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Pine Branch look?

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Starting with Garland

     You may have seen the images by Mark Hamilton, with nature paintings of mountains and trees. For a number of pine trees, he used particle brushes which start with the Garland preset and modified slightly to change the look and effect.

Here is a summary of the most important parameters used:

starting with preset: Garland
Max Particles > 50   (!)
Particles Emission > 10
Mass > 0.5
Gravity > -0.1
Initial > 1
Terminal Velocity > 9
Drag > 0
Life Span > 4
Spits > 4
Spit Angle  > 15
Randomize Values > 0.3
Style > Line
Check Tinted

Let's take a closer look at what happens when adjusting some of these parameters.

Start from the list of particle presets (Settings).

Select the Garland preset

Draw a single brush stroke from left to right.

Do another one but use the SHIFT key to end it. When you press and hold the Shift key, current particles continue until they end, but no new ones are generated.

Using the SHIFT key to end the particles can make a cleaner ending especially if there are big contrasts between start and end of the color gradient used. You don't usually want to see a stub at the end showing the unfinished start of a new set of particles that didn't get a chance to live their lifespan.

The Max Particles factor

The original settings have a max particles count of several hundreds. Change it to 50

After reducing the count to a max of 50, draw a stroke from left to right, at various speeds.

Notice how the needles seem to grow longer if you draw faster. This is due to one of the parameters that sets the dependency on the speed of the mouse (mouse velocity)

Initial Velocity

Another crucial parameter is the initial velocity of the particles. Try a few values: 1, 2, 3,...

When the initial velocity is higher, the particles immediately shoot out farther away from their originating point, and create longer needles. You can use this also to mimic the effect of perspective, with shorter needles used for trees which are farther away.

The Drag Factor
The Drag factor is sort of a friction effect which slows down particles as if they were placed not in thin air or a vacumm, but in thick fluid.

Or with a negative value they overshoot into the opposite direction of your mouse motion. So, while you may be drawing to the right, the needs may get a left-ward slant. One of the better known presets that uses such contrarian setting is the 'Spray branches' reset. If you use a high value in the other direction, it sort of accelerates into your direction, leaping ahead of the mouse.

Try a few negative and positive values: Note that using 1 doesn't produce any particles, as they stay still. (not shown here)

The Relationship between Lifespan and Splits

There are several ways to make longer particles. You can for example use mouse velocity and draw faster strokes, which will make the particles move faster. You can also work with the drag parameter.

The most common way is simply to give them a longer lifespan.

However, there's also another detail: the number of Splits.  Each time that a particle splits, it runs through anout full measure of the lifespan. In other words, the Lifespan is not the overall full duration of the particle's life, it is how long it lives just for each split. Thus if you increase the Split count, it makes for longer resulting trails too.

When you use the Split parameter, it can however add a twist to it: literally. If the Split angle is not zero, it will gradually turn the subsequent split trails on and on, resulting in a turning path.

Try a few combinations of Lifespans and splits which multiply to 32: Start with a 32 Lifespan and 1 split, then decrease the lifespan (16, 8, 4,...) and increase the splits at the same time:


This is the result of long lifespans and low splits

As you decrease the lifespan and increase the number of splits, you notice a gradualy turning (counterclockwise) of the needs.

You could of course keep the Lifespan longer, independently of  the Splits count.

Soon it looks like some italian pasta like balls of angel hair ;-)

Max Particles & Particles per Emission

Another parameter to explore some more is the Particles per emission, and how it relates to the Max particles count.

When you first draw with particles, say with a Max count set at 555 and count per emissions of 44 as set here, it generates a burst of 44 particles all at once.
It will take a while for these particles to finish painting, especially if there's a long lifespan and split count for them.

If the 'Randomize Value' parameter is very small, then the particles will all reach the end of their life at around the same time, and another batch of 44 particles will be spawned off. This creates another 'blobb' of particle emission, shown below the first in the left-most column below. Then, if you reduce the particles per emission to 22, or 15, you notice that the blobs stretch further down: fewer particles are launched each time, and a few of them reach their end early enough that a few new ones can spawn off until the bult of the others end and spawn of in a new blob. Plus, the drawing takes less time so if the particles follow the mouse velocity as well, they'll follow down the path better. All in all, with even fewer particles per emision and still a little randomize value, you'll see a constant stream of particles along the path.

And now the fun part: play with different values for all these parameters, such as fewer particles overall (Max), and also with different Style, especially the Brush style to use the 'normal' brush settings along the particle paths trails. For example, use one of the smear modes or set the Mode to PaintSmear, and see the smearing occur not only just where the mouse is painting, but over dozens of particle paths. It's like having dozens of busy hands applying the smearing effects of the normal brush, along all particle trails

There's much more fun to be discovered. Here's something easily done with additional post work (COlor Solbel Edge detect and Light Diffusion). Now you can create new life forms for deep sea ocean illustrations!

Here's another example, of PD Pro at work to make a tree with bushels of pine needles:

click to enlarge

Yould you like to use this tree in your own creations? here's a Targa image version: (32-bit, with alpha channel - 293 KB zip compressed)

and here's a quick example of a scene using the tree in 4 diffrent sizes (completely done in PD Pro)

< click to enlarge

Fun with Particles
more fun: animation
animated fireworks
Pine Branch look?

More about Optipustics and Particle Brushes

Video tutorials:
Fractal Particles

Particle Brushes in Tutorial Collection #1: Discovering Project Dogwaffle
Tutorial #22
Tutorial #23
Tutorial #24

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