Corel Painter has a great tool for handling details, such as texture, foliage, or stones. In fact, if you’ve been using Photoshop custom brushes for this kind of work, you may be surprised to learn that Painter has a custom brush capability, and a pretty darned good one, too. Check out the following image. Can you believe it took me less than a minute, starting with a blank canvas? No cloning around this time, folks. It’s time to learn about Painter’s most well-kept secret: the Image Hose.
The Image Hose is one of the brush types, called variants, that ship with Corel Painter. It’s a unique sort of brush that must be “loaded” with a nozzle file, which is a special file containing a group of images that the hose can spray onto your canvas. You access the nozzle files via one of those mysterious, tiny icons lurking at the bottom of the toolbox. (I’m hoping Corel one day addresses the inconsistency and hodgepodge nature of Painter’s interface, so that wonderful features like this don’t remain unknown and unused.)
Both the Patterns and Nozzles in Painter are great ways to create complex details in a painting. I’m sure the Weave function is great for fabric patterns, too, but I haven’t come to grips with it yet. Patterns are better suited to, as you might guess, images that repeat in a pattern. We’ll take a look at Painter’s Patterns in a future article. Today I’m going to show you how to create your own nozzle for painting foliage, using the Image Hose.
Let’s Get Started
We’re going to create a very simple foliage nozzle, just to show you the process. First, create a new document, 200 pixels square, at 300 dpi. Make sure the paper color is pure white. We’ll create a total of five layers in this document, so go ahead and click the new layer icon at the bottom of the layer palette (if it’s not visible, go Window > Show Layers), or go Layers > New Layer, five times. Click on the topmost layer to activate it. Choose any brush you like (I used the Fine Round Gouache brush) to paint one or two simple leaf shapes, using a middle to dark gray. Then, click on this layer’s eyeball icon, to make it invisible. Go on to the next layer down, and paint a few similar leaves. Continue your way down all five layers, turning off visibility as you go (this helps you keep track of which layer you’re working on). Try for a little variety in the values, from middle gray to black. Here are three of the layers I painted, just as an example. Your leaves can be whatever you like. Nothing fancy, we’re just learning the tool.
Holding the Shift key down, click on each of the five layers, so that they are all blue (activated). Go to Layers > Group to group the five layers. We’re ready to create our nozzle file. Click on the Nozzle Icon (shown in the diagram above). A drop-down list appears, and most likely it shows you the nozzles that come with Painter. See the little tiny triangle in the upper right of this drop down? Click on it, and yet another menu appears. Click on “Create Nozzle from Group.”
Painter creates a new document for you. Save it as a RIF file (very important). For easy access later, include the word “nozzle” in the filename (e.g., Foliage Nozzle.RIF). You’ll notice that all your leaf images are now on a black background. The leaf edges will look a little crude, but that’s okay.
We’re ready to test out your new nozzle! Create a new document, any size you like. In the brushes drop-down, look for the Image Hose brush variant. Choose the “Spray-Size-P” Image Hose brush. The “P” indicates that the size will vary depending on the pressure you apply to your digital stylus. If you try to paint right now, you’ll get a warning about not having a nozzle loaded. To load your new nozzle, click on the triangle in the Nozzle Selector icon again (see above) and click on Load Nozzle, or type CMD/CTL+L. Browse to your new nozzle file (Foliage Nozzle.RIF). Now draw on your tablet (you can use a mouse, but you won’t see the image size change). Vary the pressure, and notice the images vary their size.
You can make the leaves any color you like. Here’s how: on the brush properties bar, change the Grain value to less than 100%. Try 50% to start. Now change the *secondary* color (see below) to change the color your leaves appear as they are painted. It’s probably a good idea to paint on layers, so you can easily delete and change things.
Experiment with different settings for Grain and Opacity. Notice that the grey colors affect your color choices, when Grain is set to around 50%. When you reduce it to 0%, no gray mixes in at all. Now you see why we created our leaves in shades of gray. You could have created the nozzle file with green or autumn leaves, if you like. You can still modify their color by changing the secondary color and lowering the Grain percentage.
Let’s Get Serious
Okay, now let’s try to make a bush. Add a new layer, and call it “Grain at 50 percent.” Make sure Grain is at 50%. Choose dark browns and greens, and paint a vaguely bushlike shape. Add a second layer, and call it “Grain at 35%”. Lower the Grain setting to 35. This increases the chroma of the color, by reducing the influence of the gray in the nozzle shapes. Use a somewhat lighter green color. Finally, create a third layer with Grain set to zero, and add your lightest, purest greens, mostly towards the center. You should have a pretty 3D-looking bushlike object now.
As I said at the beginning, the intention here was to get our feet wet. Now you see how to create a nozzle, and then use it with the Image Hose brush. There’s good information on the Image Hose in the Painter online Help. Experiment with the different brush types. In addition to size, you can vary rotation, randomness, and other things. With practice, you’ll be able to create some very realistic dense foliage, in no time at all. Have fun!