Black Ink

Brush Sa­fari A new kind of paint pro­gram, with non-tra­di­tional brushes and a fo­cus on cus­tomi­sa­tion and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion

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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.

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