Brush Safari A new kind of paint program, with non-traditional brushes and a focus on customisation and experimentation
A new kind of painting program, featuring non-traditional brushes with a focus on customisation and experimentation.
Figuring out what each brush does can be difficult, but there’s a handy preview
Compared to more traditional programs like Photoshop and Painter, Black Ink’s brushes feel like taming a wild animal. It’s hard to gauge if this would offer much of a benefit during straightforward representative drawing, but the unpredictability of the line work can be great for designing organic shapes and creatures that feature a lot of unexpected angles.
If you need to make a photorealistic portrait of an astronaut for class, say, Black Ink probably isn’t going to give you an edge over your usual software. But now, suppose you need to draw the crystal-based alien inhabitants of the planet our astronaut gets stranded on. Black Ink time, baby! The dynamic nature of the brushes is perfect because it puts variation and nuance throughout the shapes.
One nice feature is the brushes that enable you to change colour based on pen pressure. You choose the gradient you want, and as you paint, the pressure regulates the location on the gradient where you’re getting your colour from. You might think mastering this would take some time, but it actually works great when you want a lot of colour variation without repeatedly going back to the palette.
Figuring out what each brush does can be difficult, but there’s a handy preview window in the main UI that shows you how they will behave when you’re choosing… and you can actually try it out in that little window, too.
Black Ink’s most interesting feature is the Controller Editor. It creates a node map like the Shader Editor in Maya, but instead of creating textures, you’re establishing the properties of new brushes. You can create nodes for Size, Pressure, Rotation, Add, Subtract, Distance, Dot, Noise (Triangle, Dot, Smooth or Square), Ease Power, and a surprising number of other properties.
Having all the nodes out on the screen can be confusing at first, but just play around a bit and it’ll soon make sense. You can also adjust a lot of these by editing the actual code, though it may not come very naturally to most artists. Fortunately, there’s the visual way to do it as well.
The learning curve is a little steeper, because the tools are unlike any you’re used to. You’ll want to spend a good chunk of time just experimenting. We recommend browsing through some tutorials before you get started with a trial version. The trial period is around four hours, which may not be enough time at Disneyland to go on all the rides, if you know what we mean.
The more organic feel of the tools can add interest to all kinds of different subjects. You can find out what each brush is capable of by using the sliders on the right-hand side of the screen.
In the Controller Editor you create new brushes with the same sort of dynamic features as the ones included.