BEHIND THE SCENES
Brushes With Greatness
How Adobe’s Fresco can help you reimagine digital illustration.
Adobe Fresco - Draw and Paint
Drawing, painting & sketching
If you’ve ever painted with an Adobe app, you probably know Kyle Webster. The acclaimed North Carolina–based illustrator and longtime Adobe ambassador has created a nearly boundless array of Photoshop brushes that realistically replicate everything from ink and watercolor brushes to leaky fountain pens to animal fur.
Now, in his role as senior design evangelist for Adobe, Webster is bringing his talents (and his brushes) to Adobe’s new painting and drawing app, Fresco. Full of features that’ll appeal to the creative set, Fresco is aimed directly at artists. “When you first open the app, in the top left corner, you see brushes,” Webster says. “That tells the story right there. You’re here to paint. You’re here to draw.”
Webster has plenty of experience in this field: He’s been drawing on computers since he was a kid, when his dad would occasionally bring home a loaner Apple IIe from work. In high school, Webster sketched superheroes pixel by pixel with MacDraw; in college, he’d “make any excuse I could” to play around with Photoshop in the computer labs. As he got more skilled, he started making his own Photoshop brushes—a process that scratched a very specific creative itch. “I could literally spend eight hours trying to make a pencil look like a pencil and never for a minute be bored with the process,” he says.
I’m very picky. And I tell Adobe a lot of stuff I think artists really want.
Kyle Webster, Adobe senior design evangelist
He put some of those perfected pencils up for sale. Business boomed, and before he knew it Webster had become an A-list celeb in the niche world of Photoshop brushes. “It snowballed into this massive thing that eventually got acquired and rolled into the Adobe Creative Cloud library,” he says.
And in 2017, Adobe brought him on too.
“It made sense because Fresco is a brush-centric app,” Webster says from his North Carolina home office, which is dominated by a bookshelf full of M. C. Escher hardcovers, a few decades’ worth of personal sketchbooks, and a coffee-table tome on the turn-of-the-century comic strip Little Nemo.
“I think Fresco came around in the same way that Lightroom did,” he says. “Photographers said, ‘I love Photoshop, but I want a laser-focused app that does a specific kind of photo editing. Fresco is focused on the needs of illustrators, especially now that people aren’t tied to a studio environment so much anymore.”
Given his background, Webster is singularly equipped to serve as a voice for that creative community. “I’m very picky,” Webster laughs. “And I tell Adobe a lot of stuff I think artists really want.”
One thing he asked for was a broad range of tools. “As an artist, what defines your style is the visual vocabulary that comes from a very specific way of using certain brushes and tools,” he says. “Fresco makes it possible for you to discover your style.”
Ask Webster what he’s most excited about and he rattles off a list: ease of use, a way for artists to livestream to their Behance channels, and especially the stunning watercolors and oil paints, which blend together so realistically it’s hard not to touch them to see if you’ll get paint on your fingers. But his favorite feature might be the ability to use an oil brush with a photograph: Import a pic and you can mix the photo’s colors like paint, effectively turning your shots into impressionist art. “It’s addicting, and kind of meditative,” he says. Spoken like a true artist.