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How to use Photoshop Brushes as Layers Tutorial

photoshop brushes layers tutorial

How to use Photoshop brushes as layers tutorial (such as using transparency). You can create a new layer and apply brush strokes to the Photoshop layers. The brush layers can be duplicated using the alt / option key. You can also add layer styles to the Photoshop brush layers. You can also store the brush layers into the CC libraries. You can duplicate the brush layers and align the layers as well as distribute in Photoshop. You can also apply transformations such as scale and rotation and warps etc to the brushes. You can also set the Photoshop brush layers as a comp and create multiple layouts of the brushes (or use in timelines). You can also group the Photoshop brush layers. This tutorial shows you a number of ways of using Photoshop brushes as layers.

  1. Layer menu in Photoshop

  2. New layer

  3. Select brush tool

  4. Set color

  5. Apply brush on layer

  6. Alt / option to duplicate brush layers

Brushes as layers in Adobe ® Photoshop ®

multiple brush layers applied

Many of the brushes sets (on this site) contain PNG images that contain transparency and they can be used as layers when either imported via the place command (embedded or linked)


  1. file place command (re-size as required)

  2. window menu and layers


You can use them as a layer or multiple layers (or duplicate the existing layer) as well as apply layer styles to the stroke such as the red object right.


If you have already loaded the brushes and the brushes are in the brush panel then you can use the Photoshop brushes as layers by adding the strokes to layers


  1. Layer menu

  2. New layer

  3. Select the brush tool and select color

  4. Select brush stroke

  5. Apply once or multiple times to the new layer

Add layer styles to the brushes

brushes layers and the layer style and bevel and shadow
  1. Layer panel and select the layer

  2. Layer menu and layer styles


You can see the result on the right adding the styles via the layer styles menu command


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.


Left, the panel and you can quickly remove the effects as well hide the object or even delete it via the panel simply by clicking the eyes in the layer menu or selecting the effect lines such as drop shadow and dragging them to the delete layer button

Libraries and the brushes and Photoshop layers

layers and photoshop brushes libraries

With the latest versions of Photoshop, you can now add artwork to the CC libraries simply by


  1. Selecting the brush layer

  2. Drag to the CC library (window menu to display libraries)


If you want to re-add the brushes to the document as a new layer then


  1. Select item in the CC library

  2. Drag to the document (adding a layer)


The great thing about storing the Photoshop brush layers in the CC libraries is that can easily be accessed again in other projects as well as it is a great way to safely store your artwork (though I would always make an additional backup of the work)


Use brushes with the duplication of layers

photoshop brushes layers and alignment

The Photoshop brushes layer can be duplicated quickly by holding down the alt / option key with a layer


  1. Select a layer

  2. ALT key / option drag and release

  3. Generates a new layer and a new stroke in the new position.


The brush layers can also now be aligned and distributed using the standard align and distribute tools for layers (select all the required layers) and layer menu and align command etc. You can then select multiple layers and then duplicate those to quickly create a grid of the brush strokes (obviously in any images the designs are not going to be circles etc but something a little more complex perhaps)


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.

Layer Transformations

repeat distorted

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.


You can select the individual layers in the layers panel and move the brush layers to different locations (something you cannot do if you use them just as brush strokes and apply to the background - and the brush strokes can be smudges or painted designs as well as just circles as on the left). You can also transform the different layers


You can also apply the brush stroke as a layer and then convert that to a smart object and edit that smart object will result in all the connected brush layers being changed


  1. Apply brush stroke to layer (one or multiple strokes)

  2. Layer menu

  3. Smart objects

  4. Convert

  5. Generate multiple copies of the smart object using alt / option

  6. Go to the layer panel

  7. Click on the smart object thumbnail and edit the smart object (perhaps make smaller etc)

  8. Save the PSB and all the connected smart objects will change and transform at the same time

Photoshop brushes / Layer comps

photoshop brushes layers comp

As Photoshop brush 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 (if set via the panel). 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 such as with the layer comps on the left. The first layer comp was a the basic grid and then the individual brush layers were moved and then the layer comps was then created and then they were moved again and a layer comp was then saved and the final layer comp included the shadow effect added to the brush layer via the photoshop styles panel.


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

Groups of Photoshop brushes layers

smart objects photoshop brush layers

You can also select brushes and then group them. Perhaps you have brush stroke layers in one area of the image and you wish to remove those or perhaps apply effects to that one area then you can by using groups


  1. Layer panel

  2. Select the Photoshop brush layers required

  3. Right side menu and new group from layers


or use a new group and drag items into that group


You can also move the group as a group of brush layers but weirdly you cannot just select one part of the group and move the entire group, you have to manually select all the layers in the group and then move that. Generally I prefer the smart object option but you can also do that and just go to the layers and smart objects and convert the entire group into a smart object and then move that smart object as well as adding effects / smart filters to the entire group as well as adding smart adjustments Via the image menu and adjustments) to change the color etc of one part of the brush stroke


1. How to use Photoshop brush strokes with channels and in separate channels tutorial

2. how to use the brushes with Photoshop blending modes such as lighten and darken and difference

3. Polka dot brushes and how to create them tutorial

Related sets

1. Photoshop / psp / Affinity Photo brushes packs and collection set including 10000s of great brush strokes

2. diamond and frame brushes

3. distress circle snd rough circular brushes

Sources and references

1. Layers basics on

Youtube Video tutorial

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