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Reviews Software Tutorials Workflow

Review: ART TEXT v2.2.2 by Belight Software

Editor’s Note:  Wouldn’t you know? Just as we released this article, a newer 2.3 version with a vector editor has been released. Dr. Roach will review it at a later date.

Back in April, 2009 I last reviewed BeLight’s ART TEXT and found it a useful headline and logo designing tool, but time passes and the new 2.2.2 version appeared as a review copy (from BeLightsoft. Com)on my desk with a new, revamped look and a greater ease of usage.

Categories
Graphics Photoshop Reviews Software Workflow

Review: Pixelmator 1.6

About a year and a half ago (January 7, 2009 to be exact) I wrote a review of Pixelmator as a potential light-weight image-editing software. At that time I found it a very useful and inexpensive image-editing software that was well worth its $59.00 cost. (Download from Pixelmator.com)

A new version of Pixelmator (1.6) is available as a free upgrade to current Pixelmator owners, but a word of caution goes along with it. Pixelmator has been rewritten for Snow Leopard 10.6 and the new version will not run on 10.5 Leopard. Much of its underpinnings have been rewritten for 64 bit support and tuned to take advantage of the multi-core CPUs that Mac has been utilizing for some time.

The results are increases in speed, with Pixelmator claiming starting up twice as fast as previously, and opening images two times faster than Adobe’sPhotoshop©. It’s new painting engine claims to run four times faster than the previous version, and claims that filters are applied faster than those in Photoshop©.

Categories
Featured Photoshop Software

Tablet Draw By MooSoftware.com

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

  1. cost—it’s only $35.00 US
  2. 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.

Categories
Hardware Photography

Monitor Calibration : Xrite i1Display 2

The road from getting the color you see on the computer monitor to that you see on an inkjet print is a long and torturous path. What-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) is not what is going to happen with a printer right out of the box, your monitor, and bargin inkjet paper from the office supply store.

Without taking time in this article to give you a background in additive color(projective color—ie: your monitor—color built with Red, Green, and Blue) and subtractive color(printed color—ie: your printer—color built with Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and black) suffice to say that because they come from different color spaces and one is made with light and the other with pigment that they will never exactly match, but they can come close. That's where color calibration of your monitor comes in because we can adjust our monitor's color with only minimal difficulty where adjusting the printing ink color is a major undertaking.

Making adjustments for the type of paper we are printing on is another adjustment we'll save for later. Right now we are trying to get what you see on the monitor to match a known standard so that we can make adjustments from a standard. The problem is that with a multitude of different manufacturers of monitors, the color that you see on those monitors matches whatever the manufacturer decides for the default. They may be adjusted to a standard of that manufactuer or may be allowed to simply occur—that is, they come off the production line without adjustment.

So, the first thing you need to do is get your monitor to match some standard that is acceptable to the paper and ink manufactuers for comparison in making decisions. To do that we need two things: (1) a sensor that can be placed on the screen of the monitor to read specific colors as they are generated by (2) the software provided by the manufacturer of the device. Once the system has been run, the colors on the monitor are as close to a standard as that particular monitor can be adjusted. Laptop monitors do not have as much potential adjustment as does a stand-alone monitor. Some photographers will tell you that they can get very close as they produce a profile for their laptops, but a separate monitor should produce even better results.

I use equipment and software from XRite with the specific device being called Eye1Display2. Why am I really doing this and why an Eye1Display2?

WHAT I WANT TO HAPPEN

My studio has four MacBook Pro laptops and one MacPro. I want them to match as closely as possible so that an image seen on one machine looks the same there as on any other machine in the studio. When my wife prepares her art for printing on our older Epson wide format 7600 printer I want the images on my 30" Apple monitor to match what she was working on when she designed them. Done that way it keeps a lot of piece in the family and saves a lot of ink, paper, and time. What I print will be what she wants. The only additional change I will have to make will be that which occurs when I soft proof an image.

I want before and after results in order to see what the profile adjustments do to an image. I want as nearly as possible neutral grays when I print black and white prints. I want it to be consistent, relatively quick, and easy. All of those goals are satisfied for me with the Eye1Display2.

WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN

When the software for a particular color calibrating system is activated, it will ask that you place the color sensor (sometimes called the "puck") on the center of your monitor screen. A cord connects the sensor to a USB port on the computer, and a small counterweight is attached somewhere on the cord in order to offset the weight of the puck and to keep it hanging and resting on the computer screen without accidentally or easily moving.

First, the software will ask you what kind of device you want to calibrate. In this case you will select MONITOR.

The software will ask you what kind of monitor you are working with, that is whether it is a laptop screen or a LCD or CRT screen.

As you can see above we are choosing LAPTOP from the choices of monitor type.

Then the software will ask you to make decisions about the WHITE POINT, GAMMA, and LUMINANCE you want in your screen profile.

Once you have made those decisions the software will ask you to position the puck on the display of your monitor.

Once the procedure has begun, a series of white rectangles will appear on an otherwise black screen. These rectangles will appear at what appear to be randon positons until they have pinpointed the exact location of the puck—the sensor. In this illustration the gray is really black; it is lightened here so that the puck does not disappear against the black screen.

Once the puck location has been determined a series of color and value rectangles will appear and the sensor will read the colors to determine what is seen vs. what is intended to be seen. The colors will appear to repeat themselves as the sensor narrows down the differences and adjusts the monitor to match the standard.

The progress of the procedure is visible in the progress bar visible on the top right of the monitor.

Once the procedure is finished you should notice a difference in the screen colors from what you had when you began the program. The software will save the profile that it has developed for your screen and will use it as a basis to show all your art or photographs from now on.

However, and there's always a "however", computer monitors age and change color almost on a day to day basis. Therefore, the software asks you to set up reminders on when to run the profile again whether it is daily, weekly, or monthly. This is not something that is done once and then forgotten. What has happened up to this point is that the monitor and the printer standard have established rules by which they can talk to one another. What should have happened at this point is that what you see on the computer monitor and what you get as a print should be closer together though they may not be perfect—the effects of specific papers are not yet in the equation.

Why is it not perfect? Because each manufacturer's paper by the nature of its production has the potential for a color bias in it. The paper itself may have a blue, cyan or other cast to it that cannot be seen by the naked eye but will be visible when it reacts with ink. That bias is also called a profile—though in this case it is a paper profile and not a monitor profile. The paper profile is taken into account when "soft proofing" from inside of Photoshop or whatever printing software you are using.

But our concern at this point is producing the monitor profile that is our beginning point. That's the XRite i1Display2. It's available from XRite for $259.00 and from a number of color service providers and retail stores for a slightly discounted price. I estimate I paid for it in ink and paper I saved in the first show I prepared for. It has made waiting on a final print a lot less breath holding. After applying the soft proof, now what I print is what I have on the monitor screen.