Upcoming Post Alert


My next post will be about my refreshed love of Corel Painter. I’ve been a long time user now. I started out with Essentials. I think it was Corel Painter Essentials 3 actually. I have been doing digital painting since I was 15 so I’ve used many demos and trials and bought a lot of  software in that time and one program I frequently enjoy or go back to after long breaks is Corel Painter. This year while it was on sale, I managed to upgrade to the 2018 version and I am enjoying it a lot more than the 2015 version.

So in my next post, I will have some screenshots, maybe even gifs of something things or features I love as well as ramble on about a few features I am grateful to see in the most recent version.

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TVPaint Animated Avatar Workflow


As more people have started to notice my work, I have started to recieve more questions about why I like/prefer TVPaint over other applications or freeware such as OpenToonz.

Yes I could achieve the exact same results in Toon Boom Harmony, Animate CC, OpenToonz, Pencil2D and Krita but the simplest answer is simply this:

TVPaint is what I feel most comfortable with. It’s natural, intuitive and once you learn the tools it’s very easy. I love frame by frame animation. I’m not a big fan of creating vector animation myself. I like seeing what others make but I don’t like to create it.

For anyone that has followed me long enough, I am sure you can see a big difference in feeling and motion when I do raster based animations such as this. It has more life and warmth to it while my vector animation is stale and tends to stagnate.

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After learning a few handy hotkeys and adding them to my tablet express keys, working in TVPaint is very fast. This simple 120 frame animation did not take up a whole lot of my time. And yet, if I were to make it in Harmony or Animate CC I would still be working on it. Because I tend to find that vector animation involves at least 90% problem solving rather than working.

I also dislike using nodes to create my effects. In Harmony this would take a complicated node setup. In TVPaint however, it was merely cleverly placed layers set to Add and painted on with an airbrush. A second layer of Soft Overlay was added for extra colour.

I also love how simple it actually is to create particles in TVPaint. In Harmony, it is incredibly difficult and the nodes tend to get more and more complicated as you work. At least in OpenToonz, their nodes are much simpler to work with. But it’s still not as simple as TVPaint.

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I love that I can colour my timeline in anyway I see fit and adding extra keys is extremely simple. Harmony and classic Flash were often quite irritating for me to work with. I just wanted something simple yet powerful and I have that with TVPaint.

Projects can be simple or complicated but the workflow is for me the most important part. I don’t having to stop several times to look up the manual and troubleshoot. And that’s ultimately what happens when you animate with Vector and Bone animation software. I was misguided into using vector software in the beginning. I quickly learned my lesson though. I prefer applications like TVPaint, Krita, Clip Paint Studio or OpenToonz where you can just dive in and start animating. It’s the best way to learn.

Most of the tools are intuitive. TVPaint has a few quirky features but with enough time and practise it becomes something you end up loving. For me, the way TVPaint handles masking is one of it’s greatest features. If you’re clever, it can help you create incredible effects or lighting.

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In the above I have a little gif I made for a friend on DA. It’s his character Angie. His website is Prevelant Arts. Below is one of the first Gif drafts where I forgot to animate the shadow with the hand. I wasn’t sure about adding shadow on the hand at this point or any at all since it would have made the gif to large to post on other sites.

Angie 1

I once tried to make something this simple in Harmony. It took me a week and it still didn’t work the way I wanted. I created this gif twice. I had to start over. It took me 2hrs with two clever uses of masking to complete. I sent the adjusted version off and I was quite pleased with the smooth workflow. All I had to do was draw, paint and review.

Short, sweet and simple.

But trying to do this in Harmony was a nightmare and a half. A few reasons being:

  1. Nodes- It becomes to complicated just to get a layer effect
  2. You need nodes to use or create masking
  3. Lack of help and information on masking in updated software
  4. You only have filters for blur. No airbrush tool, no blur tool. So if you want an airbrushed effect you MUST use a combination of nodes and masking. If you can’t do it, then you have a very messy animation/art.

After using Harmony and Animate Pro 3 for a few years I ended up with a passionate dislike for nodes. I can see how they could be helpful. OpenToonz has a simpler way to use them but with a lack of information and an inactive community, it’s a very difficult thing to learn even just by clicking stuff to see what happens.

TVPaint has a surprisingly active community. They’re also quite friendly. There’s also a lot of tutorials on the official forum already along with videos on Vimeo and Youtube. I have found Vimeo to be the best source of information for animation and TVPaint.

Too me, good animation software allows you to jump right in and start creating with little need to use the manual or tutorials. You should be able to easily use the pen tool, eraser, layers easily.

This was simply not the case for me and multiple vector programs. I tried many trials/demos, I bought two vector programs because they seemed fun and I learned a lot of things and gained a lot of technical skills. And after all of that, I still prefer and highly recommend using TVPaint.

For me, vector is a hindrance to my creativity and workflow. TVPaint has been very freeing for me creatively speaking. Using it to animate with these days is comforting. I have wanted it for so long and I am so grateful to have finally bought a copy. I used the demo and kept my knowledge of it in hopes of owning it. It was approximately a ten year wait. Lots of saving, but worth every dollar.

If you are serious and actually have the money to spend on it, do it. If you’re not sure, stick to freeware. Animation is not for everyone and unfortunately some artists don’t realise they don’t enjoy it until after they’ve learned how to do it. So I’ve now had to change my advice to, use freeware first then try TVPaint.

Upcoming post TVPaint


I’ve been wanting to make this post for a while and now I feel like I have enough examples to put in my post. In a few days I will be posting about my current workflow and experiences in TVPaint and again professing my love for it.

Blender Cycles And My Troubles


In the past I was never truly able to use it. With the exception of very basic scenes. The worst part about cycles is how slow it is to render something high quality.

This was why I started to get into external rendering. I tried all the freeware of course. I even tried trials and demos of paid software. I liked Keyshot the most. I was told to try VRay but when I saw the price, I avoided it completely.

In the end I never bought Keyshot because well, it’s out of my price range and at the time, Blackmagic Fusion didn’t have as many tutorials as it does now. And now that I’ve discovered NATRON (free) I have a lot more options for compositing and rendering.

However last year I got a new PC and it made the biggest impact on my Blender Cycles renders. Of course I can’t render any of my animations but hey, at least I can render my art now to the level I like. So here’s a few cycles renders I’ve done recently.

The last picture is a closeup of the toys. As you can see the first few are a bit noisy with some fireflies. The last three are clean and smooth as I upped resolution. It took quite some time to render. This makes me look forward to Blender EEVEE even more!

I like using cycles for toon related scenery but the render time takes so long! Currently I am researching the current freeware and opensource external rendering engines to see what I can do until the new version of Blender comes out.

Experimenting With Blender Grease Pencil


Once I saw the updates and changes in the current stable release of Blender (which is 2.7b at the time of writing this), I started looking up how to use it. It didn’t take me long to find the recent videos of what’s to come in Blender 2.8 and I am super excited! This is something I have wanted for so long in any program actually. The ability to combine and effect 2D drawings and edit them like 3D objects and light them with 3D lighting and volumetric lighting!

The Blender team have really upped their game. I am using one of the experimental builds at the moment just to check it out. I would love to post examples but it’s so unstable that it crashes anytime I attempt to render out my work. I did however manage to render this. It’s a basic toon interior bedroom model with a simple area light. Notice the lighting has effected my sketch.

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This honestly reminds me of a much brighter version of a claymation set. I really like it and I can already tell that EEVEE is going to be my most favourite rendering engine yet.

From what I’ve seen where the lighting can effect the grease pencil drawings, I am just blown away. It’s something I have wanted in an application like Blender or any other 3D program. I tried doing it in After Effects but the program lags horrifically and leaves enormous files after use that it’s just simply not worth it. This is a huge game changer for me when it gets released. I am hoping they can succeed in getting it done because that will mean one more Adobe app I can ditch.

Good Notes 4 And Why I like It


I watched one video about Good Notes 4 and I was hooked! I love this app! It’s fantastic!

The writing in Good Notes 4 is surprisingly natural without too much auto correction on the lines. It’s smooth without being too smooth and simple to use. With how natural the writing feels and the use of the zoom feature it makes it even easier to write and use withing a limited space without making it uncomfortable or weird.

My only gripe is a lack of pen styles to choose from. With my messy handwriting and the fact that I have a tendency to switch between cursive and print as I write after years of rush rush rush in high school that never left my hand’s memory, there are particular pens that look better, neater and more legible when I write with them such as a standard slanted calligraphy pen.

I have a person preference for fountain and calligraphy pens that are sharp and/or slanted at certain angles. Most digital art or doodling apps provide these pens and it seems with their forever growing popularity a lot more note taking apps also have these pens. NoteShelf 2 for example has these pens with a lot of similar tools to Good Notes 4. If calligraphy pens are important to you, I suggest you skip this app in favour of NoteShelf or Noteshelf 2.

Good Notes 4’s idea of a fountain pen is a pen with pressure sensitivity but to me a fountain pen has always been a slimmer and shorter width calligraphy pen with rich strokes. I like the elliptical tip shape of a lot of fountain pens so I was disappointed. I have been using Adobe Draw to fulfil my calligraphy cravings when I feel like playing around with pens or Procreate.

I am sure (Though I haven’t researched it) that it uses vector because of how the tools behave and function, which has me even more impressed. Vector overtime lags. It’s inevitable. I am using Good Notes 4 on an iPad Pro 12.9 inch 64GB. I didn’t buy it outright I got it through Optus like a phone plan. There is zero lag when using Good Notes and I am not sure if there is a page limit, but I doubt I will ever reach it. As you use it and write with it, it feels like you are creating an ebook and it even exports as PDF or image file or it’s native Good Notes file for sharing your documents. In this post I will share an image version of the draft to this blog post. In the past I used to pre-write my blog posts so I could get all of my thoughts out better and more organised. Currently I am doing this in Good Notes 4, Notability and Noteshelf 2. Just for the sake of testing it out. So far, Notability is the clear winner.

Below is a draft for this post in image format. The image export is clean and crisp as I would expect. After exploring a lot of apps both paid and free, it seems image export is not a common option which makes little sense to me. As you can see, because of my writing, I prefer to write on grid paper to contain myself and my spacing. I then like to turn the template off and make it look like I’ve written on blank paper like I normally would in a regular art book.

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But before I get too carried away in my excitement lets just back up to what I was talking about. There’s no lag. Even when drawing. In the handwritten post to this I wrote there was, I found it was actually another app in the background causing the lag which I usually have turned off but at the time I was quite tired. There’s no lag even when drawing in Good Notes 4 which is great. In Notepad + there was lag or other various issues and intrusive adds. And honestly for the price of Notepad + ($30.99 AUD) you still don’t even get half the amount of tools and functionality and options as Good Notes 4 or Notability. Two apps that even if bought together, don’t add up to the full cost of Notepad+.

In other apps, the lag can cause a mangled mess of squiggles and lines if you write or draw too fast. Even if shape drawing is turned off. This is not an issue with Good Notes, even if you have shape drawing turned on.

With this in mind, I must give credit to the shape drawing assistant. I have thoroughly enjoyed it’s auto correction when drawing shapes and lines. As an artist, and still a webcomic artist and now amateur animator, I frequently make mind maps and diagrams. I often make the good old classic “Yes” “No” maps when I need to simplify a character and their reactions whenever I get stuck. This option is invaluable and incredibly frustrating to use in other apps. Good Notes, Notability and Noteshelf 2 have mastered this tool. With other apps such as Evernote, the feature can become irritating and tedious. These three apps have found a way to make it work right and work for you not against you.

Which brings me to the highlighter option. You can get realistic highlight effects in Good Notes and the other apps but with the assistance of the shape drawing tool, you can highlight in accurate straight lines as you work. Not a lot of apps get it right but Good Notes have nailed it. It both feels and looks realistic, with a decent variety of colours to choose from as well as the option to choose custom colours just as with the pens.

A lot of other note taking apps tend to limit their highlight colour choices between 4 and 8 without the option to choose your own custom colours. If you’re lucky you can get 8 colours to pick from. If using highlighters is an important feature for you whether it’s for note taking or study, this app might be perfect for you. It’s very easy to import ebooks from what I saw, or use photo’s or even scanned images of text or whatever it is you need to use a highlighter on and just start marking out and annotating. I personally import my own drawings, annotate over or near them and link them into my mind maps and highlight the pathways in a colour code using different colours for either personality or emotions depending on the theme of the map. Good Notes and Notability has pretty much replaced notebooks for me.

I am also loving the page template choices. I love thick and wide ruled lines in notebooks being short sighted but once I discovered the zoom feature I no longer had to worry about my handwriting size and squinting. It is an ideal feature for me to be able to bring in my own templates even if it’s already in the list available, the fact that I can import what I like to use and just start using it is a wonderful feature.

Like I mentioned earlier I am an artist, so I often need to use storyboards or storyboard templates. In the past I would set this up with Clip Studio or photoshop but I prefer book style apps like this. I don’t always want to have to get on my PC to storyboard. Sometimes I just want to sit somewhere comfortable to write and draw, which isn’t always an option and I don’t always have the necessary amount of books or paper or pens. Using apps like this eliminates a lot of cost and clutter and has improved my production and overall work and story making abilities.

When I didn’t have an iPad, for a long time there I was using an app called Paper by Fifty Three. Now I just use that app for fun doodles. It’s just not quite the same as using Good Notes. I’m absolutely in love with it. I enjoy the cover choices but I am starting to favour Notability more with the option to use custom cover art designs using my own art and the tabbing and category options. I will still use Good Notes a lot but Notability is quickly taking over as the main favourite.

One thing Good Notes has over Notability is the ability to export your pages as images. This is extremely important to me for various reasons. PDF is idea for a lot of things but being an artist, I have a lot of image and drawing based posts which would be better suited to image exports for online hosting and basic displaying purposes online.

I am sure there are other features I have yet to find and use such as the search feature. I even think you can add audio recordings, I am not sure yet, but I do know you can add text as well which is useful. For the price and the functionality, Good Notes 4 is a well made and robust app that’s well worth buying and using on a daily basis.

Upcoming Post Animating on iPad


Soon I will make a somewhat short then followed up by a longer post of my adventures in animation using an iPad and various apps. Just a heads up, I don’t quite have a whole lot of positive things to say about Animation Desk but I will share my indepth reasons and comparisons why.

Currently, I can’t write to much about it without image examples which I am working on. I must admit though I am impressed with what I have discovered so far. It’s definitely fun but if you were patient and skilled enough, there’s an awful lot of choices out there to make ok to great animation. Depending on how much effort you’re willing to put into it of course.