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Creating Custom Strokes in Expression, Part 3

Grayscale-mapped brushes and artistic effects By Dave Nagel
We move now into our final installment in this series exploring custom brush creation in Expression 3. Previously we looked at methods for creating creamy-looking paint brushes, as well as repeating image-based strokes. Now we take a look at another technique that uses grayscale mapping of the brush nib for both wet and dry media effects.

Expression 3 is a vector illustration program that also includes the ability to map raster images onto paths, allowing you to apply any type of brush stroke to an image with the advantage of vector editability. The program, now owned by Microsoft, is at the moment free for Mac OS 9, Mac OS X and Windows. I recommend you download this software now because it won't remain free forever. You can find it at http://www.microsoft.com/products/expression/default.asp?pg=home. (You must register for a free Microsoft Passport account to download the software, but that appears to be the only restriction.) If Microsoft ever decides to complete development of Living Cels (the animation version of Expression), this technique will also work for that application.

Also, if you haven't done so already, you can read our previous installments in this series here:

Part 1: Wet and Creamy Brush Strokes
Part 2: Repeating Strokes

In this installment, we're going to use a slightly different technique for creating our brush strokes. Rather than using an image per-se as our brush's nib, we'll be using the image's grayscale values for the nib. This approach offers two significant benefits over the previous techniques: first, it lets you colorize the strokes within Expression, rather than using the source image's color values; and, second, it allows you to create drier, charcoal-like strokes in addition to the creamy effects we've explored previously.

Creating the nib
Once again we begin the process in a graphics program like Adobe Photoshop. You don't have to use Photoshop at all in the process; that's just where I'm starting. Any raster graphics creation program will work fine. For this example, I'm going to create a nib that will eventually be used for a dry stroke that will (hopefully) bear some resemblance to charcoal or conte crayon. Here's a quick look at this simple technique.

1. Starting with a canvas 512 x 512, use Photoshop's 300-pixel soft brush to place a black circle in the center of your canvas.

2. Command-click on your brush layer to select its contents.

3. Apply Filter > Render > Clouds to the image.

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Related Keywords:creature house expression, microsoft expression, skeletal strokes, how to make skeletal strokes, sk strokes

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