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Speed Painting with particle brushes
for grassy hills & shrubbery effects

How to make and use your own Custom Animated Brushes from a Spritesheet, great stuff for Nature Painting
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In this tutorial we'll use some techniques to make a collection of brush images, each representing som tufts of wild grass. There will be some variations, like tint color, size, and 'lumpiness' in their appearance. The whole collection is then used to make a single custom animated brush in which the images are sequentially painted, with additional random parameters applied that further add realism, such as random size variations, saturation and hue and positions. 

Here's an example of a grassy hill you'll create with it:

Create a square document: 1024x1024

Create a new document from the File>New menu. As you can see here we have modified the presets to include one called 1 megapixel SQUARE which is 1024x1024 pixels in size. You can also just enter the width and height here.

To customize the presets, you can use Notepad to edit a file named Def_Res.txt (Default Resolutions). It is found in the folder where Dogwaffle was installed, such as C:\Program Files\PD Pro  for version 3.x

Or you could enter the new preset directly through Dogwaffle in the File>Settings menu ( or File>Prefs in earlier versions). If you do, be sure to save the new settings and quit Dogwaffle, then start it again for the new preset to become visible.

Using Visible Aides:
Display Settings to Show a Reference Grid...

The image buffer is 1024x1024 in size. we'll divide it into 4x4 squares of 256x256 pixels each. Each such subsquare will be a place holder for a bushel of grass.

Open the Display settings menu from the Window menu:

Check the "Visible Grid'" option.

set the Horizontal and Vertical parameter sliders to the max, which places a line every 128 pixels apart.

This means that if you look at three adjacent lines, they span 256 pixels across. The middle line intersects at the center of each sprite cell.

   Note that in the above image, the lines appear very nicely consistent in each column no matter how much you zoom in or out.

If you notice instead a lot of pixelation noise, with lines breaking in and out and many of them invisible, you may need to enable the smoothing for zoomed views.

Select File>Settings...

find the "Smooth scaling" checkbox and enable it, to perform smoothing on scaled (zoomed) pixels.

This will ensure that in zoomed view mode, you will see a steady, consistent grid.

Starting with Grass: Optipustics Presets

Start the particle brush panel (Optipustics) with the 'i' shortcut or from the Window menu, click on the Settings button and select the preset you want to use.

Use the Grass preset for example.
Find the upper left corner of the image buffer. Paint a quick dab of grass in the first (upper-left) sprite cell. It is contained within the first 2x2 blocks of 128 pixels each, spanning a total of 256x256 pixels:

Do a few more in the following sprite cells. Keep them centered on each respective middle point of each sprite cells.

Note that if any particles are drawing beyond their confined spaces, such as falling below the bottom edge of the sprite cell, you should clean up the 'mess' before drawing the next dab of grass over the center of the lower cells. Each tuft of grass should appear in its own 256x256 space.

You can use 'u' to undo anytime you want to instead try redrawing the tuft.

If you want to use color keying to designate the white background color as transparent when you pick up the cells into custom brush, thyat's fine. But the reseults might be better (with regards to annoying white glowing edges) if you use the alpha channel mask.

Undo the whole thing and redo the collection of tufst with a different Style: Line+alpha or Shrinking line+ (mean ing +alpha). That style is one of the parameters in the particle settings panel.

Click image to enlarge.

In the above image, we have created 16 images in the array of 4by4 sprites. The alpha channel holds the selections of the grass pixels. Note that the background was made darker too, to further diminish the risk of light edges or glowing.

You can now uncheck the "Visible Grid" checkbox. This will disable the grid which served as visual aide for positioning the tufts when we painted them.

Be sure to catch a snapshot of the alpha channel: use menu:

  Alpha>Store alpha...

Likewise you should store the rgb channels (the colors) of the sprites:

Visibly, we have many variations in the appearance of the sprites. Some have tinted colors, some have different looks, some are dense, others are sparse or have a higher split count, resulting in some curving of the particles.

Now let's convert this spritesheet into an animated custom brush (containing the sequence of images from the spritesheet):

Open the Plugins panel. You can find the option in the Window menu, for example, or keyboard shortcut 'k' for killer plugins.

Or you can even find access to it from other menus, such as the Filter menu:  Filter plugins.... and then switch to the Brush tab.

Select the Brush tab in the plugins panel

FInd and double-click the plugin named:


The plugin knows of curse how big your spritesheet is in pixels. But it doesn't know how many images you placed into it. Is there the same number of image cells in the horizontal direction than vertically?

In this case we have used each of the 4 by 4 cells, for a total of 16 cells.

Enter the values and click Ok.

The plugin will build a new custom brush with the image cells as sequnce, defining an animated brush.

Be sure to store the newly created custom brush:

menu:  Brush > Store / manage...

The Filmstrip at the bottom of the stored brush panel can show all images:

Painting with the new Custom Brush

Set a high Step value so that there's a good distance between the dabs as you draw a single brushstroke in a spiral motion. This will reveal each sprite as it gets painted from the custom brush in a repetitive sequence:

Reduce the Step value to a much shorter distance, and you might see something like this when painting with it:

click to enlarge

Save your animated brush

To save  your custom multi-image brush, use the menu:

     Brush > Animated brush > Save...

This will create a file ending in .anb (animated brush)

Another option is the save the frames contained in the brush as a numbered image sequence of files in standard image format such as Jpeg, Tiff, Targa, Png, Bmp...

Brush > Animated brush > Save Sequence...

For example, if you set the base filename as  "anb-sequence"  and make the file type a "Default Targa", you would get files:


Note that if you still have a scale applied from the stored brush manager, that size (and other parameters) are what's defining the currently loaded brush, so the saved images on file will be reflecting such parameter values.

If the Scale slider is at the right-most upper limit value, it doubles the size, so the frames will result in images 512x512 in size instead of their original 256x256.

Using it to Paint a grassy Hill

It's time to try some pro skills! Let's paint a grassy hill.

You can now use the Scale parameter from the stored brush panel. Use it to make grass look smaller when you paint distant parts of the grassy hill.

Also use the Hue/Saturation/Value sliders:

- reduced saturation to fade into the air at a distance

- use Value to make it brighter, as if the Sun is directly shining on it.

- use color tinting, to blend some more with the fog color in the distance.

If there's a big tree above the rass up near, with lots of gren saturated leaves, you could give the nearby tall grass

Also use the reduced opacity. Draw some grass, small and far away, i.e. thin with very low opacity. This will make it appear like it's fading into the air at far distance.

As you work you way closer, increase the opacity, and you might also want to increase the Steps value so the closer tufts of grass are not so close together or overlapping too much.

Here's an example:

Here's another example, painted against a background of sky with clouds, generated in Dogwaffle's Sky filter.

 <  click to enlarge

And here's one more, with additional shrubbery over the head and foreground. (plus a little bit of lens flare)

< click to enlarge

More about Spritesheets

the other


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