Have you tried the Real 6B Soft Pencil yet? Look once again at the strokes in the bottom row of Figure 1.13. Marks made with the Wacom pen held upright are thin lines, but as you tilt your pen the lines become wider. It’s possible to make a very wide stroke if you change your grip so that the pen is at a steep angle. This imitates sketching and shading with the side of a pencil or pigment stick. For a photo of this grip see Figure 3.3 in Chapter 3, “Have Another Layer,” where you’ll use this technique in an illustration project.
Traditional paintbrushes can have a variety of shapes and are composed of numerous bristles that can range in length, thickness, and stiffness. The kind of mark made by a bristle brush depends on a large number of factors: quality and number of bristles, viscosity and amount of paint loaded, and the pressure and direction of the artist’s stroke. There are several Painter categories devoted to bristle-type brushes. They include Acrylics, Oils, and Impasto (Italian for thick paint). Take a couple of variants from each of those categories for a test drive. As you did with the Acrylics Wet Brush earlier, notice how strokes interact with each other. The following variants made the dabs and strokes shown in Figure 1.15.
Acrylic: Clumpy Brush
Oils: Fine Camel
Impasto: Smeary Bristle Spray
The green and pink dabs made with the Acrylic Clumpy Brush are squeezed ovals, like plump grains of rice. There is a slight variation in the size and brightness of bristles. Short strokes have ragged edges at the beginning and end. Longer strokes fade out gradually, losing color but continuing to show bristle striations.
The footprint of Fine Camel Oils looks like a spray of tiny bristles. Use a light touch for a smooth opaque stroke. Increased pressure makes the bristles spread out, showing spaces between them. It’s hard to see the delicate dab of Smeary Bristle Spray from the Impasto category. Like the Fine Camel Oil, strokes show spaces between bristles. But this brush, as its name suggests, picks up underlying color and smears it. The impasto effect can be turned off in the Navigator settings shown in Figure 1.16.
So Many Choices!
Every new version of Painter introduces one or more exciting new categories, and Painter 12 unveils Real Watercolor and Real Wet Oil. To keep the sheer number of categories under control, some of them have been combined. For example, Pastels and Oil Pastels are now grouped together in Pastels. Several other categories and variants have been reshuffled. Painter 11 users will get used to the new system quickly, but there is also the option of loading the “legacy” Painter 11 brushes. The pop-up menu in the Brush Selector offers the choice of Brush Library.
Any way you slice and dice the categories, there are nearly a thousand variants to choose from! Just exploring a fraction of them and keeping track of the ones you like can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are ways to organize brushes and quickly find the ones you need for a project.
After you’ve been working with Painter for a while you’ll probably have some favorite brushes and paper textures. They can be collected in a compact little palette that can be used over and over. Custom palettes are easy to make. Choose a brush variant you want, and press the Shift key while you drag the brush icon away from the Brush Selector. A new custom palette is created containing that brush. Add more brushes by simply dragging in more items. Hold the Shift key down to remove or reposition items. Figure 1.17 shows the first two items in a custom palette, a Pastel variant and a Blender. There are custom palettes provided for many of the projects in the following chapters. They can be downloaded to your hard drive from the website that supports this book.
You can create a different custom palette for sketching, painting, working with photos, or for any specific project. Manage them with the Custom Palette Organizer, shown in Figure 1.18, by choosing Window > Custom Palette > Organizer. Give them descriptive names and save them using the Export command. Load them with the Import command.
Your first assignment is to fill a blank canvas with scribbles and strokes, using the twelve brushes in a custom palette shown in Figure 1.19. Download this Painter 12 Sampler palette from the website that supports this book. Or just make it from scratch, using the following list. Brushes are in alphabetical order by category, starting at the upper left of the palette.
• Acrylics > Real Wet Brush
• Airbrushes > Pixel Spray
• Artists > Impressionist
• Blenders > Water Rake
• Charcoal & Conte > Real Hard Conte
• Impasto > Gloopy
• Oils > Flat Oils
• Palette Knives > Dry Palette Knife
• Pastels > Square Hard Pastel
• Pencils > Grainy Pencil
• Pens > Dry Ink
• Digital Watercolor > Broad Water Brush
Just because your main purpose is to get familiar with brushes, that doesn’t mean your work can’t look good. To help make something more pleasing to the eye, restrict yourself to one color or family of colors. A limited color palette tends to create visual harmony even with lots of variety in brush strokes, texture, and detail. You may change the saturation and brightness of the main color by clicking in the triangle of the Color panel, but stick with the same position on the Hue ring. Consider grouping your scribbles to make a composition based on shapes or other variables. My sampler, shown in Figure 1.20, is based on three horizontal strips. Each one uses only the variants for the corresponding row in the custom palette. By the time I got to the third row, I started to get the hang of it.
Let’s examine some of the brushes in the sampler palette more closely. The Impressionist variant is composed of a narrow spray of tear-drop shaped dabs, which follow the direction of your stroke. Increased pressure makes the dabs darker and larger. Overlapping Impressionist strokes can make for very painterly effects. Like the other variants in the Artists category, the Impressionist brush is designed to imitate important techniques from art history. The Seurat brush is named after the French painter who invented the technique of pointillism, where tiny dots of color combine optically for the viewer. This brush sprays overlapping dots of variable hue and value (brightness). The Van Gogh variant also has built-in color variability. Each stroke is composed of several thick bristles differing slightly in hue and more strongly in value. There is a random quality between strokes[md]no two strokes are exactly alike. This brush is most effective when short strokes are applied in different directions. The Sargent brush, a tribute to the portrait painter John Singer Sargent, has no color variation but does have a smeary quality that contributes to its creamy, luscious look. Figure 1.21 demonstrates all four of these special variants.
Gloopy is a very thick Impasto stroke, and usually takes several seconds to be fully formed. A short stroke is best unless you have a few errands to run. One of my favorite brushes is Dry Ink, now included among the Pens, but previously in the Calligraphy category and somewhere else before that. (Every time there is a new version of Painter, I have to go hunting for it.) Dry Ink is an opaque, juicy, and bristly brush, with a very wide range of thickness based on pressure. The Broad Water brush successfully imitates the translucency of watercolor, as well as the wet fringe effect (pooling of pigment at the edges of a stroke).
Proceed at Your Own Risk!
Explore other brush categories now, or any time, but be warned — some of them are exotic, to say the least. For example, Pattern pens don’t apply the current color, but paint with the current pattern (you’ll find that library right under Papers at the bottom of the Toolbox). Watercolor and Real Watercolor brushes require a special layer, created automatically when you use them. Liquid Ink is in a class (and layer) by itself. As for the Image Hose — don’t get me started!
Here are some exercises for developing skill with the Wacom tablet. Use them as a warm-up before you begin a session, and to check whether you need to reset the Brush Tracker for your pressure and speed. Do the exercises in the order given. If you save your practice canvasses, you can observe your progress from one session to another.
Start with a new white canvas about 6 inches square at 72 ppi. Choose Pen > Ball Point Pen and use black as the main color. Refer to Figure 1.22 as you work. Make a long mark at the angle natural for you. I’m right-handed, so my strokes will slant slightly to the left. There is no width variation in this pen, just like its real-world counterpart. If you need too much pressure to get a strong line, use using a light touch. Your second stroke should be parallel to the first and reasonably close to it. Add several more strokes the same distance apart. Go for accuracy the first few times, and then increase your speed.
Next, use the Rotate Page tool and make another series of lines at right angles to the first set. After that, tilt the page so you can add lines at a 45 degree angle. You can probably guess the next step. Crosshatching skill comes in handy when you want to develop shading and volume in drawings.
Make a new canvas for the next exercise or simply clear this one, using Select All (Cmd/Ctrl+A) followed by Delete/Backspace. Switch to the Dry Ink brush, which was used in your sampler painting. This is the ideal variant for practicing pressure control. Make a long stroke that begins with very light pen pressure and gradually increase pressure to the maximum width, then taper off as you end the stroke. It might take several tries to get the right touch for a smooth transition. Check out the practice strokes in Figure 1.23, some of which are more successful than others.
Making smooth transitions in line width will be easier if you are using a Wacom tablet with greater pressure sensitivity. The Intuos 4 models have 2,048 levels, and Bamboo Fun has 1,024 levels. The entry-level Bamboo pen has “only” 512 levels. Fewer levels of pressure makes it even more important to tweak the settings in Preferences > Brush Tracking.
You’re off to a good start. You have a basic understanding of how to choose and organize Painter brushes and how to show your Wacom tablet who’s boss. In the following lessons, you’ll practice skills and learn concepts for improving your mastery of drawing and painting. I promise to take you way beyond scribbling!
Rhoda Draws, the artist formerly known as Rhoda Grossman, is the author of numerous books and video tutorials on the creative uses of Corel Painter and Adobe Photoshop. She has taught basic drawing as well as digital painting and graphics techniques at several schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she has earned a reputation for lively and humorous presentations. Rhoda began using digital media in 1990 and uses pixel-based software for commercial illustration and cartooning, as well as fine art projects. She has successfully transferred traditional figure-drawing skills to the computer and brings her MacBook Pro and Wacom tablet along to life drawing workshops. As "Rhoda Draws A Crowd," she is a pioneer in using digital media for live caricature entertainment at trade shows and events. Visit her website at www.rhodadraws.com.