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The Photoshop Paint Engine, Part 4

Working with color dynamics to preserve texture and add depth By Dave Nagel
It's difficult to say which aspect of Photoshop's Paint Engine is the most important. Custom brush tip shapes, textures, shape dynamics: They're all important for creating custom brushes, especially for natural media emulation. But what do all of these matter if you lose the texture and shape of your brush when you're painting?

Enter Color dynamics.

Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. Let's say you go to the trouble of creating a brush tip that's designed to resemble cloth. You get it looking just right, apply some shape and dual-brush dynamics to it, and then start painting. But what happens?

You go from this starting brush:

To this flat painting:

But using Color dynamics with your brush, you can avoid this mess and preserve all or some of your original brush tip shape.

Start by opening up a brush that you've creating using any of our previous tutorials, which you can access by clicking the Tutorials button on the left. Then open up the Brushes palette, and click on the Color Dynamics option.

Here you'll find a number of settings for modifying the color of your strokes, each one valuable for different purposes. Each of the "Jitter" settings allows you to modify the color of your stroke. With the Foreground/Background setting, you can set your strokes to fade between foreground and background colors, and you can also set the amount of fade to be based upon input from your drawing device (such as a pressure-sensitive tablet) through pressure, tilt or airbrush wheel. You can also set it to fade over a set number of steps.

Setting the jitter to zero will cause Photoshop to blend between the foreground and background only through your specified control. Increasing the jitter will through randomness into the blending in addition to any controls you've set. Or, if you se the controls to "off," you can have a purely random jitter. In the example below, you see the foreground (red) blending with the background (blue) resulting in purple with a medium amount of pen pressure.

The other jitter settings in the Color Dynamics parameters don't allow for any control whatsoever. They're totally random, with jitter based exclusively on the percentage of jitter you apply. Below you see two examples of Hue Jitter, the first set to 100 percent, the second at 15 percent. Both allow you to maintain the original texture of your brush but offer some widely varying results. (Both use red--186,2,2--as the starting color.)

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