Digital Arts has trawled the web to bring you the best free Photoshop resources that every designer should own.
The recession may be nipping at the heels of creative studios, but that doesn’t mean that Photoshop artists should be reining in their ambitions. Armed with a broadband connection and a little know-how, it’s possible to download so much fantastic creative material, brushes, actions, PSD files, textures and plug-ins – for free – that your hard drive will be left gasping for air.
Freebies for Photoshop are experiencing a boom online. From dedicated sites offering quality ready-to-use layered PSD files for design and website creation, to thousands of brushes and actions that can give your work the edge, it’s highly likely that there’s a free version of whatever you’re after online.
We’ve grouped together some of the best examples of free stuff for Photoshop that are currently available: get ready to feel like a kid in a creative candy shop as you start exploring them.
However, take care when feasting on freebies. A quick Google search for free Photoshop brushes, for example, throws up thousands of options. As with all free content, quality varies wildly – both in terms of creative prowess and technical accomplishment.
It may be tempting to download everything, but a little time spent searching on Photoshop-related blogs for community recommendations on the best free content to download will save you from having to wade through the less-than-stellar materials.
You should also pay attention when downloading anything from the web. Some sites lure you in with the promises of ‘free’ content, only to hold the best stuff back as paid-for options.
And always ensure that you have decent anti-virus software in place, so that you’re don’t accidentally invite Internet nasties onto your hard drive. Always check the terms and conditions of your downloads to ensure you’re not breaching any copyright terms.
Free Photoshop textures
Textures breathe life into layered effects and flat scenes – allowing you to add anything from dirt, swirls, mould and metal, to paper and floral textures to your work.
Everything from oil stains to veined marble is available, and to kick off Jasen Robillard has selected 36 cool free textures on Flickr, all with Creative Commons licences – you can view the texture list with links to the high-res images at Abduzeedo, run by Digital Arts contributor Fabio Sasso, tinyurl.com/5kvjan.
If paper, canvas and metal are more your bag, then visit Tutorial 9, tinyurl.com/6ch57d, for 99 fantastic textures, including aged paper, peeling paint, watercolour, diamond plate metal, and wrinkled fabric.
Textures can more usefully be downloaded as texture packs – grouping together similar texture styles. Web Design Ledger, tinyurl.com/64qech, features 29 excellent texture packs, including old book covers, wood, fabric, brown packing paper, and cardboard – each loaded with high-quality textures for the asking.
Free Photoshop brushes
While Photoshop features a basic line-up of brushes, they’re not what you’d call inspirational. Luckily, the creative community has stepped up and the web is awash with free Photoshop brushes. For a combination of sheer quantity and quality, British graphic designer PaulW has crafted over 1,000 brushes designed to appeal to Photoshop artists.
Heavy on the clean vector tech-style, you can download the brushes packages at tinyurl.com/5bc9lu.
For splatter, watercolour and spraycan brushes, Tutorial 9 has over 250 brilliant paint-effect brushes tinyurl.com/632xtu – as well as other brush types such as creative doodles.
If your creative tasks require something a little more out of this world, then DesignM.ag has one of the largest collections of space-related brushes at tinyurl.com/6prxdc. It has over 500 brushes covering everything from galactic backgrounds to hazy comet trails and gaseous nebulae.
Another more unusual set that’s worth considering is an astonishing human brush collection that features over 55 brush sets covering the human body – from comic art characters and retro figures to felt-tip sketches and fingerprints. It’s available at Web Resource Depot tinyurl.com/5rkpbz.
Photoshop brushes are also a great shortcut to capturing current design trends – and Six Revisions plays host to over 50 free Photoshop brush sets that tap into what’s hot right now tinyurl.com/5acn63.
With sets titled Girls In Trouble, Rebel Teens, Rusty 80s Arcades, and Pencil Tracing, they offer a unique slant to Photoshop’s default brush set.
Brushes also don’t have to be limited to small sizes – the 100 Awesome High Resolution Photoshop Brushes directory hosted by Photoshop Roadmap tinyurl.com/2mfozo features high-resolution brushes covering spirographs, hair strands, smoke, bugs, fireworks, and more.
Free brush sets that include eyes and handprints can be found at www.webresourcesdepot.com
Free Photoshop patterns
Photoshop patterns are the Swiss Army knife of creative work – ideal for deploying in anything from filling large areas, logo work, online design, or just seriously cool fill options. Jayson Akers at AzAkers.com has collected nearly 500 excellent examples tinyurl.com/75jnec including stripes, high-resolution fills such as lunar textures or mould, and charming cutesy patterns.
For free pattern sets that include complementary patterns, check out Emma Alvarez’s collection of 50 free pattern sets tinyurl.com/5ue373 – featuring everything from animal skins and floral patterns to fire and seasonal offerings. A great selection of high-quality, quirky patterns are available from the excellent Pixels & Ice-cream website tinyurl.com/6lcfbw, including damask and wallpaper-style patterns.
Pattern haven Brusheezy tinyurl.com/ca2cxg features user ratings to help you choose from the hundreds of options, while Free Photoshop Patterns tinyurl.com/baux8p claims to be the world’s largest site from free patterns, and you can download multiple pattern sets with a single click.
Finally, pattern maestro Squidfingers tinyurl.com/566yvs has over 150 patterns, all suited to web and Photoshop work, free to browse and download.
Wallpaper-style and damask patterns by Jen Furlotte, at Pixels & Icecream.
Free Photoshop cheat sheets
Mastering Photoshop takes time – and usually, you need a nifty shortcut or hard-to-remember feature in order to speed through your work. So it’s a relief that there are vast numbers of downloadable Photoshop cheat sheets. These handy tools will boost your Photoshop skills and help you carve through projects in less time.
All Graphic Design features 27 downloadable cheat sheets, tinyurl.com/9hd2y6, for every version of Photoshop, including CS4, and include shortcut guides, pen and path tips, toolbox references and even how to master the Lasso tool.
Specky Boy tinyurl.com/5otlbp has 17 downloadable cheat sheet cards covering brush use and shortcuts for all versions of Photoshop back to version 7.
Samples of Photoshop cheat sheets.
Free Photoshop plug-ins
Plug-ins are the biggest enhancements you can add to Photoshop, unlocking powerful features that can help boost your creative work. Some plug-ins are one-trick-ponies, such as those for creating TV scanlines or an image mosaic, while others deliver a suite of tools aimed at a particular arena, such as text effects.
One of the most popular free plug-in suites for Windows users is OptikVerve Labs VirtualPhotographer tinyurl.com/b4e4d6, with millions of users. It includes over 50 presets that automatically apply combinations of film grain, colour correction, black and white, soft focus, high contrast and artistic effects to achieve professional-looking images.
A more à la carte approach is offered by plug-in maker AutoFX, tinyurl.com/d65uyt, which offers two of its Mac and Windows commercial plug-ins – Dreamy Photo and Mosaic – for free.
Dreamy Photo adds a soft, romantic feel, while Mosaic transforms images into a tiled effect. There is a whole category of plug-ins dedicated to delivering visual effects. Harry’s Filters for Windows tinyurl.com/d65uyt is a set that includes 69 filter effects covering zoom, glass, old film and 70s pop styles.
Cybia has seven fantastic free effects plug-ins up for grabs tinyurl.com/ckzbda in the form of its Fotomatic collection. Highlights include NightScope for simulating night-vision effects, Techni-X for high-contrast effects suitable for illustration work, and HighSpot for powerful black and white colour conversion.
Commercial plug-in maker Flaming Pear tinyurl.com/b8j86x has an array of free high-quality plug-ins for Mac and Windows, including warp, tile, colour conversion and Solidify that fills gaps with the nearest colour.
Design studio Richard Rosenman has 24 Photoshop plug-ins, available free for Windows tinyurl.com/gnh7s including 3D spheregeneration, scanlines, and lens effects. Filter Forge has a collection of three plug-in suits for Windows users, including seven metal effects filters, seven photo effects, and seven filters to create different photo frames tinyurl.com/b7nwcv – Mac versions are planned for the future, according to the site.
Free plug-ins also surface in unexpected places, including on Polaroid’s website. It has a free Mac and Windows dust- and scratch-removal plug-in for Photoshop tinyurl.com/5qms.
Finally, a collection of 41 plug-ins for Windows from Xero Graphics in the UK tinyurl.com/abckr4 includes such gems as Porcelain, Moonlight, Skycleaner and Sparkles.
AutoFX’s free Dreamy Photo plug-in in action. The top image is before the plug-in effect was applied.
Free Photoshop PSD files
If your creative project needs a jumpstart or if you’re looking for a way to showcase your designs in a real-world context, then you could do worse than head online and hunt down some of the thousands of free layered PSD files available.
Deviant Art is a hotbed of free layered PSD files to download – but be sure to read any licence requirements beforehand, and credit the original artist. Highlights from the online community’s offering of free templates include a fantastic skateboard tinyurl.com/6e3jpa and cassette tape tinyurl.com/3p6vwk as shown below, as well as a great T-shirt tinyurl.com/ap4bw2.
For more workaday PSD files for corporate work, PSGalaxy tinyurl.com/dhtmgj has a huge collection of layered files, including filmstrips, business cards, Web 2.0 stickers, frames and stamps.
For out-and-out creativity, pay a visit to Design Bum tinyurl.com/cpn3e7 to see inspirational artwork. Best of all, you can download each piece as a project file, with each one around the 200MB mark.
For Designer tinyurl.com/cqjeve has a huge directory of layered PSD files, along with lashings of vector files for download. Topics covered range from people to landscapes, and fashion to food PSD files.
Free Photoshop actions
Actions in Photoshop were designed to remove the multi-stage drudgery of repetitive tasks in Photoshop, such as colour-converting images. Yet with some creative know-how, designers have been creating and sharing Photoshop actions that push the tool to its limits.
Photoshop actions pull together a series of steps, including menu choices, filters, and resizing – and you can even batch-process a folder of images for instant creativity.
The UK’s Turning Turnip site tinyurl.com/ca9wps has a great collection of free actions for photographers and artists, ranging from comic and watercolour effects, to pop-art and photo-grain actions.
PanosFX has 38 high-quality actions to download from its site tinyurl.com/d7aja, including its excellent Rainy Day action, jigsaw-creation action, and spiral-bind action.
For a unique take on Photoshop actions, Finesse FX tinyurl.com/ce7uky includes over 65 free actions that are geared to artistic output. Highlights include the excellent Old Parchment, TackIt mini action, and lots of actions for creative text effects.
If you need more traditional photographic actions, Shutter Freaks tinyurl.com/amxzao has a directory of actions, including photo frames, bleaching, B&W conversion, and canvas painting.
Before and after PanosFX’s brilliant Rainy Day action is applied: the action mimics the effect of raindrops on glass over the image.
Top ten best free Photoshop resources
With thousands of free Photoshop resources to choose from, it can be hard to sift the good from the garbage. Here are our picks of the standout brushes, filters, PSD files and more to get you started.
1. Blood cell brushes
A sublime collection of brushes.
2. Weathered wood brushes
Free collection of weathered wood brushes.
3. High-tech warfare brushes
Go to war with this collection from Bashcorpo.
4. Vintage Two PSD file
A fantastic example of the astonishing quality of free-to-download PSD files.
5. Photoshop web templates
Start your web design from a solid base with this collection of decent templates that includes all the elements that you’ll need.
6. Deluxive Creative Pack 01
A sterling collection of Photoshop files geared to vector-style Web 2.0 graphics, giving your site an instant facelift.
7. Newspaper template PSDs
This tickled our fancy and is easy to reuse for your own newspaper montages.
8. The Works Photoshop filters
Windows-only free download of the previously available commercial package that includes a decent array of filters and effects.
9. Space: the final frontier
Over 1,200 downloadable images from the Hubble Space Telescope of the entire known universe – with the site updated regularly.
10. Creative doodles brushes
Sidestep the computer-generated feel of Photoshop art with this brush set.
Four great textures from Jasen Robillard’s selection of 36 textures, all with Creative Commons licences.