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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Thanked 173 Times in 120 Posts

    Leaf Brush: Can it be used effectively?

    So here's a question for y'all.

    I was browsing dA today, and caught sight of one of their featured pieces. Nice little autumn tree scene, looked pretty cool. So I clicked on the picture. Wow, nice colors, I thought. Cool detail, and.... oh.

    That's when I noticed. All the leaves? Done with the leaf brush.

    Now, when I was first learning about digital art and using Photoshop, one of the first rules I learned was, don't use the grass brush for grass, don't use the leaf brush for leaves. Render them properly, because the preset brushes 1) don't look anything like leaves or grass, they're just texture and 2) destroy your credibility by making you look like a total amateur. It's right up there with "DO NOT use Lens Flare. Ever." as a basic rule of digital painting, I thought.

    So I commented on the piece (the picture in question is here: ) and told the artist this, that I originally liked the piece but couldn't respect it because dude, you just don't use the leaf brush, it makes you look stupid.

    This prompted a discussion of whether it was the tool that mattered, or the use of it. I personally really don't think you can get away with using obvious filters or brushes like that in a digital piece, and still have it be a quality piece. If someone used the cloud filter, or the lens flare, or anything else obvious instead of rendering the picture properly, they'd be laughed at, or at the very least corrected, right? Yet this artist argues that it's the use and not the tool that matters-- so as long as your picture looks good, it doesn't matter that you used the leaf brush or whatever.

    What do you guys think?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Thanked 458 Times in 338 Posts
    If it were background an fuzzy, maybe.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    leeds, england
    Thanked 173 Times in 106 Posts
    the whole is important not the parts. in my opinion at least anyway

    really the question should be would it look better if the artist had rendered each leaf individually? go repaint it n see. then youll know for yourself

    and surely thats the problem with lense flair, not that its a cheap and quick tool, that it looks like complete bollocks all over your work?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Thanked 1,223 Times in 626 Posts
wth ? not respecting a piece of art based upon the tools that were used to create it ?

The reason why I and many others doesn't recommend "you" to use the leaf/grass/cloud/lensflare/filters/ and so on, is because it steer away from learning the FUNDAMENTALS first.

These are TOOLS. thats what they are, they are no 'forbidden dangerous thing' that you just can't use because it-is-evil-and-will-make-your-art-not-respected-and-fugly.

If one can paint a tree. One should also be able to use the 'leaf brush' to create a realistic tree. Just as for the image you linked, which imo is one of the better paintings i've seen 'using the leaf brush'

The idea of 'not using certain tools' is _only_ because people are lazy, people don't want to learn more then they need. So I guess it is an 'early' attempt to get people working on the fundamentals that will make them understand how to draw or paint a tree without using a 'special' tool for it.

There are hundreds of way you could make use of all the brushes that comes with photoshop.. but if you can not paint what you want to paint without using brushes, you won't make a more pretty picture using brushes.

I use the photoshop 7.0 leaf-brush in two of my 'texture-brushes'.. what I use it for is to quickly block in leaf-looking sillhouettes without sitting for hours focusing on getting those edges sharp and leaf-looking.

In fact, if you take a look at many speedpainters, or concept artists finished work, there are many 'obvious' places where you can see that they used both the grass and the leaf brush. I don't wanna mention any names.. but yeah.. EXPERIMENT ON YOUR OWN. I almost forgot to say that.

Tools are tools! you can almost paint 'efficient' with anything.

  • #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Nelson, British Columbia
    Thanked 191 Times in 88 Posts
    This is kind of beyond me, 'cause I am stuck in the non-pattern brush'd world of traditional painting...
    ...but that said, I actually really like the use of the leaf brush in this painting. It's excuted well, and I think you can tell that it's being used by someone who COULD paint the leaves with a regular brush if they wanted they work well with the rest of the painting, and look good.
    I think they kinda give the painting a bit of extra magic, make it look slightly unreal in a nice way.

    I don't think the end completely justifies the means, but there is definitely a place for "tools."

    when people told you not to use grass texture or what-have you, they were just making sure you developed the skills to be able to render things properly on your own...not that those kind of brushes are intrinsically wrong. It's like exaggerating can tell when the person doing it has a good grasp on their fundamental anatomy skills, and when they don't. I think the same principle applies to the use of effects/brushes.

  • #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Nova Scotia, Canada
    Thanked 708 Times in 426 Posts
    Yikes!! If the artist drew and coloured out that many leaves, I'd be both VERY impressed and really scared of their hands!! My brother made me do that once, then he tried and appreciated why I didn't want to put every leaf in the tree myself. LOL!

    I do agree about not using the leaves as the quick/lazy way out, and I wouldn't be respectful of anyone who would claim that they actually made all those leaves on their own if they really just used a leaf brush a bunch of times.

    However, as said, that's another tool! It works very nicely in this case. I don't think using it makes a person look stupid. That's rather insulting. The artist seems to have put lots of work into that tree trunk though. O_O

  • #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Thanked 538 Times in 296 Posts
    It's also common wisdom to never use black in shadows. I guess all those Italian chiaroscuro painters were really awful artists, huh?

    As long as the end result looks good the process doesn't matter. You said you "originally liked the piece", so what does it matter what tool was used?
    -My work can be found at my local directory thread.

  • #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    New Haven, CT
    Thanked 974 Times in 521 Posts
    I think the point was the the leaf brush is not your magic "hey, here's how you make a tree" button. However, if you use any tool intelligently, there is no such thing as a "bad" tool. I think use of the leaf tool was ok. I think it could have been better with individually rendered leaves, but just as a quick little mood piece it works fine. Would a professional illustrator use the leaf tool to do his trees in a photo real illustration? Hell no, but there are far more uses for a tool like than that.

    I can think of few things as evil as the lens flare filter, but I've used it here and there for specific things. One was for a flyer for a club where I was going for that cheesy club strobe light effect, and it worked perfectly. It's all in how you use something. Take it on a case by case basis.

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