How To Use the Paintbrush Tool in GIMP {Complete Guide}

large featured paintbrush

The Paintbrush tool is more than just a painting tool. A lot of your retouching tools will utilize the Paintbrush too. For example, the Heal Tool, Clone Tool, Dodge + Burn Tool, and more are applied with a brush.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the Paintbrush. Oh, and yes, this is perfect for both photographers and graphic designers. If you’re ready… let’s do it!

Table of Contents

What Is The GIMP Paintbrush Tool?

The Paintbrush tool is similar to that of Photoshop. With it, you can either paint, draw, illustrate, or retouch your images.

There are many features in the Tool Options to custom your brush to assist you in achieving your creative vision. Plus, there’s a brush dialog that contains brushes in different shapes. If that wasn’t enough, you could even install premade brushes from other artists, or if you prefer, create your own!

Paintbrush Tool Options

paintbrush tool options

Before accessing the Tool Options, you must have the Paintbrush tool selected. Either find it on the toolbar or press the letter “P.” This will update the Tool Options to show the settings available for it. If the Tool Options panel is not visible, go to Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Tool Options.

Key Modifiers

Two import keys can be used when using the Paintbrush.


Two import keys can be used when using the Paintbrush.

Brushes Dialog

brush dialog

To achieve your creative vision, you need to ensure you have the right brush selected for the job. To reveal all the available brushes go to Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Brushes. 

My paintbrush panel includes brushes I’ve created myself. It also includes brushes created by other artists. The default brushes created by the developers include four types of brushes.

Ordinary Brushes

These types of brushes will apply the foreground color you’ve chosen even though the Paintbrush looks black.

Color Brushes

These brushes are not black and instead are colored. When you apply these brushes, the colors in them will override the foreground swatch.

Image Pipe PaintBrush

This paintbrush type is indicated by a small red triangle in the lower right of the brush symbol. These types of brushes can create more than one type of mark based on its shape.

Parametric Brushes

These brushes were created in the PaintBrush Editor. The editor allows you to generate a wide variety of paintbrush shapes and edit existing brushes.

PaintBrush Editor

brush editor

At the bottom of the Brush Dialog window, you’ll find 6 icons to manage your brushes: edit an existing brush, create a new one, duplicate a paintbrush, delete, refresh the panel, and open the Paintbrush as an image.

To create or edit a brush, click the appropriate icon. If you’re editing an existing brush, I’d recommend duplicating it first. This way, you’ll always have the original!

Once inside the editor, experiment with the different sliders and shape options. Make sure to give your new Paintbrush a name. By default, it’s set to “Untitled” (at the top).


What's Next?

I’ve put together a list with thousands of free brushes you can download and install. Don’t forget to explore dozens more free tutorials and more advanced tutorials here.

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