I just found a Shareware program that had me reaching for my credit card within fifteen minutes of first downloading it to try out. From mooSoftware.com is TABLETDRAW® a simple drawing program that uses the pressure sensitivity of the various Wacom tablets to allow you to draw freely. It's a sketching and drawing program with the look of pencil, pen, or felt marker. It runs on Intel-based or PowerPC Macs and requires Mac OS X version 10.4 or later. Sorry, PC users, this one is Mac only.
What makes it different than some other pressure-sensitive drawing programs is
- cost—it's only $35.00 US
- given most modern computers, it will have no trouble staying up with the freely-drawn variations in curving lines.
The MENU BAR has most of the things that you would normally expect, but there are a couple that should be noted. Under the FILE MENU is an EXPORT FOR PHOTOSHOP function that exports an image as a .psd file. Under the MODE menu the increase and decrease pen size do not require a modifier key and are simply "[ "(decrease) and "]" (increase). The VIEW menu allows you to access a COLOR PICKER to pick intermediate colors rather than simply BLACK, RED, BLUE and YELLOW, and the HELP menu has the SHOW KEYS function that brings up a complete listing of the key combinations available. I include the SHOW KEYS listing further along in the tutorial.
"Finally, a drawing program for artists," that's what mooSoftware calls their program. Here's the TOOLBAR outlined in red below. The first row has the pencil tool that allows you to select a Pencil, Pen, or Marker from the TOOL PRESETS column. New is the Eraser which allows selection of the Small Soft Eraser or Big Firm Eraser.
The second row gives us a Lasso to select a portion of an image, and next to it is the Move tool that allows you to move the selection.
The tird row gives us a Marquee Rectangle or Oval to select an area in an image, and there's also a Hand tool that, like in ADOBE PHOTOSHOP® allows us to move the whole image within its frame.
Last row is a bit different in zooming in and out of an image. Select the mangifying glass and then while holding shift and spacebar use your pen and draw a line upward on your image. This will zoom in an image view. Holding the shift and spacebar and drawing the line downward will zoom out the image view. Finally, that circle with the arrows allows you to rotate the image to allow you to work on the image as though it were a sheet of paper that you rotated to allow your pen to make strokes that are natural to your hand.
I'll insert all the keyboard shortcuts here to get you thinking about your shortcut keys.
If you are drawing a freehand image then the screen size can be chosen beforehand and is a matter of choice. Obviously, if you are opening another image it will determine the screen size because the image will try to open at the native size of the image which may be much too large for the computer screen and it may be necessary to zoom out on the image to bring the size down to a workable view. I'll explain how to zoom a bit later.
If you are drawing a feehand image the height and width of your image can be set in Inches…
…or Centimeters, Millimeters, Picas, or Points.
The tool presets give us a PENCIL (very light in tone) a THIN BLACK LINE or a THICK BLACK LINE or the effect of a MARKER. Remember changing the size of the selected tool is simply a matter of using the "["and "] "keys for decreasing on increasing the tool size by 1 pixel. Adding the shift key decreases or increases by 5 pixels.
BLACK is the default color of the PEN tools while the MARKER can be BLUE, RED, or YELLOW. The ERASERS can be decreased or enlarged in size as well. If BLACK is not your choice to draw with, go to the VIEW MENU of TABLETDRAW® and choose COLOR PICKER; it will appear above your working image and will allow you to point and click on a new color choice.
Notice that in the TOOL PRESETS that there is a small arrow to the left of each tool. If you check that arrow you will find that there is an adjustment set that allows you to adjust the minimum and maximum size of the tool, the color of the tool, opaciy and an ink mode.
The LAYERS menu can create an infinite number of LAYERS which can be manipulated in all the customary forms for anyone familiar with ADOBE PHOTOSHOP®. NEW layer, COPY, MERGE, FLATTEN and DELETE are possible…
…and the LAYER BLEND MODE allows BLEND MODES similar to other programs which use LAYERS.
Here's a picture of myself sitting in a coffee shop. This image was made with the camera in my 17" MacBook Pro notebook computer. Let's take it through the drawing process so we can get a look at the way the tools work in TABLETDRAW®. Remember, we have a WACOM® TABLET attached to our computer.
Here's the same image processed with Akvis SKETCH®. Remember Akvis SKETCH®? I wrote a review and brief tutorial for it only a few weeks ago. For my purposes there is too much background visible in the image and the lines tend to be the same in weight in too many places. There is not enough variety to the lines to give the image the kind of "life" that is commonly associated with a hand-drawn image. But, it's somewhere we can start.
In the image below, which I have opened in mooSoftware's TABLETDRAW® I have begun to erase the background with the BIG FIRM ERASER chosen from TABLETDRAW®'S tool presets.
Now I continue to erase the background of the image. Like a real eraser, the BIG FIRM ERASER does not erase everthing in one pass; it takes several passes to erase the majority of the background, and we don't have all of it yet. We'll get all the rest as we clean up later. Right now, we'll just lighten up the overall background so we can concentrate on my head and shoulders.
OK, I didn't quite stop erasing above; I decided to remove the figure who was behind my shoulder on the right.
Now I've added a blank layer above the image and selected the MEDIUM BLACK PEN from the tool presets and using the presure-sensitive quality of my pen with my WACOM® tablet, I have begun to draw on the blank layer on top of the image, and by varying the pressure with which I push down with the pen I begin to try to add character to the lines that represent the most dynamic parts of the image.
Now I start to pick out the most important parts of the image that I want to emphasize. I'm trying to find parts of the image that represent stresses in the fabric of the shirt and vest and places that represent bumps and creases in my skull, mouth, neck and ears. The glasses get some work as well.
More bumps and creases in the skull follow; and then some defining of the beard line. Finally a touch or two in the shirt will give it a bit more form.
Look closely at the diagonal strokes done in the beard using the light touch and pressure sensitivity of the WACOM® pen.; there are a few strokes on the neck and in the shirt collar starting to show up now. We're closed to finished; there are only a few more things to do.
To finish up our transition from a stylized and somewhat artificial shetch-looking image to something closer to a hand-drawn one, I went back with a smaller eraser--the SMALL SOFT ERASER from the tool presets--and lightened places in the vest and shirt on the lower layer, and I also finished erasing the background. I had to lighten the area seen through the eyeglasses on the left where the background had produced a dark area, and a few diagonal swipes were made through the face and beard to increase the hand-drawn look. Oh, and I lightened the bump in the top of the skull.
If desired there are still two things I could have done. One, would have been to "turn off" or make invisible the original image. REMEMBER, we are working with two layers at the moment. Turning off the original image layer would have left a black-lined image with very little of the gray tones showing through. That was not what I wanted, but it could have been done. Secondly, I can export this image to ADOBE PHOTOSHOP® if I wanted to. That is an option that can be selected from the FILE MENU in TABLETDRAW)r). I haven't chosen to do that either, so we'll simply stop here with a drawing that looks much more hand-drawn and natural than we had where we started. You can't do this with a mouse; only with the pressure-sensitivity of a pen and tablet can you achieve this effect.
Granted, you could have done this same effect using the LAYERS in ADOBE PHOTOSHOP® with a pressure-sensitive WACOM® TABLET and PEN.
But, and here's the "Big But…".TABLETDRAW® only cost $35.00 US and ADOBE PHOTOSHOP® costs hundreds. Take a look at mooSoftware.com and download the trial version; it works completely correctly except LAYERS are limited to two instead of unlimited, and undo's are limited to five instead of unlimited.
How's that for a chance to see what you could do with it? I could have done this image with the trial version, but at $35.00 Shareware, it is too good to pass up, so in the interest of the new Federal Regulations about disclosure I BOUGHT IT for myself; so go try it out for yourself; I suspect you'll have to buy yourself a copy.