What Renowned Illustrator Kyle T. Webster of Kyle Brush Will Bring to Adobe
Acclaimed illustrator Kyle T. Webster has joined Adobe as a design evangelist. Many know him as the designer behind Kyle Brush, a catalogue of more than 1,000 custom Photoshop brushes that are now exclusively available to Creative Cloud members.
A renowned artist whose work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Atlantic, Webster’s unique specialty and attention to detail has empowered artists and illustrators around the world to create stunning, textural pieces of work using digital brushes that feel natural and authentic to use. The acquisition of Kyle Brush and the onboarding of Webster bring a wealth of creative opportunity and expertise to Adobe’s Creative Cloud community. Not only will he continue to design brushes for Photoshop, Photoshop Sketch and other Adobe products, but he’ll also work with product and design teams to enhance the brush engine and build out new innovative features supporting the design and illustration community.
We spoke with Webster about what inspired the change and what to expect from the artist going forward.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your new role at Adobe and what you hope to accomplish?
I want to help create the future of digital drawing and painting, define what that is and also make it so good that illustrators around the world are just rejoicing and doing backflips and freaking out about what we offer. I’m really there I think to come at it from the point of view of a working illustrator, somebody who relies on Adobe software and has relied on Adobe software for the last almost 20 years to do literally every piece of art I’ve ever created. I want to really accelerate the development of new and exciting digital drawing and painting experiences for the customer.
I’ll be an ambassador for Adobe communicating with the illustration community across all areas of the industry, so animators, people who work in the more traditional illustration roles like magazine and book illustration, people who create product illustrations, people who work in custom lettering, lettering art and even font creation based on drawing, and people working in the AR and VR spaces. I want to think about how we could develop custom brushes and tools for people working in a 3-D environment and creating 3-D environments and virtual reality environments.
What excites you most about this opportunity?
The most exciting thing is to now have an idea for a tool for an illustrator, a new tool or an improved tool, and not just wish for it to be there but to actually try and produce it and to have the resources in place to make that happen. That’s thrilling because we can move quickly to address whatever needs the illustration community has. Prior to my coming on board, one of my personal challenges I had was working within an existing framework to develop the best possible brushes for my customers. Now we can move beyond that and we can improve on that engine.
I also am excited because I have a direct line to many people in the illustration world. I love that they could just approach me directly and say here is one thing that, for example, the comics community would love if we could do and I could say great let me take that into consideration and talk to certain people on the Photoshop team or Sketch or whatever and we can figure out how to make that feature accessible to you. That’s an amazing thing.
This isn’t your first time working with Adobe. You partnered with Adobe on the digital recreation of Edvard Munch’s paintbrushes. Did you ever get to work with the physical brushes?
No, nobody was allowed to touch them except for an employee who had the permission to go into the vault.
They have many more brushes by the way, but they selected seven and each had unique qualities, photographed them at super high resolution from all angles, and then sent me those photographs. I designed the brushes very carefully from that reference material. The actual brush stamps I used to start the process for each brush were traced by hand from the base of each of those brushes as well. It was a really cool experience. I had never designed a brush that way.
Read more about how Webster digitally recreated Edvard Munch’s brushes here.
What is your normal process when you’re designing a brush? I would love some insight into what that looks like.
There are so many different ways I go about it. One is I’ll just scan something from a mark that I make on paper of like a little blob of paint or something like that. More often than not I create a shape to start the process. This is called a brush stamp. I create that stamp. Using existing tools I’ve already designed, I’ll create a completely new stamp and then work from that.
One time I had a photograph that I took. I had eaten some beets with olive oil on them and when the plate was empty the juice from the beets and the olive oil created this amazing pattern on the plate that I photographed and then used as a stamp for a brush. That would have been called Oil and Vinegar. It worked really well.
There were other times where I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I had a fountain pen? Then I would very deliberately go about making those knowing what I know about how to use the brush settings panel and things like that. A lot of what I created wound up just coming from pure experimentation and play, and I do think that’s probably where the best things come from with creative people. If you combine expertise with play you get good results.
In one of the live drawing sessions you did at Adobe MAX last year, you said that when you’re creating a brush or you’re using a brush you like to envision the physical tool that you’re trying to emulate with your brush. I loved that point from an artistic perspective and was wondering why is this so important to you?
I came into working digitally at the very end of my college career. Prior to that I worked with every natural media tool you can imagine and loved and still love to work with those tools. My primary goal when I started creating the toolset was emulation of natural media and because I had a strong memory of and ability to work with pastel or watercolor or charcoal or whatever, I think it was easier for me then to better replicate that sensation working with that tool in Photoshop.
I probably in the last four years designed over a hundred B pencils. I would only sell two or three of them, but there would be 100 iterations because I would know myself what does it feel like to draw with pencil on paper and how can I best make that feel that way in Photoshop? I was very picky about it. I think that pickiness is what led to the products being successful. Other artists would then select the brush with their stylus and start drawing with it and immediately say yeah this does feel like a pencil. I’m happy with this.
What’s so magical about creating and working with custom brushes?
It’s like there’s an endless number of tools you can create when you get comfortable with that brush setting panel. One of the things I love is that whenever you do use a different tool you draw differently. The impressionist brushes I designed create these multi-color and sort of random brushstrokes that feel a little bit like Monet’s paintings, the ones with multiples of what appear to be random brushstrokes when you’re up close and then from a distance everything reads clearly. I would paint differently with those than I would say a technical pen because it’s a completely different experience. That just let me have a lot of fun in playing around with styles.
I think that’s why I never got bored with it. It was always a great chance to try and learn something new about drawing. I always want to get better at being an illustrator, that’s always in the back of my mind, quite a big priority, so I think designing these tools helps that end goal as well. That experimentation led to some of my favorite little drawings that I probably wouldn’t have made if I didn’t have those tools.
Not all Kyle Brush supporters were as pleased about the acquisition. Is there anything you would like to say to them?
Yeah. I feel really proud of the fact that I was able to support legacy users and create tools for them, a library of over a thousand tools that will still work forever and ever for them if they choose to stay with that software. What I realized though was, as the years went on, roughly 70 percent of my customer base was already on Creative Cloud. It just made sense to push forward and think about the future and think about those users. For me to make new tools, I think I need to move forward into new territory.
I would also say for those people that many of them I don’t think are aware that you can subscribe to Photoshop and Lightroom for $10 a month. That to me is an incredible opportunity because you know you pay more than that for Netflix and Netflix doesn’t make you any money, but Photoshop, if you’re a designer or illustrator, that software is making you many, many times more in your revenue stream.
Thank you so much Kyle for your time and for sharing your insight. Any closing thoughts?
This is something that I had thought about and sought out, it’s something I tried to make happen over two years ago and it’s so fantastic to have actually arrived at this place where now all of a sudden from the inside I can help design amazing things for the community that I’m a part of. I’m an illustrator first and foremost. It’s my main thing. I want to draw and paint forever and ever. To just be a part of the team that created the software that has made my career possible since 1999, is kind of surreal. It’s all a little too good to be true. I love it.
How to access the brushes.
From Photoshop, open the brushes panel to reveal the hamburger menu. Inside that contextual menu is a link that reads, “Get More Brushes.” Click that to access the more than 1,000 brushes that are now available to Creative Cloud members for free. On mobile, you have access to any of your Photoshop brushes from within the iOS and Android Photoshop Sketch applications.