Behind the Scenes: Kyle T. Webster on how he digitally recreated the Munch brushes

by The Creative Cloud Team

posted on 07-03-2017

In a world-first collaboration, which we call The Hidden Treasures of Creativity, Adobe is working with the support of The Munch Museum in Oslo and award winning Photoshop brush maker Kyle T. Webster to digitally recreate seven of the more than 100-year old brushes used by Edvard Munch, painter of the famous artwork ‘The Scream’, in order to make them available in Creative Cloud for Photoshop and Sketch users worldwide.

To give you a glimpse behind the scenes, we spoke with Kyle about his involvement in the project and how he was able to capture the exact detail of Munch’s brushes and recreate them in Photoshop and Sketch.

1. How did you first approach digitally recreating the seven Edvard Munch brushes for Photoshop?
Throughout the entire project, I have worked extremely closely with both Adobe and the fine creative people at Abby Priest so we could work together to agree on a process to achieve the best results. Before I started, I was provided with really detailed 360 degree photos of seven of Munch’s brushes which I closely analysed and researched before putting stylus to tablet.

2. What was the process you used and how was this similar or different to when you have designed Photoshop brushes in the past?
I have never used photography before to create a specific shape for a brush that had to be as close to the original as possible – so this was a new challenge for me! To get started, I manually drew an outline of each brush, then determined which bristles would make contact first with the canvas if the brush were simply to graze the surface and isolated these to complete each brush stamp. In my normal process, I frequently begin generating a stamp for a new brush by simply experimenting with mark-making and then using the brush engine to manipulate the performance of this new shape. Working from a very specific image of an actual brush is not something I normally do.

3. What were some of the challenges you faced during this digital preservation? How did you overcome them?
It is impossible to know exactly how these brushes would have performed at the time Munch used them, since this was over 100 years ago, but the information provided by The Munch Museum, such as the stiffness of the bristles and the thickness of the paint when applied to Munch’s better known works, was helpful in solving this problem. I believe that what I have created are very good digital recreations of the original brushes.

4. How were you able to capture the minute details of the brushes in the museum collection? Was there much research which had to be done on the painting style of Munch and his overall process?
To capture the details of each brush, I manually drew the shape of each brush directly over the photos provided of the seven brushes (rather than using other means of selecting specific information/data from the photographs). Regarding brush performance, I wanted to provide users with enough options to be able to confidently reproduce the oil painting effects and behaviours seen in Munch’s paintings. I looked at a lot of his work before designing the brushes. This is why three of the brushes are Photoshop Mixer Brushes; it is important that users have the option to mix paint on the surface, so to speak, to produce a full range of effects. Also, it was very important to have the brushes respond naturally to the tilt of the stylus, to allow for more varied brush strokes.

5. What makes this brush set distinctive and different from other Photoshop brushes?
First of all, they were intentionally designed to be replicas of Munch’s real tools which date back 100 years. As far as I am aware, this is a first. Secondly, because each brush can be used to make many different kinds of brush strokes – just like real paintbrushes – they offer Photoshop and Sketch users a way to create realistic, artistic effects with a single brush. If necessary this allows an artist to paint freely and not constantly have to switch between different tools. As a brush designer, I am most interested in natural media emulation without the need for layer effects, multiple tools or filters, and these brushes do this very well.

6. How do iconic artists inspire you as an expert creating Photoshop brushes today?
For me, trying to understand how certain marks are made in a work of art leads me to experiment how I can recreate these same marks in Photoshop. Some artists have a distinct way of handling their tools – or their styles rely on a unique way of manipulating paint or other mediums – and this has always been interesting to me.

7. You are on the judging panel for the Adobe 5th Scream Contest – what are you hoping to see from the entries?
It would be great to see some illustrations that reference Munch’s other Scream paintings (he created four in total) but without borrowing too heavily from them so that the 5th Scream feels fresh. It is exciting to see artists around the world spend time on creating images that offer a surprising take on something familiar. I am really excited to see what makes the cut!

How can I get Munch’s brushes?
To get the brushes and start using them, download the brushes for free here, and don’t forget to check out our supporting tutorials on YouTube!

How to enter the Adobe 5th Scream Contest
To enter the contest, submit your masterpiece by uploading your artwork to Behance between 15th June–14th July with the tag #MunchContest. By doing so, you will be in with a chance to have your art displayed at The Munch Museum in Oslo and as part of a special Behance collection. In addition, the winner will receive a cash prize of €6,000 and an all-expenses paid trip to Adobe MAX taking place in Las Vegas from 18th-20th October 2017. All entries will be judged on originality, artistic composition, consistency with the theme, and creativity by a dedicated panel of judges. The jury will consist of Russell Brown and Michael Chaize from Adobe, Zach McCullough Lead Designer at Behance, Andy Sandoz former president of D&AD, and leading artists Kyle T. Webster, Therese Larsson, Suzanne Helmigh and Sebastien Hue. Winners of the contest will be announced on 28th July 2017. Hear Kyle himself explain more about the contest here.

Read the complete contest rules.

Watch Kyle’s tutorials on how to best to work with the brushes.

Topics: Creative Inspiration & Trends

Products: Photoshop, Creative Cloud