David Gell's Blog

...a Painter brush maker and explorer who likes to share
  • Birth of a Sand Art Brush

    In my previous article on brush creation, I mentioned that the current project I am working on is to simulate sand art. Those who know Painter will generally agree that because of the broad and immense depth of the application, there is often more than one way to achieve the desired result. Referring again to my previous post, I had assumed that a special eraser would be required to build up the density of the 'sand' media at the edges adjacent to where in the analogue version, the hand or finger had dragged the sand off a selected area of the glass. In Painter, I was able to achieve this effect in the 'sand' brush stoke itself, rather than in a subsequent erasing process (although the Eraser tool was deployed selectively in Painter IX.5 to remove any unwanted sand particles).

    The recipe for the sand brush employed the Watercolor Airbrush dab type, which I had experimented with previously whilst developing a spatter toothbrush variant. It was discovered that by using the Watercolor Profile tip from the Size palette in combination with the Wacom tablet's stylus tilt and bearing support, the effect I was looking for was achievable. Below is a doodle I did in Painter IX.5 to demonstrate the effect;

    The Next Steps in the Brush Making Process

    Although there is no reason why the Sand Art brush could not exist as a single variant in say the default Watercolor brush category, my ultimate aim will be to create a brush category of sand art related variants in order to be able to produce finished sand artwork with the minimum of brush library/category switching.

    The next stage in the process involves making references to the analogue version combined with detailed exploration of the main parameters and settings which influence the brush characteristics I am interested in. In this case, providing the results in Painter are visually pleasing, I do not feel the need to replicate the analogue equivalent exactly.

    As the brush creation process evolves, more unique variants will then be saved when differences in the strokes produced are deemed to be useful. Further refinements to the brush settings are made along the way, followed be a variant renaming session if required. I will also use custom BBEdit scripts to convert the variants xml files to Painter 7 format, or the lowest Painter version in which the brush strokes can be replicated (I no longer convert below version 7 of Painter).

    If you would like to try a couple of the initial stage 'sand art' brush variants yourself, then I have created a zipped folder with 2 variant xml files which will work in Painter 7 and above. This is a 'no frills' download, so these are not in the usual brush library format with ReadMe instructions. To load the variants, the corresponding xml files must first be added individually to an existing brush category folder, prior to loading and selecting the respective brush library and category.

    Download (4 KB)

     A Few Pointers to Working with the Above Variants

    Use stylus tilt and bearing to produce the darkened edge to the brush stroke.

    The Feature value influences the size of the particles as well as the width of the darkened edge region.

    A slower moving brush stroke produces a denser edge due to the pooling effect of the Watercolor Airbrush Dab Type.

    Try varying the angle of tilt and also stylus pressure on the tablet whilst painting the strokes.

    Due to the stylus tilt and bearing method of applying the media, it is advantageous to make full use of the Rotate Page Tool.

    Experiment with varying the Diffuse Amt (diffuse amount) setting in the Water section of the Brush Controls.

    Also experiment with the Flow setting in the Airbrush section of the Brush Controls.

    ...and most importantly, have fun :) 


    Posted Oct 03 2007, 05:21 AM by David Gell with no comments
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  • David Gell on Brush Creation

    More is Less or More is Best?

    Looking at some of the posts on various forums from artists new to Painter, one of the comments made is related to there being so many brushes, where does one start. In the trial version of Painter X, dddo has reported 833 default brush variants in 36 categories. I just did a quick test which took me 32 seconds to select 10 consecutive variants, painting a single brush stoke with each before selecting the next. Allowing say another 2 seconds to switch between each brush category, then by my calculation we are looking at over 45 minutes to brush our way through the whole library.

    Do we need such vast numbers of brushes at our disposal? On the face of it, there does appear to be an overwhelming quantity of variants. When we examine individual brush categories however, the picture does become a little different, and in some cases is probably at least comparable with the number of individual tools and materials accumulated over the years by the traditional artist. I would however question whether it is necessary to have what may be essentially the same variant in several different pre-saved sizes. I say 'may' because for some types of variant, there are instances where other brush settings have to be further modified when changing size in order to give the same uniform appearance.

    I have read reports that some Painter savvy artists will generally use only a handful of trusted, sometimes customised variants, whilst others (like myself) love to experiment with a great diversity. There are even artists out there who don't use layers or erasers, so the user requirements are as diverse as the brushes themselves. As I see it though, having such a large collection of brush variants is necessary for the new Painter user, not only to demonstrate the great diversity of brush strokes possible, but who will probably find adjusting the brush settings (other than the basic size and opacity) a little daunting to begin with.

    Recipe for Success

    Apart from anything else, presumably an artist wants to devote most of his or her time to painting, not spending all day making brushes or fiddling with settings. Well, to be truthful, you may be relieved to hear that it is not essential to learn what each and every brush setting option does, but such knowledge comes into play when one desires a certain look or characteristic to a brush stoke which does not appear to be available in the default brush library, or obtainable by simply changing brush size or opacity. At some stage you may also wish to create your own custom captured dab brushes, so again, a familiarity with the associated brush controls will come in very useful, not to mention the added level of confidence that knowledge will bring.

    A good analogy to variant settings, which in turn produce unique and distinctive brush strokes may be borrowed from the world of cookery in the form of a recipe. Each ingredient (Resaturation for example) has an associated quantity which in Painter's case is adjustable by a slider, and sometimes a controller (the method adopted to adjust the amount of the ingredient to taste). Once the user is happy with the recipe, the associated settings can be saved as a new custom variant in Painter, which in turn can be shared with other users across both Mac and PC platforms if desired. Such is the nature of the post Painter 6 brush variant file format.

    To discover what each brush setting does, there is information in the Painter manual and help documentation, but personally I have made most progress by simply changing the various brush control slider values etc. and noted the effect each change had on the brush stroke subsequently produced.

    Inspiration for Brush Collections

    As I produce brush libraries for sharing with others, I tend to base the variants in the library or category on variations around a theme (Winter or Summer Meadow for example), or group together variants of a similar media type or style (like these). If possible, I try to avoid mixing say Watercolor or Liquid Ink variants with each other or with variants of other brush method types, due to the fact that special layers are required for the both Watercolor and Liquid Ink method variants, effecting the workflow of the more novice user as they attempt to try all the variants in that category. Other users may not like Impasto and non-impasto variants mixed in the same brush category.

    Inspiration for a new brush library is often sparked by one or many of the characteristics of a single variant stroke (usually a custom variant). I then endeavor to focus on what it has about the stroke which interests me, and subsequently which control or controls influence this characteristic. The collection then develops around this base variant, which in turn may be further enhanced by tweaking the brush settings. Occasionally I will use the Randomizer in Painter, which as the name suggests, randomises the brush settings, in the hope that this will produce something interesting which can be further developed. Other times, I may maximise some of the existing parameters of a variant in an attempt to achieve unusual or exaggerated stroke characteristics.

    Failures and frustrations are many, but these make the successes more rewarding. I guess the most frustrating is when one wants a specific look or characteristic which is impossible to achieve with the current brush algorithms or settings. What I'm working on at the moment is to try and achieve the look of backlit sand art renderings. To mimic the action of the hands or fingers moving the sand (erasing and building density at the edges), it looks like I need a special kind of eraser which probably does not exist yet in Painter.

    Posted Sep 23 2007, 09:15 PM by David Gell with no comments
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  • A New Twist on Palette Knives (Painter IX/X)

    A while ago on my Brush Port Blog I posted a 2-part article on the subject of creativity and inspiration. Although aimed more at the concept artist, in part 2 of the article, there are links to a collection of custom Painter resources which you may care to download.

    Of particular note is a technique I stumbled upon for controlling the twisting movement/ frequency of a custom loaded palette knife variant (Lumi Twist LP Knife) by changing the scale value of the current pattern (via the Patterns palette). This method in combination with the custom Pattern resources can also produce some very graceful flowing ribbons;

    The image below demonstrates the effect of changing the Pattern scale value on the brush stroke produced. For the stroke on the left, the pattern scale of the custom Checkerspots pattern was set to 50%, whilst a value of 200% was used for the right hand brush stroke.

    For the technically minded, the stroke Angle is set to Source for the Lumi Twist LP Knife, which means that as the luminosity of the source (defaults to current pattern) changes, then so does the angle of the brush stroke. Generally speaking, increasing the scale of the pattern has the effect of making the changes in luminosity further apart, therefore the twists in the brush stoke also become further apart.

    Below are the links to my original blog posts (the custom resources can be downloaded from part 2);

    Creativity and Inspiration Part 1

    Creativity and Inspiration Part 2


    Posted Sep 21 2007, 09:59 PM by David Gell with no comments
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  • Welcome to my Blog on Painter Factory

    For those of you who don't know me, I'll begin with a short introduction into how I became involved with Painter.

    I originally purchased a copy of Painter 6 for my wife, who paints with traditional media as a hobby. Unfortunately Hazel did not express any interest in computers (even ones with Painter installed), so rather than let some quite expensive software and hardware collect dust in the corner, I decided to take the plunge myself. This entailed becoming self taught in both Painter and the Mac OS.

    Having more of an inquisitive mind, I discovered that the great depth of Painter satisfied my needs not in creating finished artwork, but by exploring the interface, the tools and the amazing way Painter simulated natural media art materials. Soon after joining the In Depth Arts forums, I became very interested in building custom brush variants, and also gained a reputation for Painter file conversions between the Mac and PC platforms, allowing other members to more readily share resources. More recently I have been involved with beta testing for Corel, as well as posting on various Painter related forums and newsgroups.

    Purpose and Direction

    I believe Painter is as much about sharing and creating a community spirit as the artwork produced. With that in mind, through this blog I will be sharing custom Painter resources, tricks and tips with you along the way. If you find any of these resources useful, I'd love to see the artwork produced.


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