art, comics, sequential art

Digital Revolution

Earlier, I began this post noting that I hadn’t done any work on the comic today, but that I had realized that it was possible (and most likely, the closest solution) to edit the black, white, and midtone points of the image I uploaded last night, in order to achieve more gradation between black and light grey.

I knew how to do this in Photoshop (PS), but not in GIMP 2. I tried the latter earlier today; it wasn’t wholly satisfactory. Unfortunately, Photoshop and probably most of the people who use it, have a love/hate relationship right now, due to Adobe’s pricing schedule. That, in turn, is likely because Adobe has made itself indispensable and industry-standard in the Graphic Arts.

Yeah, kind of like Apple.

The light grey from my original scan, in particular, did not show up to full effect, and I even got some washing out of an area which obviously (to my eye) isn’t white. I wasn’t sure if this was something that needed to be tinkered with, within the scan program, or not…

Scan as saved in GIMP 2 — I can’t recall if I messed with it or not. I think, “not.”

…but as my alternative was to either hardcore tinker with the scanner software (which I will likely still do); to save the file in an alternate file format like .TIFF or .PNG (not .JPG, which is getting on my nerves, at this point, as I think it’s the source of the grittiness of my attempted edits); to purchase an artist-quality flatbed scanner; or to use a commercial scanning service; I started thinking of alternatives.

That actually did get me to unearth my digital tablet. It also got me to rediscover Adobe, much as it pains me to say. Here is the edited version, which I also shifted to grayscale (the above is color):

The above image as edited in PS CC, with a focus on the range in the Holbein watercolor.

…which is closer to, if a little darker than, the original. I think it does look a bit different from within Photoshop than in my current browser (and especially from within the Edit window on WordPress, within the same browser — I know WP has, at least, used compressed image renditions in here, before)…but hey, I’m not being surgical with this, right now. I’ll see what it looks like, after it goes live…

What I had heard a long time ago is that scanners are more sensitive to differences in color than our eyes, so scanned artwork often shows a lot of flaws when it is rendered back into visual format. I’m not sure if that’s true; if it were, then this begs the question of why I can tell the many different shades of dark grey and light grey that my scanner couldn’t (and which Photoshop apparently still can’t — if the input is bad, I wouldn’t bet on improving it [or GIGO, as we would say in Digital Archives: Garbage In, Garbage Out]). This may in large part be due, however, to programmed-in biases which assume I’m scanning black-on-white text, not image.

So…I know the apparent solution to this. The apparent solution is to color the lineart digitally. Not that I want to…but my lineart looks freakin’ awesome in both Photoshop and Illustrator, even at relatively low resolution. Really, my biggest question is to what extent I can use or will need vector graphics in order to place color fills (or if I’ll be able to do something with a superficially similar effect, using my tablet). It’s not going to be great to have to re-learn how to use Adobe tools…but it will probably make my life easier, in the long run.

I still haven’t decided on whether to use the Ben-Day dots, yet (otherwise known as screentones or halftones). DELETER used to (and still does, actually) make a bunch of hard-copy black-on-clear screentones which were already sticky on the back: you stick them down, burnish them, then slice out what isn’t meant to be in the image, with a razor blade or X-Acto. They’re really fun to work with; unfortunately, for anyone doing anything of size, they’re also relatively expensive. What isn’t expensive (per-use, at least) is replicating the effect digitally; it’s just…complicated. At least, to learn.

And — yeah, I am glad I didn’t get rid of my digital drawing tablet, right now. It’s another peripheral to plug in, though, another bit of software to have loaded; which doesn’t make me comfortable. The more stuff I have on here, the more can go wrong. At least it’s not my ancient tablet (though that one did have tilt recognition; this one doesn’t), but I wanted to try out something small before committing to an expensive tablet that I might not use. (My old tablet has been physically biodegrading for a number of years, but that’s an aside.)

Right now, I have a very short-term commitment to Adobe. I won’t need all the programs I have access to: in particular, I can only see three that might be useful to me in this current project: Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign (as a note to myself). That’s unless I went the route of webcomics — which could happen if I wanted to use color, or wanted to have a global distribution. Dreamweaver would help with that. Granted, I also hear Dreamweaver at least did insert a lot of extraneous code — but that was in 2007, before Adobe Creative Cloud (the current incarnation of all the above programs) even existed.

Of course, I know a bit of how HTML and CSS (and scripting) work, at this point; it’s possible I could edit that code to make it more streamlined. (I also have a huge book on PHP and JavaScript, that I got discouraged from reading. I blame my college introductory class on scripting. And having to do mathematical proofs in Honors Math.) It might be worth it to at least see what languages Dreamweaver can produce. Though — I don’t think I’d go live with this, anytime soon. (I ended up taking down my ePortfolio site, because playing around in the shallow end of the pool isn’t like swimming in the ocean. However…building something and not releasing it to the wild, immediately [until it’s ready] — that’s an interesting proposition.)

Anyhow…apparently, black-on-white lineart is still something I can do by hand (and enjoy doing by hand), though I still haven’t tried anything substantial with the dip pens — given that I only recently figured out how to prepare them en masse. (Prior, I was concerned about melting and bending the tips of my plier jaws with heat from open flame [it has happened]…which put me off of the dip nibs until I found my Third Hand again [it’s a weighted base with steel jaws and a magnifier — comes into heavy use when brazing or hard soldering], and then later, the potato method.) It will take me a bit of time to get back up to speed with Adobe…but then, those will also be salable job skills!

I also have a connection who may be able to help teach me how to do color fills…I came across her name and email, while sorting through old slips of paper. I think she’s connected to me on Social Media, too. Could be worth reaching out?

art, technology

Solving technical difficulties

I had almost forgotten about those text-only posts about the drawing inks and watercolors! Well…let’s see. I do work over the weekend, but midweek I might have time for playing with this, some more. The drawback to posting (color) scans is that I have to use a machine with which I’m not highly familiar.

Then there’s the fact that I trained on Photoshop, but don’t want to pay $20/month to have permission to use it. I think I mentioned somewhere a while ago (maybe on a defunct blog) that I had been using PS Elements — until some update made it suddenly stop working. Was that intentional? I don’t know. But it didn’t make Adobe look good.

Of course, this is part of a long argument propounded by former Photoshop users. There are other solutions, but they take retraining, and their UX is often not as intuitive. Then there’s the fact that Adobe has probably made strides to make sure they get into the classrooms.

I do have half a mind to hook up my drawing tablet again. I took it off for my own reasons, but it reminds me that there are alternatives to Adobe. Not necessarily all open-source…not that open-source is bad, but I wonder what else is out there.

Having worked with watercolor paints recently made me realize something: one of my earlier instructors who was a Digital Illustrator, was right in that he said that digital art was made to emulate physical media, but it wasn’t a replacement for it. I haven’t been through all the art programs out there, but I wonder if anyone has replicated the blossoming of color that happens with good watercolor paint, in wet-in-wet painting. I bet someone has (it’s probably on a Mac, though).

Of course, if I’m photo-editing, I can probably do that better on the computer than in the darkroom (particularly because I don’t know how to process film, and the thought of developing photos has always put me a little on edge).

There is the possibility of getting a Mac tablet and Apple Pencil…but it’s seriously a lot of money. I mean, I’d have to work out a plan and timetable to save up for the thing, and I don’t even know if I’d like it. I guess that’s why there are Apple Stores.

Of course…if I’m going to do that, I could save up for a Mac first, and if I don’t like how the Apple Pencil works upon trying it out, I can apply the savings to a Cintiq. The price has gone down since I last checked.

(Really, Haru? You’re really entertaining this?)

Then there’s this stuff about scanning or photography.

This is kind of too much to think about, right now. I have, however, located a couple of models which would work…the question is…is it that important to me.

That depends on how much time I actually spend making artwork. It hasn’t been much, recently. If, however, I spent as much time painting as I did writing — trying to work on it every day, you know — that…that would be great.

And yes, I do need to give myself permission to make my life not all about my career. Though there is the possibility, I found yesterday…of helping to run the art displays at one or more libraries, which would give me valuable experience if I wanted to work in or run a gallery (and thus get back into the visual art world). It wouldn’t pay — it’s a volunteer position. But still…that’s really interesting, you know?

There is more I have to say about…languages. I realized the other night that while I may have been taught the basic mechanics of Spanish language, no one ever really encouraged me to do any recreational reading in Spanish, or to use the language outside the classroom. That (and the missionary angle of most of my teachers) has very obviously impacted my regard for it.

Also — I’ve realized that if I learn Spanish instead of Japanese — this would give me much more time to work on my Art. (I’ve also realized that the evangelical pamphlet that someone donated the other day, was likely written to be easy to read. I found a book by Neil Gaiman in the Spanish Children’s section the other day, which I couldn’t well read. I could read it well enough to know that it was likely disturbing.) ;)

Relearning Spanish also doesn’t mean that I won’t ever learn Japanese.

Anyway…it’s almost midnight, and I’ve got an early morning, tomorrow. More has happened…but I should get some rest.