Brushes vs. Overlays

When I would have to choose if I must use brushes or overlays, I would reather go for brushes in most cases. On this page you will find some of my reasons why I prefer brushes, and a list of some cases where you are better of using overlays. So lets first check in which cases you want to prefer overlays instead of brushes.

When to use Overlays

There are some cases where you do not want to use brushes but rather want to go with these nice overlay images.

One is when you need something with multiple colors, for example a bokeh overlay effect or a tattoo overlay on skin.

Another good reason is when you need a really high resolution. For brushes to work with older Photoshop versions, I keep my brushes under 2500px in size(but above 2000px whenever possible). Also there is a maximum size for brushes in most graphic editors, and the bundles on the market also often do not contain a high enough resolution that would be needed for bigger printings.

When you need a texture, for example in a 3D rendering, you also would rather go with Overlays than with brushes. Instead of first creating a texture with brushes and importing it into your 3D tool, you are faster just using an overlay directly.

Now let’s have a look what the amazing brushes can do for you.

Placing the same Thing multiple Times

When you want to place the same thing multiple times, using brushes you will only need to place the cursor where you want it and click. If you want to do the same with an overlay layer, you need to copy it, select each layer and place it where you need it.

Using a fractal brush multiple times.


Resizing a brush is faster than transforming an image you use as an overlay, especially when you use keyboard shortcuts. I just use two keys that are right aside each other on the keyboard and can increase and decrease the brush size very fast by hitting those keys.

Resizing brushes on the fly with keyboard shortcuts


By using the brush settings you can create very dynamic designs you would need a long time when you would do it with overlays.

Using brush settings to create a dynamic effect.

Changing between designs

When you load a whole brush collection, you can switch between the brushes really fast. Also here I use some hotkeys to change the designs.

Changing between brushes using keyboard shortcuts.

Other Positive Aspects

Above can help you to improve the performance of you workflow, but the following advantages are also quite neat:

  • You can easily change the overall color of your brush
  • You can change the opacity and Belnding mode of the brush.
  • You can easily use it on a layer mask, what would involve selecting and pasting in case of overlays.
  • When used on a layer mask, you can do a lot of nice adustments, check out this post for some ideas.

Where to get Brushes

When you want to use brushes commercially and need them in high resolution, searching for some good brushes in the world wide web with the vast amount of brush resources, and finding what you actually need can be quite a lot of work,

Luckily there are some Design Asset Creators like me, who put in some effort to create some stunning resources for a lot of different topics. The brushes I have used in the animations where created by me and are available for purchase.
If you are interested in my work, or you are in desparate need of some good high resolution brushes, feel free to visit my Creative Market Shop.


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