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.