How To Install Brushes In GIMP

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Adding brushes to GIMP is as simple as finding the folder location for your brushes and placing them inside. Oh, and finding premade brushes to install!

I’ll show you where you can get free custom brushes you can use for GIMP. Then, I’ll show you how easy it is to install brushes for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

In this article, I’ve provided easy to follow step-by-step instructions for installing GIMP brushes…

Table of Contents

Step 1: Download Premade GIMP Brushes

Here’s a popular set of brushes I use for my exploding text effect.  I’ve also compiled a list of over 1,000 free GIMP brushes that can be downloaded by clicking here.

Brush File Types Compatible with GIMP

According to GIMP’s documentation, there are several brush file formats that can be installed for use in GIMP. One of those formats is Photoshop brushes! This opens up a whole new world of creative brushes for adding to GIMP.

Here’s a list of compatible GIMP brushes;

  1. GBR – This is GIMP’s standard file format. Any GIMP brushes you create have an extension of “.gbr.”
  2. ABR – This is the file extension for brushes created in Photoshop. Although the GIMP documentation doesn’t list this type, they are compatible with GIMP.
  3. GIH – These brush versions are used for GIMP animated brushes, and its extension is .gih. Also, per GIMP, “gih” is an acronym for “GIMP Image Hose.” Not sure why that is… but now you know!
  4. VBR – GIMP includes an “Editor” that allows you to create new brushes. When using the editor to develop brushes, it will have an extension of; .vbr.
  5. MYB – This type derives from another “paint” software called MyPaint. If you come across brush files of the format of .myb, then you’ll know what software was used to create it!

Step 2: Locate the Brush Folder In GIMP


GIMP brushes are stored in a specific home folder of your operating system. This folder location is different for Mac, Windows, and Linux users. However, the folder location can be found in the same place within GIMP.

Here are the steps…

  1. Open up the Preferences window by right-clicking in the middle of the GIMP interface, down to Edit, and selecting Preferences.
  2. At the bottom of the left panel, expand the “Folders” item and click on “Brushes.”
  3. The first item listed (to the right) has an “x” next to the brushes folder where they’re located. Select it, so it’s highlighted. The other options can be ignored.
  4. To the right of that, locate the icon labeled, “Show the file location in the file manager.”

Once you’ve clicked on the icon, your operating system will open the folder location to place your GIMP brushes in. Double click on the “brushes” folder to open it.

Now, locate the zip folder and unzip the brush file you downloaded. Go inside the brushes folder (if there is one) to locate them. Sometimes you’ll find additional program files with the brushes. This can include written instructions for using them, possibly copyright info, and more.

The only files you need to move are the brushes with an extension of .abr or .gbr. Select all the brushes with one of those extensions and drag/drop them into the brush folder to move them.

Step 3: Refresh GIMP To Finalize the Installation Of Your New Brushes

brush panel

Pro Tip:

Your GIMP brushes are organized alphabetically to help you quickly find the one you need.

Now that you’ve placed the brushes into the correct folder, you’ll need to refresh brushes to make them active. Although you can restart GIMP to achieve this, there is a quicker way. Here’s how…

First, navigate to the brushes panel. If you can’t see it, go to Windows, Dockable Dialog, and click on “Brushes.” Or open it with Shift + Ctrl or Command + B. At the bottom of the panel, locate the refresh button labeled; “Refresh but” and click on it.

Your new brushes are now loaded into GIMP and can be located in the Brush Panel. To locate your newly installed brushes, click on the brush icons to find the name of them. The name of it will be listed at the top left of the panel.

Bonus Step: Organize Your Installed Brushes


The following tip only works for individual .gbr brushes. If the brushes you installed are part of a brush pack (multiple GIMP brushes in one file), this will not work.

brush editor

Often times, I find the names of brushes not to my liking. Renaming is easy. Here’s how…

  1. Right-click on a brush and select “Edit Brush” to reveal the Brush Editor.
  2. Locate the text box above the brush preview image to find the current name.
  3. Double-click on the name to highlight and give it a new name!

Whats Next?

Now that you know how to install brushes in GIMP, it’s time to put them to use! I’ve created several tutorials on using GIMP brushes. This one, in particular, will show you how to make exploding text!

Also, check out this tutorial on how to create custom GIMP brushes out of text. And this one on how to create a custom stitch brush for stitching shapes + paths.

One of the most asked questions I get about using brushes in GIMP is how to resize them. Check out this GIMP tutorial to discover 3 ways to change your brush size.

You may be interested in my graphic design tutorials too.

Thanks for reading this far! If you enjoyed this tutorial, please share it with family and friends!

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