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Creating Custom Strokes in Expression 3

Part 1: Full-color 'natural-media' brush strokes By Dave Nagel
One of the strengths of Creature House Expression 3 is its ability to map raster artwork onto paths, giving you a wide range of options for generating brush strokes without the heavy overhead that you might get when using vector-based brush nibs. These types of brushes in Expression are called "Skeletal Strokes." The program includes some of them, and we've provided a number of free brush collections using this technique. But there are times when you just want to design your own brushes.

In Part 1 of this series, we'll look at the creation of the most basic type of Skeletal Stroke (also called "SK Stroke"). This type basically uses a picture with predefined colors as its brush source (also known as a "nib"). This can be useful for creating brushes that repeat an image over the course of a path, such as a chain link, or to produce creamy-looking "natural media" brushes. We'll look first at creating natural media brushes. In Part 2, we'll explore repeating brushes. And in Part 3, we'll examine some variations using grayscale mapping for our brushes.

Here are some examples of the brushes we'll be creating today.

Incidentally, if you don't have Expression 3 yet, please note and heed the fact that Microsoft is currently giving it away for free for Mac OS 9, Mac OS X and Windows. This won't be a freebie forever, so I urge you to pick it up now. You can download it from http://www.microsoft.com/products/expression/default.asp?pg=home. If you wait too long, I don't want to hear your grumblings later. This is a fantastic vector illustration program.

Creating the 'nib'
The most difficult step in this process is the creation of your nib. How you create it will depend on the way in which you plan to use it--not just for the final appearance of the brush, but also for the type of path it's being applied to, such as a closed shape or an open curve. We'll assume you'll be working with open curves, as you would get when using the Paint Brush tool.

For my example, I'm going to create my nib in Adobe Photoshop. You can use any raster graphics program to do this though.

I'll start with a canvas measuring 300 x 300 pixels (72 PPI), and, using a hard, 200-pixel brush, I'll place a circle in the middle. Remember, using the technique we're exploring today, the color you choose will be the color of your final brush.

Now I'll apply a 9-pixel Gaussian Blur (Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur) to the circle, just enough to give it a slightly soft edge.

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Related Keywords:creature house expression, skeletal strokes, custom brushes, microsoft expression

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