Sharp brushes

It's quite common that beginners think that the best thing with digital painting is that you can use soft brushes. It will automatically get easier to paint or it will go faster to get the right shape of things. Not so! Soft brushes should never be used in the early stages of a picture (at least that is what I think). It will only be harder to see what's wrong with the composition/balance/whatever if all edges are soft and blurry.

An example that points out what I'm talking about; I were about to paint a cloud. I was thinking...

A soft cloud equals a soft brush!

Ahead I went:

Hmm ok, that turned out... well, not so bad? :-P A day later I went back to the picture and thought:

what if I were to redo the whole cloud thing with a sharp brush.

Just so I'd at least tried it. The second try turned out like this..

I thought about the new picture a while and came to the conclusion that it looked a hell of a lot better. How come? I had the same idea behind them both... but the second picture became much more detailed. Well it didn't take long to figure out - it must have been the brushes.

If I didn't have that soft blurry brush to do all the work for me I had to take care of that part myself. I.e. I had to paint *every* little fluffy thing - nothing came for free like it did with the soft brush.

As a bonus the picture became a lot more intense / atmospheric. At least I think so. When you can see each individual brushstroke it brings out a much more raw feeling. Granted, it led to more work but it also gave me more control over the picture - that's a good thing ;-)