Digital painting: Soft edge brush vs hard edge brush
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    Digital painting: Soft edge brush vs hard edge brush

    Hi, Im new to this forum, it has been an enormous help of my understanding of digital painting, and all these talented people are inspirational. I am uncertain though what type of brush to use. A hard edge brush with low opacity is great for blocking in and getting the concept on screen, but when it comes to the final detailing, do people use a soft edge brush to get those photo realistic qualities? or smudge or just keep going at it with low opacity hard brushes. Some opinions would be great, Cheers

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    you know Im new to this too and Ive been wondering the same thing. Id like a comment on this as well.

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    From what I've seen watching countless videos:

    Most people use hard edged brushes almost exclusively, blending colors by using very low opacity.

    But I've seen people use soft edge brushes to lay some blurry colors in backgrounds, or some final blending on very quick paintings (ones that take them 20 to 40 minutes). But for any of the timelapse videos I've seen where the artist claims 2 hours or more, they are using hard edged brushes.

    I personally am trying to learn using hard brushes, and not doing very well, I might switch over to soft edges for a while and see where that leads me.

    I'm far from an expert though, so hopefully someone else chimes in for ya

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    You need to go deeper into understanding of how form and light works rather than look for solution in brushes. When it comes to realistic painting it's more about what are the edges between two values. (or between light and shadow.
    Look here -> Edges tutorial

    Or onto that pic by Greg Pro.


    For blocking shapes it's usually better to use hard edge brush and I wouldn't agree with low opacity. Low opacity makes the colors muddy and the shape messy. That also wouldn't make sense if you tried to block main shapes of a character in front of something. He would turn out transparent .
    For blending the opacity from tablet's pen pressure is enough. You can also create gradation of values by picking different value for every stroke. Either from color palette or by using color picker (holding Alt key) and choosing value from the painting.

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    simply, you want to use BOTH. Like was said above, it's more about understanding the fundamentals of form and the implications of lost edges/soft edges/hard edges, etc. You aren't tied down to just 1 brush.

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    So here's a question to you hard-edged painters.

    You set the pen pressure to be the opacity, do you have a "blocking in brush" that has no pen pressure? or do you just push hard / exactly the same pressure while blocking in?

    I noticed in most videos people have solid colors laid out pretty fast, and then play with opacity.

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    TheDrawingIrish - It can by one of those you mentioned.

    You can:

    1. Set pen pressure to be the opacity and have 100% opacity in the options bar. Then you can press hard and get opaque strokes good for blocking main shapes and values.

    2. Set pen pressure to be the flow and have 100% opacity in the options bar. It gives almost opaque strokes but with soft endings.

    3. Set pen pressure to be the opacity and turn on "Dual brush" where the second tip is exactly the same as the main one. This one gives something similar to point 2. but with slightly bigger range of values.

    4. Use no pen pressure and have 100% in the opacity in the options bar. This can work as "blocking in brush".

    I noticed in most videos people have solid colors laid out pretty fast, and then play with opacity.
    Beacause it's just a matter of blocking in first main values which are core shadow vs light and then just adjusting the edges and modelling the planes (halftones, highlights, accents etc.)
    You can read about that in loomis. For example on this page http://www.fineart.sk/photos/figure/066.JPG

    Last edited by Farvus; August 4th, 2008 at 08:00 PM.
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    Thanks for the quick feedback!

    I recently upgraded my graphire4 to an intuos3, loving it. But in the process I seemed to have nuked my PS brushes, so I'll need to set up some new ones, and this is a good starting point for these 4 brushes for coloring (now doing all my drawing and inking in Sketchbook Pro).

    Do you suggest using any natural brush shapes or brushes with straight edges for blocking in certain types of forms, or do you always use the round brushes? (or never use the round brushes?).

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    Use what works for you. Right now I use typical hard round ones together with many other brush tips. Some give more natural media look and some are just different variations of round brush (different roundess, angle or softness). Photoshop already has some packs with interesting brushes. You can play with their settings to get more satisfying results.

    For some other info about painting in Photoshop try Bumsee's threads.
    Digital painting in PS and actual one Digital Painting In PS #2

    Last edited by Farvus; August 4th, 2008 at 08:37 PM.
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    Thanks everyone especially Farva, great help. What I was really baffled about is just how people use opacity on a hard brush to create seamless blends, but i can imagine a softer brush is probably used on those final touches.

    (LOL i just discovered that pressure sensitive opacity works wonders, why have i never done this before )

    Last edited by Dilated; August 5th, 2008 at 04:09 AM.
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    lol sketchz... I did the same thing.

    Last night I created a block in brush (no pen pressure, hard edged, 1% spacing)... and I created two coloring brushes.

    One hardedged set to pen pressure for opacity. And one soft edged for pen pressure opacity too.

    I find the hardedged one is not very easy to get the blending to work, but the soft edged brush with pen pressure (and an application specific setting for a slightly firmer tip) makes a huge difference! I didn't make anything too cool, but wow, blending colors with that is amazing. Thanks for the help, I now have a small set of brush presets for my photoshop work, and I'm excited!

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    Soft brushes can be quick for blending, but it's a good idea to be a bit easy with it; Using a soft brush almost exclusively for a painting is generally not recommended, as it can give everything an almost amateur, lifeless look. A hard edged brush can give some much needed life to an image, and is excellent for defining forms as well as contours. I highly recommend using a speckled brush as well (it's basically a brush made up of a bunch of dots, with spacing relatively low) . It's also great for blending skin, and makes for relatively smooth transitions between gradients, as well as providing interesting texture variation.

    Hope this helps

    Last edited by cgaddict; August 7th, 2008 at 01:30 AM. Reason: spelling/grammar
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    cheers mate, those are really useful tips

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    When I was mentored by Bobby Chiu, he taught me to paint with a hard round edge at all times. When it came to blending softer edges he would say "lower the flow and opacity". Thing is he would block in his elements with a solid colour to begin with so that would avoid any transparencies.

    Its all about the technique. Everyone is different. There really is not vs. this or vs. that. Paint with whatever works for you.

    *when doing ultra blending, low flow to about 10% and opacity about 40%. When painting hard edges paint with a flow of 60% or higher and opacity at 100%. Also for this technique to work properly you need to make the spacing 10 so you do not get odd textures.

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    Oooh mentored by Bobby Chiu

    I don't understand the recommendation for the spacing though, do you mean 10%? Won't that really show the edges of your round brush while you're trying to make strokes? Usually the lines look terrible for me unless I have spacing at 1.

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    I've been learning with hard edge no colour. but as usual it depends on what you're doing and what level you are at. I reckon when you're learning about values drop the opacity, and when you're more experienced you can acheive things faster with higher opacity settings. kinda like when you're learning drawing you'll have construction lines/references to the max and as you gain experience those lessen to the point when sometimes you can just draw from a small starting point to an amazing finish. just an opinion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheDrawingIrish View Post
    Oooh mentored by Bobby Chiu

    I don't understand the recommendation for the spacing though, do you mean 10%? Won't that really show the edges of your round brush while you're trying to make strokes? Usually the lines look terrible for me unless I have spacing at 1.
    What he is talking about with space is on the brush editor you can control the spacing of the brush stroke. See image below.

    I am currently taking Bobby Chiu's digital painting class, just started the second week and I recommend it to anyone interested in learning digital painting in Photoshop. Basically you can just use the hard round brush and do what Rist says with flow and opacity. Flow is basically how much paint is coming off of your brush. Also turn the airbrush option off.

    FYI, there is no substitute for just saying fuck it, and doing it to see what works for you.

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    Think of it this way:

    If you paint with a hard-edged brush, you can always blend/blur it out.

    But if you paint with a soft-edged brush, it's a lot harder to sharpen the edges of what you painted.

    (Though the sharpen filter sometimes makes cool effects it tends to look odd when applied practically)

    Also,
    Use a hard brush and low opacity instead, so the subtle gradients you paint have some artifacts of overlapping. I find this to add a lot of depth and interest to digital paintings, instead of opaque colors smeared dogether.

    Last edited by Zirngibism; August 8th, 2008 at 06:32 PM.
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    What I've just discovered that works for me is to leave the opacity at 100% and simply attenuate the flow and brush hardness where need be. I've been trying to figure out how to get the look I want for months and this appears to be it.

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    you don't paint with brushes you paint with your brain.

    its time to knuckle down and really lick boot!
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    Quote Originally Posted by rattsang View Post
    you don't paint with brushes you paint with your brain.
    Then by your reasoning i can get the same results from a pencil as a paint brush? or have i completely misunderstood your point

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nrx View Post
    Then by your reasoning i can get the same results from a pencil as a paint brush? or have i completely misunderstood your point
    Well, if you dip your pencil in paint and work in a pointilist style then sure. Tools are really more of a convenience than a necessity, you could fingerpaint on canvas if you really wanted to and do great I'm sure.

    His point is that both knowledge and experience are greater than the tools you use. If you have the former, then it won't ultimately matter what brush you use.

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