Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tools vs Cheating, a Photoshop BrushesTutorial

When I talk to traditional artists (even the one in the mirror) I often find myself discussing Photoshop as something akin to an artistic moral gray-zone. One woman at a coffee shop once asked me what "Real Artists" think of what I do. I tried to explain that I am a "Real Artist" and that Photoshop is just a tool, but Photoshop seems to have a deceptive "Cool Factor" that sets it apart from "Real Painting." Truth be told, I often find myself wondering how much my artistic muscles are atrophying by using this particular tool. I was asking one of my teachers (a traditional artist who has never used Photoshop) about this particular dilemma. He asked in return if I had made the computer I was working on. No.... I didn't. Did you make the car you drove here in? No. Before this, did you make the brushes you used? No. Did you grind up stones to mix your paints? No.
When I was in fourth grade, I had to do free hand geometry drawings. I had to learn to draw a circle, and even complex patterns, without the aid of tools other than my pencil. In fifth grade I had to make my own compass. By sixth grade I was allowed to use a real compass, and by that point I had learned its value. A compass is not a cheat for making circles, it is merely a tool. If it is used before you learn to draw a circle, however, it becomes a crutch and thus a cheat.
Photoshop is a very powerful program, and it is what I do a great deal of my paintings on. Regardless of how powerful it is, there is no "make awesome $*@% painting" button. This always strikes me as a bit of a disappointment whenever I find a new trick. Nonetheless there is easily enough depth to drown oneself in.

Making Brushes
So, enough with the long winded intro, time for some tutorial-ness. Several people have asked me how to make brushes in Photoshop, so I figured I would just make a demo. The first thing I would suggest, before making any brushes is to learn how they work. Go to Windows and pull up the brushes menu.

This is going to be your new best friend. Don't worry, though it's not very talkative, it is also not much of a secret keeper.

My suggestion would be to play with every setting until you find out how each one works.

This is your standard brush. Nothing has been added or changed, it is at default. Note that for this brush, default already has been modified--the brush changes size depending on the amount of pressure you apply.

So really this is default.

These are all that same brush while just playing with the section.

Above are different settings for the same brush in the section.

This is also the exact same hard brush with the exact same color of orange selected--with different brush settings turned on. Play with your existing brushes and the brush settings until you are fairly confident that you know what each one does. If you want to know what the brush does without testing it, look to the bottom of the brushes menu.

Note that the box at the bottom does not show color changes so if your are turned on, you may not know it by looking at that preview. Also Color Dynamics can get a bit dicey, so if you have them turned on they may be affecting your color in bizarre ways.
Now, take an hour and play with those brush settings with different brushes you already have. And have fun with it. Remember that you have UNDO at your fingertips (the one function in Photoshop that really IS a cheat) Also note that if you make changes to a brush, they are temporary--you are not permanently changing your existing brushes, so don't worry about messing up a good brush. If you do find a setting that you love, save it. Even saving it won't overwrite your old brush settings.

Let's make a brush!

First you want a new document. You want it to be grayscale. If it is in some other mode, go to images and change it to grayscale.

Now Let's make a new layer and paint something on it. Photoshop views brushes much like a rubber stamp that has already been rolled in ink. The part of the image with black has ink on it and will thus print. The part that is white will not. Gray will be a lighter opacity.
This is just a random shape I made.

Then I painted some texture over the top to make it a little more fun.

Now go and define brush preset, and put in the name you want. Now save. Look at your brushes menu, it will now have a new brush at the is yours.

This brush is at default and is hence inches from useless.

So here is where your previous knowledge of the brushes menu comes in handy. Let's play with it.

Once you have something that you like, save it.
Now you have your own brush that YOU made. Go paint something weird and wacky =)
In the Vein of cheating, remember, brushes are tools. The more you can control them, the less they will control you--and the less they will feel like a cheat. A brush won't do the painting for you, but the right brush at the right time can give you a little added support.

I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to post them.

...Blogger says that I am exceeding the maximum space allowed for a post, so I shall sign off now and wish you all a fantastic day!

No comments:

Post a Comment