Brushes Or Overlays?

You may wonder why I offer some French Kiss Collections products as Photoshop Brushes and others as Overlays. In fact, you may wonder what the difference is between Photoshop brushes and Overlays! Technically, there isn’t really a difference between an overlay and a brush. They both are black on a transparent background. If you open up an overlay .png file in Photoshop or Elements, you will see the checked background that indicates transparency. If you stamp the same image as a brush onto a new layer, you will see the exact same thing. (Providing no other layers are turned on.)

Butterfly Overlay

Butterfly Overlay with transparent background.


So, if they are the same thing? Why have one over the other?

Brush Or Overlay?

When I decide whether to create something as a brush or an overlay, I consider these things:

  • How will it it be used? If it’s just an image that is to be used like a stamp, then it doesn’t really matter if it’s a brush or an overlay. If it is a grunge or paint brush or even shape brushes, then there are a multitude of settings for brushes that allow a build up of pattern, scattering, re-sizing and even painting with dual brushes. (Subjects for another post!)
  • How large is the image? Photoshop brushes pre-CS6 only allow for a brush size of 2500 pixels. Photoshop CS6 and above allow for a 5000 pixel brush. While I have found that brushes hold up pretty well enlarged and sharpened, I always opt for quality when I have a choice. Some of my overlays, such as large sections of vintage French script are over 7000 pixels. I’d rather maintain the quality of these by keeping them as an overlay.
  • Convenience. It’s sometimes just more convenient to quickly load a collection of images as brushes rather than opening each file separately.

Here’s the butterfly brush from above “stamped” onto a section of a watercolor texture.

Butterfly Photoshop brush

Butterfly brush “stamped” onto a section of a Digital Paper.

Which Do You Prefer?

There are a few other considerations as a user as to which format you may prefer.

  • Overlays can be easier to browse than brushes using Adobe Photoshop Bridge or an image database program, though not necessarily. See this article on Managing Your Photoshop brushes.
  • If you have an older version of Photoshop (pre-CS2), Photoshop Elements (pre-Elements 6) or even a different software program, you will not be able to load the French Kiss brushes. However, you can extract the .png files. See this article.
  • Some people feel more comfortable with one format. I know some people can feel intimated about learning to load and use Brushes and others aren’t sure how to use the Overlays. Both are super easy and I have a number of articles to help you. Check out these posts on Photoshop Brushes and Overlays.
Brush Posts Overlay Posts

You’re Covered

Whichever format you prefer or need, there are ways to make brushes from overlays and overlays from brush files.

Shop Now

Let me know in the comments which you prefer, Brushes or Overlays.


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