1. Technology

How to Install Free Photoshop Presets

Find and Use Free Brushes, Layer Styles, Shapes, and Other Presets

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Photoshop Preset Manager

The Preset Manager in recent versions of Photoshop makes preset installation very simple. | View Larger

© S. Chastain
PresetViewerBreeze

PresetViewerBreeze is a useful manager for viewing and organizing Photoshop Preset files. | View Larger

© S. Chastain

There are hundreds of Web sites (including this one) offering free Photoshop brushes, layer style effects, actions, shapes, patterns, gradients, and color swatch sets. Here's what you need to do with these files to get them working in Photoshop, along with links to where you can find these free goodies.

Downloading the Presets

In some cases my links go directly to a preset file instead of a zip file. This saves you the extra step of having to "unzip" the file, but some browsers don't know how to handle these file extensions (abr for brushes, csh for shapes, asl for layer styles, and so on) so it tries to open the file in the browser. When that happens, you see a page full of text or code gibberish. The solution for this is simple: instead of left clicking the download link, right click it and choose to save the linked file. Depending on your browser, the right click menu option will be "Save Link As...", "Download Linked File As...", "Save Target As..." or something similar.

Easy Installation

In recent versions of Photoshop, the Preset Manager is by far the best way to install presets. The instructions below are for older versions of Photoshop (released before 2009) that did not have the Preset Manager. Most presets can also be double-clicked to load them into your version of Photoshop, or if you have multiple compatible program installed (such as Photoshop and Photoshop Elements) you can use the "open with" command to choose the program where you want to load the presets.

I also recommend TumaSoft Preset Viewer or PresetViewerBreeze if you have a lot of presets you want to preview and organize.

Brushes

Place the *.abr files into:
Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop X\Presets\Brushes where X is the version number for your version of Photoshop.

Brushes created in Photoshop 7 or later will not work in earlier versions of Photoshop. Any Photoshop brushes should work in Photoshop 7 and later.

From the Brushes Palette in Photoshop, click the small arrow in the upper right corner of the palette, and choose load brushes. The brushes will be added to the current brushes.

Free Brushes

Layer Styles

Place the *.asl files into:
Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop X\Presets\Styles where X is the version number for your version of Photoshop.

Free Layer Styles

Shapes

Place the *.csh files into:
Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop X\Presets\Custom Shapes where X is the version number for your version of Photoshop.

To load a file, go to the Styles palette, then click the small arrow in the top right corner and choose one of the layer style collections from the menu.

Free Shapes

Patterns

Place the *.pat files into:
Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop X\Presets\Patterns where X is the version number for your version of Photoshop.

To load a pattern set, go to the Patterns palette (in the fill tool, Pattern overlay style, etc.), then click the small arrow in the top right corner and choose one of the pattern collections from the menu, or choose "Load Patterns" if the set is not listed in the menu. You can also load patterns via the Preset Manager in Photoshop 6 and up.

Free Patterns

Gradients

Place the *.grd files into:
Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop X\Presets\Gradients where X is the version number for your version of Photoshop.

To load a file, go to the Gradients palette, then click the small arrow in the top right corner and choose one of the gradient sets collections from the menu.

Free Gradients

Color Swatches

Place the *.aco files into:
Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop X\Presets\Color Swatches where X is the version number for your version of Photoshop.

To load a file, go to the Swatches palette, then click the small arrow in the top right corner and choose one of the swatch collections from the menu.

Actions

Place the *.atn files into:
Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop X\Presets\Photoshop Actions where X is the version number for your version of Photoshop.

To load an action set, go to the Actions palette, then click the small arrow in the top right corner and navigate to the location where you saved the action. Select the file you'd like to load and it will be added to the actions palette. Learn more about creating and using actions from my links to Photoshop Action Tips.

Free Actions

Zip Files

Most of the free Photoshop content on this site is distributed as Zip files to reduce download time. Before the files can be used, they must first be extracted. Zip file extraction is built into the operating system in Macintosh OS X and Windows XP and later. Consult your computer help if you're not sure how to extract zip files. After extracting the files, place them in the appropriate folder as indicated above.

Note: Most of these files can actually be saved anywhere on your computer, but to make them available from each tool's menu, they should be located in the appropriate folder under Presets. If you keep the files in another location, you will need to navigate to that location each time you want to use them.

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