If you use Adobe Photoshop for design work, you’ve no doubt used a custom brush at one time or another. Experienced designers probably have a handful of custom brushes installed. Then there’s people like me—Photoshop Brush freaks, who have hundreds upon hundreds of brushes at the ready, just waiting for the perfect excuse to use them.
The problem is, once you download and install a custom brush set, it’s easy to forget what they look like later on. This is especially the case when the brush author names the incredibly handy grunge paper brushes he designed something really clever, like “cool brushes by Bob.”
Until recently, there were only two options for previewing Photoshop brushes you download from the Internet. Unfortunately, while handy, neither was a truly great option.
Brush Pilot, by Jay Hilgert, is a simple application which allows you to preview, install and delete brushes anywhere on your hard drive. That’s right, you don’t even have to install the brushes to preview them. This alone makes it worth its weight in gold because 9 times out of 10, the sample image listed on a brush preview site looks fantastic, but when you actually download the brush you often times don’t get what you think you are.
Brush Pilot not only finds brushes installed in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, but any random brush found on your hard drive, and it keeps them separated for easy organization. One click allows you to install or delete a brush set, and scalable previews display instantly when selecting a brush from the list.
Brush Pilot handles 8-bit and 16-bit brushes in all known formats and any size. I have quite a collection of brushes, and didn’t come across a single one that didn’t display in the preview window quickly and accurately.
The only thing lacking in the current version of Brush Pilot is the ability to print or even export a contact-sheet of your brush sets. The developer is considering adding such a feature in a future version though. Outside of that, I could find nothing that wasn’t to love about Brush Pilot.
The application requires Mac OS X 10.4.11 or higher, a copy of Photoshop 7 or higher, or Photoshop Elements. Brush Pilot is available for $15, with a demo version available for download.
[James Dempsey runs The Graphic Mac, which offers tips, reviews and commentary on all things Mac OSX, Adobe Creative Suite, and the Internet.]