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An Introduction to Livebrush - the Vector Motion Brush Program

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Livebrush is a new and innovative drawing program. It's not a full vector application like Illustrator®, nor does it have the myriad features of Painter® or Photoshop®. Livebrush creates graphics with a simple stroke of a "motion-enabled" brush, which means it responds to your mouse's movement to modify the line and apply different styles. That's the "live" part — no two strokes are the same, and each can have infinite variations. This unique brush is what makes Livebrush fun — and addictive.

Downloading Livebrush

Livebrush is better understood once you jump right in and try it. It's a free download and will run on most modern computers and operating systems. Livebrush is an Adobe AIR application. It's not made by Adobe, but rather runs in Adobe's AIR framework. When you install Livebrush, AIR will be installed as well (if you don't already have it).

The Interface

When you first open Livebrush, a new "project" is started by default. The Livebrush interface contains six basic elements: The "paper," or drawing area, the Project Bar and Tool Bar, plus three panels: Styles, Tool Settings and Layers.

Drawing

Let's get right to the fun part — drawing. Make sure the Brush tool is selected, then choose a style from the pre-sets in the Styles panel. Here, I've used the Floral Basic style. Paint a line with the brush to get a feel of it.

As you can see, Livebrush adds a new layer in the Layers panel for each stroke. These layers can be turned off and/or deleted. You can also change the color of the locked background layer by clicking on the swatch at the top right corner of the panel.

Tool Settings

Take a look at the Tool Settings panel. Under the Behavior tab, there are settings for Velocity and Friction. These are the two basic settings which determine the behavior of the live brush

Velocity: Adjust this slider to set the "speed" of the brush when drawing. A higher setting will let the brush keep moving after you've stopped drawing.

Friction: Sets the "resistance" of the brush. A higher setting slows the brush while drawing. With no friction at all, the brush would keep moving indefinitely. Try different combinations of velocity and friction to see how they interact.

Mouse Up Complete: When checked, the brush will stop immediately (regardless of the velocity or friction settings) when you release the mouse click.

To get a sense of how each brush will behave, you can click the Preview icon (an eyeball) at the bottom of the Styles panel. Click through the styles to see a demonstration of each. You can change the color of the preview background, by clicking on the swatches menu in the upper left corner, or you can just delete it.

While in preview mode, you can change the settings of each style and get live, updated previews. You could spend all day doing this! For example, preview a simple smooth brush, then as it's previewing, change the color, the opacity, the line type, etc.,

Decos

You'll notice that some brushes add swirls, leaves or other flourishes to the line as you draw. These are called decorations, or "decos," for short. The decos are not part of the line, but are small graphic files that are added to it, based on the settings of the given style. Decos can be GIF, JPG, PNG or SWF files.

In the Deco tab, you can see the list of decos used in each style.

Below that are several options to modify the look of the deco and how it interacts with a brush stroke. These are:

  • Align Type
  • Position
  • Angle
  • Scale
  • Opacity
  • Color Amount
  • Colors

Under each one of these settings is a Type pull-down menu, which allows you to determine how the deco is applied to the line, based on your brush stroke. Again, the combinations are infinite. Experiment!

The Pen Tool

Unlike Illustrator, the Pen Tool in Livebrush is not the primary drawing tool. It is mainly used to modify or fine-tune an existing line. Click a center point to add another point, directly after the point you clicked. Or click outside the line to extend it. Click and drag to create curves.

The Transform Tool

You can use the Transform Tool to scale and rotate a line or multiple line layers. It can also be used to move individual points on a line, similar to the Pen tool. Hold down the Shift key to constrain the proportions of the transformation. Hold down Command/Control to rotate. For precise transformations, enter values in the Tool Setting panel.

Saving and Exporting

Livebrush files are stored in a project folder, which contains the drawing (a .lbp file), plus the styles and layers associated with that drawing. If you save and close a project, then re-open Livebrush, the last-used project will open, which will include all the settings and styles stored with that project.

Livebrush artwork can also be exported in other formats, so you can incorporate it into other design applications. Under the Livebrush menu (there is no File menu), you can export images or individual layers as transparent PNG files that can be opened in Photoshop. And for the $10 upgrade to Livebrush Pro, you can export to vector format, which can be opened in Illustrator, recolored, modified and combined with other vector objects.

Conclusion

It's easy (and free!) to get started with Livebrush. This is just a basic overview — delve deeper into it and you'll be creating fun and unique artwork in no time.

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