you can fly!? Painting Foliage with PD Particles...

Compositing with
Pixarra Twistedbrush

(best viewed at 1024x768 pixels or higher resolution)

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Pixarrara Twistedbrush is a paint program for the PC developed by Ken Carlino - complete with layers and numerous types of brushes, including some types of particle based brushes. Nonetheless, it may be of great interest to some T.B. users to also use PD Particles, as a low-cost companion to create even more forms of foliage and other types of particle based drawings. It is true that Twisted Brush has its own share of great brushes which are particle based, and there are numerous types of great and funky presets. But who knows, perhaps you still might be interested in additional features found in the particle system of PD Particles, which is meant to be used as a companion.

In this tutorial, we'll see how easy Twistedbrush makes it to do a composition, in which some images are coming from a file, e.g. a sky photo from a digital camera, or one of the numerous and excellent backgrounds presets found in T.B., while other images will be those types created in PD Particles with brush presets for grass, trees and shrubbery with the alpha channel masking the background as transparent.

Preliminaries from PD Particles

We've created a few pieces of shrubbery in PD Particles. Here are a few samples, they're all linked a zip file containing the original 800x600 pixels images in 32-bit Targa format with the alpha channel holding the transparency mask. If you'd like to use some of these, just click or right-click and save the target zip file to your desktop.

If you'd like to see how to create some of these in just a few seconds, check the other tutorials.

We're also going to need a background image. PErhaps you've already painted the perfect sunset, or you'll run out to snap a picture of today's cloudy skies. If you live in Southern California, you might have to wait for the next rainy season to come around if clouds  are  needed. Perhaps you might want to use a 3D program like Bryce or Carrara to generate a fancy sky.


The Background Photo

Here's one image we'll use. It was snapped with a cheap digital camera, at 2 megapixel resolution. Nothing to it, really, heck, any new cell phone can match this nowadays :-)

but, we've saved it as a 1024x768 pixel image, so one of the first things we'll do is resize it down to 800x600 to match that of the shrubbery images above.
Loading the Background Image

Start by loading the image which will be the background sky. Simply use

File > Load from File (Import Image)...

Twistedbrush supports a great number of popular image formats. In the rare event that you have your image in a format that's not supported, try converting that image to something more standard, using a freeware image converter and viewer such as  Irfanview.
Here we're loading a BMP version of our background sky. (the sample shown above is a Jpeg version, to make it faster to download).

The image gets loaded into the next available layer, above the 'background' layer.  We could merge this new layer down, or flatten the whole set, to force the image into the background layer. Or we could just live with it as it is.

Resampling (Resizing) the Image

The foliage images we'll be working with are at a different size than this sky photo. Let's resize the image. Go to the menu:

Image > Resize Image...

and select the Lanzcos or other sampling algorithms for mest results.

Lanzcos works great with photographic material where there is a lot of variety in colors, i.e. many neighboring pixels are of slightly different colors.

Set the new width and height  to the desired dimensions to match the size of the next images we'll composite together.
Adding more Images, more Layers

Now it's time to select one of the images which we created in PD Particles.

For example, select the one named 'grass1.tga'.

Note that it is in Targa format, and normally, Windows Explorer isn't able to view the thumbnails of .tga files. However, we're using a free extension called Thumb Plug TGA, which allows you to view the thumbs of Targa files, in addition to Jpeg, Bmp, Gif, Tiff, Png, Avi and similar ones already supported by Windows. If you're interested in this free plug, look for it at
Voila!  The new image of grass is now showing in front of the sky, as it was loaded into the next layer. The alpha channel found in the Targa image file is used as a transparency mas, it's as simple as that.

Add another image, such as this one named tree1. It looks a little like an old, try and dieing tree with dry, thin twiggs, ready to go 'swoosh', the kinds we used to look for when the scout master instructed us to light a campfire on a rainy day, with just one match left and no paper!

This one will of course come in 'above' the prior layers, so it looks like it's in front of the grass.

We may want to change that.
Simply select the layer and click 'Move Down' to move it down the hierarchy.

The trees are now appearing behind the grass.
You can of course also hide the grass layer temporarily, or fiddle with the Opacity slider to blend it away.

Here's the old tree by itself against the Sky:

Twistedbrush comes with a number of filters to take this even further.

<< After flattening the image, we applied radial blur to create this one.

That's it for the basics. Twistedbrush pretty much does the right thing with the alpha channel as it comes from  Project Dogwaffle's PD Particles

Time to explore some of the many fun filters for creating new backgrounds.

Here's one named 'fibers, but with a large Step value, making the individual dots show.
One of my favorites in Twistedbrush is the collection of backgrounds, from the Effects menu's bottom.
This one (fiery storm) sure looks like it's about to tell our old tree what hot graphics can do to it!

want to grab the resulting image to use it as a desktop wallpaper? click here:  onfire.jpg

Pixarra's Particle System

You may not have seen this part of Pixarra yet: there is a set of brushes which also are based on particles.

For example, find the collection of brush presets called Particle System 1

The first sample in that preset collection is called Bare Tree, and will come very handy right now in this example. It's a black dry tree or bush.
Here's an example, with dark tree branches added in the lower left foreground.

Another collection of brushes which is very cool in the context of this image is that called Space Scape, which offers numerous Flares and exploding starsand  other lighting effects in addition to galaxies and planets.

Using one of the 'Comet' presets, you can 'draw around' the bright spot where the Sun is hiding behind the trees and clouds, and generate an effect like a bright bloom or nova.

The more time you spend drawing in one particular angle region, the brighter or longer the rays appear there.

Here's another result, using the 'Flare' brush from the same collection.

And here's another, called Yello Ray, from a different collection.
It can be a great way to make it look like foggy volumetric rays cast between the branches on a misty day's morning.

You might find the need for more special fx filters, perhaps coming from other tools, such as a lensflare creation tool (e.g. from PD Pro, or ArtWeaver).

Or, you might want to turn it into an animation.
or how about turning it into a black&white to make it a new wallpaper.