I was running some experiments yesterday starting with what would traditionally be considered as a 'bad' brush and then seeing what you can do with that 'bad' brush. So the brush i choose to start with has extremely hard edges that alias when you draw with it. So the expectation is that you are not going to be able to make a smooth anti-aliased paint stroke with that brush, or that this 'bad' brush is 'worthless' or 'unprofessional'. Here's an example of the 'bad' brush i'm talking about.

One approach to editing this preset to make it better would be to get rid of the hard edge. So you could configure the paint fill setup control panel so that the fill to popup was set to the canvas as opposed to the paint color. This would then give more of a smooth tube-like paint. So again, the expectation is that to smooth out the way the preset draws you would make that particular edit, which leads to a very characteristic smooth tube paint look.

But let's defy expectations. A totally different approach is to keep the hard edge and rather than considering it a disadvantage use it as an advantage. So i made a simple edit with this idea in mind. I switched to a blend composite setting in the paint fill apply control panel, and then set the blend % to 10. And then i set the spacing in the path application control panel to 1. Here's an example of how the hard edged brush draws with these simple editing changes.

This second set of paint strokes has a totally different feel than the first set of paint strokes, even though the actual nib you are marking with is the same. It reminds me of a smooth marker pen with a large round tip. In fact, the hard rough edges of the nib actually work as an advantage when used this way in a paint patch, giving a very different feel to the paint than if i had done the conventional edit i mentioned above to make the stroke anti-aliased and smooth.

Of course you can continue to make minor edits to this preset to change the appearance and behavior even more. I've attached a few examples below to give you some ideas of some minor editing changes you can make to change the appearance or drawing behavior. All of these presets use the same hard anti-aliased nib shape as the original hard edged preset. They all draw with a pixelated hard edge but the stroke itself is perceived as smooth because of how that hard edged nib is applied to the surface over time.

What i loved about this example is the notion of taking a disadvantage and turning it into an advantage. The disadvantage of the rough aliasing edge of the paint nib used in these examples turns into an advantage when used in the way i laid out above. In fact, adding even more aliasing and roughness to the hard edge of the nib can lead to an even more interesting paint strokes when you make the editing changes i mentioned, so the original disadvantage (hard pixelated edge) has been turned into an advantage (interesting smooth paint texture).

I think Brian Eno was one of the first artists to turn me on to this concept of turning weaknesses into strengths in your work. And its a great concept to apply when creating art. And it really has to do with seeing beyond expectations. So many people get caught up with details of pixel resolution or aliasing or noise or color matching and maybe miss the bigger picture that there might be ways to rethink how you are using these 'flawed' components to create a final piece that does work. If you have a noisy image, you can try to get rid of the noise through filtering or smoothing, but maybe you should make it even noisier and chaotic because that's its real strength?

I don't know that there are any 'right' answers for when you would do this or not. The point is that rather then getting frustrated because you have an image that is so small it 'could never be used in a professional setting', maybe there is a way to make that work in a way you had not anticipated. Or with the simple example we gave here, just because you have a hard aliasing edged paint brush is no reason you can't use it to make a smooth stroke if you rethink how you are using that hard rough edge.

The cool thing about the paint synthesizer in Studio Artist is that it gives you a lot of different way to make and to use a 'brush'. So a brush with a hard pixelated edge can be used to make smooth soft paint strokes. Or you can use multiple randomized applications of a really small brush nib to create a much large virtual brush that may have very different characteristics than if you had used a single larger nib to draw with.

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Thank you for this very interesting and informative post.


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