Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Post-work: painting on a 3D canvas

Gimp is the perfect platform on which to go berserk as a digital artist. It has almost all the tools artists are accustomed to from other programs; it's a free download (meaning, you don't have to mortgage your house to buy Photoshop); and the later versions can plug-in the Photoshop brushes, which means you too can paint like the pros! Many of the brushes are also free, and even the top-line professional ones are not expensive.

In fact, the hardest thing is figuring out when to stop! How abstract and psychedelic do you want to get? You can paint layer after layer of texture into an image, giving it shades of "meaning" which are utterly absent in the original.

Having access to the Photoshop brushes is still pretty new to me, because -- frankly, I had a moral objection to paying over two grand int he local currency, for an image program that only did three things more than Micrographx does -- and Micrographx is a freebie. And I didn't get into Gimp until this last few weeks because -- I didn't have a use for it. I learned this trade over 15 years ago, when the solution to "working in layers" was masks and inks ... and I'm still far more at home with masks and inks, though I can see the charm of painting in layers. And it's even less time since I discovered that Gimp can use the .abr files, which are Photoshop brushes.

So you'll pardon me if I chuckle gleefully and have fun. And I more than understand when someone writes me and says, "What's a brush, anyway?" And, "Where do I get them?" And, "Yes, I already have them, but how do I install them?" And, "How do I get these fantastic effects?"

Those are big questions. I'll probably have to answer then in two or three posts! But soonest started, soonest finished, so -- here goes.

What's a brush, anyway? Well, basically it's a "form" that you can paint with: anything from a squiggle to a complete color picture which can be loaded into the brush feature of your paint program, and painted onto an existing image by clicking, or click-and-dragging. The fancy Photoshop and Gimp brushes are usually monochrome (b/w) images ... sometimes grayscale, sometimes zipatone. What's the diff? Grayscale is an image with a whole scale of grays from dead black to pure white, so it can make genuine images, like b/w magazine pictures. Zipatone has only two shades -- dead black and pure white, so it makes "stamps" rather than pictures. These brushes come in loads of formats, man of which are proprietorial -- they only work in the prog with which they were packaged. But many more are bilingual -- not because Photoshop intended to make this so, but because other progs have adopted the .abr brush format, and built in the drivers to handle them.

So, right now you can download Gimp for free -- it's an open source, free twin of Photoshop ... it has most of the same capabilities as Photoshop, in a different interface. And you can download free brushes, and buy Photoshop brushes, to your heart's content!

Having bought or downloaded your brushes, the next thing you need to do is install the brushes before you can use them. If you've downloaded Gimp brushes, they'll be in the .grb format. If you've downloaded or bought Photoshop brushes, they'll be in the .abr format. These might have arrived on your computer as .zip or .rar archives, which you opened and extracted the files to a holding directory. If you bought Photoshop brushes, they might have arrived as an installer -- a .exe, which you "run." However, when the installer was done, you wound up with a bunch of .abr files too, so now you have a stash of .gbr and .abr items, and you're wondering what the heck to do with them!

You don't actually "install" them into Gimp ... you copy them into a brush folder than lives inside the folder structure of Gimp. All you need to know is where the folder is, and you're home free -- trust me, just copy the brushes into the right folder, and then either start Gimp (if it's not already running), or you can click on the "refresh the brush menu" icon, if the prog is already open.

Here's a thing to think about: when you load about 100 brushes into the folder, Gimp is sloooow opening. Also, some of these brushes (especially the top-end pro brushes) are *big* images and they can take some time to actually load into the interface, and paint themselves into the image. But don't click over and over, because the brush is loading, and you're branding it into the image ...!

Go back to yesterday's post (and the day before) for some links for free Gimp brushes, and if you would like to look at the pro Photoshop brushes, click on the DAZ Studio 3 icon in the left margin here, and when you get there, search for Ron's Brushes to pull up the whole suite, on one handy page. Drooooool...

Tomorrow, I'll talk about getting the cool effects, so join me then.

NOTE: I didn't actually manage to get back to this the next day. Life went whacko for a while ... but if you're following this, here is the post you need:

Jade, 6 May
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