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So I wanted to take a moment and address this whole topic on brushes....

So I wanted to take a moment and address this whole topic on brushes. There is a bunch of confusing information going around and it has been addressed by some of the biggest name professionals, both in illustration and concept art numerous times, yet I still get asked about this all the time. I also want to further this topic to not only brushes but also how an artist should use the brushes at their disposal.

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The thing that is echoed again and again from the professionals in the art and design industry is that "brushes don't matter". This is also what I constantly say but there needs to be a bit more of an explanation behind this. The better phrase I hear is "use the default brushes" because this implies the use of different kinds of brushes. Ideally you'd want to be able to make a good image with the default round brush (allowing you to mess with flow, size and opacity) but there are certain benefits that come from knowing how and more importantly WHEN to use different kinds of brushes. If you're rendering skin, consider using a softer edged brush, if you're rendering bark on a tree, maybe use a chalk brush with harder edges and opacity. I see way too much art that is just soft brushes everywhere. Soft brushes are very very useful but if you don't know when to specifically use them and use their soft edges, your image will look bad.

To learn how and when to use certain brushes I advice you to do still life studies and use minimal "fancy" brushes. Then when you come across times where you've spent 30minutes rendering a texture, ask yourself "is there a faster way I could do this". If yes, then think about it and look through your brush pack. Is there a textured brush that would do the job?If so, then use it. You know know when to use this brush. So keep it around for the next time you need to paint that texture, edge, effect or whatever it is.

I spent a little bit illustrating an image (the one above) to show you all my use of brushes. The brushes I use are most of the time chalk brushes. "Why chalk brushes" you may ask? Well I've found that using chalk brushes the way I do reduce the digital feel of an image. I love oil paintings and I love the look of them. I want to emulate some of the textures and roughness that you find in paintings by artist like Sargent. Chalk brushes give me this desired effect but more importantly it gives me another kind of feeling when painting digitally. Different brushes make you think differently and this is often why you see artists use different brushes for the same thing they just like the way it feels.

So when looking through brushes, get those you think you'll have some use of and those you just enjoy using.

Now, how you use your brushes is important. As I said you should know when some brushes are useful and others aren't. You should also think about the brush stroke you want to make. Do you want it to be a solid chunk of color or maybe a slightly textured stroke with some size reduction at the end? What direction is your brush stroke going to be? How many strokes are you going to make to convey a certain form? These are things to think about and things to apply to your brush language when painting.

A very good way to improve your brush language is to observe and study old master painters. Sargent is one of my personal favorites and I do master studies of his work all the time. Find a few artists that render things the way you like and try to emulate that in Photoshop. Maybe now is a good time to try those cool new brushes you downloaded and see if you have any use of them.

At the end of the day it's not really about the brushes. It's about fundamentals and knowing how to paint with whatever you've got be it Photoshop or a stick, drawing a face in the sand when you're on a vacation.

Brushes. It's not what you have, it's how you use it.

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Posted in Design Post Date 11/06/2016






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