Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ha! WIP - Sketchbook Pro 7/Clip Studio EX - Surface Studio

Another quickie animation test, just having a bit of fun trying out whatever comes to mind. In this animation, I was practicing pacing. adding frames to build a bit of anticipation just before the jump and then adding frames during the height of the jump to build anticipation again just before the fall and rotation. The landing didn't come out quite like I imagined but that can be worked on later or practiced again in a different piece. I still prefer 2D animation over 3D animation because  a lot of 3D animation starts to look the same after a time. 2D animation still has a uniqueness that not many artists translate into 3D projects. Even in gaming, a lot of assets that make up a 3D project are imported from other projects or in some cases packaged art that can be purchased from various online stores. Make no mistake, 3D animation is great in its own right but 2D is my preference being more expressive and it allows me to actually draw. Animation in general is a lot of work, but it's always fun seeing the motion come to life on screen. 

Animation Test Stuffs - Sketchbook Pro 7/Clip Studio EX - Surface Studio

In preparation for the next series of projects, 2D animation is the focus. Animating on Surface devices is not hard at all. I was able to sketch out this walk cycle earlier this morning in about an hour or so. Sketchbook Pro 7 is a great application for this and can be had for a ridiculously low price, as low as $40 on Amazon last I checked. The animation tools are simple giving users a timeline and nearly full access to all of the tools one would use for illustration. The limitations come in the layers section which are limited to foreground, midground and background only. New layers can not be added and layer effects aren't available. This may seem like a deal breaker initially but I don't believe it is. 2D character animation is generally simplistic. Sketchbook Pro 7 focuses on the pencil test which is the foundation of 2D character animation. It is very intuitive in allowing users to quickly and easily animate an idea. Importing frames, backgrounds, illustrations etc is also very straight forward. If layer effects and things of that nature are needed, these can be added using Clip Studio EX which gives full access to layer effects per animation cel which is awesome but this comes at a price which I'll specify below. Other applications that can be used for layer effects are AfterEffects, Premiere, Power Director, Color Director and many other video production applications. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Grrr Monsters - Rebelle/ArtFlow/Clip Studio EX/Quark 2017 - Nexus 9/Surface Pro 3/SurfaceBook/Surface Studio

This is a test banner I created to use for a YouTube channel but due to the way Google implements channel art, this doesn't work. The problem is Google recommends a resolution of 2560x1440 which works for HDTV screens. But it absolutely sucks for smartphones and computer screens. I need a resolution of 2560x420 and designed a banner specifically for that resolution but Google won't allow uploads at that specification. Google gives us the option to crop art but it's so limited to the extent of being pointless. Amazing isn't it? Google can forge ahead and implement one of the world's most advanced AI but can't enable YouTube to allow more than one version of channel art so users can more easily support multiple device types without butchering their art. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Heroes - Quark 2017 - Surface Studio

These are a couple of banner ideas featuring some of the characters that were worked on over the last few weeks. I'm still trying out different arrangements but I really like the two posted here. The first is a favorite because of the connection the characters share in the story. The second I really like for similar reasons. Other arrangements will be posted a couple of days or so. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Speed painting practice - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

I'm a bit burned out on character stuff so I did a quickie today. Instead of approaching it in a straight forward manner, this was created by literally just splattering paint on a canvas and seeing if something good could come out of it. No pencil sketch was used or other prep work but I did use Brandon Lee as a loose reference. The goal wasn't to make the painting look like him but to make the final not look like shit.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Chiamak Version 2 - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

This is finally done or at least, as done as this version can be at this point. I wanted her character to be a bit more distinct from Tau and Ar'Kamun but sharing certain aspects of their look. The yellow eyes are shared with the two men and others of their group for story specific reasons I'll talk about later. The spears and shield were switched for two swords to make Chiamak a bit different from her counterparts. The swords also match her personality better than spears and a shield. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Spellcasting Londisa Update - Clip Studio EX - Surface Studio

While waiting for the SurfaceBook to finish processing a different project (I REALLY hope Microsoft offers a Ryzen 7 option in the next SurfaceBook or Threadripper in a new Surface Studio) I decided to tool around with an older project. This is an update to an idea I started on a Nexus 7 tablet using ArtFlow. It was later transferred to my Surface devices and updated in 2016. This update was centered around the lighting and creating a powerful blue tone to the overall project. Unfortunately, I didn't have the original line art on the Studio, that's still on the Nexus 7 which is packed up so I worked with the updated colored version from 2016 using added layers while changing existing layers to complete what you see here. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Fresh Produce: HellBlade: Senua's Sacrifice - Power Director 15/Game DVR - Surface Studio

This is a long play video I recently posted on YouTube that shows all of the solutions to Valravn's puzzles and how to defeat him. HellBlade is also a shining example of superb art direction and a master level example of what can be done with Unreal Engine 4 (which is free for all BTW). Ninja Theory, the developers of HellBlade have also had a flair for cinematic game design since their debut with Heavenly Sword on PS3 but HellBlade is the first game they've released that comes together really well without any glitches or dealbreaking controversy. The game also makes some powerful statements about mental illness as Senua is mentally, a very disturbed young woman.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Chiamak version 2 WIP - Rebelle - Surfacebook

I like the original drawing of Chiamak but the painting didn't come together as well as I expected. Instead of repainting it, I decided to just redesign the character from the ground up and change the color scheme. She's coming along nicely.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Chiamak - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

This version is done but I'm not totally thrilled with it. I'll try again later. But it's a lazy Sunday so time for Sucky Movie Sundays on Netflix.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

WIP - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

I have to change her name and haven't come up with anything good yet. She fights closely with Tau, Ar'Kamun and another character that is in need of a name change.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Tau - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

Tau, the oldest active member of the elite warriors of the current rulers of the kingdom where the fantasy story begins. He is also the husband to Arjana who I posted a few days ago. As I mentioned previously, this project is an updated version of Tau, who was created long ago. His purpose in the story hasn't changed but his look has been slightly modified. The elite warriors that Tau leads of which Ar'Kamun (posted here) is a member are the absolute best of the best warriors among all warriors in the kingdom. The most dangerous, most secretive missions are assigned to Tau's group and for good reason. In the entirety of the group's existence, they have only failed twice.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Tau WIP - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

Update to an old character. The oldest member of an Order* dedicated to protecting the kingdom where the fantasy story originates. His look hasn't changed much from the original drawing except his hair. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Ar'Kamun (The Chosen*) - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

This started off as a quickie sketch that wasn't supposed to be anything more than that. But it became more as more time was put into it out of curiosity. It happens that way sometimes when writing out notes for a story and sketching at the same time. Also. Ar'Kamun isn't The Chosen* but there is a group that are temporarily named The Chosen* until I can find a better name for them that fits their purpose.

Arjana - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

I needed a mother figure to try out an idea in the story. This turned out with a look very similar to someone I dated a couple of years ago as was mentioned in the previous post. I guess she comes to mind because she was very motherly but with a very stern, aggressive undertone that always lurked just under the surface. That aspect inspired the attraction. She was definitely interesting. No doormats, as they're only good for walking on. A woman with fire, that can hold her own is good especially when it all hits the fan. A real partner and teamwork.  This how I imagined the character. Now to finish her husband...

Monday, July 31, 2017

Mother* WIP - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

I guess the theme for the end of July is "short, thick, Black women." Subconsciously my hand gravitates towards that theme when I'm sketching so instead of fighting it, I'm running with it. My father told me not too long ago, "the subconscious knows even when we consciously claim we don't know..." That statement could be applied in a lot of interesting ways considering what I've experienced over the last few years. Certainly my father knew that when he said it considering one of my designs looks exactly like my mom and one of my digital paintings looks exactly like my grandmother (father's mother), another looks like my ex from college, yet another looks like a friend I dated a couple of years ago that moved away. Influences and preferences, the subconscious knows...

Saturday, July 29, 2017

DAFUH...! - ArtFlow/Rebelle 2 - Surface Studio

Final! After finishing this, I could totally see myself sketching on the go using ArtFlow on a Pixel tablet and finishing the projects on a Surface Studio using Rebelle, Sketchbook Pro or Clip Studio. That is IF, Google took the creative market seriously and released a dedicated pen with a respectable Pixel tablet, probably will never happen. I can't stress enough how much I enjoyed ArtFlow. I left a request for the developer asking about a Windows 10 version of ArtFlow since Android feels too limited for it due to lack of good hardware. Considering how long it took for version 2.0 of ArtFlow to even see the light of day, I doubt it will ever happen. I  understand to an extent the amount of work that can go into developing a creative application with advanced features especially as a solo developer. But Google isn't doing creatives any favors on the hardware size of things leaving some of us stranded. The Nexus 7 and Nexus 9 were good for their time but where is the iPad Pro and Surface Pro competitor? Hence, my move to Surface devices (iPads are a laughable "no way"). More expensive, but better devices, better pen, better OS, better software support.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Kia Revision 72817 WIP - Rebelle 2 - Surface Studio

Early progress on a revision of an old Kia design that was originally completed using ArtFlow on a Nexus 9 tablet. I imported the line art version of the ArtFlow project, redesigned the face and started the color work. Looking at the clean line art caused me to miss ArtFlow because it was capable of truly impressive results even running on a 2012 Nexus 7. Even now, the 2.0 version is excellent but I can't go back to using soft fat tip styli and Google never released a Nexus tablet that's truly high end. I'll never support Samsung again so Galaxy Tabs/Galaxy stylus are out of the question (long story). Going back to the Nexus 9 simply isn't an option after working on Surface devices. Even my old Surface Pro 3 is preferred over the Nexus 9. But I really miss ArtFlow though. Maybe I'll ask the developer if he'd consider a Windows 10 version. I'd pay a premium for that.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Disa* Repaint - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

Another redo of a previous character with some edits to her face to make her look less Asian. Using a similar process as the last post, this was completed using Rebelle 2 watercolor brushes. I changed the canvas and used a bit of an underpainting technique to get better shadows and saturation of colors even without using a lot of loading with the watercolor brush. For those not in the know, Rebelle/Rebelle 2 watercolor brushes have four sliders for control...

1 - Size (of the brush)
2 - Pressure (amount of pressure when applied to the canvas)
3 - Loading (how much paint is applied to the brush)
4 - Water (how much water is applied to the brush)

If a creative wanted a less saturated, more faint look to their watercolor project, then they could use less loading and more water on a wet canvas. For a more saturated look, one could use more loading, less water on a dry canvas.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Kianara Color Revision - Rebelle 2 - Surface Studio/SurfaceBook

This version of the character was completed last year but in keeping all of the characters consistent in the color rendering phase, I painted the drawing again using the Rebelle watercolors of the last couple of designs. I also switched to a darker canvas to give the lighting and energy effects more impact. The original version (after the jump) was created using Clip Studio EX with simplicity in mind even down to the color palette. But it lacks impact. I like how clean it is making the character and energy effects very easy to read. But the new version has much more depth. I'll experiment more to see how far Rebelle 2 can take me before I need to try something different. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Kia* WIP 72517 - Rebelle 2 - Surface Studio

After the last character design didn't come out quite right, I decided to re-render this version of Kia using Rebelle water color brushes to see if I can keep the look consistent with the other designs. The original was created using Clip Studio EX. Although I like the way that version turned out, the colors don't quite fit with the  Rebelle designs. Initially I was going to paint the fire and ice effect but decided against it since the original effects are still really good.  A better technique is being tested for the lighting to see if I can get more of an impact out of it in Rebelle. So far so good. 

WIP - Rebelle 2 - Surface Studio

I'm not sure what to do with this particular version of the character. Technically I'm still working on it but I need a break from it because it doesn't look quite like Londisa. It could pass as a younger version maybe, but that's not really what I was going for. This is why you shouldn't work when you're tired. There are things I like about it so the image will get used at some point but I may take an older design of her and paint it using Rebelle watercolor brushes to match the previous entries in the book. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Wakati - Rebelle 2 - Surface Studio

Wakati and two of her cats, Poogers and Greybear, named after two kittens an ex used to own that really liked me and my big, comfy sweatpants. I miss them to this day and hope they're ok.  As mentioned in a previous post I made Wakati short and thick based on a long time friend. Ironically my friend doesn't care for cats, preferring dogs and I'm sure I'll get an earful for Wakati's breasts being too small. My friend loves the size and bounce of her breasts and would want them on the character. But I purposefully didn't do that because it's typical to the point of annoyance. Japanese manga and anime are some of the worst examples. Teenage girls designed with F cup breasts. Women zombies and demons in Hollywood films that are designed with painstaking detail to show the decay of the woman's body but somehow the breasts are left completely intact and they're huge. Also in comics, no female warrior is complete if she's not running into battle in a bikini with a top that can barely contain her DDs and wearing heels of some kind.  This was cool when I was 13 and didn't know any better. As an adult it's becoming tiresome. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Wakati WIP - Rebelle 2 - Surface Studio

Early this morning work started on Wakati's second rendition. I really want her to be short and a bit thicker with a look that's easier to cosplay. Wakati is awesome in that her characters is as direct as The Bladesman or as magically adaptive and powerful as Kianara or as focused as Londisa, but she's more effective than the rest in key situations that make her irreplaceable.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Bladesman* - Rebelle 2 - Surface Studio/SurfaceBook

He's one of my favorite characters so far. In this version I simply re-rendered him using Rebelle 2 watercolors and redrew his feet. The Bladesman is a more stealthy character. He'd much rather complete an object long before the enemy ever knew he was there. But when it comes to direct confrontation, the Bladesman* is still very capable.

Wakati Hupita* - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

This version of the character is done. It captures the essence of the character and her importance to the story. I tried to make her a little plump too. Plump women are cute. Wakati is a more withdrawn than the other main characters in the story. She's one of the healers for the main characters and uses a lot of magic that's based on deception. In hand to hand combat she only has moderate skill, preferring to rely on her magic almost to a detrimental degree.

 The focus for the immediate future will be Rebelle 2 and the watercolor brushes. The process is basic, sketching out the poses, creating the characters details and cleaning up the basic details. Then, the color scheme is chosen based on the type of character being created and their history which leads to adding the watercolors.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Character Book WIP - Quark 2017 - Surface Studio

This week is dedicated to a lot of character work for bio pages being laid out using Quark 2017. A lot of multitasking is taking place as I'm creating, updating and editing designs while laying out the pages. This is one of the reasons I highly recommend working on systems with at least 16GBs of RAM if possible. Sometimes you'll have to multitask running a number of applications and processes at the same time and you don't want your system to choke under the load. At on point earlier in the week I had 6 different applications running at the same time including a Blender Render, jumping from one to the other as necessary. Quark 2017 was definitely worth the upgrade. The new image editor is cool and the basics such as master page creation and editing, style sheet creation and managing libraries still work as good as advertised. The ability to edit images without actually leaving Quark 2017 may sound minor but it's a pretty awesome feature when you're trying to get things done, short on time and don't want to jump through hoops loading another application just to make some quick adjustments. 
This project is going to be the focus for the next few days or so as I compile more of the old designs and fit them into the layout while updating and creating new designs.

Character stuffs WIP - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

I'm pretty excited about this character even though the look of her is still in flux. I was talking with a friend about story ideas when I told her about this woman I had in mind for the fantasy story. My friend loved the concept so I decided to give it a go in getting some visuals down. As we talked I began to realize that her abilities would make her a bigger part of the story than I originally intended due to the nature of what she can do. I'm also excited to be working on her because she likes cats and it allows me to draw up two adopted kittens I used to play with and put them in the story too.

Bladesman Watercolor WIP - Rebelle 2 - Surface Studio

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Kianara - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

Kianara is the twin sister of Londisa. Her magic is powerful and she's a very skilled hand-to-hand combatant. Kianara uses her magic to enhance her physical attacks and can switch immediately to attacking directly with purely magical attacks. Her love for the thrill of combat has gotten her into some dangerous situations.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I just Want Him... - ArtRage 5 - SurfaceBook

The end of Brandon Lee's life was tragic but at least he died doing what he loved to do. According to one of his interviews he believed in the role of The Crow, saying it was the only film he'd done where the violence was justified. I can definitely understand. Similar to Venus Williams, Brandon Lee is an inspiration even now because he dedicated his life to what he believed in. He loved acting and being in front of the camera. Unfortunately he died doing just that. But how many times have we all heard, "you only live once so make it count." What better way to "make it count" than following a dream, mastering a craft and sharing it with others? It seems too many of us are presented with conflicting advice when young. On one hand, the lesson is "you can be whatever you want to be." Not quite as even some family members won't support each other in the pursuit of a dream. Quick to say what can't happen or what won't happen, unless of course, the dream is generating a lot of money. Then, support is for sale just like many other things that shouldn't be.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Venus Williams - ArtRage 5 - SurfaceBook

It's unfortunate that Venus Williams lost Wimbledon today and lost badly in the second set, but one of the reasons Venus is such an inspiration to me is because of her strength of will to continue playing against some pretty harsh odds. Age is one aspect many point to, but Venus has also fought on to play with a debilitating illness and continued to fight on through injury with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, instead of recognizing the strength of will to continue to strive and respecting it, Venus is harshly criticized even for really petty, mundane reasons. People focusing on petty details such as her chosen hairstyle, things that have absolutely no bearing on what's supposed to be the focus, the tennis match. Racism is alive and well but it's really sad to see and hear Black people tear down successful Black women due to not dealing with their own personal issues. 

Although she lost, it was still good to see Venus make it to the finals despite the criticism, despite the naysayers and pettiness. No one escapes the ravages of time, this is true. But she is a great example of how to fight on, never give up even though so many others have done just that and settled for far less. 

WIP Doodle days - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

The title says it all. This was a really rough sketch in a series that I decided to pushed further. The goal is to get more accustomed to using Rebelle 2 to sketch as opposed to relying on Sketchbook Pro 7 and Clip Studio EX so much. Kinks are still being worked out and may take a lot longer than usual due to juggling this and a few other things at the moment. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Londisa - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook/Surface Studio

Londisa is a elemental sorceress, one of my favorite characters in a fantasy story that's in progress. The first leg of the finalized story is almost completed so more characters will be presented here once the copyrights situation is sorted. 

This is also a project that was a test of the watercolor brushes in Rebelle 2 to be compared to Expresii, which is available in the Windows 10 Store. Well, Expresii bombed out due to too many bugs and a horrid lack of tools. So Rebelle 2 wins by default. The previous post was completed using the acrylic brushes which I've grown to really like. But the watercolor brushes are still my overall favorites due to the way they react to the canvas when applied. I used a lot of blending here with a combination of wet canvas with a lot of water applied initially. Then, to layering it with dry brush techniques and blending for more control. I'd love to illustrate a comic book using this method. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bad Influences - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

I'm calling this done due to the desire to move on to other things. Using Rebelle 2, I tried to combine a couple of techniques to see this through to the end. Traditional comicbook style drawing and clean up, then using a couple of painting techniques with the acrylic brushes on a textured canvas for rendering. Using the combination of the two processes led me to use a lot more layers than I did in similar projects, at least 20. But I like the results although the smaller acrylic brushes weren't as easy to work with due to paint not being applied consistently. The other issue is the lighting. I struggled with it and the shadows trying something new in terms of placement that I don't think worked so I'm not totally thrilled with this piece. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Fresh Produce: Ballistic NG version 0.8.1 - Game DVR/Power Director 15

This is a video produced for YouTube to showcase one of my current favorite titles. I'm a fan of the game Ballistic NG because it's made for fans of the WipeOut series (the anti-gravity racing game, not the weird game show) that play on Windows PCs instead of Playstation. It's a racing title strictly for speed freaks and street demons. The segments are all produced using Power Director 15 with footage captured using Game DVR. Microsoft did a really great job incorporating Game DVR into Windows 10 and it supports high quality captures with minimal loss of frame rate in game. That's how these videos are 1080p/60 frames per second even with Game DVR running in the background. The effects and transitions are all stock Power Director effects. I haven't created originals or downloaded any of the Cyberlink extras or user created effects yet. That's on the to-do list. The music is custom and was produced using a Roland Fantom G6 and a Roland XP-50. Additional mixing was completed using Audio Director 6 and 7. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

When the Going Gets Tough - Quark 2017/Blender - Surface Studio

This project was completed while waiting for the Power Director 15 video to upload to YouTube. Inspired by a friend that can't seem to function unless she has cup of coffee in her hand. This also served as a quick test to see if Quark 2017 would run without issue on the Surface Studio/SurfaceBook. No problems to report which was a relief and the new image editing features built into Quark 2017 are pretty good from what I saw. I'll to dig into them a bit more to really get the skinny. 

The coffee cup is a Blender project I completed a few weeks ago. It was fun to do and I'd like to create more like it. Blender is such an intensive application though that learning it can be mentally draining. Hence, I'm taking a short break from it to work on other things. 

Office Life (COCF) - Affinity Designer - Surface Studio

A simple, fun project completed while waiting for a Power Director video to render. A design to show how life was working with others in an office settings. Reminds me of a coworker or two...😆

The Other WIP Update - Rebelle 2 - Surface Studio

Taking some time away from the watercolor brush project, I jumped back to this project. It's being completed using the acrylic brushes on a textured canvas. After the troubles of the week, I think I'll stick with Rebelle 2 for awhile. Too much time was wasted trying to get Paintstorm Studio and Expresii to work correctly only for them to ultimately not work. Frustrating. 

Expresii - Another Bad Software Purchase

Very short video highlighting some of the Expresii glitches mentioned in this post. 

This hasn't been a good week for new software adoption. Expresii is another application I'm going to have to pass on because of glitches and a surprising lack of key features. The deal breaker glitch I came across causes the application to continue to paint even when the Surface Pen was away from the screen. Worse, "undo" stopped working as well so I couldn't get rid of the lines that were dancing across my canvas unless everything was deleted from the layer. Even then, paint continued to be applied to canvas as soon as the delete function was performed. It's disappointing because the paint and ink aspects of the application are phenomenal, when they actually work. Truly the only other application that has watercolors better than Expresii is Rebelle 2. Rebelle 2 gets the nod not only because of this but also because it's stable, has far more features and far more control.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Watercolor Brushes WIP Progress Update - Rebelle 2 - Surface Studio

I was really hoping to have this done today but got sidetracked from trying to figure out what was going on with Paintstorm Studio (in short, it sucks). As mentioned in a previous post, this is an old design of a character I pulled out as a test in comparing Rebelle watercolor brushes to Expresii watercolor application. Expresii isn't as intuitive to use and it lacks so many features that work progressed on it much more slowly than the Rebelle 2 version of the design. Rebelle 2 also has far more control which I was able to utilize here. 

Paintstorm Studio - Not Worth the Purchase. DO NOT BUY.

Paintstorm Studio. If you've never heard of it I wouldn't blame you. It's a creative application that hasn't been around that long, maybe a couple of years. If you looked it up and watched a YouTube video you might even be impressed with its awesome brushes and effects. Paintstorm even supports some really advanced features that many have come to depend on in Photoshop and Corel software. All this for $20. But don't be fooled, Paintstorm Studio is a bug riddled mess that lacks key standard features that takes a potentially great application and transforms it into a near total waste of time.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

WIP Rebelle 2 Watercolor Brushes vs. Expresii Watercolor Application - Surface Studio

Rebelle 2


Interesting discovery this morning. I learned that some of the applications listed in the previous post are now available in the Windows 10 store. Krita, InkScape and Expresii are the three  discovered a few hours ago. Krita was purchased to support the developers even though I have the x64 Windows version, InkScape was a pass and Expresii was purchased because the trial version was incredibly impressive. I took an old character design, imported it into both applications and proceeded to paint with the watercolor brushes in Rebelle and paint in Expresii which is a watercolor based digital application. Both applications generate incredibly realistic watercolors better than any other application I've ever used. After a couple of hours of tooling and testing I've found that Rebelle benefits from greater control, better tools and much better UI. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

WIP - Rebelle 2 - SurfaceBook

This is the second project using the replacement SurfaceBook. Focusing more on Rebelle's pencil tools, which are quite good, the sketching and clean up phase was a pleasure to work on. This was produced using the original Surface Pen that ships with the SurfaceBook.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hate Subscription Based Software? So Do I! Here Are Some Alternatives.

No Photoshop here! Created using Sketchbook Pro for Android

A friend recently suggested that I post a more detailed listing of good alternatives to subscription based software that I've installed on my systems. It's a touchy topic that has changed the landscape of software development across the board and rightfully so. Personally, I'm strictly against subscription based software because renting software just feels like a total rip off. I tried it once with Indesign and regretted it to the extent that I stopped using it canceled the subscription and bought Quark 2016 instead. It's forcing a userbase to constantly pay into a company's coffers without the option to ever own what you're paying for. If you opt out of the subscription, you can't even get support for an older, non-subscription version of the application so you can keep working. So, here is a list of alternative packages I use as opposed to the dreaded subscriptions that have plagued the digital landscape over the last few years.

*7-1-17 Note Some may wonder why I didn't focus on mobile solutions for Android, Windows 10 Mobile and iOS in this list. There is a good reason for that. Although there are some fantastic apps available for creative needs on those platforms such as ArtFlow, Sketchable and Procreate, at the end of the day they pale in comparison to full desktop solutions. This goes back to the Surface Pro vs. iPad Pro comparison which can be summed up quite easily. Focusing strictly on software library and capabilities, the best iPad or Android tablet in their current states will never be better than a Surface Pro or Wacom device running full Windows 10. The software on Windows is so much more mature and feature rich. There simply are no mobile apps currently that can match Quark, Rebelle or Blender as examples. Mobile versions of applications such as ArtRage and Power Director are but shadows of the desktop versions which Surface devices can run in their entirety with no compromises. Speaking with Escape Motions about a possible iPad Pro version of Rebelle, their answer was straight forward...not happening because the iPad Pro currently isn't powerful enough to handle the algorithms that power the application. That's not to say mobile devices and apps aren't capable of great results. They are, but there is a glass ceiling, a level that mobile apps simple can't go beyond due to the nature of what they are. This is why I stopped using Android tablets for creative work and upgraded to Surface Pro devices exclusively. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Camel Pose #2 - Rebelle/ArtRage 4 - New Surface Pen/Surface Pro 3

This is the first test of the new Surface Pen Microsoft just released with the Surface Laptop. It has 4,096 levels of sensitivity which is about 3,000 more levels than the previous pen and it has better tilt recognition. Generally I don't tilt my pen when drawing or sketching so the tilt is almost totally irrelevant for my needs. But the increased sensitivity was immediately noticeable. That's the determining factor that inspired a purchase of the new pen. Accuracy feels the same as the previous pen but the increased sensitivity is the key. The other bonus is the new Surface Pen works on the Surface Pro 3, Pro 4, SurfaceBook and Surface Studio. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Pulse: Verse 1 - Amberlight 2/Power Director 15 - SurfaceBook/Surface Studio

With the rendering complete, the animation is done. The original animation files were generated in 4K resolution and runs in 4K resolution if you have the bandwidth to handle it. Amberlight 2 has the option to render files in video format but I decided to output in high resolution image format instead. This allows quick access to still frames that can be used as wallpapers, backdrops or screen savers and avoids any glitches that Amberlight video files will sometimes have. Generating videos from the Amberlight 2 still frames using Power Director 15 is also pretty straight forward and opens up a laundry list of options for processing and editing. For this particular project, advanced options weren't utilized but will be soon. 

Pulse: Verse 1 (Stills) - AmberLight 2 - SurfaceBook/Surface Studio

These images are from a Amberlight animation that's been in progress for the last few days. The final version of verse 1 is rendering as I type this and will be posted sometime later today. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Workspace WIP Update - Blender - SurfaceBook/Surface Studio

This is the latest version of the bedroom/workspace. A lot of time was spent on textures this past week as well as little things like the little Android toy on the left (in the bottom image), the redesigned chair and the surround sound setup that has textures you can't see due to the way the room is lit. I'll be taking a break from this to work on a couple of other projects that have come up. But I'd like to add clothes in the dresser, curtains, another chair and other details. This scene is the result of 3 weeks of learning Blender. I'd like to push it to see how far it can be taken. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Tic Toc 2 Animation Test - Amberlight 2 - Surface Studio

Variant animation test using a dark shade of blue for the background which brings out more details in the abstract design pattern.

Tic Toc Test - Amberlight - Surface Studio

Another in a series of tests using Amberlight. The application is outstanding for generating abstract pattern animations and stills. But it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes with the wealth of options it provides to make changes to the algorithms that control output and motion. While experimenting with the rendering times versus render quality mentioned in the previous post, I'm also using some of the provided options to learn better animation control. Animation is about the illusion of motion created over time. Any animator worth their salt knows the importance of a good animation cycle. For the uninitiated, this is an animated sequence that loops, preferably smoothly. But sometimes, a loop needs a slight break or an adjustment to make it non-uniform during part of the sequence. This can make a scene with a cycle appear to be more natural and organic. That's what the goal was here, to see if Amberlight allowed enough control to make such a change down to even a single frame. In short, it does. After creating the initial cycle, I changed the  movement over time slightly toward the end of the sequence to create a snap motion. A very minor change but has a not so minor impact on the final render. 

Blue - Amberlight - Surface Studio

These are some test frames for a vector animation project, each frame rendered in 4K resolution. Rendering these frames share similarities to rendering 3D scenes in that the user can determine the quality of the render, which affects the speed of the render. The default setting for rendering single frames in Amberlight is 5000 steps. The higher the number of steps, the better the quality, the longer it will take to render the frame. At 5000 steps, the Studio takes about a minute to render a single frame. Amberlight will often times add details to the vector when using higher step counts. But sometimes, there comes a point when the quality will cease to increase long before the render is complete. I've tried counts as high as 10,000 to see if there was any noticeable difference between it and a 500 step render of the same image. There was, but with that particular image, there wasn't enough of an improvement to justify the extra rendering time. Mileage varies depending on the scene and image.