Saturday

BrushStroke v2 Review




A few weeks ago, Code Organa significantly updated BrushStroke into a powerful and meaningful application for the iPhone and iPad. Version 2 is certainly a significant update all around and a great step forward in being able to emulate a variety of painting and medium styles, including a few drawing techniques.


The program works on the principle of automatically converting a photograph into a painting based upon the user selecting from a variety of presets and then applying a percentage via a slider control. The slider is available throughout each category and filter and is operated simply by sliding ones finger from the left to the right and back again, which then adjust the strength or weakness of the style or filter numerically.



Selecting your photograph


When you open the application, you are prompted to select an image from your library and once you have done this, BrushStroke 2 then uses the default setting to convert you photograph into an oil painting. This of course can be changed or even bypassed for another category and filter effect, however the majority of the time one will start by selecting a painting style and then a filter before proceeding to the next layer category.



Paint layer category


In the first layer category Paint, there are 13 paint styles with various filter styles each, from which the artist can select from. The original version had 38 filter styles, which has now been increased to 73, almost doubling the number of painting variations at disposal to the mobile artist. 

               01: Oil 6
               02: Washed 10
               03: Medium 5
               04: Natural 7
               05: Hatched 4
               06: Simple             8
               07: Frayed             4
               08: Gloss  3
               09: Lead  2
               10: Bold 5
               11: Abstract 5
               12: Prominent  6
               13: Experimental 7


During the editing process, you can double tap the image or use two fingers touching the screen while going in the opposite direction, you are able to enlarge and see how your style and filter are having an effect on the image. Still using two fingers and moving across the screen in one direction, you can move the image around.



Palette layer category 


Once you have completed selecting a painting style, the next layer category available has 9 different tone categories with 56 filters. This layer category too has been expanded from the original first release of BrushStroke.

               01: Tones 4
               02: Heavy  5
               03: Shades 4
               04: Segment       3
               05: Saturation 4
               06: Varied 13
               06: Threes 10
               07: Twos 9
               08: Ones 3


Now some of these filters actually have the ability to overpower the painting style that has just been applied and turn ones image into a Grisaille, an image consisting of only monochromatic color. This type of painting is also considered an undercoating, which allows for greater depth  and richness when colors are applied over it. However with BrushStroke 2, some of these filters not only alter the shades of the painting, but depending on the filter applied, actually turn ones painted first layer category Paint alteration into a Conté or pastel drawing. While these drawing effects are certainly desired as an alternative medium, I am suggesting that the developers have another look at the second layer category, since these styles and filters can either enhance the painting, turn it into a drawing, or a monochrome Grisaille. 


By splitting this layer category into three separate divisions, one layer would serve as the underpainting and offer the user a number of monochromatic tones to select from and these would in effect deepen and enrich the colors of the painting. They would also add a slight over-all tint of the color that was selected to serve as the underpainting over the entire image, which would be user controlled by shifting the numerical slider.


The second part of this layer category would simply convert the effects of the first painting style into a monochromatic painting, by converting all colors into monochromatic shades of the user selected color. This would also prepare the image for the third part of this layer category.


The finally division, we come to the drawing layer, were the painting is converted into a Conté or pastel drawing. This will over time, permit Code Organa to add more specific filters with subsequent updates in which the user can select from several strengths of pencil and charcoal. 


While pencil and charcoal may seem out of place in a painting program, let us not forget in the very first category layer we are given 8 various filters which emulate watercolor and some artists like to use pencil to strengthen the image before colors are applied. As for charcoal, some painters use it to sketch out the scene on the canvas, before oils, acrylic or other medium is applied.



3D Canvas layer category


The next layer category 3D is a selection of various surfaces. You have Auto and None before choosing from three categories, Canvas, Papers, and Surfaces.

               01: Canvas 5
               02: Papers 8
               03: Surfaces    6


From the various textures of canvas, we find included Cold Press, which I am suggesting should be moved to papers, as Bristol Board comes in either cold or hot press and is used for illustration. The Hard Grain represents a painters board, were a thin but medium textured canvas is glued to stiff cardboard that has also primed. All other canvases are stretched to a wooden frame and fastened with heavy duty staples or in the past nailed.


The paper selection ranges from Natural Unbleached, White, Vintage and Grey, while the remaining 4 styles are toned papers, useful for pastel and Conté drawings, but can be applied to a painting in order to achieve a specific feel and look that one is after.


Artist not only use canvas or paper to paint and draw upon, but also alternative surfaces as Burlap and Wood are used and these are available in BrushStroke 2. However they have also included Particle Board, Rock, Stone and Stucco. While Stucco may seem out of place, it should be considered when ones photograph is of a wall covered in graffiti or simply when one desires more textures in their paint style.


We have now completed the conversion from a photograph into a painting, watercolor or drawing and our attention will now focuses on fine tuning the over-all look of our image. While the 4th layer category had very good controls in the previous version of BrushStroke, it has been made even better with the additions of a few more controls. 



Adjustment layer category


This last layer category Adjustment can be considered to be the most powerful, as it can seriously alter the appearance and mood of ones work. Of the 10 different settings, I have my personal favorite, Density and especially Temperature. Most of these settings in category 4 are automatically at 50%, a number of these are set to zero, 39 or 100%. Remember by sliding one’s finger across from left to right, one can adjust the strength or weakness of these settings.


The adjustment category consists of:

               Brightness
               Contrast
               Saturation
               Density
               Vibrance
               Exposure
               Shadows
               Highlights
               Highlights
               Temperature
               Thickness
               Sharpness
               Reset


After using BrushStroke 2 for a while, one will notice that some these settings hardly require much of an adjustment because of their default settings. Still, the adjustment layer category should not be taken lightly or even dismissed.



Returning to the Paint layer category in order to try another filter




Now that a new paint filter was selected, now trying a new tone filter




Because of the changes, adjustments need to be further fine-tuned


Since using BrushStroke 2, I find that once I have taken my photograph through all of the layered categories, I often go back and not only make further adjustment as to the strength or weakness of a certain filter, but may also try another a different paint style as demonstrated in the three screen shot samples above. This going back and forth to try alternative settings does come at a price. 


While the user is able to save the converted photograph and then return to further edit the painting and save another version, at the moment BrushStroke 2 does not offer the ability to save ones settings before making any alternative adjustments. 


Being able to save or import individual settings, then exporting one or all settings as a single document file is something most application lack and it is my wish that the developers at Code Organa would address this feature updates.



Signing ones name


Now that the converted photograph appears as a painting, watercolor or drawing, it deserves to be signed. Layer category Signature permits the user to sign their work, as well as to resize and adjust the angle of the signature. Then place the users signature anywhere on the final art work.



Sample colors for ones signature


In order to make the signature compatible with the painting, BrushStroke 2 samples the main colors of the painting and then offers the user 5 colors with which to tone their signature. Once the user has signed and made their color selection, BrushStroke 2 remembers the signature and its position. However the user has the option to clear the signature and create a new. If one decides not to change the signature, a new color sample can be applied that is based on the new painting.




Now that one is finished and ready to export the painting, there are further options given the user, you can Save, Share or Ship. After saving the artwork to the Photo Album, you can share to the following social media Twitter, FaceBook, Instagram or eMail, even attach your image to a Text message.



Framed Print version




Canvas version




Poster version




Selecting ones size


If you wish to have your painting professionally printed, you first select a Product, then the style of Frame and finally the Size. When choosing Product, there are further three options, a Framed Print, Canvas, or Poster. The price for each is seen in the very top of the screen. I would suggest that first one select the size then the product and frame, as size obviously impacts the price. When on the Ship screen, there is a details button (or arrow on iPhone), that allows one to get a price breakdown and other information on the product one is ordering.







          Final Thoughts

When BrushStroke was first released earlier this year, there were also a number of other painting apps released. While some of these received some updates, none of them was given the significant treatment as BrushStroke 2 has received.


The advancements made in this version provide more options and greater control over ones image as it is being converted then in the previous version of BrushStroke. Still one must not forget that there will be some images whose outcome will not be too satisfactory and this is not the fault of BrushStroke 2.




Only after using BrushStroke 2 repeatedly and by carefully paying attention to the resulting effects, can ones outcome become more successful. It should also be noted that preparing ones photograph before importing into BrushStroke 2, will only improve the results. In a subsequent BrushStroke 2 tutorial post, I will be covering preparations of ones photograph and the various ways BrushStroke 2 can be combined with other programs for some exceptional results. This will also include a demonstration of my two favorite adjustment settings options, Density and Temperature, with plenty of examples.




Though I have giving BrushStroke 2 glowing marks, there are a few items not found in the program. When selecting a photo from the Photo Album within BrushStroke 2 prior to importing for treatment, it would be nice to be given the choice if one wants to process the image as a JPG, TIFF or PNG.


The reason why I feel this matters is that now many mobile photographers shot with camera applications that permits on to save the image as TIFF. Therefore it should go without saying, programs need to begin to allow the user to select TIFF as their option to save the photograph/art work.




As BrushStroke 2 becomes so much better, one item also missing is the capability to choose from a number of brush strokes sizes and widths, including a number of palette knife techniques that in turn would affect the selected filter in the Paint layer category.


In the adjustment category we have sharpening, but not a blur function. Sometimes the textured edge has too much harshness and a touch of blur to soften this, is one task not to be overlooked.




When a filter is applied, the variation between zero to 100% only alters the filtration from marginally to minimum. I had hoped that when it is less than 50%, a little of the original photograph would appear through the painting and increase as the number is reduced further. This resetting of the function could act as a blender and make some paintings appear more life like and realistic.


I have already mentioned the need to save ones filter combinations as a single file, including being able to import previous settings. What I did not mention is that there should be a category layer dedicated to users previous preferences. Therefore it is important that users combinations be saved as a single and as a group file.




One last recommendation I have for the developers, is that the meta data imbed all the filters and there settings. This will allow users to easily repeat any of their work when the combination was not saved.


While in communication with one of the developers of Code Organa, in BrushStroke 2 there are some hidden items users most likely will not be aware of and I would like to share these with you now.


In addition to the undo and redo buttons, tapping on the title of the adjustment (for instance, "Paint +100") will reset that adjustment back to it's default value. Holding down on the undo button will also prompt to reset everything back to it's default state.


To collapse the toolbar in the main interface in order to see more of the image that one is working on, all you have to do is swipe down on the toolbar that contains all the icons that let you switch between all the layer categories. To bring the toolbar back up, swipe up on it, or tap any of the icons on the toolbar.




While Code Organa has produced a good program and followed up with a wonderful update, they are already thinking about what to do next. They are very receptive to suggestions and ideas users might have, including detailed notes if there are any issues, they will want to know.  You can reach Code Organa at: Support@CodeOrgana.com.


BrushStroke 2 is designed for both iPhone and iPad and runs on iOS 8 and is 64-bit support. Last updated was Oct 30, 2014, Version 2. Optimized for iPhone 5, 6 and 6 Plus. The price of BrushStroke 2 is $2.99 US Dollar and there are no in-app purchases.


Next Wednesday’s post will be the first of two BrushStroke 2 tutorials and the announcement of a BrushStroke 2 GiveAway. 




LINKs
BrushStrock at iTunes
Previous TiPA post on BrushStroke
Canvas Pop website

Technical Notes: 
All photographs were taken using 6x6 as its camera. Most images were post processed before being introduced into BrushStroke 2.




All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved









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