Using Ron’s (Deviney) Photoshop Brushes in GIMP

If you are a Daz 3D customer, and haven’t yet taken advantage of the Fast Grab 70% discount on Ron’s brushes, these are a fantastic deal. The bundles especially are amazing value. They have been there a couple of days now but look set to stay for the weekend.

I know the first time I treated myself to some Deviney Photoshop brush sets I was worried that they wouldn’t work in GIMP. However, GIMP can read the Photoshop .abr format just fine. Here’s a quick post on how to get them from your product library into GIMP. There are a few forum posts with similar information but the forum can be hard to search once things vanish from page 1, so I thought it worth sharing what I do myself, step by step. This process works for any other brushes you have downloaded from free brush sites too.

Loading an .ABR File in GIMP

  1. Forget about DIM or DAZ Connect installation. You need to go into your Product Library while logged into the store and select the Manual Download option.
  2. Grab the .zip file from your downloads, move it and then extract it in a location of your choice. This can be anywhere that makes sense to you. We’ll move the relevant parts to GIMP in a moment.
  3. Navigate through the extracted file structure until you find the .abr brush file. This is the one you will copy to GIMP.
  4. The .abr brush file needs to be copied to GIMP’s brushes folder. Find it under Users/YourName/.gimp-2.8/brushes. The .abr goes inside this folder. You might already have some .gbr files in there if you’ve previously installed or created brushes made specifically for GIMP. That’s OK, .abr (Photoshop) and .gbr (GIMP) can co-exist.
  5. Open GIMP. If you have added a lot of new brush files, it can be slow to load. (Did you already have GIMP open when adding brushes? In that case, you need to have the Brushes dialog (tab) visible and right at the bottom, below the Spacing slider bar, you’ll see blue arrows in a circle in the right-hand corner. Click that to refresh the brushes. If you don’t see it, double-check that this window isn’t sticking out past the lower edge of the screen.)
  6. Now you have all the brushes that were stored in that one .abr file. With Ron’s brushes, this can be anywhere from around 70 to well over 100.

Note that by loading the .abr you can use the brushes as stamps, and you can change their size, opacity, aspect ratio, angle and colour. You can assign tags to them in the brushes dialog, but can’t edit them, change their names or delete them. If you’d like brushes that can be deleted, use the alternative process below. If you are happy to have the whole set loaded at once, skip to GIMP brush dynamics section… or just go enjoy your new brushes!

Splitting a Photoshop .ABR File into Individual GIMP .GBR Brushes

There’s another way to add brushes to GIMP if you don’t mind a little extra work, and this way will let you add only the brushes you want from a set, not the entire contents of the .abr file. This can be helpful if you are getting slowed down by having a lot of brushes you don’t use.

  1. Go to SourceForge to get yourself a copy of abrViewer.Net. It’s free. Install to a location of your choice.
  2. Run the abrViewer .exe. Click on File (top left) and Open Brush Sets. Navigate to the .abr file you want to open. If it’s a large one, as many of Ron’s ones are, nothing will appear to happen at first but if you wait the brush previews will load.
  3. Now click on Export and choose Thumbnails. Choose a location and hit OK. You don’t have to store these inside your GIMP brushes folder, they can go anywhere for now.
  4. You will now have PNG copies of each brush. If you want to process some more with abrViewer, I strongly recommend you first hit Clear, then All. If you don’t do this, the software is likely to run out of memory and crash.
  5. Once you are ready to move on, open the PNG brush image of your choice in GIMP. It will have a transparent background. That’s fine.
  6. Choose the Image menu and change the Mode to Grayscale.
  7. Export the image, saving it as a .gbr in the brushes folder with your GIMP file structure (remember, under Users, not in the installation directory). Use the name of your choice, and add a description. This description is what appears with the brush dimensions in the Brushes dialog when you click on one of the small brush preview images. As some brushes can be hard to make out in this tiny preview icon (tip: you can click and hold for a larger one), a meaningful description is helpful. I haven’t found a way to edit the description so you need to get it right first time.
  8. Repeat this as many times as needed to get the brushes you want. It’s important to change the mode to Grayscale each and every time. If you don’t do this your brush won’t be able to use colours.
  9. Your new brushes won’t show in the Brushes dialog until you hit those blue refresh arrows. See them? Give them a try in new blank image (NOTE: check that this blank image is RGB by clicking Image > Mode and setting it from Grayscale to RGB if needed). I find it useful to test new brushes with a colour, to double-check they were saved correctly. If you are creating a lot of them, one or two can easily get missed when it comes to selecting the right Mode.

Doing it this longer way still doesn’t let you edit the brushes, but it does let you delete those you don’t need. Dynamics will work just the same as before.

Using GIMP brushes with Dynamics

For using the brushes for more of a painting style than a stamping one, you need to use dynamics. GIMP does have dynamics, though they may not be as sophisticated as those in Photoshop.

To experiment with dynamics, head to the Tool Options dialog in the Toolbox. You’ll see an icon there that looks like blue round-ended arrow and 3 red dots. Click on this to access all the different dynamics options.

Basic Simple is a good one to start with. You’ll notice the brush rotates as you move the mouse or stylus. Other options will also add size and opacity effects, fading, even random colours (selected from a gradient). Track Direction is particularly useful, and Dynamics Random will give you a mix of all the dynamics. However, there are several others to also try out.

If at any point you find you’ve ended up with a setting you don’t like, you can always simply choose the Dynamics Off option to go back to using the brush as a stamp (which is still a very useful and versatile option for post-editing and texturing).

I hope you find this guide to using Photoshop brushes, such as Ron’s, in GIMP to be helpful. You’ll also find that Ron includes a PDF overview of the brushes, and occasionally .jpg background images and PDF tutorials within his brush sets, depending on which you bought. Make sure you save these out somewhere useful too, as abrViewer won’t see them when importing the .abr. Unfortunately the tutorials can be hard to replicate in GIMP but you might pick up some ideas from them.

As far as I’m aware, you can’t use .csh or .asl files in GIMP and you could also experience problems with .psd layers. Complex .pat files using more than one layer in Photoshop are also unlikely to work in GIMP. This will affect some of the Deviney brush sets, particularly newer ones such as the Sci-Fi Custom Shape Tools series that rely heavily on Photoshop-only capabilities. That said, there are only a few sets where this will spoil the fun for GIMP users — most of them only have .asl, .psd or .pat options as bonus content and are still full of useful brushes that will go into GIMP without any problems at all.

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About Indigo

As a digital artist on a budget, I'm fascinated by what happens when art and technology meet, and love discovering affordable ways to make that happen.
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