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Create with Kyle T. Webster, Photoshop Brush Master

By Charles Purdy

During a recent “Create With” event, renowned illustrator Kyle T. Webster treated viewers to some extraordinary feats of spontaneous creation. In our jam-packed hour with him, he painted two images, shared many Adobe Photoshop CC techniques and tips, and discussed his illustration philosophy and his approach to his work. Here are some event highlights and, at the bottom of the page, a recording of the full session:

An educator and illustrator whose work has appeared in in the New Yorker, the New York Times, Time, and many other publications, Kyle is best known as the founder of KyleBrush.com, which offers extremely popular industry-standard Photoshop brushes for professional artists—brushes that he uses to great effect in his own work.  

NATURAL MEDIA IN A DIGITAL WORLD

Kyle’s creations have the look and feel of paintings and drawings created with non-digital media. His Photoshop brushes are based on real-world tools, and, in many ways, he approaches his Wacom Cintiq tablet as if it were a true canvas. (For instance, he typically paints on a single layer and avoids masking, instead relying on more-painterly techniques in his work.)

Kyle frequently creates illustrations in a spontaneous, exploratory way—he uses multiple brushes to lay down texture and color on a blank canvas, and then he responds to the shapes that begin to reveal themselves. During our live session, he created these two images in this fashion.

Some benefits of working digitally, however, are that it allows you to mix different media types in ways that would be impossible in the real world. Digital media also give you an unlimited ability to experiment and explore (without worrying about running out of paint or canvases).

In some respects, “exploratory” defines how Kyle approaches his work. He begins an illustration by experimenting with various brushes and techniques to create a surface or background—developing visual interest and a richly textured base, until an image begins to reveal itself. (In our “Create With” session, he primarily used brushes from his Ultimate Megapack.)

Watch this brief video snippet to see how Kyle prepares a digital canvas. He works this way often—for instance, as a warm-up before starting a client project. A tip: Kyle always begins with a canvas that’s darker than white, so he can work with white as a color when he’s painting.

Here, Kyle reveals a little-known but very handy technique: Any Photoshop brush can be turned into an eraser that retains that brush’s properties—to do so, simply set the brush’s mode to Clear.

When blending colors in his images, Kyle uses mixer brushes to move pigment around in a painterly way. In this snippet, he explains why.

CREATING IN COLOR

With millions of colors to choose from in Photoshop’s Color Picker, randomly choosing colors is a “terrible” approach, says Kyle—because it’s all too easy to end up with colors that don’t work well together.

As with painting, he mixes color in a natural-media way, and this helps him create balanced, harmonious color palettes for his images. In all his work, Kyle chooses three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) and then he mixes those colors to create the additional colors in his image.

Here, Kyle demonstrates his color-mixing process, shares his workaround for greens that appear too muted, and explains one way to make sure your colors are ready to print.

In this snippet, Kyle explains why he never uses pure black in his illustrations, and he creates some neutral tones with the colors he has previously chosen.

When you use a watercolor brush to paint a color over a shape containing that color, the color multiplies (just like with real watercolors). Here, watch Kyle lighten and smooth out the area of overlap between two shapes painted with a watercolor brush—it’s a very handy trick.

WATCH THE FULL RECORDING

Click on the image below to watch the full session.

Ready to try some of Kyle’s tricks and techniques? He has generously provided the layered Photoshop file he used in the session’s color and natural-media demonstration—just download the file and start experimenting. Then, for more tips and information about his brushes, visit Kyle’s blog.

 

Kyle T. Webster was one of many creative luminaries who spoke at 2016’s Adobe MAX. Visit the MAX website to watch recorded keynote presentations and conference sessions.