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Organising Brushes into easy-to-access Folders


Active Member
Hi, Am new to this Forum and although I've been using various versions of Photoshop since about 2000 when I first started, I think with Photoshop 4 (may have been 3) I've still got a lot to learn and tend to stick to various methods I know for working and just add new bits and pieces as and when I'm looking for a new technique.

I use a Mac running Sierra and have Photoshop CS5.

I have to admit that I get hacked off when using brushes, of which I have quite a few that I finish up trawling through a whole load trying to find a mini icon that looks like it's a grass, or snow footprint or firework or cloud, whatever and would like to organise these into folders if at all possible so that "fireworks" are grouped in a firework folder and grasses in a grass folder etc, but I just don't seem to be able to get it sorted.

I've read that I'm supposed to go into the Brush Preset Manager which I've done having opened up CS5 and navigated to that from there. I'm then told that I select a brush, Ctrl & Click and select each brush I want in a particular folder and then click "Save Set".
All well and good except when I Ctrl & Click all I get is the option to "Rename Brush" or "Delete Brush". Just what is it that I'm doing wrong and what do I need to do to do it right?

The thing is as well, that even if I rename the Brush it still shows up as "594" or "263" or whatever the size of the Brush is.......

Thanks for your help.
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...Just what is it that I'm doing wrong...
You are RIGHT CLICKING a brush preset is what you are doing wrong.

...and what do I need to do to do it right?...
Follow the instructions and click 'Save Set...'....don't right click anything.

The workflow to save any preset is the usual convoluted 'Adobe way' so its easy to get it wrong but in this case you've described the routine precisely.....unfortunately you just didn't follow it.

Thanks MrToM, will check that out.
My mum used to say if there's a right way and a wrong 'un you'll be doing the latter............ :rolleyes:
Am back again.
In the words of the Germans, I'm obviously thicker than God allows as I must still be doing something wrong as it's just not working for me.

So, I find a brush I want to add to my Grass Library and I mark it. Ctrl & left click with the mouse or Ctrl and Enter and nothing happens. If after having clicked on a few brushes I then click on "Save Set" it appears to save it but I can't open it or do anything with it.
There's obviously something I'm doing very basically wrong but am at a loss as to what that "something" is. Sorry folks. Please try and bear with me on this...............:help:
No worries.

...My mum used to say if there's a right way and a wrong 'un you'll be doing the latter...
I wouldn't say you did anything wrong, you just didn't follow the directions, that's all.

As a little added info, the 'Save Set...' button is greyed out until a brush is selected. (On opening the Preset Manager)

I assume that Macs work in a similar fashion to PCs that the Shift key is used to select a 'range' of items and the CTRL / Command? key adds to an existing selection.

Click each brush you want to save....it will be shown as 'selected' by a black border...
Use Command + Click to add further brushes...again, each one will have a black border to indicated it is selected.

Once you have selected all the brushes you want to save then click 'Save Set...'. You'll be asked for a location and name for the .abr file.

Now.....the difficult bit...

The brushes currently visible to you in the manager are the brushes available to you for use at the present moment in time.
You now have TWO choices...

If you REPLACE them then any additional brushes you may have added to the current 'Visible' ones will be lost unless you also save them as another 'Set.'
If you APPEND to them then they just get added to what you can see.....regardless of whether they are already there or not....you may get duplicates.

Did I say Adobe don't make this easy?

So.....if you JUST want your new 'Saved Set' you will have to REPLACE the current set with the ones you just saved in the .abr file.
To do this you need to open the Dialog Menu which is the tiny triangular button at the top right of the dialog window and select 'Replace Brushes...'...


If you just want to append your brushes to the current 'Set' then use the 'Load...' button and select the .abr file you saved earlier.


You see now why no one blames you for making a mess of it....totally understandable.

What you CANNOT do is 'load' just one brush from a 'Set'...its all or nothing, making it extremely difficult and frustrating to make a 'Collection' of brushes or just add ones to an existing set....you'd have to append the whole set, select out what you actually wanted (Including your original brushes), and save that as another set.

Some people have been known to have one .abr file per brush, rather than a whole 'Set' as a work-round to this problem.....its like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut but that's Adobe all over really.

i anticipate you'll have further questions so....standing by.

I'm beginning to think that perhaps I'm expecting more from this question than is available.
I've done what you've written and many thanks for that it's really clear and I've printed it out and saved it for a rainy day but what I was actually thinking of was the ability the save, for instance, my brushes in sets that would show in CS5 just as sets or groups. IE: I would click on the Brush icon and instead of being presented with a myriad of brushes I would be presented with folders labelled "snow", "grass", "clouds" etc so that if I wanted a grass brush I could click on the grass folder and I'd just be presented with them. If I then needed a cloud brush I could exit the grass folder, click on the cloud folder and I'd just see cloud brushes. Am I being thick, naive or just hopeful??
...perhaps I'm expecting more from this question than is available...

All of us have probably, at some time or another, thought exactly the same as you....'wouldn't it be nice if...'

Unfortunately we can only work with what we have...which is frustrating at best.

What you want to do IS, kind of, in a round-about way, possible.....but not exactly as you describe....ie, not by a folder structure.

As I've suggested earlier, you can create an .abr file with all your, (for example), 'cloud' brushes in it....an .abr file with all your 'leaf' brushes in it....etc etc, and load each 'Set' (.abr file) as and when you need it....or append multiple files together.

You cannot have a folder structure 'within' PS but you can name your .abr files appropriately and have THEM in a custom folder of your own on your system.

The difficult bit is getting the brushes into a single file to start with, you need to open each and every .abr file that contains the brushes you want, select them, (As we've already gone through), and save them out as another 'unique' .abr file.

For instance you may have 3 .abr files...A.abr, B.abr and C.abr. Each file may contain only one brush you want to separate out and save in its own 'Folder' of similar brushes. There is no easy way to 'select' just one brush from a 'Set' without opening the whole file....which is what makes it so frustrating to use.

So in order to do what what you want you would have to open ALL 3 files... first A.abr, then APPEND B.abr to it, then APPEND C.abr to those as well.
From this HUGE list of brushes you would then need to select the ones you want and save them to their own .abr file.....say Clouds.abr for example.

To use them you would then REPLACE the current brushes by selecting the file you just created....Clouds.abr.
This will remove all other brushes from the 'current' list and replace them with those in that file.

If you then wanted to add further 'Cloud brushes' to this set you would have to first APPEND them to the current list, (Your cloud brushes), and select them as before...INCLUDING ALL YOUR ORIGINAL CLOUD BRUSHES TOO! Then save these as before either with a new name or overwriting the original.

Your idea of selecting a 'Folder' of brushes is paralleled by using 'Load' instead and selecting the appropriate .abr file.
Its no different in reality, just a file not a folder....it still contains all your custom brushes.

One really annoying 'feature' is the inability to reload just one brush from an .abr file.....should you remove a brush from the 'current' set, (As you were accidentally doing before), you cannot simply reload it from the file....you will have to reload the file in its entirety which will mean of course...duplication! (Just to make things even more complex than they already were.)

Its for this reason that some people go to great lengths to save each individual 'brush' as its own .abr file.....meaning they can APPEND and remove single brushes from the 'current' set without the need to keep track of what brushes are grouped in what .abr file and having to 'edit' the list each time....you may want to adopt that method as it is much easier to control your 'current' set of brushes.

Remember....you can always 'organise' your brushes in the 'Preset Manager' by dragging them into a different order.....if that helps? You could even 'Divide' them by creating a 'blank' or 'solid' brush and placing it between your 'Sets' to make the 'Set' divisions clearer.....just an idea. (If you load all your brushes at once that is)

Adobe don't make it easy to organise anything in PS so don't think you are on your own...you are not.
You could make a suggestion to Adobe to introduce a 'Folder' type organiser....but I doubt even the youngest of us would ever see it implemented.

There are many things you can do to make it easier to 'organise' your brushes, but by named folder isn't one of them.....you just have to make the best of a bad [..ly written] job I'm afraid.

Good luck.


There is an error in here somewhere but I'm buggered if I can find it now.....just ignore it....EOE
Thanks MrToM, in between times thanks to this posting I've "discovered" that I can increase the thumbnail size (don't laugh.............) which makes it easier to distinguish just what sort of brush I'm scrolling by so for now I think I'll use that.
At least, thanks to your comments I now know how I can sort my brushes if I want to but for me, I think the large thumbnail route will be just as effective..............