Next week brings the second in our new Webinar series. This time Sherry London will be answering your questions about Photoshop. Guild members are invited to hop on over to our Google group, and ask away! And be sure to keep an eye open there for an invitation to join the Google Hangout On Air in progress, early next week. Of course, once the GHOA is ended, the completed YouTube video will also be linked in our forums, for your further perusal.
Sherry London is a surface pattern designer and Photoshop expert. (She also happens to be one of our own guild members!) She has written over a dozen books on Photoshop, Illustrator, and Painter, and for many years wrote the Quick Tips column for Photoshop User Magazine. She teaches general-purpose Photoshop and Illustrator classes online and also teaches a Photoshop for Designers 6-week course with Pattern Observer that focuses exclusively on the needs of surface pattern designers. In addition, she writes a monthly TechTalk blog post for the PatternObserver website. With the initial goal of creating designs for her knitting machine, Sherry has now been using Photoshop since it was new to the world, 25 years ago!
For sketching I mostly just use loose pieces of computer paper and a pencil on a clipboard. I have a tendency to make the sketches really tiny then fill up all the remaining blank spaces on the page (front and back) with various sketches for other things. The fox and spy dog sketches I’m including were done within a few days of each other so they were on the same piece and side of paper.
When I’m making characters or icons with a theme, I usually have a really strong idea of the design I want to do and sketch all the pieces out at once. When I’m doing botanicals or a geometric based idea, I try to be more free with the shapes and placement while sketching and I will fill up more of the page. There are times when I only have the beginnings of the idea which I take into Illustrator and experiment with. Or I make a design and once it’s in Illustrator I realize I don’t like it as much as I thought I did and then mess around with it there.
I also keep a small notebook in my bag in case I need to write a note or draw a quick shape to remind myself of an idea later, but I don’t do any real sketching in it.
I don’t use any of my actual sketches in my artwork, they’re really just there as a map of what I want to do and to make sure I know exactly how I plan to draw a certain object. After I sketch on paper, I re-draw everything in Illustrator using a Wacom tablet. It’s actually a lot quicker for me to just re-draw something than to scan and trace. I’ve also created a custom set of brushes based on my hand done drawings that help expedite this process.
Once I have my shapes I smooth out the edges, adjust anchor points, and pick a color palette. Sometimes the color palette is a bigger inspiration for the direction of what I’m doing and I will pick that out before I even start sketching. After the drawing is done and the colors are set in Illustrator, I move everything over to Photoshop and start painting to add texture and shading (also done with custom brushes) . I sometimes change the colors once I’m in Photoshop but I try to get that part out of the way in Illustrator. The painting step isn’t always necessary since my drawings could be considered finished in Illustrator, but I like the dimension a painted texture can add.
I do occasionally paint with watercolors or use Faber Castel markers but I almost never use any of these scans in my finished work. At least not at the moment anyway. They’re usually just for fun or sketching purposes.
Are you bringing your "problem children" to the meeting tonight? Learning from each other is one of the best features and benefits of belonging to the Guild!
THIS JUST ADDED: Do you have an Illustrator or Photoshop problem that you need help with? Bring your file on a laptop or thumb drive, and we'll have an impromptu peer-to-peer problem solving session!
Do you want to learn some new Photoshop and Illustrator techniques? Join us for our next meeting on Thursday, March 13 from 7:00 – 9:00 P.M. to learn some Photoshop and Illustrator tips and tricks! Jill Turney will give a tutorial demonstrating the creation and use of art brushes in Illustrator. Jen Thayer will give a tutorial demonstrating some of the many selection tools in Photoshop. Other features are in the works. Hand-outs will be provided, and the demos will be recorded so you can review them at leisure in your own studio.
And BONUS! The evening also includes our first ever Guild Book Swap! Bring any design-related books that you are ready to part with, and maybe discover new treasures!
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
A big thank you is owed to the Guild's very own Jill Turney and Sarah Schwartz for the informative Illustrator and Photoshop tutorials that they presented at last week's meeting. Those of us who were in attendance were impressed by your knowledge and grateful that you took the time to prepare and share that valuable information with us!
If you were unable to make it to the meeting or you just want to see the presentations again, the videos for the tutorials are now available for member access. You can find a list of links and passwords to access the videos in our Google Groups. In addition, Jill prepared handouts for her tutorials and they are available for you in our archives.
Thank you again Jill and Sarah! We look forward to more tutorials in the future.
Do you have surface
pattern design related news, information, or tips to share? We want to hear from you!