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A Word About Digital Brushes

Krita ships with an extensive set of Brush Presets so you can get started right away. In addition, some members of the world-wide Krita community have kindly posted their own customized brush sets that you can download from the Resources page.

However, as you advance you may find yourself wanting to create or customize specific brushes, or perhaps an entire category, that more specifically suit your own needs. This could be anything from a color-blending airbrush with a sharp edge to a brush that mimics a traditional artist's Camel-hair bristle brush to a Blender brush that closely mimics a Blending Stump. You do this by modifying the brush settings and parameters. These correlate to each of the different types of available Krita Brush Engines. For instance, the settings for the Pixel Brush type are different from those of a Particle Brush and those differ from a Color-Smudge type and so on.

When thinking about digital "brushes" though it's important to keep in mind that a brush is just collections of the settings and parameters that, when taken together, make or effect a mark. They combine to produce the effect of the analog tools of an artist; like an Airbrush, Ink Pen, 2B Pencil, etc... They can also represent items that would only be found in the digital world, like painting with "predefined" brushes, such as leaves, trees, textures, etc... This is one of the strengths of Photoshop and you will find it here in Krita as well. We'll go into this in details later. For now, it's important to keep in mind that, ultimately, the settings, variables and parameters assigned to a brush combine to produce an interpretation of what might exist in the analog world. For instance, the settings for one 2B Pencil preset will likely differ from the brush set created by one person from those of another. If you download a set of brushes from someone and they have one marked as Wet Oil Brush, keep in mind that this is just their interpretation of what that stroke would look like. Your own might be different. This is where a part of the great flexibility of Krita comes in. Unlike many of the free digital paint programs available today, with Krita you are not stuck with what you get "out of the box". So with that in mind let's take a look...

The Brush Settings Editor

We won't be going into all the details of the Brush Settings Editor in this section since that will be covered later on need section for this. What we want to focus on now are the steps required to create a new Brush Preset and save it for reuse.

To start, the Brush Settings Editor panel can be accessed in the toolbar, between the Blending Modes button on the right and the Patterns button on the left. Alternately, you can use the function key F5 to open it. With the panel open you can right-click and detach it from the toolbar if you wish. This is useful if you have dual monitors and want to leave it open for quick access. It is also useful, although not required, if, with a dual monitor setup, you want to use the Multi-use Brush option described later.

When you open Brush Settings Editor panel you will see something like this:

Brush Settings - Full.PNG

The screen is divided into several functional sections.

  • Left Panel - list of Brush Engines that Krita supports
  • Center - All configurable settings and parameters for every type of Brush Engine. Every single Krita brush is made from a combination of the settings found here.
  • Right Panel - Brush Preview and ScratchPad area
  • Top Panel - Brush Presets

The Brush Preview and Brush Preset panels can be hidden anytime by right-clicking and unchecking the view option.

Notice that the name of the active Brush Preset is at the top and the two buttons to the right have been disabled. This is the default condition when you first open up the Brush Editor or when you select a brush that has no modifications waiting to be saved. This will be important later on.

Modifying Brush Presets

Krita allows you to modify brushes in a wide variety of ways. You can:

  • take an existing Krita brush and modify it to meet you needs, saving it back for future use. This is the most typical way to create a custom brush.
  • tweak a brush for your needs at the moment. An very simple example would be adjusting the Diameter of the Brush Tip on a Pixel Brush to flatten it out, providing a less spherical tip. However, if you don't overwrite the settings then you can revert it back to the original by reloading the brush.
  • even create your own brushes from scratch. This is probably not necessary for most people but Krita makes if fairly easy if you're so inclined.
  • load brushes created for Gimp or Photoshop. You can assign them to new Brush Presets and even customize them especially for Krita.

Creating a New Preset

The easiest way to create a new preset is by editing the settings of an existing one. In a nutshell, you choose an existing brush that has at least something in common with what you're looking to create. For instance, there would be little point in creating a new Airbrush variant by starting with a Block Marker preset. In this case you would want to start with an Airbrush preset and then give it a new name, customize the things you want to change, modify the Preview Image and then overwrite the preset. Of course, there are exceptions, but this a good, simple workflow.

Naming the New Brush Preset

When you first load a brush into the Brush Setting Editor you will see something at the top similar to:

Preset Name - Inactive Overwrite Button.PNG

This show the name of the currently loaded Brush Preset. As soon as you make any change to the settings, the two buttons , Overwrite Preset and Reload, will be enabled.

Preset Name - Active Overwrite Button.PNG

The first step in creating a new Brush Preset is to type the name of the new preset (ie. Camel Oil Brush) in the Name field where you see the existing brush name. As soon as you click into the Name field and make a change to one or more characters then the button configuration changes to:

Preset Name - Active Save Preset Button.PNG

Enter the name you want to give your new Brush Preset and click on Save to Presets. Now you are ready you safely make changes and experiment without the danger of affecting the existing brush you used as a template.

The Save to Presets button is labeled Overwrite preset until you type new preset name. This is used for, you guessed it, updating the preset that's already selected.

However, if you wanted to make changes to the settings of the existing brush and have them be a part of the permanent configuration, then you would not click in the Name field. Instead you would click the Overwrite Preset button when you have completed your change(s) and are ready to save.

If, at any time, you want to reload the default settings of the currently loaded brush then you can click the Reload.

Making a New Brush

To learn more about the Brush Editor and the settings options click here.

Creating a Preview Image of the New Brush

The preview of your preset is generated from the square dotted line area in the scratchpad on the right of the Brush Settings Editor. If you don't see this vertically rectangular panel then right-click anywhere on the Brush Settings Editor and make sure you have Show ScratchPad clicked on as shown below.

Show ScratchPad dialog.PNG

Whatever you put in the square at the top of the panel will be the image that is used in the Brush Presets docker and the Brush Presets, accessed from the toolbar or by pressing F5. This can really be anything you want to represent the meaning of this brush. Some people create graphic images that represent analog tools (Pens, Pencils, Brushes, Sponges, etc...), others prefer to show a representative stroke if applicable. A third type is the texture brush which we'll be using as an example later on.

Bottom line: It's all up to you.

Saving the New Preset

When you have made all your changes you can use the Overwrite Preset button to save your new brush (remember that you gave it a new name earlier so now it is safe to overwrite the settings.) This can be tricky. If you didn't give the preset a new name earlier then clicking the Overwrite Preset button will overwrite the setting for your original brush. Much like Mont Python's Dead Parrot, it will "cease to be".

Krita Brush Settings Dialog.PNG

Loading / Sharing / Downloading Presets through the User Interface

Brush presets can be loaded, shared online or downloaded from the internet using the Preset Docker (Settings -> Dockers -> Preset Docker) or by the Preset Dropdown.

Preset Dropdown:

Krita Brush Mode Dialog.PNG

The preset dropdown is where you can delete brushes, and is a quick and easy way to get to brushes. You can use f6 to open it quickly!

The icons at the bottom (from left to right) do the following:

  • Open a new preset saved on your computer
  • Delete a preset
  • See presets shared by other users online and install the one(s) you like
  • Share your preset with other users online

Preset Docker (Settings -> Dockers -> Preset Docker):

Krita Brush Preset Docker.png

Loading preset packs manually

Occasionally you'll come across a user sharing a whole pack of presets / brushes online, usually in the form of a zip / tar.gz file. These can be installed all at once by doing the following:

  • Unzip the file
  • Copy any presets (.kpp files) to {your home folder}/.kde (or .kde4)/share/apps/Krita/presets
  • Copy any brushes (usually .gbr/.gih/.png/.gih/.jpg/ files) to {your home folder}/.kde (or .kde4)/share/apps/Krita/brushes
  • Restart Krita

From version 2.9 Krita has a new format for handling resources, it is called Bundle. It is just a compressed zip folder containing all the resources together, you can load and save new Bundles from Krita's inbuilt resource manager. You can check the Resource management page for more information.

Example: Loading a Photoshop Brush (*.ABR)

For some time Photoshop has been using the ABR format to compile brushes into a single file. Krita can read and load .ABR files, although there are certain features ..... For this example we will use an example of an .ABR file that contains numerous images of types of trees and ferns. We have two objectives. The first is to create a series of brushes that we an quickly access from the Brush Presets dock to easily put together a believable forest. The second is to create a single brush that we can change on the fly to use for a variety of flora, without the need to have a dedicated Brush Preset for each type.

  1. First up is download the file (.ZIP, .RAR,...) that contains the .ABR file and any licensing or other notes. Be sure to read the license if there is one!
  2. Extract the .ABR file into Krita's home directory for brushes.
  3. In your Brush Presets dock, select one of your brushes that uses the Pixel Brush Engine. An Ink Pen or solid fill type should do fine.
  4. Open the Brush Settings Editor (F5)
  5. Click on the tab "Predefined" next to "Auto". This will change the editor to show a scrollable screen of thumbnail images, most will be black on a white background. At the bottom of the window are two icons:
BSE - Predefined Window.PNG
  1. Click on the blue file folder on the left and then navigate to where you saved your .ABR file and open it.
  2. If everything went fine you will see a number of new thumbnails show up at the bottom of the window. In our case, they would all be thumbnails representing different types of trees. Your job now is to decide which of these you want to have as Brush Presets (Just like your Pencil) or you think you'll only use sporadically.
  3. Let's say that there is an image of an evergreen tree that we're pretty sure is going to be a regular feature in some of our paintings and we want to have a dedicated brush for it. To do this we would do the following:
  4. Click on the image of the tree we want
  5. Change the name of the brush at the very top of the Brush Editor Settings dialog. Something like "Trees - Tall Evergreen" would be appropriate.
  6. Click "Save to Presets"
  7. Now that you have a "Tall Evergreen" brush safely saved you can experiment with the settings to see if there is anything you would like to change, for instance, by altering the size setting and the pressure parameter you could set the brush to change the tree size depending on the pressure you were using with your stylus (assuming you have a stylus!).
  8. Once you're satisfied with your brush and it's settings you need to do one last thing (but click Overwrite Preset first!)

It's time now to create the Brush Preview graphic. The simplest and easiest way to do this for a brush of this type is to clear out the ScratchPad using the "Reset" button. Now, center your cursor in the Brush Preview square at the top of the ScratchPad and click once. You should see an image of your texture (in this case it would be the evergreen tree. In order to work correctly though the entire image should fit comfortably within the square. This might mean that you have to tweak the size of the brush. Once you have something you are happy with then click the Overwrite Preset button and your brush and it's preview image will be saved.

An alternative method that requires a little more work but gives you greater control of the outcome is the following:

Locate the Brush Preview thumbnail .kpp file in Krita and open it to get a 200x200 file that you can edit to your wishes.

Windows - C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\krita\share\apps\krita\paintoppresets

Linux - ~/.kde/share/apps/krita/paintoppresets

You're ready to add the next texture! From here on it's just a matter of wash, rinse and repeat for each texture where you want to create a dedicated Brush Preset.

Creating a Multi-use Texture Brush

If you are familiar with GIMP or Photoshop then you are familiar with the idea of changing the brush texture "on the fly" rather than having a dedicated brush for each texture. This is just a way of emulating this capability and giving the artist access to more options more quickly for certain types of work.

  1. Create a texture brush following the steps above.
  2. Suppose now that you want to paint with multiple textures changing them frequently, similar to our example of building up a forest made up of different types of trees. All you need to do is open the Brush Settings Editor or press F5 each time you want to apply a different texture to your brush. Select any texture from the options in the predefined tab and come back to the canvas to start painting.

When you are ready to swap out for another texture, follow step 2 again. In this way you can use a single texture brush to just swap textures in and out without having to dedicate a Brush Preset to every texture.

This page was last modified on 4 August 2015, at 16:57. Content is available under Creative Commons License SA 4.0 unless otherwise noted.