Free Photoshop CS5 Brush Sets: Natural Bokeh and Grunge Basics

Before and after: Flat / Delightfully Distressed
Flat / Delightfully Distressed

Malissa McLaughlinAdding texture and lighting effects to photos, graphics, and type is a simple way to create a mood and lend polish to a piece.

Manipulating an image-based texture to layer over your original art is one technique that can work out pretty well in some cases but I prefer using brushes most of the time. I can visualize how a brush texture will affect things a lot more clearly than I can predict what overlaying an image of a texture will do, and the ability to easily adjust a brush’s settings creates a better sense of control. These qualities help me follow through on an idea a lot quicker.

I love the flexibility of working with Photoshop brushes. But I lose all the good ones I’ve ever chanced on. I’ve downloaded some solid free sets over the years and for all that they’d add in flair and lessen in labor, I’d never once remember to back them up or copy them over from my work machine. And eventually I’d wrap the job at that place of work and then an eventual new project would call for a look my lost set of brushes would have produced perfectly. I’ve searched, but sadly no amount of Google retracing has ever turned up those same exact brushes.

Before and After: Vaguely Menacing / Pinterest Ready!
Vaguely Menacing / Pinterest Ready!

I’ve since found some fairly decent free Photoshop brush sets to replace the old (workable, but I probably won’t hurt as bad when I inevitably forget to copy them off my work machine). And I’ve mulled over maybe paying for a set if I come across really strong ones one day. If I wanted to apply texture or lighting effects to a hi-res printed piece, for example, large, highly detailed, quality brushes would be the way to go, and it’s only fair those might actually cost some money.

But I work with the web for the most part, where a lot of assets of questionable quality can be adapted to produce work that looks perfectly great at a lower resolution. So I’ve decided to continue harvesting the internet of its free things for now while supplementing with a few of my own DIY brushes.

There are a few basic effects I like to build on as the foundation to a variety of different looks. I found images that incorporated the effects I like working with and used them to create brushes in Photoshop CS5. The process, once I got over the hump of actually attempting it, was surprisingly painless (it’s barely a process, you essentially put something on screen then save it as a brush), so I’ll be experimenting with more brush making, for sure. If the results prove useful to me, I’ll share the brushes here in case they might be useful to you. The internet can always use more free things.

For starters, here are two free basic Photoshop brush sets to help you create atmosphere and texture in your own graphic art: Natural Bokeh and Grunge Basics.

Image: Natural Bokeh Photoshop CS5 Brush Set

Image: Grunge Basics Photoshop CS5 Brush Set

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