A 25 Year Quest is Rewarded


Sometimes an idea doesn’t come in a flash. In this case it took years. It can happen to you, too. You just have to be patient.

25 years ago in 1994, I was one of the primary authors of Painter (now owned by Corel) along with Mark Zimmer and Tom Hedges. We were finishing up development of Painter 3. Mark and I were responsible for new features and this edition was packed with them: Animation, a basic layering system that predated Photoshop, the Image Hose, canvas rotation, the now ubiquitous triangle-in-a-circle color palette, bristle brushes, a seamless pattern maker, and others I can’t remember.

Mark had written a new brush type, the Drip method, that has a unique quality. Brushes that use the Drip method can both apply and smear underlying paint within the same stroke. This ability enabled crafting some interesting brushes. One of my regular tasks was to create new content for the shipping Brush Library. Included brushes that utilized the Drip method included Big Wet Kiss, Flemish Rub, and the Sargent brushes, among others. Big Wet and Flemish have long since faded away, but the Sargent brush became a popular user favorite. 

The Sargent marches on

While creating these brushes, I took note of an odd artifact that appeared whenever the Drip method utilized a Paper Grain. These textural grains emulate the surface of a physical medium like canvas or paper. It is one of the features that allow Painter to realistically mimic traditional natural media. 

Whenever grain was enabled, the Sargent brush produced striations in the applied strokes due to the interaction of the stroke with the paper grain. The result wasn’t entirely undesirable, but it didn’t respect paper grain the way other texture-bearing brushes did. I knew there was something to this behavior and tucked it away for future reference.

The Sargent is restricted to base

Another limitation to become problematic in future Painter releases was that brushes utilizing the Drip method did not work on layers. This was no problem at the time of release as full-blown layers did not yet exist when Painter 3 was developed. In future releases, however, this limitation severely hobbled usage of Drip method-based brushes. Users came up with workarounds, but the best way to take advantage of the Sargent brush was to restrict painting to the canvas.

The Sargent finally gets a Promotion

After 20+ years of being confined to base, Corel updated the Drip method to layer-aware status with the release of Painter 2018. This now enabled the Sargent brush to work on layers. I had always kept the Sargent’s odd grain interaction in the back of my mind and it was now time to revisit this unique behavior. 

The Sargent learns to Dance

Another new feature of Painter 2018 was random grain rotation and position. A single paper grain could now exhibit a greater range of textural possibilities. This could add yet another dimension to the Sargent brush’s unique grain interaction.

So how does all this Painter arcana fit together? 

Ever since I noticed the Sargent brush’s odd behavior back in 1994, I had a strong intuition that this could be a powerful technique for creating complex brushstrokes. What I didn’t know then was that other key parts of the puzzle had not yet been realized. Once Painter 2018 arrived, the additional pieces had arrived.

Created with Emergence

Having seen that initial glimpse 25 years earlier provided me with the insight to combine the new puzzle pieces into a complete realization resulting in my Emergence brush system. By utilizing specially developed paper grains (another puzzle piece), Emergence brushes never repeat a patterned textural element within a stroke, which is consistent with real-world analog brushstrokes. The culmination is a rich textural painting environment, a quest on I have been on for over 2 decades.

Sometimes you can teach an old dog new tricks.