Digital Painting: Street Scene
Illustration by John Hersey

Brush categorization


Digital Painting: Street Scene

with John Derry

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Video: Brush categorization

When you start amassing a large variety of brushes, organizing them can get pretty messy if you don't have some sort of system for categorizing them. Well, I've done the heavy lifting here and I have come up with a naming convention system that makes it easy to quickly locate the brush you want. Let's take a look. First and foremost, the brushes I'm basically using throughout this are all designed around the Mixer Brush, and for those of you new to CS5, it's a new brush that has a very nice natural media capability associated with it.
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  1. 8m 50s
    1. Welcome
      1m 11s
    2. Using the exercise files
    3. Installing custom brushes
      7m 0s
  2. 22m 3s
    1. Understanding the visual vocabulary
      4m 46s
    2. Using the vocabulary of photography
      6m 41s
    3. Using the vocabulary of painting
      7m 1s
    4. Looking at reality through a mental painting filter
      3m 35s
  3. 10m 22s
    1. Understanding that resolution is in the brush strokes
      3m 6s
    2. Understanding the subject
      7m 16s
  4. 16m 1s
    1. Removing lens distortions
      2m 33s
    2. Using the Free Transform tool
      4m 42s
    3. Using the Lens Correction filter
      4m 36s
    4. Understanding the ACR lens correction profiles
      4m 10s
  5. 12m 23s
    1. Working with Vibrance
      3m 14s
    2. Using the Match Color command
      2m 59s
    3. Understanding the traditional paint color swatch set
      6m 10s
  6. 16m 6s
    1. The eye has a bettor sensor than a camera
      3m 16s
    2. Using the Shadow/Highlight filter
      3m 17s
    3. Using the HDR Toning filter
      5m 23s
    4. Understanding how RAW files provide malleability
      4m 10s
  7. 14m 42s
    1. Working with the Reduce Noise filter
      2m 50s
    2. Working with the Surface Blur filter
      3m 6s
    3. Using Smart Blur for simplification
      2m 51s
    4. Working with the Topaz Simplify plug-in
      5m 55s
  8. 31m 10s
    1. NDLP: A creative safety net
      5m 1s
    2. Using custom actions
      9m 41s
    3. Using the reference layer
      5m 29s
    4. Cloning layers
      6m 5s
    5. Working with the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer
      4m 54s
  9. 17m 28s
    1. Brush categorization
      10m 1s
    2. Working with canvas texture
      3m 41s
    3. Using Sample All Layers
      3m 46s
  10. 12m 48s
    1. Being willing to destroy detail
      7m 21s
    2. Establishing the painting style
      5m 27s
  11. 25m 1s
    1. Simplified indication
      9m 3s
    2. Understanding color
      4m 10s
    3. Introducing texture
      11m 48s
  12. 17m 36s
    1. Providing rest areas for the eye
      6m 55s
    2. Focusing on the subject through detail
      10m 41s
  13. 24m 20s
    1. Being willing to depart from the original
      6m 48s
    2. Creating detail to enhance the artwork
      8m 36s
    3. Creating physical surface texture effects
      8m 56s
  14. 10m 33s
    1. Waiting a day
      4m 14s
    2. Examining your importance hierarchy
      6m 19s
  15. 57s
    1. Goodbye

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Watch the Online Video Course Digital Painting: Street Scene
4h 0m Intermediate Aug 12, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Learn to think like a painter and render images from photographs that look like they were created with oils or acrylics, using the latest digital artist's tools. Author and artist John Derry introduces the process of interpreting a photograph into a painted work of art. He begins by explaining his system of visual vocabularies, which describe how to replace the elements of an image with expressive painterly qualities, and also shares the custom brush sets and actions he uses to achieve these results in Photoshop. The course also covers working with filters, layers, effects, and more to add further detail and texture.

Topics include:
  • Understanding that resolution is in the brush strokes
  • Understanding the subject
  • Removing lens distortions
  • Using the traditional paint color swatch set
  • Making shadow and highlight adjustments
  • Simplifying details with filters and Smart Blur
  • Cloning layers
  • Using custom actions
  • Working with canvas texture
  • Creating physical surface texture effects
John Derry

Brush categorization

When you start amassing a large variety of brushes, organizing them can get pretty messy if you don't have some sort of system for categorizing them. Well, I've done the heavy lifting here and I have come up with a naming convention system that makes it easy to quickly locate the brush you want. Let's take a look. First and foremost, the brushes I'm basically using throughout this are all designed around the Mixer Brush, and for those of you new to CS5, it's a new brush that has a very nice natural media capability associated with it.

So it's much different than the traditional Brush tool that we're used to in Photoshop. This one lets you mix paints together. The brushes can be dirty in that they pick up color from the canvas and it contaminates the color on the brush. There's just a number of things the Mixer Brush can do that you can't do with the older brush. So that is one of the key things about these brushes. And associated with the Mixer Brush is the Options bar up here. It just has several specific controls that are Mixer Brush unique.

They are not going to be found anywhere else and it's for that reason that all of my brushes are actually tool presets. Once again, if you're old school Photoshop, you're probably used to brush presets and they've served and continue to serve a good purpose, but a brush preset is not capable of saving this added information associated with the Mixer Brush. The only way to save this so that all that data about the brush is contained within a single definition is to save it as a tool preset, and that's why you'll find these all in the Tool Presets panel.

A unique feature of the Tool Presets panel is this Current Tool Only toggle that you have, and I am going to turn it on for a second and show you why you don't want to have it in this state. A lot of times you may be temporarily using a different tool when you're working with layers that you're painting, and you can see that if the Current Tool is selected, what happens when I go to something like the Move tool, which doesn't have any tool presets for it, nothing shows up in that panel.

If it's unchecked, however, I can be in the Move tool and all of my tools associated with the Mixer Brush still show up. The other thing that this offers is, even if I'm in a different tool and I select a tool over here, not only does it highlight the tool over in the Tool Presets panel, but it's also changed from the Move tool to the Mixer Brush tool. What this offers then is a one click access to a wide variety of brushes found within my Tool Presets panel. So the idea here is to give you a very efficient workflow that makes it very easy, whether you're in the Mixer tool or you've temporally switched to a different tool, you can go over here, click on one of these, and boom, you are in that tool and it's ready to use.

So you want to take advantage of that. The other thing that I've done is I've taken advantage of another component of Photoshop CS5, which is the Bristle Tips. All of these brushes, and you can even seen it in the previews that are provided when I put one of these brushes on the screen, I have all different kinds of Tips I can work with. There is actually five different basic kinds. There is a Point, a Blunt, Curve, Angle, and Fan, and then they're repeated both in the Flat and the Round types.

So you've got these ten brushes that are very intrinsic to how the brushes are designed and it's for that reason that I use this naming convention as a way to organize all of my brushes. If we look at this kind of chart I have created, you can see that I start off with Shape, so I start off with one of those five shapes. A brush is always going to be named initially either Angle, Blunt, Curve, Fan, or Point. Then you can go from there and you can say, well, which one of the two variations is it? It's either going to be Flat or Round.

Then we get to the Function, and this is where I've added names that describe what you can expect these brushes to do when you use them. For example, the Cloner Brushes, they work in concert with my cloning layer. So that when you paint with a Cloner Brush on a cloning layer, you will literally be painting with the color that is associated with your source image. When you paint with Opaque, just as it says, it's going to paint with an opaque brush that covers with the color you've chosen from your color palette.

And then Smeary is like Opaque except it blends colors. So that let's say I've got blue on my canvas and I've got yellow on my brush. When I start painting on the blue, it will initially do yellow, but it will start to mix in with the blue, and in fact, in this case you'll kind of get a green intermediate in there. So mixing is something you can do very well with the Smeary brushes. Finally, we get down to the finest Character of them and these are just the modifying words that really kind of tell you exactly what you're ultimately going to get with them.

A Dirty brush happens to be a technique in painting where when you have a brush say with blue on it and then you paint on a canvas that's got wet paint on it, not only are you going to apply some blue to the canvas, but you're going to pick up some of the existing wet paint. So if it's got greens and yellows or whatever, your brush will no longer be a solid blue brush. It's now going to have been contaminated by those yellows and greens and the next stroke you make will be different, because those colors are now on your brush, and the same thing repeats itself.

So each time that brush dips into wet paint and paints, it's picking up more of that color. So they call that a Dirty brush, and there's a technique I can do to make brushes be dirty with my brushes. So some of them you'll find will have that dirty categorization. A Dry brush is a brush that doesn't have much paint on the brush tip and what happens is as you start to paint with and it runs out of paint very quickly. So it's just a brush that's going to do a short stroke. A Fine brush is nothing more than a brush with a very fine tip.

So you can assume that Fine brushes you can use for detail work, for example. Then a Floppy brush is actually a brush that's got pretty long bristles on it, but the tension on those bristles is very low. So when you move it around on the canvas, and we'll see an example of this in a little bit, iIt flops the brush hairs around and you get a rather exaggerated, somewhat uncontrolled stroke out of it, which can be very good for expressive purposes. So this whole set of nomenclature is really designed to give you a quick way to be able to understand what a brush is going to do when you select it.

I've taken the list, which is the same list as you see over here in the Tool Presets panel, but I can't break them out like this and unfortunately I can't add color to them. But I just color coded them so that we can see how they sort of break out. For example, you'll see Fan Brushes by far have more versions of themselves in this list than the other ones. Why is that? I just found that the Fan Brush, because of its character, has a lot more variability that I can control. But each category is represented, so we have Angle Brushes first and you can see how they break up into Flat and Round categories, and so on through the list.

And it's just a way to quickly identify what brush you're going to use. So without that being visible we don't have this nice charting. Well, let's just go to a blank screen. I'll just demonstrate a couple of these brushes to show you. For example, if I take an Angle, Round Opaque, well, I am going to get an Angle Brush, and as I rotate my brush around you can see it has an angled tip. And what I'll get then is a character that is indicative of a brush with that angled tip, and it's opaque, just like we said, so if I get a different color, it's opaquely covering over the last color I had.

Whereas a Smeary Brush, let's get a very different color. Okay, at first it looks it's doing the same thing, but look what happens here. See how it's blending in with the color underneath of it. If I do it enough in one area, I'll pretty much build up to the full Opacity, but otherwise it wants to blend colors. Let's look at a Dirty Brush and we'll start off with a color here. So it's starting off with this orange, but if I end right there, where that other color was, watch what happens.

See, now the brush has been dirtied with the color I picked up before. So each time this brush ends up in a color, some of that color is now on the tip of the brush, and every time you paint with it, you're going to get a different stroke because it's constantly being contaminated by the last color it was in contact with when you stopped painting with it. Let's look at a Floppy Brush, because that's another one that's got some pretty interesting characteristic here. We'll go with this Round, Smeary Floppy here, and once again, I'll just pick a different color.

And what you can see is this brush exaggerates and even when I kind of press down, it's almost like I can press and make the individual hairs splay out from the brush. But as I draw with it, you get these exaggerated, kind of very interesting irregular strokes and once again, you can use this for very expressive characteristics in the type of painting you may want to do. Well, we've been able to take a look at a sampling of these brushes. Obviously we didn't have time to go through all of them.

But throughout the rest of this project I will be using a pretty broad selection of them so that you'll see them in action there. I also advise you to take the time to just play with these brushes and experience for yourself the kind of expressibility you can get out of them.

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