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Creating Custom Brushes for Film Gimp

Two methods for building basic paint tools By Dave Nagel
Interest in Film Gimp seems to have grown exponentially between the time of its introduction on the Mac platform and Apple's release of its own X11 public beta. And with good reason. Film Gimp is an open-source, 16-bit image editor and film production tool that runs in various X11 environments. It also happens to be free. Apple's X11 beta, also free, has enabled not only Film Gimp, but a whole wealth of open-source applications, to run on Mac OS X in a familiar environment and with a level of performance that makes all of these applications truly viable on the Mac.

Most of us can agree that this is a fairly congenial set of circumstances: a powerful creative tool operating in a powerful environment at no cost.

Relatively few people have worked pretty darned hard to make it all come together. Nevertheless, this has all happened fairly quickly with limited resources, and there's still work to be done. One of the things left to be done is the creation of some tools that will allow you to work with Film Gimp the way you need to work. Hopefully, today, we'll start you down the path toward the creation of these tools that you need.

Over the next several months, I'll be showing you different ways to build these tools. For now, we'll start with one of the fundamentals: paint brushes. (Note that if you are not yet up to speed on Film Gimp, there are links at the end of this article for further resources.)

Creating brushes for Film Gimp
Film Gimp started out with an extremely limited library of paint brushes. This was expanded in version 0.14 with the inclusion of several brushes that had been introduced in this publication. But these still might not cover the range of brushes you need to get your work done, whether it be painting, touch-up or rotoscoping.

There are two types of brushes that can be used in Film Gimp. One of these--circular or ovoid brushes--can be created automatically within the Brushes dialog in the program fairly easily.

1. Open up the Brushes palette (File > Dialogs > Brushes or Dialogs > Brushes, depending on the window you're accessing this command from).

2. Click the New button.

3. The brush you create will be placed toward the end of the list of available brushes in alphabetical order (as Untitled, Untitled#2, Untitled#3, etc.) Select this brush, and click the Edit button.

4. In the Edit dialog, make any changes you wish to make--to Size, Hardness, Aspect Ration (roundness) or Angle, and then hit the Close button.

Of course, you might need brushes with more complexity or texture than the ones that can be created using this method. So the program also has the capability to use image files as brushes, with a little modification.

1. To begin, open an image created in any application and saved in one of FIlm Gimp's supported file formats (Targa, TIFF, etc.) Or simply create a new image in Film Gimp. Either way, the image you open will serve as the brush tip shape for our brush. This file can be any size. For this example, I'll create a brush that's 100 x 100 pixels.

2. Now convert the image to grayscale using Image > Grayscale.

3. Then convert the image to 16-bit float (Image > 16-Bit Float).

4. Choose Image > Colors > Invert.

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