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Create a Forest Scene with Livebrush

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For this tutorial, we'll use Livebrush's innovative motion brush feature to create abstract shapes. We'll then bring those shapes into Illustrator for further assembly and editing. As this will focus primarily on Livebrush, I will assume an intermediate to advanced knowledge of Illustrator. If you haven't seen the Introduction to Livebrush, you might want to read that first. Let's get started!


Step 1

When you first open Livebrush, a new project is started by default. 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. Below is the Livebrush interface.

Step 2

Since we're going to draw strokes in Livebrush for export to Illustrator, we can get rid of the parchment "Paper" layer. Select it in the Layers palette and click the Remove Layer icon. The background layer is black by default, but you can change it to any color. Click on the color swatches in the upper right of the palette and change it to white (#ffffff). Note that the Background layer will still be black in the Layers palette, regardless of the color you choose.

Step 3

The pre-set brush styles can be modified in infinite ways. We'll use the "Marker Medium" brush as a starting point for the aspen tree shapes.

When you select it in the Styles palette, you'll see the three-tabbed Tool Settings palette below it. First, under the Line tab, in the Color section, choose Multiple as the color type. Change the colors just as you did with the "Background" layer. We'll use three warm neutral colors to give the tree trunks a gradated effect.

For the Width, Angle and Opacity, input the values shown below. Under the Behavior tab, use "Normal." The Velocity and Friction settings are unavailable, since these are used with a "live" brush.

Step 4

Now simply draw a few vertical strokes with the Brush tool. You'll see that Livebrush creates a new layer for each stroke. Each layer can be turned on or off, and can be moved in the stacking order.

Your group of trees should look something like the image below.

Step 5

Once you're satisfied with the trees, save the Livebrush project. Now select each tree layer by holding down the Command key and clicking on it. The selected layers will be highlighted blue.

Go to the Livebrush menu, and choose Export > Line(s) to SVG. It's important to remember that only the selected layers will be exported. (NOTE: Export to SVG is only available with the paid upgrade. For $10, you get this capability, plus extra document formats and decos).

Step 6

Name the SVG file in the Save dialog, then switch to Illustrator and open the file. As you can see in Outline mode, each stroke it made up of a series of smaller vector shapes.

Step 7

For the forest floor, we'll use the "Geometry Small" brush style. As before, set the Color to Multiple, and change the colors. I've used an Autumn palette of oranges and greens.

Step 8

Under the Behavior tab, select "Live" as the brush type. Set the Friction lower and the Velocity higher. This will make the brush more responsive to your movements. Set the Width to a maximum of about 20, the Opacity to Random, and the Angle to Oscillate.

Step 9

Draw long, horizontal lines along the bottom third of the canvas. Think of these shapes as leaves on the ground. Make them as tight or as loose as you like.

Step 10

We'll create some abstract shapes for the background using the "Geometry 3" brush style. Set the brush behavior to Live, with a high velocity and low friction. Choose three or four hues for a blue color scheme, and input the rest of the settings from the image below. Now draw a couple of circular, wavy strokes.

Step 11

Select all the blue stroke layers and the leaves layers, and as before, export to SVG. TIP: If you're having trouble remembering which layer is what, you can double-click the layer name to change it.

Step 12

In Illustrator, open the SVG file you just created. Drag all the objects into the original file, and arrange them relative to the tree shapes. You may need to bring the trees to the front.

Step 13

Create a gradient-filled rectangle for the background sky and place it on a new layer below the other. Here, I've used two blues to make the gradient. The darker one has the following values: R=166, G=191, and B=212. The lighter one is R=240, G=247, and B=255.


Step 14 - Embellishments

Many of Livebrush's brush styles include decorations. These are swirls, leaves or other flourishes that are added to the stroke as you draw. The "decos," as they're called, are not part of the line, but are small graphic files that are added to it, They can be GIF, JPG, PNG or SWF files.

As such, they are not exported to SVG, because they are not vector objects. For our purposes, we'll cheat by using Illustrator Live Trace.

Select the "Life Branches Thin" style, and draw a few strokes. Make sure they don't overlap one another.

Select these line layers and go to Export > Layer(s) to Image. This will save the image as a PNG file.

Place the PNG in Illustrator, and do a simple black and white trace, and expand it. You can now use the resulting shapes as branches on the trees.

For extra visual interest and focus, I've created a cardinal in Illustrator, and added it to one of the branches.

In Illustrator, of course, you can easily make changes to the colors, opacity and any other aspect of the illustration. Once you're done, tidy everything up with a Clipping Mask.

Livebrush may not be as feature-rich or intuitive as Illustrator, but it is a very deep application. The variations of brush styles are endless. When you use Livebrush and Illustrator together, so are the possibilities.

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