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The Photoshop 7 Paint Engine, Part 3

Creating custom brushes with size, angle and roundness dynamics By Dave Nagel
By now you know that Adobe Photoshop isn't just for image manipulation anymore. Far more than any other release of Photoshop to date, version 7.0 offers artists and designers functional tools for using the program as a painting application, for emulating "natural media" and for designing some pretty far-out brushes for creating original works of art. (Did I just use the phrase "far out?")

Over the last month or so, we've explored Photoshop 7's Paint Engine in some detail, covering some specific techniques for creating our own custom brushes. These have included techniques for designing brush tip shapes and also using two brushes at the same time, known in Photoshop parlance as "Dual Brush." (You can find both of our previous articles on the Photoshop Paint Engine in our Tutorials section on the left.)

The creation of custom brush tip shapes is obviously more a matter of individual talent that merely pushing a few buttons to achieve an effect. And, in a sense, so is the use of the Dual Brush dynamic, which will often involve the use of self-created brush tip shapes. But today we begin to look at uses of the more automated dynamics of the Paint Engine--size, angle and roundness--for creating your own custom brushes.

The Shape dynamic is probably the most important for those of us who use pressure-sensitive tablets. It allows for the interactive resizing of a brush tip and also provides other shape parameters that can be assigned random values, numerical values or interactive values based on input from your Wacom tablet.

After you've designed your new brush tip shape, open up the Brushes palette (above) and click on the Shape Dynamics button to check it. Here's you'll see three "jitter" dynamics: Size, Angle and Roundness. Each one of these also has sub-settings, which you can use to provide additional controls.

In most cases, you'll want to be able to control the size of the brush tip through your tablet. However, for some brushes, you might want the jitter to be random or even remain constant. For no jitter, set the percentage to zero. And for control over the size of the brush, set the control to one of the available options, most likely Pen Pressure or, if you have a Wacom Intuos tablet, Pen Tilt or Airbrush Wheel. (You can also use Fade, if you don't have a tablet, which simply evolves a given parameter over a fixed number of steps, as with earlier versions of Photoshop.)

But that's fairly obvious. What isn't as obvious is that you can also use jitter in combination with pen pressure or tilt to vary the size of the brush tip even as you're controlling it with an input device. This means that, as you use pressure (or tilt), the jitter of the size of the tip will tend toward the size of the stroke indicated by your input device. More pressure will provide a larger stroke with some jitter on the large side, while less pressure will do the inverse.

(Note that if you use tilt as the controlling parameter, you can also adjust the "Scale" of the tilt to increase or decrease Photoshop's tilt sensitivity.

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