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Nowhouse Propeller Paint Engine

Painting and effects for Adobe Photoshop By Dave Nagel
If there's one thing lacking in the most popular image editor in the world, it's paint capabilities. Sure, you have a tool shaped like a paintbrush and one that functions like an airbrush, but paint functionality in Adobe Photoshop is incredibly limited.

And yet, there comes a time in even the least creative art director's career when he or she needs to create original art, whether it be a concept sketch or just text that needs a little more treatment than might be found in his or her font collection. Enter Propeller Paint Engine for Adobe Photoshop.

What it does
Propeller Paint Engine is a plugin module for Adobe Photoshop that essentially acts like an application within an application. Its primary function is to provide tools for painting in a way that emulates natural media, and it also provides some more fanciful tools for painting with organic material, objects and effects patterns. So the tools range from watercolor to pencil to charcoal and licorice vines to fire to fern leaves.

You access the paint tools simply by selecting the Propeller plugin from Photoshop's Filter menu. A new interface then pops up containing all the tools and your current layer.

The Propeller Paint Engine interface

Once there, you simply select your tools and get to work. When you're done, you click OK, and your painting is applied to your layer on top of what was already there while preserving whatever transparency that was there as well.

What's especially nice about this plugin is that you can use any image as a brush or brush pattern. The paint engine will allow you to bring images in and then "track" them as you paint, meaning that it follows the direction of your strokes, as well as pressure and tilt, if you happen to be using a pressure-sensitive and/or tilt-sensitive tablet and stylus.

A sampling of some of Propeller's preset brushes.

The range of effects you can create using Propeller are pretty much unlimited. Although the plugin doesn't ship with all that many brushes and patterns (108 brushes and 28 patterns), you can use any image of your own to paint with. Propeller can automatically colorize it to match one of the existing color palettes, or you can use the original color from the image. Propeller will allow you to modify the image just as you would modify any of the preset brushes, and it will allow for the same sort of tracking, pressure sensitivity, etc. that the presets have.

Tool control
When you first look at the Propeller interface, you see a very simple toolbar consisting of traditional paintbrush, eraser, color selector, magnifying glass and hand tools. To start working, you just select the paintbrush tools and apply your strokes. This is called ease of use.

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