If you've mastered the basics of Adobe Illustrator (and/or other vector graphics programs such as Inkscape), and you want to add some new tricks to your repertoire, check out Vectortuts+. This site is an awesome resource full of tips, tutorials, articles, and assignments shared by artists from across the internet. Vectortuts+ is part of the hugely popular Tuts+ Network, an online learning platform which provides free content to help teach creative skills. Tuts+ sites also offer premium accounts with access to e-courses and e-books for a fee to those wanting more in-depth information.
I spent some time trolling the Vectortuts+ archive and found several tutorials that might interest surface pattern designers. Have a look and then explore the site to see what else you can learn. Enjoy!
How distractible are you? As creatives, I think it is safe to say that our level of awareness may be a little higher than others, at least in some aspects. We are more in tune to color, palettes, lighting, angles, shapes and composition. Our heads will snap if something bright or colorful comes into view. But are we also more easily distracted, because of our awareness?
In this day and age, we are all inundated by stimuli every minute of the day. How are we supposed to get any work done? Some of us are extremely disciplined and unflappable, cranking out a six-piece collection in half-drop repeat in three color ways, without ever looking up. Others among us will find 10 excuses to wander off between picking up a pencil and putting it to paper. If you could use some help getting, and staying, in a groove, consider the science of neuroergonomics. Like ergonomics, it’s the science of decreasing stress and increasing efficiency, but for your brain.
This is where a website called focus@will comes in. It is a service that will stream background music to help you concentrate. The key is, it plays music that you neither like, or dislike. So it doesn’t annoy you, but doesn’t engage you, either. In other words, it will occupy your brain just enough so you can work. It “learns” from you as well. For example, if you hear a track that grabs your attention, you can tell Focus to skip it, and it won’t play it again. Unlike Pandora or Spotify, it will not entertain you, but make you more productive.
The people behind focus@will conducted two years of in-depth research on 200 subjects, and then commissioned market research with UCLA using over 72,000 respondents. Their studies showed subjects could increase their time of concentration by 400%. If you’re the cerebral type, you can read about the science here: https://www.focusatwill.com/science/science-primer/
Focus@will is available to launch from the website, or download as an app for iOS and Android platforms. Guests can use it for free for 60 minutes of repeating music over 7 channels, and registered users get free use for 300 minutes. Paying registrants get unlimited, customizable streaming, and can track their productivity. To try it, input the amount of time you want to work (100 minutes is recommended), select your preferred musical genre (classical, jazz, focus spa, etc.), and then “set it and forget it”. You will hear a seamless stream of music that has been scientifically remixed for optimal tempo, intensity, and length. Let us know if this works for you! You could be on the cutting edge of design and science!
SPDG members, please join us for our next webinar on October 8 for a presentation on how to use Adobe Muse to create your own website. Our host will be Brian Wood from Adobe Inc., whom you might remember from our January meeting about Adobe Creative Cloud. Brian will be covering the basics of this exciting new tool and answering any questions you might have.
For those unfamiliar with Adobe Muse, here is a description from adobe.com:
If you are unable to make the webinar, don't worry! As always, we will be recording it for later viewing.
We hope to see you there!
If you have an iPad, or have thought about getting one, then you might wonder about how it can increase your productivity (or at least bring you a bit of entertainment). As an artist, it’s nice to have the iPad for catching up on design blogs while I wait for my son at one of his many sports practices. But I’ve also recently begun using it as a design tool. There are many drawing and painting apps designed for the iPad that can turn some of those snippets of wait time into a creative refuge. I’ve tried four of them: Adobe Ideas, 53 Paper, Artrage, and Procreate. Here’s my take.
Adobe Ideas is easy and intuitive. It gives you a basic selection of 5 brushes, control over the brush size, control of color, and control of opacity. It also gives you 10 drawing layers plus a photo layer for each sketch (so you can easily trace a photo).
Unlike the other apps reviewed here, it is vector based, which can give your drawn lines a pleasing smoothness. However, don’t expect to be able to manipulate handles or paths like you would in Adobe Illustrator (AI) or other vector programs. Adobe Ideas doesn't have them. If you open the file in AI you can access these vector manipulation tools. Unfortunately, the only way I found to do so was to sync the Ideas file to my Creative Cloud (CC) account, where it will appear with an .idea extension. From my CC account, I was able download the .idea file to my desktop and open it in AI, where I could edit paths, handles, etc. But if you just want a JPG or PDF of your drawing, you can easily either email yourself the PDF or save a JPG to your Dropbox account.
My biggest complaint about Ideas, which probably wouldn’t have been a complaint at all if I hadn’t used Procreate first (see below), was the lag/stroke gap. As with many drawing programs, as you move your finger or stylus across the screen, the line you are drawing lags slightly behind your finger/stylus—that’s called lag or stroke gap. I found the lag in Ideas to be a bit frustrating as it caused me to make many errant marks.
You can’t be the price (free!), though. And, because of its ease of use, Ideas is a great app with which to get your feet wet when you venture into the world of tablet digital art.
Paper by 53
Cost: Free (but not really)
Paper by 53 has received a lot of hype, including an Apple App of the Year Award (2012), so I felt compelled to check it out. While the app is beautiful and fun to use, I felt that compared to the others I tried this one fell short. By far the best thing about Paper is it has amazing watercolor and pencil tools, which render beautifully and realistically. Another strong point is that there is virtually no drawing lag/stroke gap, making the experience more like drawing on actual paper and allowing you to forget you are in the virtual environment.
Despite these strong points, and in an apparent effort to keep the program “no frills,” Paper leaves out a lot of features that I consider essential to a digital drawing program. There is no ability to resize your drawing tool or adjust its opacity. There are no layers and no ability to import a photo and draw over it. You can only work in landscape mode (not portrait mode). And, the free version of the app comes only with one tool (the one that looks like a calligraphy pen). The rest of the tools are available through in-app purchases at $1.99 each. You will spend nearly $9-10 to get all the features available in this app, making it the most expensive of the bunch.
Artrage for iPad
Artrage for iPad, along with Procreate, tends to be at the top of the list for serious artists. And with good reason. There is an unbelievable selection of brushes and tools—each completely editable, including the brush wetness so you can blend color under the brush as you paint. This blend feature alone is a major draw.
Another appealing tool in the Artrage app is its color wheel. It is easy to use, allowing for selection of hue, saturation, and lightness. There is even an option to add a metallic feel to a color.
Other plusses include an unlimited number of layers which each have a selectable blend mode, like “multiply” or “color burn.” The app also allows for easy import photos for tracing or reference.
If you already use Artrage on your desktop, the Artrage iPad app has the advantage of easily sharing your paintings between the two applications via iTunes or Dropbox, including all of your layers. If you don’t have Artrage on your desktop, you can share via PNG or JPG. Of course, that means you will not be able to access your layers in a program like Adobe Photoshop.
Unfortunately, as much as I wanted it to be otherwise, my experience with Artrage for iPad was a frustrating one—I found the app to be disappointing in its responsiveness. The problem wasn’t just a lag/stroke gap. If that was all I experienced, all may have been forgiven because the rest of Artrage’s fabulous feature set. What frustrated me the most is that the whole app just ran slow: every time I “pushed” a button or tried to select a tool the response time was so slow that I’d “push” a second time, actually negating the first “push." This caused me to then have to “push” the button yet again. Artrage seems to be aware of this problem because they address it in their “help” menu. They suggest that since it is a memory intensive app, all parked apps should be closed and the iPad be rebooted. Despite taking these steps, however, I found the app’s performance didn’t improve.
Like Artrage, Procreate is a favorite among digital artists—and happens to be my personal favorite of the bunch. It comes with an amazing array of brushes, each completely customizable. Color is easily selectable in terms of hue, saturation, and brightness. Brush size and opacity controls are easily accessible as you draw (just to the side of the drawing surface). Up to 128 layers are available, each customizable in terms of opacity and blend mode, and you can import an image to trace over it.
Unlike the apps reviewed above, Procreate has the ability to make selections and then move, scale, and modify those selections. For those familiar with Photoshop, you will feel right at home. And, Procreate allows the export of its files via Dropbox or iTunes as .psd files for further editing in Photoshop—all layers preserved.
One of the strongest features of Procreate is its painting engine. It is fast. Super fast. The proprietary engine allows drawing in real time—no lag whatsoever. I tried this app first, and unfortunately for the other apps I tried, I became spoiled with the fluidity of the experience. None of the rest really measured up.
While a great advantage of Procreate is its ability to modify brushes in a myriad of ways, the options may be overwhelming to a first-time user. If you’ve ever modified the brushes in Photoshop, you catch on pretty quickly, but it does require a little bit of experimentation. I also found that the ability to make selections was not super intuitive, and I had to read the (very readable) manual to fully understand the power at my fingertips.
Adobe Ideas Super-intuitive and easy to learn, this app is great for the beginner as well as for anyone already invested in the Adobe Creative Cloud ecosystem and who wants to be able to directly edit their vector drawings without having to go through LiveTrace.
Paper by 53 The minimal interface on this app, along with its responsiveness make it best for quickly rendering no fuss sketches and ideas.
Artrage for iPad This feature-rich app is best for anyone already using Artrage on their desktop or for those who find the blend features (both in terms of paint and layer modes) to be vital.
Procreate A feature-rich and super responsive app that is best for those familiar with Adobe products and who want to further edit their drawings in Photoshop
Wacom, a leader in interactive pen displays and digital drawing tablets is pulling the plug! The electric plug, that is. They are the makers of Bamboo, Intuos and Cintiq tablets. Now, meet Intuos Creative Stylus, Cintiq Companion, and Cintiq Companion Hybrid. (Good things come in threes at Wacom!)
Intuos Creative stylus for iPad is equipped like the Cintiq pen with shortcut buttons, and 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity (care to verify that?). The pressure sensitive tip allows a more natural drawing or painting experience, like using a soft lead or a brush. And the unique palm rejection technology allows you to rest your hand on the iPad surface while you draw. Try that with your old stylus. Bells and whistles come at a price, right? Right. But if you gotta have it, you can get it for about a hundred bucks. In October. Drool.
That’s great, but what if you love your Wacom tablet? Now, you are no longer limited by the length of your power cord. Take it with you, and draw and paint digitally outdoors, on the go, or wherever your whims may take you. Wacom’s newest wireless touch tablets are Cintiq Companion, running Windows 8, and Cintiq Companion Hybrid, your Android tablet. This is a canvas that has access to e-mail, social media and the cloud. You can share, collaborate, or present from one mobile device. You get 13.3 inches of real estate, full HD displays with touch control, wi-fi connectivity, front and rear-facing cameras, stereo headphone jack and microphone (you karaoke while you draw, don’t you?). Finally, a touch tablet for professional artists! You’ll be seeing these for sale in September, so start saving now. Prices run from $1500 to $2500.