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Layers and Alpha in Studio Artist 3, Part 2

Layer backgrounds and eliminating fringe By Dave Nagel
We've seen now how to set up Synthetik Studio Artist 3 for basic operation with transparent layers. That's a one-time setup. But there are some aspects of alpha channels that you'll want to mess around with on a project by project or brush by brush basis in order to change around the way any given brush interacts with transparency and the elements it comes into contact with.

One of these has to do with the canvas background. Studio Artist is a complex program that uses any number of the thousands of available parameters to determine how paint (color) is applied to the canvas, and experimenting with these settings can help you to create a tremendous amount of variation in the way your brushes display color on the canvas. But on a more basic level, a lot of what you see on your screen in terms of brush strokes on transparent layers has to do with the layer background.

Setting the layer background
In the previous installment in this tutorial series, we looked at setting the default background color for our canvas--basically what you see in the transparent areas of the canvas, like the checkerboard in Adobe Photoshop. (You can read the previous installment in this series by clicking here.)This is not the same thing as the layer background. The layer background can be a solid color, but it can also be an awful lot of other things: the source image, orient, texture and several other things as well. What makes the layer background a little difficult to understand when working with transparent layers is that it isn't always visible. But whether you can see it in front of you or not, it does have an effect on the appearance of your brushes. And sometimes the effect is something that you don't want, such as fringing on the edges of your brushes. (We'll address this fringe issue on the next page of this tutorial.)

The layer background that you choose is applied to the currently selected layer and any subsequent layers that you create with this setting applied. You set the background up in the pull-down menu at the top right-hand corner of the interface. Below you see an example with the background set to "Texture," meaning the texture of the source image.

Normally, when you're working in alpha mode in Studio Artist, you won't see the layer background because, of course, you have Studio Artist set up to treat the layer as transparent except where you apply paint. But if you choose "Source Image" from the list of available backgrounds, that one will be visible, as will any subsequent settings you choose until you clear the layer entirely. (We'll get to clearing the layer, below.)

I show you this because whatever you have selected for the background does interact with your paint strokes, whether you can see the background image/color on your canvas or not. And so knowing what each background is can help explain to you why certain things happen when you apply a paint stroke.

For example, if you have my background set to "Texture," and I paint a stroke (in this case with a slightly modified version of the brush preset called "Mr Baby Liquidizer 1" in the "Wet" category), I will see a certain amount of white fringing on the stroke.

And I can see precisely where this white fringe is being drawn from if I turn the Alpha view off in the Layer palette to reveal the layer background image.

If I set the background to "White," I see a lot more white fringing because the brush has more background white to draw from, even though I can't see the white on my canvas before I start drawing a paint stroke.

Note: This fringing effect will be more or less pronounced depending on the particular brush you're using.

And if I set the background to "Source Image," you can see that I'm actually drawing in color fringe from the source image, rather than white fringe. (This may actually be quite desirable, if you want source colors mixed in with whatever color you've chosen to apply to the canvas.)

And here's a look at the stroke with the source image visible. You can see that this particular brush has picked up the color from the background and smeared it on the canvas a little bit.

So how can you create this color fringe on a layer based on the color from the source image? And how can you eliminate all fringe if you don't want it? The answers are related. We'll take them in order.

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Related Keywords:studio artist alpha, synthetik studio artist, transparency, transparent layers

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