Painter Brush Sharing Gone Wrong – Let’s Fix It

The goal of the Studio|chris Brush Installer, and the most recent incarnation, the Studio|chris Brush Manager is and always has been to make installing, sharing and maintaining Corel Painter brushes simple and easy. The installing part is done – sharing is next on the list.

The Beloved ZIP Format

In the beginning, ZIP was chosen as the format to use for sharing and installing brushes for a few good reasons:

  • Painter “brushes” are really collections of individual files and folders. ZIP allows you to package all those loose files into a single file for sharing. Can you imagine downloading 27 files one at a time for brushes? I can’t.
  • ZIP files are common and easy to make with built-in support in modern operating systems or with commercial or open source software.
  • Many brush sets were already created and shared in the ZIP format, meaning those sets were already ready for the installer.

The honeymoon with ZIP is over though. While simple and easy, the ZIP format has introduced some problems in the installer and caused a lot of confusion for some users.

Brush Manager + ZIP = Sad

Here’s where it goes sour:

  • ZIP is common. Anything can go in ZIP files, and anything does go in ZIP files. Is the ZIP on your desktop Painter brushes, Photoshop brushes, software, a bunch of Word documents or all those old files you couldn’t stand to look at anymore but didn’t want to delete? Yeah, mine too.
  • Following the above, if you’re sure your ZIP file contains Painter brushes, are they organized in a library, a category or loose brush files? (I’ll wait while you check – no, don’t really go look.) The Brush Manager expects categories out of the box, and I believe you shouldn’t have to know that – it should just work.

Random Fact: The Brush Manager will work with the others (libraries and loose files) as well, but maybe not the way you’d expect (Remember the goal, simple and easy, so I’m not going to publish how it works [it is all in the settings] with non-categories, but if you’ve figured it out – awesome!).

  • For the Mac users, OS X is sometimes set to automatically unzip ZIP files for you after download. Then it tosses the ZIP file in the Trash – hey, we need that – just move it back to the desktop and continue with the installing.
  • OS X also doesn’t follow all the rules with making ZIP files from scratch. These files cause the Brush Manager to choke and not install your brushes.
  • Painter Brushes are cross-platform. There is no such thing as a “Mac Painter Brush” or “Windows Painter Brush.” Shared brush ZIPs usually have extra files in them that aren’t needed though. OS X doesn’t care about “thumbs.db,” and Windows will never use “DS_STORE.” These files are usually hidden on their respective platform, but the ZIP makes them visible and when they’re installed on the opposite platform, they’re not hidden anymore.
  • Even worse, from recent updates, OS X adds yet another invisible “icon” file to some folders – and its name contains an illegal character for the Brush Manager. This one little file makes the entire brush ZIP useless (for the Brush Manager) on both platforms.
  • This doesn’t relate to ZIP, specifically, but instead to the illegal character mentioned above. Some shared brush ZIPs contain illegal characters either in their filenames or in the category names inside to make them fancy and stand out. Let’s stop that – design a pretty icon instead! These characters/letters aren’t usually cross-platform and can make for some really ugly results with Painter and the Brush Manager.

There’s more, not relating to ZIP alone, but let’s just leave it at that. ZIP by itself just doesn’t make the cut  anymore.

Making the Bad Go Away

A change is on the horizon, and a new standardized file format that sticks to the goal will emerge that defines “Painter Brushes.” Your brush files won’t be mixed in with “that file of stuff I don’t want to look at anymore.” Before I post the in-progress plans, what would you like to see in a universal, easy to make and easy to share Painter brush package? What problems have you had with installing brushes?