List of Programs for the Artist

Discussion in 'Software' started by Ice, Dec 4, 2010.

  1. thatcomicsguy

    thatcomicsguy Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    I definitely look forward to seeing your video of the toolbar! After I tailored a version specific to my exact process needs, I've not explored all the work you guys have done.

    ~~~~

    Photoshop's primary strength lies in its polished selection tools, its top-quality industry standard color manipulation tools, its full-featured output file creation system (it lets you make and tweak every industry standard format), and its excellent memory/performance management abilities. 20+ years of consistent development really does show when compared to all these 'young' programs.

    Though as in life, youth brings some exciting, fresh ways of thinking.

    If Photoshop adopted a few of these, it would be fantastic. For instance, I got a copy of Sai primarily for one such feature; that of brush stabilization. It makes a huge, huge difference in line quality for certain jobs, (like drawing faces, hair and limbs and other organic shapes which require smooth lines), which Photoshop simply cannot touch. Also, these younger programs have found effective, new methods to crack problems which Photoshop goes about solving in very old-school, conservative ways. Canvas rotation, for instance, without the need for a high-end graphics card, is one of these. Smart programming in SAI and MangaLabo means I can easily spin a canvas on CPU power alone whereas Adobe elected to pass the buck to high-end graphics cards thus putting such a basic feature out of reach of many Tablet PCs. SAI can also zoom with perfection at any magnification. Photoshop's "Scrubby Zoom" is an effort to replicate this, but at least in CS5 it wasn't very successful IMHO.

    Photoshop could also benefit mightily from a more robust and user-friendly vector toolkit.

    If it did things like this, then no other software would be necessary as far as I can see, but in two major revisions of Photoshop, all during a period when this hot technology has been out and about (and taken for granted by fifteen year-olds on Deviantart), Adobe has failed to bring these technologies to the professional-level in any significant way. Photoshop is your parent's stodgy art software!

    Another recent and still-evolving feature in art software which is pretty cool has been the integration of 3D modeling tools similar to Sketch Up right in the GUI. -MangaLabo offers a rudimentary version of this which may or may not prove useful over time. I find it's far better when you're at a level where you can just eyeball perspective convincingly; saves time and looks human, but sometimes 3D modeling has been really useful to me. In the past I'll fire up a 3D modeling program and take snapshots of complex objects, (like vehicles for instance), at the angles I need and then import them into Photoshop to use as trace-references, but this is tedious and I only do it when I'm truly stuck or need a super-realistic look. In any case, I'm looking forward to having this ability easily at hand in MangaLabo.

    ~~~~

    My average comic book pages are around 5200 x 8000-8800 depending on the final page format. Though I regularly work at 9575 x 6700 for Stardrop, which is essentially a two-page digest-sized spread. Photoshop can handle this in 2Gigs without difficulty. -In black & white, mind you. Color would tax my system a lot more, but at least I have that option in Photoshop. Sai doesn't believe in only doing gray scale work!
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2012
  2. thatcomicsguy

    thatcomicsguy Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    Clip Studio Paint by Celsys.

    The new Wow.

    Seriously. Very awesome.

    Imagine Photoshop and Paint Tool Sai crunched together with very refined and easy to apply 3D modeling.

    Celsys just released their latest version, 1.1.0, and it's incredible. The memory management and speed are next to perfect. Tools, brushes, even the gui are highly adjustable. (You can drag and drop items in the basic Photoshop-style tool bar! I've wanted this power for so long in Photoshop that I'd given up and actually forgotten how good an idea it was. Well, now I can remember.)

    The brushes are just beautiful to work with. Smooth, fast response time, amazing line work. Mangalabo got close, and I still use that odd little program exclusively for my comics ink work; but Clip Studio Paint (CSP) is better; No drag delay when manipulating the canvas, (it has fantastic canvas rotation built in even for my old single core Pentium M system with a graphics card from last decade). You can go from pencil layouts to final inks in the same program.

    CSP_gui.jpg

    It can handle files which other programs, including Sai, choke on and find incompatible. (I have to import my pencil work from Photoshop to Mangalabo or Sai through copy and paste hoop-jumps. CSP on the other hand allows you to open up .PSD and .TIF files which preserve layers. Nice!) CSP also has a slick and professional GUI, and it can handle my giant black & white comic page files where SAI would run out of memory. And it can do it in color, no less. After having gotten used to Sai's huge memory hungry behavior, I'm a little taken aback because it seems like CSP is doing the impossible. I'll have to look more closely at it, because to quote Homer Simpson, "In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" (But then again, Photoshop never had Sai's kind of trouble, so perhaps it's simply an example of superior programming.)

    Along with an array of vector and type tools, CSP also has a comprehensive and easy to use 3D engine built in, with fully adjustable human dolls, human hands, texture maps of clothes and faces and a whole catalog of 3D objects you can tinker with and bring into your canvas area to be traced or rendered directly. (I expect to see a lot of bad manga with great graphics soon enough as a result; in fact, I suspect that I've already seen a number of them in print. Sigh. I can't see myself using these features very often, if ever, as the very best rendering engine for expressing the human figure in line drawn comics is always going to be the well-trained artist's own brain and penciling hand, but still, for some projects, it will clearly be a boon.)

    CSP_3D.jpg

    CSP, however, like every Japanese art program I've looked at thus far, still lacks a decent selection tool. Nothing beats a good Western-made art program for basic lasso functionality, but I'm convinced now that this is a cultural thing: I went through the CSP manuals and read up on how to perform basic color-inside-the-lines work on line art, and frankly (pardon my Western ideals), it borders on the idiotic. The Japanese artist seems perfectly willing to use an unnecessarily complicated system of layers and masks, fill tooling and picky manual painting/erasing to create areas of color and tone, a process which necessitates hundreds of extra mouse clicks more than a bit of basic lasso work would require on a project.

    It reminds me of my history classes where the differences between European and Asian sword-smithing were covered. The medieval sword maker took a piece of metal, heated and banged until it was sharp and serviceable, while the Japanese would enter into a weeks and even months long process of endless fine-tuned folding and re-hammering of the metal. And come to think of it. . , that process also involved creating lots of layers in its own way. Though where a Japanese Katana clearly out-classes a European medieval bludgeoning claymore, the two different approaches to coloring wind up with the same basic result in terms of illustration quality. But then, I suppose, nothing looks quite like Manga and Anime, so perhaps in a purely psychological sense you can't have one without the other.

    Anyway, the other drawback with CSP is that there is no official English release yet.

    There IS however, a fan-made translation. -Not yet for the latest version, but there IS one which anybody can now use, and which, I gather, will work with a licensed copy of the previous version.

    Clip Studio Paint (version 1.03) is still available on the Celsys website. I've included a direct link to CSP 1.03 here. (Windows version). -It runs in trial mode, which includes most features but does not allow one to save or copy files, and can be activated to full functionality with a valid serial key which Celsys is selling at this time of launch for 5000 Yen, (which works out to a measly $62 in Cowboy Bux.)

    And this is the translation for that version (follow the instructions included in the file).


    So, give it a try and let us know your thoughts. It blew me away!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2015
  3. Steve B

    Steve B Moderator Moderator

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    Thatcomicsguy-- I'm not sure if you found this because of me.... I think I linked to it a page or two ago? But I've been following the threads over at the Sai forums on CPS, and I've often thought of how good of a fit this might be for you. I'm very excited to see that the suggestion has payed off!! Your review may have convinced me to give it a try myself.... :)
     
  4. thatcomicsguy

    thatcomicsguy Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    Yeah, I think it was this thread which first gave me the heads up.

    I'm in the mind to maybe pick up a license for CSP in the next few days when my schedule lightens up a bit and I can afford to muck around with big software packages and dense foreign websites. That Celsys site is murder to navigate! A prospective buyer has to buy some sort of bitcoin-ish "Gold" cash tokens first in order to make a purchase.

    Also, I find CSP has a very steep learning curve with rather too many mysteries and terrible documentation, (a Google translation, I think.)

    I may well stay put. As it stands, I've come to really like Mangalabo. It's not perfect, but it does what I want well enough for hassle-free work. I may find myself waiting until an official English release of CSP emerges before jumping. I'll be migrating eventually, however; it's a gorgeous program.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2012
  5. thatcomicsguy

    thatcomicsguy Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    I just worked out how to add a Lasso Tool to Clip Studio Paint!

    You have to build the silly thing yourself.

    For anybody interested, here's how you do it:

    bar1.jpg
    1. In the tool pallet, go to the little cube icon called, "Edit" and then open the "Sub-Tools" window. (Window>Sub-Tools)

    2. Open up the drop down menu in the Sub-Tools window.


    bar2.jpg
    3. Select "Custom Sub-Tool"


    bar3.png
    4. Enter a name for the tool.
    5. In the Output dropdown menu, select "Selection" as the output action.
    6. Select "Lasso" as the input method.
    7. Pick an icon for your tool. I chose the Lasso image.

    There are some extra steps afterwards needed to fine-tune things, like checking the "Move image with selection" box if you want, but you can go back to those and edit them later. The important thing is that a proper lasso tool now exists, and it works fairly well. It's still not up to Photoshop's standards, but it comes pretty close and will do the job and for me, making Clip Studio Paint (finally) a worthy addition to my drawing kit. I'm off to buy a license now. . . (Which is going to be another bunch of serious hoop jumps requiring liberal use of Google's Translate function, but others have managed it, so I suspect I will too.)

    Oh, also the latest stable version of CSP is now available, version 1.1.1 from the Celsys website. A viable fan-made translation has also been released. I'll report back if I experience any difficulties!

    Cheers!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2015
  6. thatcomicsguy

    thatcomicsguy Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    Holy moly. Update.

    Using official release software from Celsys is an exercise to test one's sanity.

    After a great deal of mucking around, I finally figured out how to purchase a license for Clip Studio Paint Pro. This website offers a visual tour through that process.

    But that was the easy part. --Giving money to somebody usually is, though in this case it did take some sweat and fussing.

    Having set up an account at Celsys, changing my log-in information from the temporary 24-hour life-span account they give you, after figuring out how to buy 5000 "Gold", after using that 3rd party booty to actually purchase a Celsys software license and finally, after figuring out where my officially obtained registration key was actually hiding on my account page. . .

    After all of that, (three hours of screwing around), and after having downloaded a full official copy of Clip Studio Paint from my Celsys account, the next part, the part you'd think would be the easiest, was where I ran into a real road block. Was in fact, stopped dead in my tracks.

    Basic installation and activation.

    The program installs as a trial version, and runs up these blind menus, presumably filled with Japanese characters, none of which my system can display despite my best efforts with Windows' Asian character display engine, so I just get junk. (And even if they could display, you can't copy/paste text from the installer's pop up windows into a translator, so you're literally digging for your Nelson's Kanji-English dictionary, which I no longer own since I gave it away years ago to a far-too-cute girl who was learning Japanese. I've not regretted that decision until today). So I just steamed ahead, figuring it shouldn't be too difficult to work out what to type where. Kind like button mashing on a digital Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. How tough can that be?

    Well, evidently it was beyond my skill range as I used up my allotment of attempts, (I didn't know it was counting). Clip Studio Paint is now installed as a trial version and whenever I tell it that I want to register, it immediately dumps me onto the final default, "You're clearly a hopeless idiot" page, where I have to manually open up a website on the Celsys server and type in a 40 digit confirmation key to get an unlock key sent back. Except that manual confirmation site is down and out, not connecting.

    So I'm out $60 sitting in the middle of nothing. Which isn't that bad. $60 is an amazing price for any high end software package, especially one which rivals Photoshop. So I don't mind that. I just mind the global paranoia which causes developers to DRM their stuff to the moon and back, leaving legitimate customers floundering. Or maybe I really am just an idiot. Nobody else seems to have had this kind of difficulty.

    Anyway, I sent some emails off to Celsys's support team, (with heavy use of Google Translate, and various screen-captures to show just how blind I am), and they've actually been very responsive and helpful.

    I now know what to do, (re, manual confirmation, which I couldn't figure out before), and am now just waiting for them to get back to me regarding the nice screen capture I sent them of their license confirmation site failing to connect.

    I'll post here again with updates as they develop.

    (How exciting is this? I feel like I'm on the edge of the coolest graphics drawing software on the planet, but having to really fight for it! I spent $60 on groceries last week which wasn't nearly as much fun as this.) :)


    UPDATE**********

    Solved it!

    A couple of months back I'd manually edited something called the "hosts" file in the Windows system folder while messing around with a copy Illustudio (also from Celsys). --I hunted around but couldn't find the trial version of Illustudio, so I installed a (much more available) pirated version instead to give it a go-round before deciding whether or not to buy from Celsys. (I didn't. Illustudio wasn't up to snuff and Clip Studio Paint was coming out soon anyway).

    Part of that process involved shutting down the computer's ability to call home. Now that this is fixed, the authentication system is working. Cool beans!

    I'm off to the races!

    (I wonder what the folks at Celsys will think of my emails to their service desk which will clearly appear as the result of my messing around with a pirated version of their software? Sheesh.)

    Anyhoo, onward! The program is now working perfectly, and all is happy! I'll stop by here again when I have some more refined opinions about this piece of software.

    Cheers all!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2015
  7. thatcomicsguy

    thatcomicsguy Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    Well. . , after several weeks having Celsys' Clip Studio Paint on my machine, I have to say. . .

    It still needs work.

    There are a lot of things to like about CSP, but there are a few items which render it such an annoyance that I've returned to my previous studio configuration; A combination of Photoshop and Mangalabo.

    The problems with CSP have primarily to do with memory allocation on older hardware.

    Many, if not all, of the users reporting on the Clip Studio Paint translation board have found nothing but joy and happiness with the latest release of the package. But I suspect many of them are either working on small to moderately sized files and/or working on modern hardware.

    I find CSP occasionally freezes up on me when I have a large file in memory. This may have to do with Windows XP, (which I have found to be the best OS for my old Tecra M4; Windows 7 creates odd slow-downs and juddery stylus behavior on my old hardware. It's not immediately noticeable, but it becomes apparent when you really get going on an art project.)

    Anyway, freezing is totally unacceptable; I don't care how beautiful the GUI is, how powerful the brush engine, how configurable the tool set, if you cannot depend on the software to remain stable, it's useless for professional purposes.

    Also, CSP's file management system is nowhere nearly as robust as Photoshop's; you can't save .tif files with layers. You can't use any compression when saving in .psd format, resulting in 60+ Gb files where the venerable LZW compression algorithm would normally reduce that to 10-20 Gb. You basically need Photoshop to act as an inbetween package to prepare your files for press or other layout software, so you can't do it all with CSP anyway.

    Mangalabo, amazingly enough, is really growing on me. I find it excellent for inking my layout linework, (done in Photoshop), and I've come to rely heavily on its clever little integrated vector tool; it's fast and easy to lay down curved vector lines which seamlessly integrate into the image, no muss, no fuss.

    In spite of its raw ugliness, it's clunky tool set and other drawbacks, Mangalabo bears one vital characteristic; it is STABLE. It doesn't crash. This alone makes it a pro-level tool. It also allows for moving files back and forth between itself and Photoshop with ease; cutting and pasting between art programs is simple and doesn't constantly cause the system to register out of memory issues, unlike CSP.

    CSP, with future releases may resolve some of these issues, and I will faithfully download every update offered, but until Celsys can provide it with the reliability I need (and hopefully a better file management system), it remains a pretty glimmer on the horizon. In the mean time, I need to get work done.
     
  8. thatcomicsguy

    thatcomicsguy Pen Pro - Senior Member Senior Member

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    Manga Studio 5 has been released.

    And guess what? It's an official English translation of Clip Studio Paint. (They even use the same demo video with Japanese on the program interface.)

    I look forward to reading reviews. Hopefully some of the early-days snags I found with CSP will be rectified here. Like not being able to save .tif files with layer support, or .psd files with LZW compression.

    Still, this is an absolutely amazing program otherwise, and most users I suspect will have very good experiences with it. With a relatively small number of tweaks and tightening-ups, this program could topple Photoshop from the top of the mountain.

    All for $85. Not bad!
     
  9. doobiedoobiedum

    doobiedoobiedum Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    At the moment, Mypaint on Linux is getting good reviews - particularly because of the symmetry features that have not found their way to the Windows or OSX versions.

    The other thing that could put people off is the behaviour of some of the brushes. Sometimes it's an adventure picking a brush (especially the experimental ones) and expecting consistent, predictable behaviour.

    That said, I like it for drawing and by default the canvass takes up over 95% of the screen. Some of the fancy new programs which are very popular have a canvass which is 40% of the screen and the rest is all menus or similar.

    Even with the tab tool to toggle full screen, they just put me off learning.

    I use Illustrator and Inkscape a lot. Illustrator is super stable and with CS5 brought about pressure sensitive brushes. These can be fiddly to activate but they are good.

    Inkscape does quite a few things that Illustrator cannot - or that many other vector tools won't and some of the path handling functions are really powerful. That said - Inkscape can crash if it is asked to handle large files.

    Finally - you can copy and paste journal linework (thanks to Shogmaster for that) into Illustrator. Trying the same in any other vector application produces a jpeg bitmap. I use journal a lot and can copy and paste beautiful black linework into Illustrator. Inkscape cleans the lines up and removes extraneous control points.


    The industry standard - but you have not mentioned Vectorian Giotto which is now free.

    Vectorian Giotto is basically the free version of Flash - the interface and functions are so similar. It even does scripting.

    Horrible, complicated ways of working.

    The vector layer and tools are rubbish, they don't behave as expected however it's a great quick way to rough out a piece of animation. Once you start animating beyond 3-4 seconds you start to run into problems though.

    I found Synfig super complicated.

    If I wanted to animate a nuclear reaction and apply scripts to all sorts of things it would be great...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2015
  10. Ice

    Ice Pen Pal - Newbie

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    doobiedoobiedum, do you mind if I edit in info from your comment to the list?
     
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