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By Ars Grafik

organize-brushes-photoshopI am a collector by nature, and my squirrel-like tendencies are always with me, whether I’m at a thrift shop, bookmarking websites, or downloading Photoshop brushes. Lucky for you, I’ll save you the play-by-play of the state of my closet post-thrift shopping and focus instead on how to easily organize Photoshop brushes. Vista users, this is especially for you!

You see, I’ve amassed enough brushes that they won’t all fit on my screen when I open the library to switch out a set. I have to use dual monitors just to see them all (which totally cramps my style, by the way, because I’m the kind of gal who likes to work at coffeeshops. And they really don’t like you setting up camp with your dual screens, even if you bring smores).

The other issue I’ve had with my brushes is that I can’t find the ones I need when I need them because they’re named something awful like “MM_spring_buloxi” or whatever file name the author decided to use. I needed some organization. So I finally bit the bullet, turned on the iPod, and decided to do some spring cleaning. I started in the brushes folder under Adobe Photoshop Presets:


From there, I tried to simply rename the file. In Vista (I know… if I weren’t poor I’d buy a Mac. Apple gods, will you send me a free one please?????) :), this presents a problem because whenever you’re in the C: drive, the operating system is set up in such a way as to assume that you are an idiot who will screw up anything and everything you touch, so it gives you a pop-up dialog box whenever you attempt to change something. It basically says, “We assume you have the intellectual capacity of a first grader, so we’re not going to let you make this change on your own. Only administrators can do this. If you are an administrator, make sure you are aware of what you’re doing before the changes are applied. Should we apply changes?” And it does this for every single action you take while in the C: drive. Since I had hundreds of brushes to manipulate, this was going to be a problem.

In my humble opinion, the nanny controls are the most frustrating thing about Vista. But I figured out how to turn them off!


In your control panel, go to “User Accounts” and select “Turn User Account Controls On or Off.” Uncheck the box and hit ok, restart your computer, and the annoying Vista nanny is gone for good.

At this point, I opened up a blank document in Photoshop and tried out all the brushes to see what they were and if I wanted to keep them. I had a lot of duplicates, and some of the brushes were just crap. I put the brush presets folder side-by-side with Photoshop and renamed the brushes as I went according to their subject matter:


Mind you, this took most of the day. But it was well worth it. I now know where everything is and scaled down the size of the folder to make room for more.


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  1. Jason

    … I also find myself torn between the coffee shop and my dual monitor setup :)

  2. Cyndi Hall

    May I suggest ABR Viewer as an alternative to loading and trying each brush in Photoshop? It’s free, and I use it regularly. You may find this a great time-saving alternative!

    Hope it helps!

  3. Kendall

    Thanks for the referral, Cyndi! I’ll have to spend some time tonight trying it out.

  4. 4elves

    I love you to pieces man!!

  5. Lia

    I wished and wished for a Mac, then was given one at work.

    So I moved all my files over.

    I HATE it. I’m a designer. I have about 50 folders for 50 different projects. I name the banner psd “banner.psd” for all of them. Try and search for them all, yeah the Mac finds them but then you have to do “get info” for each one (or change some such setting and still click on each to see where the dang thing is located. On windows. I glanced at the path to the folder and voila. Yeah changing permissions on Vista is a headache but it’s far better than the constant problems I have on the Mac. Photoshop is twitchy at best, the thing crashes, although my Roku, PS3, Wii, personal laptop all do fine with my wirless, the mac drops it all the time. I use multiple monitors. Oh my god what idiot thought of leaving the application menu on one screen when the application is on another? You can only choose one little sprout because Steve Jobs knows better than you how you should work.
    can’t wait to ditch it.

    sorry tirade over.

    ps tons of free windows applications out there.

  6. Obcali

    Um… how about not naming all of your files the same name? Sounds more like an organizational issue than an operating system issue, either way.

    I might recommend using an identifier and THEN _banner.psd? I assume it’d be difficult to find photos as well if every picture on a drive had its own folder and was named “photo.jpg”.


  7. Russell

    Ok, so… I’m a total newbie to photoshop. I have CS5 and a brickton of brushes. I have tried renaming them, but they do NOT show up in the list like I want them to. I’ve played around with it for like a half hour. Can anyone please help?

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