I have recently come to a new appreciation of what a good set of brushes can do for you in Photoshop. For a long time I have been ignoring the use of brushes, really only ever using them for erasing or masking. After a little research and some experimenting I have found that I have been missing out on a great aspect of Photoshop.
If you are a user of Photoshop and are unaware, you can load brush sets into your brush palette. That's right, the default brushes are not all you're limited to. Furthermore, you can make custom brushes. All you have to do is create a new file at what size and resolution you desire, create your brush on the art board and when finished go to Edit and select "Define Brush Preset...". This will bring up a window where you can name your brush and then save it. It will then appear in your brush palette.
Aside from that there are thousands of free brushes that can be downloaded for free and easily loaded into Photoshop. Here are a few good sites for free brushes.
Every Photoshop brush set I have seen has a file extension of .abr. To load a brush set once downloaded (which will also likely need to be unzipped or unstuffed) you simply need to click the menu button in the top right corner of the brush palette and select "Load Brushes..." and navigate to the .abr file and select it.
Some brushes are more useful than others but they all offer a visual element that can be easily added to any design in a quick and simple manner. I created the Unquenchable Fire desktop a couple weeks ago using various brushes that I downloaded from the sites I provided.
As I have found some good brushes can be a good alternative to stock photography and when used well can result in some good, creative visuals.