Tuesday, February 4, 2014

GIMP Tutorials and Lessons in Game in the Brain

its been so long ago, i think I've lost many of my works to crashed computers. Unlike today where there is a cloud and sufficient space to save works in, I don't think I'll ever get those works backs. this is as much for others as for myself.

I guess its not so bad to begin again, although it does take up a chunk of time to relearn to draw. But many basics are still with me. I've given up paper and pen drawing for drawing on a graphics tablet (45php to 1 usd about $26-46USD per tablet vs the branded ones). There are many important capabilities with the trade off of dependency. 

Trade Offs
  • Opportunity - I tend to draw in my Note 2 only. Its a mental barrier more than anything. 
  • Instant Gratification - Quickly save and store works. 
  • Easier to Erase and Start from a clean slate
  • Better Tracing - you can't exactly trace in in the Note 2. It takes some work with S Note to trace and be able to delete the picture you traced over. 
  • Transform Tool - some problems can be corrected by warping the image instead of redrawing the whole thing. 
  • No more scanning and cleaning process. Your processes is all on the computer so faster turn around. 
  • More opportunity to Experiment and Practice Velocity - save a version where you are at a cross road, then explore another path. Analog its one path and direction until you "complete", in a computer with saves I can go many directions after wards. more on this. 


Sherlock talks about limitations of the mind, keeping the brain uncluttered. Einstein talks about needing to remember something he can look up. Tracing is a method and tool to achieve your desired results. 

If you see how anatomically correct some images are, there is a good chance there was a trace. Being an artist is not a profession where they pay you extra for mastering a 3d image in your head, and Critics can be brutal. There are time constraints and dead lines. 

Some artist don't trace, many pros don't trace... but their proportions are way off as part of their "aesthetic". After a while you get to notice some limitations to the patterns of the human form vs the Ideal you and your audience desires. This gets interesting where an artist compromises, or where he seeks strength. The artist who don't trace have a bit more freedom, but still are limited by the cost of honing the skill while those who trace move off to others things and accumilate a ton of reference material. 

In the end, its just one of those skills that doesnt matter if you do it or don't. Its those things that mattered when I was a kid, but didn't matter anymore when I got my results.

Many Paths

The opportunity to experiment is crucial in artist development and something that is easier in a computer. By easier, non-cruicial actions are eliminated and more of the important exercises - stroke and control & sense of perspective and composition. So I drew a face. I can draw the body several ways and either explore each way as an exercise or choose the best for the requirement I'm given by my editor/patron. 

There is some string theory elements in the "save" and experiment which is pretty cool. 

Some Basics: GIMP

The set up, have enough space for your Graphic Tablet in one hand (typically right) and your keyboard on the other (left), with a big screne +19". I have an old 2008 laptop dual core for this so its a bit slow. Gaming platforms are the best for this kind of work. 

  1. Connect yoru Graphics Tablet before opening GIMP
  2. Open GIMP (use help> about to see edition; I'm using 2.8.6)
  3. Go to Windows > Single Window Mode 
  4. F11 for full screen mode (maybe have these notes printed out or on another screen)
  5. Ctrl + N for new - begin by testing testing the size of the image you can make. If you have a new computer 2012-2013 with 4 cores and 4G ram you can afford to set your Toolbar > edit > preferences > environment > change the unit of measure to megabytes and set the .
    1. Tile Cache to 1/2 your total ram to 1/4 your ram. 
    2. Maximum Image size is 1/4 to 1/8 your ram. 
    3. Default Image > You can try using A5 or B5 at 300ppi or even Small A6. play around with the pen tool. Like any crafting hobby you better check your tools and see how they work and their limits and optimal use. Take note of the "standard" size you will use because this is a big physical barrier. maybe when you get better you can afford and deserve a hardware upgrade to make more elaborate works. but if you can make well with so little it helps build confidence. 
  6. Play around with the pen tool. You will need to calibrate your pen tool for your graphics tablet, sometimes they are usable at default sometimes they need some calibrating. 
    1. First choose the Pen (N) and then look at the left hand tool bar for a blue arrow with orange dots trailing it. Click the Icon and a list will appear. You may selected Pencil Generic for starters. Lets call that symbol the Paint Dynamics Icon or PN. Keep note that you have pen (N) selected - always check.

    2. On the upper right hand side where layers can be found, you can scroll through the many options till you see the PN symbol (the same blue arrow with orange circles trailing). There will be two, look for PN symbol but with a black box border around it, it's called Paint Dynamics when you mouse over (do not confuse with Paint Dynamics Editor) the icon tab and look for the symbol which I encircled. You can create a new pen dynamics or edit one of the pre-existing pen dynamics settings.
    3. Use the Paint Dynamics Editor, the same PN symbol but without the box border. You will notice that in mine have the pencil generic encircled if I wanted to edit it I'd have to choose edit in the Pain Dynamics tab. The blue circle allows you to select what quality you want to edit like Size in this one. Since I'm using a cheap $46 graphics tablet and my sense of touch is not what it used to be I am fiddling around this to be more sensitive. Basically making the curve turn upward sooner. I can do the same for opacity. Check if you are on Pen Tool... in Airbrush and Paintbrush dynamics have caps.

      The Blue Circle, you can choose Mapping Matrix to add features by clicking on the check box.
      You see the grayed out options below the graph, that will be activated in edit mode. You can add other variables that are not already checked. 
    4. Tool Bar > Edit > Preferences > Tool options> Paint options shared between tools" ideally uncheck these so that your eraser will not act like your pen or airbrush or stuff. I dont know why they made this default. 
    5. Tool Bar > Edit > Preferences > Toolbox > you may want this information incase your absent minded like me.   
  7. Then proceed to practice. 

Most Used Controls while Working

  • N Pen
  • Shift + E eraser
  •  [ and ] - re-sizes your pen
  • Ctrl + Middle Mouse Button Wheel or to scroll Zoom in and out
  • Space Bar Hold + Mouse - move the page
  • Alt + A - Select All
  • Shift + Alt + A - deselect all. 
  • Shift + Ctrl + N - new layer (always work on a new layer when taking a new approach)
  • X - change color
  • like Word Processing Shift + Ctrl + S or Shift + S to save. Have a system for versions and naming. 
  • Ctrl + S to save work, Ctrl + shift + s to save as (and save different versions)
    • when you save try choosing not to preserve the resolution (downgrading the resolution but preserving the dimensions like A5 ot A6). 

Early Objectives of Playing around

  • know how to find all related controls
  • what kind of pen do you plan on using? do you want to act close to a real pen, there are limits. 
  • learn the ideal brush px size no. for me at A6 its 5px as a pen. 
  • Prep you Pen and Eraser
  • see how long you can make a controlled stroke. this determines the smoothness of your lines. Note that zoom in/out, px density, pen settings, and the style you are after are factors to consider. 
  • Establish the perimiter. Since you will be using the G.tablet a lot sense the space. Note that in a dual screen (my set up above) a portion of my G. tablet goes into the other screen. 

First Exercise: Tracing!

Trace the art you are going to draw and want to draw. You get more show-able results faster this way. Begin with a 300dpi workspace.

  • Ctrl + o - open and import a new image.
    • C to cut/crop the image 
  • Shift + A to select it. 
  • Shift + C to copy
  • Shift + V to paste
  • R for rectangle tool to select an area or E for the ellipse tool version. 
  • M to change into the move tool. Shift + LMB to move an image within a selected layer. Use move to compose the picture. (ctrl + mouse wheel to zoom in and out) 
    • shift + r to rotate
    • shift + t to scale
    • shift + p to skew perspective
    • shift + s to sheerS
    • shift + f to flip (used to make an image symetric)
  • place the image on a layer and control the transparency so that your strokes are more visible, work 
  • create a new layer to draw on with with Ctrl + Shift + N or Ctrl + V to paste an image and then convert that image into a layer by right clicking and choosing new layer. 
  • Ctrl + E and Ctrl + Shift + E for export to a Png or Jpg to examine the output image. 

Exercise Objective

  • See how different thicknesses and smoothness of strokes and ppi appear. It is important to know how well your tools work. so you can strategist how your going to draw something highlighting your desired feature and minimizing the suck (min/maxing in art lolz). 
  • You can use export to see how the final image will look like in composition. Zoom in and Zoom out to see how much details degrade in zoom in and how much clearer are certain details when you take the picture as a whole. 
  • get hours of practice until the controls are intuitive as would type in a keyboard. The faster you master this the faster you can output work and the more productive each session of practice is. Its the equivalent of honing your blade or mastering the use of your tools. The "artistry" comes later. 
  • by the end of the exercise you have something to show for and that builds confidence and confidence builds more practice and more personal reward in the activity.  Often i know you are your worse critic, so it is important to build up confidence and find people who are willing to give their time to help you improve with constructive criticism. 


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