What are Digital Brushes for Digital Painting?

Cheesy header image for this article by Christine Garner
Digital art has become a useful tool in an artist or a designers toolkit. There are different creation methods for digital art which can be confusing. The most common forms of digital art creation are vector art, 3D art and digital painting. For this article I will focus on digital painting.

Digital painting allows the creation of detailed raster based graphics suitable for all sorts of illustration, concept and design work. Artists can use pressure sensitive tablets to create strokes that resemble real world media or any variety of creative effects.

Digital painting brushes usually share similar characteristics between different software. It is important to note though, brushes are not usually interchangeable between programs. Digital painting programs use their own “brush engines” and have their own types of brush file formats. Photoshop uses ABR. for example.

The more practiced and knowledgeable an artist is in the fundamentals of drawing and painting, the more effective the use of digital brushes can be. Despite the versatility of digital art, it is worth keeping up traditional art skills as well. You can use digital art and traditional art skills together, so both are valuable to learn. There is an extra hurdle with digital art in that learning how to use the software is necessary to get creative and productive with it. But the rise of tablet based painting apps, is helping cut down these problems by providing a more natural experience for artists. Interface’s are generally similar between digital painting programs and don’t take long to get used to though.

I’ve organized the brushes I generally use when doing digital painting into these main categories to keep this article simple:

Basic brushes

Most programs have basic brushes which are useful for laying out a picture’s composition and colours in the early stages without getting fussy about the details. These are usually referred to as “blocking in” brushes or “utility” brushes.

Some basic brushes in Photoshop

Natural Media

Digital brushes can emulate the marks of traditional art mediums. This is useful if you are familiar with a particular traditional art method or want to create the same look in digital painting.

Some natural brushes in Photoshop

Texture

An infinite variety of textural marks and effects can be created with digital brushes. These are useful in speed painting techniques or to add interesting texture effects.

Some texture type brushes in Photoshop

Specialty

Digital brushes can make specific effects such as hair, fur, scales, light effects etc. They can save you a lot of time.

An example of fur brushes in Photoshop

Stamps

Stamp brushes are usually large shapes such as feathers, snowflakes, tea cup marks etc. Your project may need a particular effect from time to time.

Stamp brushes example in Photoshop

I hope that was a useful introduction to digital brushes for digital painting. I may go into more specialized uses at a later date in further articles as I learn more, but I have to work on my own art as well. Good luck in your own journey.

I’ve linked to some further resources I’ve found on the Internet that may help explain more about this subject:

Some useful related links and further reading