Posts tagged ‘graphics tablet’


ArtRage 3 – Finally a graphics program even the ham handed can use!

In my quest to become a better artist I have experimented with many different graphics programs. I’ve tried everything from MS_Paint to Paintshop Pro. But I’ve come away from every single attempt, not just disappointed but frustrated as hell. You see I have one near universal complaint to aim at most of them.

They’re too damned incomprehensible.

Seriously, with the exceptions of MS_Paint, and Paint.Net, I found myself again, and again wasting weeks trying to come to grips with programs that made virtually no sense to me. The two Paint’s are exceptions mostly because of their simplicity, being at heart a bitmap editor and a very simple striped down Raster graphics package.

Now I am quite sure that for some with the right training Paintshop Pro, or Photoshop, or any of the other high-end programs are superior products. Awesome in their abilities, and efficiencies. But to a poor uninitiated girl from Ireland they were as clear as muddy water. So I resigned myself to using Paint.Net for the ability to use layers, a more flexible palette than MS_Paint,  and the fact that it is all in all more powerful.

I resigned myself, and despite my first serious webcomic being 100% drawn in Paint.Net I wasn’t happy about it. A good program within its limitations, but for all that it’s simple to use, it doesn’t feel like drawing, it feels more like “creative” technical graphics, if that makes sense to you.

Then in a Skype conversation with a friend they suggested that I take a good look at ArtRage 3. Not being one to turn down free advice I did, and I am so glad that I listened.

ArtRage makes sense. The screen is taken up with a quarter circle color palette in the bottom right of the screen, a similar display of drawing tools on the bottom left, and a few other discreet interfaces around the edge. The vast bulk of the screen is taken up with your drawing surface.

To take those in order. The color palette unlike many others I’ve used is clear-cut, and simple to use. Click on the main palette and a band of different shades of that colour pops up. Much the same as any other system. But unlike many others you can see where the system is generating those colours from. There’s no moment of “Where the F**K did it pull that shade from?”.

The array of tools is astonishing. Flat brushes, pointed brushes, painting knives, pencils, markers, crayons, even a goo gun. The best part though is that when you use them the results look, and to a large degree act like the real thing. Pick “marker” and then adjust it to the setting “with top left off” and that’s precisely what you get. A few centimetres of dark solid colour before it starts to wash out. Overlap two oil colours, and you not only get a “mixed” third colour, but you get a slight randomizing of the pigments which give the result a very real feel.

Want to paint on canvas? There’s a setting for that, you can even apparently set how coarse, or fine the weave of the canvas is.

Want to paint with metallic paints? You can do that, and what’s more it looks genuinely metallic. (A setting I hope to make great use of in the near future.)

Want to use a layer for your roughing out, one for outlines, one for colouring? Yeah they’ve got you covered on that too.

Have a shape you’re going to use constantly? Why not make a stencil?

Want to use your graphics tablet? Work away darlin’ it even detects the lightness, or heaviness of your stylus strokes. And better yet the lines really do change in thickness, accurately and in a way that is truly repeatable.

After the endless frustrations of using “art” programs which are based more on autocad concepts than anything you might recognise as drawing ArtRage is an absolute breath of fresh air. It truly is the closest thing to drawing/painting the way you do in reality, on your PC.

After weeks, even months trying to get to grips with other programs, and never feeling I had gotten anywhere. It was such a relief to find myself comfortable with ArtRage after a mere 20 minutes. I think I’ve found my new favourite toy.

The following video is obviously not mine, but it shows wonderfully why I love this program so much. And even though it’s being demonstrated here on a Tablet PC, I’ve found it just as simple to use on a regular PC with a graphics tablet, and nearly as simple with a trackball.


Ancient Tech – Graphics Tablets, the Wacom Intuos series 1

This is a follow up from a post made a few months ago, when I received one of my favorite gifts ever.  An awesome PC which came with a wonderful new peripheral, a version 1 Wacom Intuos.  Now I had played around a few times with the idea of getting myself a graphics tablet, but when it came down to it I simply couldn’t afford one.  Even secondhand they do tend to be rather crazily expensive.  But here was one of my own and it didn’t cost me a penny.  So I think we should start with a quick review of what a graphics tablet is, and why they can be useful.

A graphics tablet is basically a surface that matches your PC monitor 1 to 1.  By which I mean if you bring the tablet pen into contact with a given spot on the tablet the arrow on the screen goes there.  That’s it in a nutshell.  I usually think of it as just a different sort of computer mouse, because it really is just another way to move your cursor around.

Now as for what it’s good for.  Well you won’t be playing any games with one that’s for sure, unless it’s a really simple mouse controlled flash game.  And it’s far too awkward to use while word processing. I do find mine a wonderful aid to comfortable internet surfing, no awkwardly cocked wrist for me. But what it excels at is in the name, graphics tablet.  That’s right load up your favorite graphics editor, plug in your tablet and you have a really potent combination.

You see what a graphics tablet gives you in combination with a graphics program is something a mouse simply can’t give, flexibility.  Imagine being able to draw on your computer screen in precisely the same way you would with a pencil and paper.  You can do that.  Or paint with watercolors, you can do that too.  Crop and edit photos, with a tablet it becomes an easier, more intuitive task.

Recently I’ve found myself messing around with video editing software, and again the tablet proves itself to be the best tool for the job.  No repetitive mouse movements.  Just drop the tip of the pen onto the frame you want to move, click the side button and drop the frame where you want it.  But because it feels almost precisely the same as working with a normal pen and a stiff A3 pad on your lap it feels far more natural.

I’m not really going to review a piece of equipment that’s been obsolete for at least a decade.  But I am going to say this, if you come across a working one in a car boot sale, or a relative offers you one, take it.  They’re simple to use, once you get past what I found was a very shallow learning curve, they’re pleasant and have a very natural feel to their use.  But most of all a good graphics tablet makes a wonderful alternative to a mouse, at least for those computer based chores that don’t require a keyboard.

So thanks again Claire.  Best present ever!


I’ve fallen in love…with my graphics tablet

Like many others I’ve harbored the long-held dream of writing, drawing and publishing my own webcomic.  In my case, I have for many years semi-permanent visions of comic characters flashing through my head.  Even when I am writing literary fiction, I tend to envision my characters strutting their stuff in a comic style.  But always two things have stood in my way.

1: Artistic talent. While I do have some significant game, at least where it comes to engineering style drawing.  I am a near incompetent, where moe artistic drawing is called for.  The sad part is that once upon a time, many moons ago I had reasonable skills in both.

2: Equipment. Now you’re thinking to yourself “What the frik is she talking about?  Get thee to a stationers Missy and buy some pencils and pads.”  That’s not the sort of equipment I’m talking about.  Being amongst other things a table-top roleplayer, I have no shortage of either pencils or pads.  What I mean by equipment is the means to get my drawings onto my PC and to manipulate those images to best effect.

Strictly speaking, there was a third thing lacking as well, a web space suitable for hosting a webcomic.  But let’s face it is a glorious resource that will be quite suitable for webcomics also.  At least it will be if I use the right theme to support it.

Now for ages my webcomic ideas (I have several though one is far more developed than the others, damn my Muse and her being hyped up on speed.  Seriously the girl is like Liv Tyler in Empire Records, hot but has a serious chemical problem.) languished in the recesses of my brain.  Then I started this blog and realised that I could indeed put my thoughts out there to be read.  Though whether that is a good thing or not…we’ll see.

So venue for my artistic vision achieved I had a horrid realisation.  I have truly lost all my artistic capabilities.  So despondency and sloth occurred.

But then, something both horrid and wonderful happened.  One of my lil sisters left Ireland for Canada and I inherited a lot of her electronics.  I inherited her PC, which rocks, I mean seriously, I can now run World of Warcraft with completely maxed out graphics settings.   I inherited a few old IDE hard drives with a lovely enclosure.  But I also was given a graphics tablet.

I am officially in love with my graphics tablet.  It’s a Wacom Intuos-1, which makes it at least ten years old.  So of course, being by now an experienced tech-chick I was beset by system compatibility fears. After all how many electronic love stories have ended in the ashes of incompatibility over the years?  So very many, but not my tablet, it just plugged and played.  No problems, no hassles.

Not only did it run perfectly, but to my complete surprise it was for me at least, so much easier to draw with than a paper and pen.  I have yet to figure out why this is so, but I have found that a lot of the basic drawing skills are much easier to use on my tablet.  I’ve been using it with GIMP, as I don’t own a copy of Photoshop.  But despite both my tablet and GIMPs limitations, not to mention my own, I’ve managed to do better drawings in the last week than in the previous ten years.

So inspired by my limited successes, I have started to look for a good comprehensive art class in my area.  I have graphic stories I want to tell, and now that I have the means to tell them, I need the skills as well.

So right now you might be sitting there wondering “Why has she written a page from a diary as a blog post?”  Well there’s a point to all this seemingly pointless waffle.  I spent years waiting to start my webcomic projects.  I was paralyzed by the immensity of what I wanted to do.  But that first sudden realisation that with WordPress, I could host my vision made me realise a very important truth.  A truth which I should have already known from my experiences during the writing of my first novel.

If you have a big project, there’s no need to freeze up.  It’s not a big project at all.  It is in fact a myriad of little projects, which huddled together for warmth have made themselves seem big.  Break it down into manageable chunks.

My webcomic projects, the first of which I hope to start publishing before the end of this year, was held up by what were actually several very manageable pieces huddled together.  Skills, web hosting, equipment.  Well all but one is now dealt with and that  one I hope to soon make a thing of the past.

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