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Custom Strokes in Expression 3, Part 2

Creating repeating chain-link brushes By Dave Nagel
In our previous installment in this tutorial mini-series, we took a look at the basics of brush creation for Creature House Expression 3. Now we'll move into some of the more advanced brush creation features, specifically the ability to create repeating patterns from raster images. This technique can be useful for creating everything from dry, natural brush effects to freeform repeating patterns, such as chain and rope.

Just to backtrack a little, if you're not familiar with it, 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. Having been acquired by Microsoft, the program is at the moment free for Mac OS 9, Mac OS X and Windows. I can't recommend strongly enough that you download this software now before Microsoft realizes what it has. 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 the first installment in this series covering the basics of brush creation by clicking here.

For our tutorial this week, we'll use Expression to create two different types of repeating brushes, both of them using a photograph of a chain as the pattern. For those of you who don't have your own chain images and would like to follow along, you can download the images I'm using by clicking here (72 KB). These two files (Chain1.psd and Chain2.psd) are compressed using Stuffit. You can download the free expander from http://www.stuffit.com/expander.

Simple repeating pattern
We'll begin by creating a simple repeating pattern: one chain link repeated over the course of the stroke. For this, we'll use the Chain1.psd file.

Import the image into Expression (File > Insert Bitmap). You will see the image with a mesh grid on top of it, as in the image above. Then choose Stroke > Define as Bitmap Stroke. In the dialog that pops up, define your brush just as described in the previous tutorial, but set the Body Section parameter to "Simple Repeat."

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Related Keywords:creature house expression, expression 3, microsoft expression, sk strokes, skeletal strokes, custom brushes, chain links

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