

You can find the examples used on this page via the brushes section of the site


Place option / CC library

You can also add them via the place (embedded or linked) commands. You can also add them via the CC library if they have been stored there.


Use with the duplication of layers

They can be duplicated quickly by holding down the alt key with a layer: select a layer and ALT key drag and release will generate a new layer and a new stroke in the new position. It would, of course, be great if Photoshop allowed for multiple duplications of a layer and not just one copy (not sure how they could implement it but perhaps it could be added via the layer menu and duplicate and duplicate multiple menu command ?) You can fill the image quickly with multiple copies of the artworks. Below you can see the artwork has had a style added drop shadow.



Layer Transformations

You can also apply rotation and scaling to the Photoshop brushes layers as well as puppet warp via the edit menu. The individual objects can be warped in all kinds of ways. To use the puppet warp then the individual layers or group of layers must be a smart object. The example below shows a number of pins added to the individual items and stretched at angles or off out of the document.


repeat distorted


You can also just add all the individual items to a layer and convert that to a smart object and then transform that or perhaps add a puppet warp etc to the layer and you can then distort the entire artwork in a more Illustrator stroke manner


bend all


You can see that the strokes become a lot more flexible when you use them as a layer or perhaps as an entire layer. The tools are, sadly, not there to add them as a layer as you add a stroke via the normal tools and that is a pity as the result would then be a very flexible nozzle painting system and a truly smart brush approach - perhaps that will appear one day in PS ?? but for now, a few workarounds are required


Photoshop brushes / Layer comps

As Photoshop layers, you can also use the layer comps feature (window menu for the panel) and then you can set up a number of different stroke layers and then create a new layer comp (as well as add styles etc). The comp saves the positions and opacity and styles of all the layers. You can then shift all the artwork and then save that as a new comp via the same panel and repeat this numerous times. You can then demo all the different layouts to your clients. You can also use it as a quick way to add the strokes to an animation with styles by creating a keyframe from each comp and this can be applied rapidly repeating the comps as required as positions etc for the animation and they can then be rendered as a new animation MP4 file etc


You can find other tutorials for use with the brushes such as how to use them with channels and how to use the brushes with Photoshop blending modes


Video tutorial

A quick tutorial on Photoshop brushes (layer) and puppet warp transformation (Youtube)