This question has been ask many times and many artists have given different answers about this topic.
So, I for myself, have been going through many years of digital art experiences as a Concept Artist for the game industry and somehow I feel I can give a quite good answer to that question.
First of all the answer is yes – they do matter and of course it depends on the style you want to achieve!
If our goal is to draw Anime or any other digitally looking picture you are very fine with the standard given Photoshop Brushes. But..
..if we want to do paintings like real painters (that includes also the Concept Art) we should be very thankful for every great digital painting brush, that has not only a special oil paint texture on it, but also has a very natural flow. And to be honest even in Anime you will be happy for some parts or even the background to have some special brushes.
So, in this blog I am writing of course my own opinion and I know that there are also people claiming that custom Photoshop Brushes don’t matter at all for digital painting. I was also one of them back in the days, but I have really changed my mind.
From today’s point of view I would say this is really nonsense. Why?
Let’s start to look at it in a deeper way. I think the ideas that came into my mind about this are quite interesting. So let’s get it on!
Photoshop Brushes for digital Painting with Oil Texture or just the round Brush
Whenever I am asked this question about brushes, I am using this very short example and I think it is really on point:
Now imagine your favorite classic and traditional artist, let’s take in my case the Dutch master painter Rembrandt. Ask him to paint his next painting with color markers and on a normal paper instead of a canvas.
So would his choice be the color markers or the real painting brushes. Yes, of course the real brushes and of course the canvas and not the smooth, (quite) textureless paper. Everything about those impressive paintings was achieved by the beautiful combination of colors, textures and brush strokes on the canvas.
The magic is happening exactly there!
Today there are still scientific teams that try to find out how Rembrandt mixes his unique colors, so they rebuild that very special painting texture.
Don’t be fooled by anyone, you can use any given tool to achieve greatness in your paintings! Look to the top level artists of today – there is not one artist that is not using special brushes.
Painting photorealistic paintings with Photoshop
This is a really scary topic for me, cause I once was very deep into it. I was trying to copy stuff perfectly out of my traditional painters mind, that is permanently saying photorealism is something very valuable and simply the best. But in digital art this is really not the case so much. After I saw the result and then the original photo, I was really skeptical about these paintings –
They look just like the photo..
I was thinking to myself all that effort was not worth it – really not. You can show such a painting to someone and he/she will be amazed after you tell them that it is painted.
But really – what’s the point of creating a copy of a Photo. You know what I try to say here. Of course, I don’t have any intend to ruin such works – maybe you do something similar, but out of my view this work is not necessary – remember I did it also!
By the way, if you are doing such paintings right now, just go on and try to add here and there some very special brush strokes with painterly/artistic brushes and look how amazing this same painting looks like, now!
Painting realistic but natural with Photoshop Oil Brushes
So, my final result of this is that a digital Painting should have something special to it, that keeps it different from the photo, isn’t it so?
Like a special style for example a painterly, authentic and natural painting style – but painted in digitally f. ex. in Photoshop.
Imagine somebody gives you a photo and asks you to paint it: Should you just copy the same or do you place some value onto it? > We artists should add value!
Everybody is searching for a special style. Artistic Brushes like the MA-Brushes do give that possibility very effectively.
The right Photoshop Brushes for Painting will blow away the sorrows and doubts about the “how” and the artist can go directly to the “what”. It’s nothing more important like the right tools. People have products like Photoshop and expensive tablets and don’t want to invest in good Brushes.
The real magic in every traditional painting is this above mentioned example of the beautiful colors, textures, brush strokes or even palette knives shapes. So, giving your art this special touch on the Computer will bring real beauty to your digital paintings.
Isn’t it amazing to be ask if this painting was painted on a real canvas? I love to see faces, when I show them one or another painting and tell them that it is painted on the pc. Most of them thought it was on a real canvas and they ask me to draw them in that style!
Great painting Brushes for Photoshop with Oil or Acrylic Texture
Back in the days, I was so worried getting good brushes for the work I had to do. I really had a hard time (about many years) finding brushes that worked well. There were many brushes full of some strange textures, but they could not really be used as a painting brush. Some of them were stamps – urgh!
So there was always this issue about the right Photoshop Brushes. To create or find them – losing time and losing so many nerves cause in projects you really don’t have time to play around with those things. You want the best brushes for every need right on time to start and don’t lose the idea.
As I was creating the MA-Brushes for Photoshop, I really had the intention to stop losing time and nerves by searching for brushes while I was in dead-lines.
Really in that cases you don’t have the time, but you have the need for the perfect brush.
The difference between a great painting Brush for Photoshop and the round brush is really that the realistic Brush will bring you very quickly to your aim. Imagine Bob Ross. All this beauty for the watcher was to see, that a view brush strokes can create in such a quick time so much.
You can do the tree with the round brush – yes, but you have to work on it like crazy. You will have to zoom in and start this typical “and now the details” story…
This is the death of the “zoom-in now to paint details”- Story..
What if your Brush is creating all that small details for you already? Like Ross’ do. I tell you this is so great, that is why I love the MA-Brushes. They really bring you to that point where you have not to start worrying about the zoomed in image. You paint and you have already the perfect texture on the painting, so there is no need to zoom in and lose time for the details. You are done!
Btw, what is the point on claiming that brushes don’t matter but then using so much photo bashing that you do 5 squared shapes here and there and then bash some photo parts over this “painting”?
While coming from traditional art I will never be friend with that way of painting. Should we call it painting?
There are so many artists out there that feel the same, but after all they see, they give up and start also this photobashing game, cause somehow the industry even wants it that way.
But was this really your first goal back in the days when you started to paint? I for myself can say very sure that this is NOT the way I want to paint. When I paint I want to paint and this is my main joy in it.
Let’s say you work in the Game Industry
Now imagine you work as an artist for a big game industry (in my eyes this should not be your main goal, but this is a another story..)
Imagine to work at the highest positions and you create wonderful environmental arts and character designs and game covers..
So, when somebody would say, that Brushes don’t matter, this guy should go out there and ask any of the highest paid and ranked digital painting artists if they use custom brushes for example to create trees, rocks, leaves etc in their paintings.
The answer to this question is very clear.
So, why do some people claim that Brushes do not matter?
1) when you draw Anime, Manga or any other drawing that is supposed to look digitally
2) they do so, cause brushes will not improve your skills or your eye for the right colors and compositions or even the anatomy. You still have to paint, imagine and learn..!
Thus, the Photoshop Brushes will not improve your skills, but if they are good they will give you so much possibilities and advances – that you step 5 steps ahead.
Do you want to travel 5000 km with a very old car or with a really great, comfortable, air-conditioned and fast car. Yes, there will be some answers that the old car is great, but on some point of the road this wish for a comfortable car will come, and yes, this car is faster and will bring everybody safely and comfortable to the final destination. Why do it the hard way?
Why doing it complicated, whöen somebody can have it much easier.
Yes, people (I do also tend to) have to prove themselves that they can master the hard way. But this is all about the ego. Coming to the point where you accept help you will have real joy. At the end (result) nobody asks you if you did it the hard way. Nobody cares about your way, but your result. The only one who really cares about the way is YOU! A workman will use all possible tools to build a house.
The way from Photorealism to artistic Painting
I had observed in my life that I was at the beginning fascinated in painting photorealistic. But I think there comes a point where an artist has achieved this point (his/her goal) but then somehow he/she gets fascinated by a looser painting style – by the perfection of simplicity. This of course is not the case for everyone, but there is a huge number – in my eyes this is very mature. You go away from “hey, look how much I can!” to “let’s just capture this beauty in a really cool, artistic and new way – in my way!”.
Something in you can suddenly change, when you have achieved your long time goal. The old loses the power over you and you search for new goals.
Enjoy a great way of painting with the right brushes
Painting a painterly and artistic style was in my case not even easy! I had to simplify so much, and, oh yes, I started to love it.
It is just such a joy to paint a painting with the right colors and brushes and also to proceed quite fast. To be honest, this way of painting (this counts also for digital painting) is a much bigger pleasure. So how can you accomplish such things in Photoshop with the round brush? Not really, isn’t it so?
You can also go and take a look at some of my digital oil paintings in the gallery and check if you can see the joy I had while painting them with Photoshop.
I can tell you – I had much so fun. And yes, I am very thankful, that I have the MA-Brushes for Photoshop to paint in such a style.
Now let’s say this: Custom Photoshop brushes are not about achieving looser paintings. In my eyes special painting brushes are in every painting a great blessing. Even in a Anime you can use them to build some cool backgrounds and of course in every Concept Art and Environmental Art and all the other styles. The correct Brushes will save your time AND nerves.
My resume about Photoshop Brushes
Do any workman work on a house without the right tools? Will he start with his hands to hammer on stone while screaming – I don’t need the right tool, I’ll do it the hard way!
So from my side there is a big YES to custom brushes and in the case of the MA-Brushes, the artist will get the most realistic, natural and authentic Photoshop painting Brushes. I wish I had them 10 years ago while starting in the game industry as a graphic designer and concept artist.
(Traditional Artist, Digital Concept Artist and Graphic Designer)
Photoshop Brush Designer