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apps Digital Lifestyles Gadgets iOS SDK iPad Reviews Workflow

(Review) ASKetch for the iPad

OK, I’m still playing with my iPad and loving it, and I found another software App that is a lot of fun. ASKetch by Andrew Kern is supposed to work with finger motions and strokes alone, and not be used with a stylus or pen tool.

I’ll tell you what it is supposed to do (and it does it very well). Let’s look at ASKetch as Mr. Kern meant it to be.

First, I’ll quote:

ASKetch is a simple black & white procedural sketching program for drawing with your fingers. It is designed from the ground up to take advantage of the multi-touch interface of the iPad and the iPhone, allowing you to forget about the tools and concentrate on your art. It stays out of your way so you can simply draw. It is perfect for both beginners and advanced artists; from figure drawing to cartoons to abstract masterpieces; easy to pick up and hard to put down.

Absolutely true.

Get on your iPad and run to the App store and read all about it, bearing in mind that it is NOT optimized for a stylus,, but sometimes I use one anyway when I want a very thin line and less shading. You have to use a stylus that is optimized for the iPad. Wacom makes one, and so does several other companies.  They’re priced from $13 to $30 on Amazon. The Wacom one is the most expensive of the choices at $30; but so far all that I have tried have worked properly.

But your finger does it as well. The controls are brought up by a two finger tap on the blank page of the app. The first line below is the normal “drawing page” which has five squares visible, and the drawing line (extreme left) active. The second line below is when the eraser is active.

Beginning with the pen tools facing to the left you will get a hard line; if you stroke across the pen tool to the left you will switch from a hard line to a soft, furry tone and the pen will face to the right as it appears in the second line of tools.. The rest of both lines of tools are pretty self-explanatory. There are some more subtitles so read all the instructions and see the demo video. But below is the short form.

Now, let’s draw a little bit. I’m using it for gesture drawing which is a kind of rapid sketching where the artist is supposed to capture the “feel” and proportions of a model or figure and do it in less than 15 seconds. Here’s some examples. Some of these are drawn with just a finger tip, and some are done with a stylus even though Mr. Kern wants you to work just with finger tips‚Äîand yes, you do get better tonality when you use only your finger.

Sketching with Fingers vs. Stylus

I said I wasn’t going to tell you, but here I am doing it. The drawing on the left was done strictly with the fingertip, and the drawing on the right was done with a Wacom Bamboo Stylus..

Here’s another drawing done with fingertips…

…particularly rolling the finger in the hair areas.

Now here’s one more drawing…

…remember each drawing is saved automatically into the total set of drawings each time you go to the saved area (the two mountains square) and select a new blank page. This drawing was done with my fingertip in less than 15 seconds. Its intent is to capture the essence and proportions of the figure.

Remember, the square that looks like two mountains hides the strip of saved images and gives you access to a new blank page each time you go to it. Once you have images saved into the sketchbook, all you have to do is hold a finger down on an image for a few seconds and this window will appear.

Saving the image selected into the photo album allows it to be reselected and emailed where-ever you want to send it.

Here’s three more sketches that Mr. Kern supplied me that I think are really worth showing that give you a look at what the App can do in the way of toning.

 

Read all the instructions to get all the strengths of the App under control because I have only touched on the surface of its possibilities; but I’m having so much fun I had to share the joy, and hope you’ll take a look at the app. Check ASKetch out on the App store for the iPad.

 

ASKetch by Andrew Kern

This app is designed for both iPhone and iPad

$1.99

Website & Support: http://akernsoft.com/ASKetch/index.php

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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.

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Photography Photoshop Software

Photoshop Plugin: Akvis Sketch v9.0

Ever wanted to turn a photograph into a drawing without spending an hour in Adobe Photoshop using layers and high pass filtering to finally separate out a line drawing of that photograph? It’s possible with a plug-in from Akvis Software. The last time I looked they had some thirteen sofware applications for Macintosh and PC computers. Running either as stand-alone software applications or as plug-ins for image editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. Each of their software are available in 10 day free trial versions. The versions range from home editions without commercial usage to professional versions for commercial designers. Check out http://akvis.com/en/store-software.php to see what is available.

But for the moment, I had some need for Akvis SKETCH and here’s a bit of a look at the software and the techniques for using it.

Running Akvis Sketch 9.0 as a plug-in inside of Photoshop will place it as the first item (alphabetical listing, remember) in the FILTER menu items. What you will really get is an item named AKVIS and SKETCH will be an option within it because Akvis has a large number of applications as I’ve already mentioned that can be purchased to run as either stand-alone applications or as plug-ins within Photoshop and Elements in both Macintosh and PC versions.

The first window that appears when your are in the plug-in version from inside of Adobe Photoshop will contain whatever image you already have open within Photoshop itself. You will have a toolbar at the top and an image window with a preview square within it on the left lower side of the frame, and a series of menus and sliders will be available on the right side of the frame. We’ll take a look at each component separately for a quick orientation of the icons and menus.

Below is a shortened version of the toolbar as it appears in Photoshop. Not present in the plug-in version is a way to print directly from the image as can be found in the stand-alone version. Instead, the plug-in version will require you to return to Photoshop to save or to print. Not every tool is explained here; only the ones to get you started with the least amount of work are covered. See the "?" to access the complete application tutorial.

Here’s the pertinent icons and what they allow us to do.

  1. Exports presets. You can save any number of presets. They will end in .sketch in a folder by the same name.
  2. Imports a list of presets from the .sketch file.
  3. Tells SKETCH to process the rest of the image into the same look as was shown in the preview window (the square which can be adjusted to cover different sizes or parts of the image you are working on).
  4. Tells SKETCH to process the image, close the plug-in, and return you to the image in Photoshop. There will be a brief delay depending on the speed of your processor before the image appears in Photoshop. In fact, several times I had to click off the image and back on it for it to refresh on my MacBook Pro, 17", C2D, 2.5 Ghz. I don’t know whether that was an idiosyncrasy of my MacBook or not.
  5. Allows you to exit the SKETCH plug-in without completing any of the menu choices. Without it you are trapped in the plug-in. This access is in the AKVIS SKETCH PLUG-IN item at your main screen left. This button will also bring up the screen where you may UPGRADE, ACTIVATE, or CONTINUE with the plug-in. It will have a BUY option if you have not yet purchased the software and are running it in the 10 day trial mode.
  6. Will access the HELP file which was part of the software installation from the downloaded application file. I suggest you actually begin here because all of the tools, menus, and windows are explained in depth here.
  7. Will access the preferences file where you can change the image preview window size as well as other options.
  8. +brush allows you to draw in blue while working on the BACKGROUND tab. This will select an area where you DO NOT want an effect to occur.
  9. –brush allows you to draw in green the area where you DO WANT an effect to occur.
  10. Is an eraser that allows you to modify or change lines done with either of the two brushes while working on the BACKGROUND layer.

Accessing the SKETCH window allows adjustments in WATERCOLOR, CHARCOAL, and COLORATION. Moving any slider bar to the right increases the effect. The WATERCOLOR effects become noticable at around 17. CHARCOAL becomes too heavy after a setting of 3 unless you are attempting a very overdone, sketchy look. COLORATION is readily visible by a setting of 13 and will almost match the original image by 95.

We’ll look at BACKGROUND next and return to the rest of the adjustments under SKETCH and STROKES in a moment.

With BACKGROUND chosen you have three options, SKETCH, SKETCH & PHOTO, and SKETCH & BLUR. When using SKETCH & PHOTO the effect is similar to using layers in Photoshop where the sketch effect is placed on top of the photo image and the two are blended at roughly 50%. If this is the control you are seeking, the effect is better done in Photoshop itself by combing a sketch image with a duplicate of the original and adjusting the opacity blend with more subtle control.

However, chosing SKETCH & BLUR you are able to define the background that you desire to blur and choose between motion, gaussian, and radial blur.

Still another option is the addition of TEXT. Chosing the TEXT window gives access to all of the fonts available through Photoshop. The font size can be chosen, the line of type (typed into the area that says AKVIS Sketch) can be stretched and postioned via the eight green arrows shown in LOCATION below. The TEXT can be given a color, an outline and a glow.

CANVAS is also an option chosen by USE CANVAS. The texture properties, repetion pattern, reflection, alignment and scale are variable choices. The brightness, embossment, texture, distortion and the direction from which the light is directed onto the canvas can be set in this window.

Returning to the front window, that is, the SKETCH window, the size and angle of the strokes in the sketch are available. The default 45 degree sketch angle approximates the stroke of a right handed artist. The width of the stroke is determined by the size choice and the minimum and maximum lengths of the stroke are chosen to approximate the contour-following strokes of the artist. Choices made with this menu is somewhat unique to each subject chosen and should be the result of experimentation.

If COLOR PENCIL is chosen you must be using some degree of COLORATION in order to really see the effect of the colored pencil. Increasing MIDTONE DENSITY will show more detail and result in a filling of the midtones in your image. Increasing the MIDTONES HATCHING will visibly darken shadow areas and has a tendency to look contrived when the number is too high. Experiment with this setting as well.

The rhythmic flowing of the contour lines in an image are a function of EDGE TRACING. SENSITIVITY increases the number of lines in the image as you move the slider to the right. Generally, a number below 35 combined with a WATERCOLOR number of 25 produces a pleasing watercolor/pencil look. But again, experiment to find what settings produce the look you are searching for.

Here’s a sample image from musicians in an Irish pub. This is a screen grab and the artifacts are normally visible in some preview windows in SKETCH. The triangle surrounded by the red box tells SKETCH to render all of the preview window. The check mark surrounded by the yellow box tells SKETCH to complete the rendering and transfer you back to Photoshop and close the plug-in window.

bar with settings 2@600.jpg

The original picture is the upper of the following two images; below it is black and white with settings on Watercolor 30, Charcoal 3, and Coloration on 0. Stroke angle is 45 degrees and size is 8, Minimum length is 2 and Maximum length is 9, Midtones Intensity is 5 with Midtones Hatching at 95. Colorization is not on in this black and white example.

Bar@600.jpg

The original picture is shown in the upper positon in the two following images, and the second image has the same settings as the upper except Colorization is set at 95.

Below is a detail of the above image with the already defined settings; here it is shown larger for you to examine.

Subjects with low contrast will fail to make separation as shown in the example below where the white of the drawing paper and woman’s blouse fail to separate from the wall behind them.

An example of a subject that works well is the trees in the left image. Both a color version and this black and white verson were tried with little discernable difference. Here the contrast makes for good separation of the branches and sky and produces a good sketch look of the trees.

Here is a self-portrait done with the computer camera on my MacBook Pro laptop.

Here is the same image done with the same settings as used on the bar scene except that COLORATION was about 13. The laptop screen is reflected in my glasses.

The following image is of stones and dead leaves from the countryside in Ireland.

The following image is the Stones and dead leaves using the already mentioned settings with the addition of Coloration at a setting of 13.

A photographer in the Irish countryside as the original image.

The photographer with the already mentioned settings and Coloration set at 0.

What you are getting with SKETCH is an outline drawing such as may be produced by using several layers of the HIGH PASS filter, or variations of THRESHOLD in Adobe Photoshop. You are not producing a contour drawing as an artist might attempt with a pressure sensitive drawing tool (Wacom tablet, pen and ink, graphite, brush, or similar drawing instrument); however, for the artistically-challenged, SKETCH produces an acceptable alternative for many instances of illustrative work.

It’s a useful tool in my filter menu of Adobe Photoshop and can be found at http://akvis.com/en/store-software.php. Look it over along with its companion programs; you will find numerous useful applications there.

Categories
Featured Photography Photoshop Software

Photoshop Plugin: Topaz Simplify

During the last month I took a trip back to Topaz Lab’s webpage and downloaded another of their interesting programs. (Topazlabs.com) If you remember, they make imaging enhancement software for both still and video photography. This time I thought I’d try their Simplify 2; it’s a $39.95 program that can be downloaded in minutes—there’s a fully functional 30 day trial version also. All you have to do is request the 30 day key and you can play with any of their software for 30 days. Replacing the trial key with the purchased key clears your trial for permanent usage.

What does Simplify 2 do? It is an application that allows you to turn a photography into a painting or a drawing on any one of a number of variations; Topaz’ advertising says it this way "Simple and elegant photo interpretations." Download the program and douple-click your unstuffed file—you’ll get a dmg file for Mac and an Exe file for PC, and the application will install itself into your Photoshop Filter folder under a "Topaz Labs" heading. See the ilustration below for a quick visual example.

Image 1 Topaz flow chart-600.jpg

When Simplify 2.0 opens you will see the following window. Along the left side are twelve presets. Clicking on any one of them will directly move you to a still adjustable image because each preset will open with SIMPLIFY, ADJUST, and EDGES as slider-bar adjustments.

Image 1a Simplify-600.jpg

Here are the twelve general presets that you have to choose from. They are (1) BuzSim, (2) Cartoon, (3) Image CrispEdge, (4) Painting colorful, (5) Painting Harshcolor, (6) Painting oil, (7) Painting watercolor, (8) Sketch Color, (9) Sketch hardpencil, (10) Sketch softpencil, (11) Underpainting, and (12) Wood Carving. Remember, each of these presets has slider bars under the categories of SIMPLIFY, ADJUST, and EDGES.

Image 2 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Image 3 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Looking under SIMPLIFY we can choose our Colorspace from RGB and YCbCr; now experiment by moving the sliders back and fourth to examine the subtle variations of the presets. Work your way through each of the menus under SIMPLIFY, ADJUST, and EDGES. At any time you feel like you would like to undo an adjustment, a RESET TAB, will allow the resetting of one adjustment, or RESET ALL will reset all of the adjustments in that particular third of the image adjustments.

Image 4 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Image 5 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Image 6 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Here’s an image of one of the windows in a New Mexico church.

Image 7 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Applying Sketch color to the image produces this result. All that is necessary to select the preset is to click on the appropriate selection to the left of the preview window. Click and observe as you move down the options available.

Image 8Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Here’s a larger view of the results of choosing Sketch color.

Image 9 Topaz Simplify-600.jpg

Here’s the results of choosing Wood carving.

A little more complex is making two identical original layers one above the other, and applying Sketch color to one layer and Wood carving to the second. Then these two layers are blended together by using the opacity slider in the upper layer and causing the Wood carving to blend into the Sketch color layer.

Here we have the original image on the left, and BuzSim on the right.

Here we have the original image on the top and the Watercolor effect on the bottom. I find BuzSim, Watercolor, Sketch color, and Wood Carving to be the most interesting effects to me personally. Your mileage will probably vary; play with all of the effects with a varied selection of of images. It will become obvious that certain effects/presets work best on certain general types of images. In general, I have had the best luck with scenics.

A simple sand dune in the original is simplified with the Wood Carving preset again.

A ray of sunlight outlines a set of leaves in an otherwise darkened arbor area followed by the same scene run through the Painting colorful preset

One last example is a photograph of the gondolas in Venice, Italy, followed by the Painting oil preset followed by adding (via a merged layer) the Wood Carving preset.

This is the third of the Topazlabs Applications that I have added to my toolkit and I’m actually looking at a couple more. I have found the approach that Topazlabs uses to be very innovative and a very good value for the money. Having put in a lot of time developing certain looks and effects in Photoshop I find that many of my multi-step processes can be duplicated by choosing a Topazlab application and making a few personalized adjustments. In the long run that saves time—a lot of time—and in this business time equals money. I’m very pleased with the value received for the reasonable cost of each application. Bundles of some of the most used applications can produce significant savings. Check out Topazlabs.com and take a look at the selection; I think you will be pleased.