Thursday, 10 August 2017

Digital Art and Stuffs. An explanation of my own methods in madness.

The entire purpose of this particular web page is to assist a teacher I know who requested access to some examples of my digital drawings as he has a student who is interested in producing her own digital art. So it's a big page full of screenshots and completed art works, most of which has been drawn using a drawing tablet and a drawing program called Clip Studio Paint Pro, also known as Manga Studio.

The entire purpose of this particular web page is to assist a teacher I know who requested access to some examples of my digital drawings as he has a student who is interested in producing her own digital art. So it's a big page full of screenshots and completed art works, most of which has been drawn using a drawing tablet and a drawing program called Clip Studio Paint Pro, also known as Manga Studio.

So lets start with a completed digital drawing. This is one of the first ones I ever created and actually got paid for.

This example is made up from a real photograph that I blurred digitally to use as the background, and some digital drawings placed on top of it all. The trophy is also from a real photograph and was Photo-Shopped into place. When I say Photo-Shopped that's just a generic term for digitally manipulating an image. I don't actually use Photo-Shop. I prefer to use Clip Studio Paint/Manga Studio, although this particular drawing was created using Photo-Impact long before I discovered the software I use now.
This next picture was also created using a combination of real photographs and my own hand drawn artwork. I'll go into some of the details of how I go about creating these pictures using this one as an example.

A good quality drawing program will let you draw using different layers, which is like cutting someone out of a picture and then placing it onto a different picture. The two pictures would be called layers, with the bottom layer containing the background information and the top layer containing the foreground information. The beauty of working with digital art is that you can have multiple layers and thus have multiple objects in front of and behind each other. If you move or change a layer, it won't disturb any other layer. So if you have a person on one layer and a background picture on a layer behind it, you can then move the person all around the place and it won't make any changes to the background layer underneath them. This comes in handy if you aren't sure of where to put someone in a picture. You can simply move their layers around and experiment with where they'll be in the scene until you're happy with how it all looks.

Using my preferred drawing program (Clip Studio Paint Pro), I first create a grey scale vector layer that I can draw the outline onto. When you create a layer it can be in full colour, or grey scale or outright black and white with no shading. You can also make it a vector layer or a raster layer. I'll explain these two terms as we continue. Drawing on a vector layer means that once I've finished drawing my lines, I can then resize or move sections of them around until I'm happy with the way it looks. No matter how big or small I make things, the lines will remain as smooth as if they were just freshly drawn onto a piece of paper. My vector layer is mostly blank and only the lines I draw will be visible. In this case all the white bits are the transparent bits, so any layers placed underneath will show through, but the lines will remain visible on top of the other layers.

This is Tim. It was Tim's birthday, so his wife asked me to put him into a Doctor Who picture. This is how I drew his head on a vector layer.

Once I was happy with all the outlines, it was time to add a little colour. To do this I created a new raster layer underneath the vector layer. A raster layer lets you add shading effects and is really good for colouring in with. It's not very good for drawing lines with though because if you enlarge it, your lines will become blocky and pixilated. So once I have my raster layer sitting underneath the vector layer I can began adding some flat colours. Because the raster layer is under the vector layer, any colour I add will go underneath the lines I drew, which means I can colour anywhere I like and the outline will not be disturbed.

Once the base colours are in place it's time to add a little shading. There are a number of ways this can be done. You can use the airbrush tool in the program to spray lighter or darker colours directly onto the raster layer you're already using, or you can create a new raster layer and place it in-between the layers you're already using and apply the airbrush to that instead. In my case, I made the middle layer a grey scale raster layer and set it to show as Soft Light. This means if I spray black on the picture, it will create a shadow version of the colours in the layers below it. If I spray white on the picture, it will create a highlight version of the colours instead. Because I do this in a middle layer, it doesn't change anything on the bottom layer or the top layer and if I need to erase any of the shading or highlighting I can simply erase it from the middle layer that I've put it on and the base colours and outlines will still be the way I originally drew them.

As you can see in the following screenshot, I've now added some shading and highlights on the middle layer. The top layer is the outline, the middle layer contains all the shading and the bottom layer has the base colours. Place them all on top of each other, in the correct order, and you start to get some good looking results.

Now we need to add some props and the background. For this drawing I took a photo of the TARDIS from Doctor Who and used the cutting tool in the drawing program to cut around the edges. I then placed the cut picture behind the other layers so that it would be behind the main characters in the picture. The door was a bit tricky though. I had to cut parts of it out and place it as a top layer so that it would cover up the Doctor and make it look as if he was peeking out from inside his Time Machine. Finally, I had to carefully erase parts of the door so that the doctor's hand looked as if it was on the outside of it all. Because you can have multiple layers, instead of cutting the door to show the hand, I could have easily just drawn the hand in a new top layer with its own base colour and shading layers and it would then sit in front of the door and the Doctor's arm.

I then found a picture to use as the background image and placed it as the very bottom layer, which meant all the other elements would be on top and thus look like they were in front of the background image.

And here's Tim on his birthday, looking very happy with the present his wife just gave him.

Tim liked his picture so much that his wife asked me to draw a new picture for his next birthday one year later. This time I chose to draw the majority of the background instead of using a photograph. This picture is made up of multiple layers on top of each other. The chequered area represents the parts of the picture that don't have any information drawn or painted on them.

Using the three layer method again, I created 3 new layers so that I could draw the outline, add some base colours and then some shading for a character to go on top of all the other layers.

Next I created three more layers and placed them underneath all the other layers so I could create an alien version of Tim standing behind the main view screen. The reason I've made the background purple is so that I can see where I'm colouring in any white bits when I'm working on the base colour layer. I can remove the purple background after I'm happy with how Tim looks.

After I'd finished with Tim's 3 layers, I added an image from a photograph as the background.
The finished product then looked like this. The layers from bottom to top are:
1. The background photo image
2. The three layers that make up alien Tim
3. The multiple layers that make up the main room and computer screens
4. The three layers that make up the two people sitting in the chairs
5. The multiple layers that make up the chairs and the computer console at the bottom of the picture
6. The three layers that make up the Captain character who's pointing at the view screen
7. The layers that make up the word balloons and the words that sit inside them.

When I first started drawing digitally I had to get myself a drawing tablet. This is the first one I ever used and it cost about 90 Australian Dollars. In order to draw on one of these you need to train yourself to look at the computer screen while your hand draws directly onto the tablet with the stylus pen. It takes a bit of practice, but after a while you'll find you don't need to hit the undo button as often as you did when you first started using the thing.
If you ever want to make a living as a graphic artist you'll probably need to upgrade to a drawing tablet that has a screen built in to it so you draw directly onto the screen that you're looking at. I now use one of these. They vary in price from around 1000 to 4000 or more Australian dollars depending on the size of the tablet and if it needs to be plugged into a computer or not.

The one I have is also a tablet computer which doesn't need to be plugged into another computer to work. This makes it more expensive though, so If you don't need to take your work with you in your travels it's cheaper to buy one that just plugs into your home computer and doesn't double as a portable computer tablet.

Finally, if you'd like to try the software I used to draw it all with, you can download a trial version of Clip Studio Paint from here. You can use it for as long as you like but it does have all options to save your work disabled. It's a good way to play around with the program until you're happy enough with it to pay for the full version though, plus you can always just take a screenshot of your finished work and save that instead while you decide if the full version is worth paying for or not. If you ever do decide to purchase the full program, Smith Micro Software quite often puts the program on sale with very good discounts at various times throughout the year. Keep checking back with them to see if you can get it for a better bargain than it already is. Don't forget, the prices are in American dollars so you'll most likely pay a bit more in Australian dollars depending on the conversion rates for the day.

I'll finish up now by posting some pictures from a work in progress that I'm currently creating for a Facebook buddy who is an artist on the Autism Spectrum. The picture is made from multiple layers with each character on the page made up of their own 3 individual layers representing the outline, the shading and the base colours. I can then place each completed character anywhere I like on the page and decide if they sit in front of or behind a character that it shares some of the page with.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

How not to deliver a package: Wacom and Australia Post edition.

For those of you who've seen my blogs on the farce that involved purchasing a brand new Cintiq Companion 2 from Wacom Australia, it may come as a bit of a surprise to you that I might actually attempt to make another purchase from them.

Well.... after throwing all caution to the wind, I thought I'd give them the benefit of the doubt and lash out on an official Wacom blue-tooth keyboard for the thing, which I am currently NOT in the process of typing this with. It's currently in Limbo land in the hands of Australia Post who don't know where to send it.

The following account is based on data obtained from Australia Post's online tracking facility, some phone calls from me to Australia Post, and phone calls I had to make to Wacom themselves. Let the new saga begin.....
Wacom's Bluetooth Keyboard.
At first, it all seemed to be going well. After making my purchase via Wacom's very own Australian edition of their online shop and carefully giving them my postal address, Wacom confirmed my order via an email and sent me a tracking number that I could use online at Australia Post. The email also showed that the delivery address as supplied was correct.

So.... time to start tracking my parcel...

Day One:
Friday 11 March 2016
Started – Shipping information received by Australia Post

Friday 11 March 2016
In transit – Picked up from sender – Alexandria NSW

Friday 11 March 2016
In transit – Banksmeadow NSW

My package was on its way. After being picked up by Australia Post, it was then taken a short distance from Alexandria in New South Wales down to Banksmeadow. I don't have exact locations of where the package travels to as it gets scanned at each checkpoint so the screenshots that I'm using here from Google Maps just show the central locations of each suburb. So far, so good.

Friday 11 March 2016
In transit – Picked up from sender – Alexandria NSW

Something strange just happened. From Banksmeadow it was taken back to Alexandria and flagged as being picked up from the sender a second time... Did the driver scan my package and then fail to pick it up the first time??? But.... it was scanned at Banksmeadow, so it must have been in the driver's possession when he or she got there.... so why has it been scanned at Alexandria again and re-listed as being picked up from the sender a second time???? Oh well, I suppose they'll have to start over and take it back to Banksmeadow.

Friday 11 March 2016
In transit – Alexandria NSW

Friday 11 March 2016
In transit – Processed through Australia Post facility – Chullora NSW

Wait a minute.... that's not Banksmeadow. It's the Australia Post Facility in Chullora, and it's nowhere near Banksmeadow.... Perhaps Wacom had the parcel awaiting collection from a warehouse in Banksmeadow, but had the initial paperwork waiting to be picked up from an office in Alexandria first... but... why scan it in as picked up twice at the original location with a checkpoint elsewhere in-between?... This is getting confusing and it's only been on the tracking system for an hour and 2 minutes!!!!! Seriously???

Day Five: (Day three if not counting weekends or public holidays):
Tuesday 15 March 2016
In transit – Processed through Australia Post facility – Sunshine West VIC

On the following Tuesday the parcel made an appearance in Victoria. Parcels used to just travel from whichever Australian State they started their journey in and then come straight down to Tasmania. Since Australia Post's new double tiered delivery service has become a reality though (where you can now pay extra to have your parcels delivered in the normal time-frame, or pay the regular price and have to wait a bit longer before they get around to delivering it), all of our packages that come from the Mainland now have a pit-stop at Sunshine West in Victoria while the first class parcels get priority. Note, Wacom did not offer a faster postal option for a higher price, which I think is only about $2 extra per parcel with Australia Post. I just had to use the single flat postage option that Wacom gave me.

Day Eight: (Day six if not counting weekends or public holidays):
Friday 18 March 2016
In transit – With Australia Post for delivery today – Mornington TAS

It took 3 days before it made the overnight trip into Tassie, where it was finally flagged as ready to be delivered!!! Woohoo!!!!! Not long now.

Friday 18 March 2016
Contact sender – Attempted delivery – customer not known at address – Bellerive TAS
The postie or delivery driver attempted to deliver this item, but was told that the addressee wasn't known at the address. The item is being returned to sender.

Note: For privacy reasons, the map is not pointing to our home address.
Wait.... What???? Don't tell me Wacom's managed to put the wrong address on the parcel!?!!

Friday 18 March 2016
Contact sender – Customer Enquiry lodged (ie, I gave Australia Post a phone call)

And yes, Wacom has written the wrong address on the parcel. They got the State correct, they got the suburb correct, they even got the street name correct. Do you think they'd be capable of writing the correct house number on the package though??? NOOOoooo..... We live in a street that used to be farmland, and over the years sections have been sold off as subdivided parcels, so there are a lot of houses with an A or a B after the street number such as 1A or 2B. We live on one of these subdivisions, so our house number has an A, which is what was typed in when I made the purchase. It was confirmed via an email from Wacom and via me visiting their website to look at my account details. So do you think they might be capable of writing our address with the number followed by an A? NOOOoooo..... Do you think they might have just accidentally left the A off of the address and just put down the number instead? NOOOoooo..... They actually managed to write a number 4 instead of an A, so the package was taken to a house number that's one and a half blocks away, or about 700 metres to a kilometre up the street. Imagine if you lived at 7A or 8A and your package had been addressed to 74 or 84 instead. This is what has just happened. Well done Wacom, you've ballsed up again. Of course, Australia Post cant deliver it to the correct address because I'm not the sender and haven't got the authority to make the change. I'll have to call Wacom to get them to sort it out.

After calling Wacom and explaining their mistake, I'm told I'll have to wait for them to call me back, which they do at the end of the day. Apparently they made an error (well duh!!!) and they've fixed it by telling Australia post to redirect my package to the correct address. They don't know if Australia Post will be able to intercept the parcel or not once it's in the Return to Sender phase though..... let's get back to the tracking service then....

Friday 18 March 2016
In transit – Mornington TAS

OK, so it's now back at the mail centre awaiting its next move, which should be back to Bellerive for another delivery attempt but with the correct street number this time.

Day Eleven: (Day seven if not counting weekends or public holidays):
Monday 21 March 2016
Returning to sender – Address not known – Mornington TAS
The postie or delivery driver couldn't deliver this item because the address was incorrect, incomplete or unclear
For redelivery, please contact the sender.

Hellooooo???? I've already done this!!!! Just send me my package please.

Three days pass, with no updates on the location of my parcel, then we have the Easter 4 day long weekend. Finally, on the Wednesday after Easter, the parcel gets scanned by Australia Post....

Day Twenty: (Day twelve if not counting weekends or public holidays):
Wednesday 30 March 2016
Returning to sender – With Australia Post for delivery today – Alexandria NSW

Oh look, it's gone back to Alexandria in NSW. Looks like Wacom will be getting it back after-all. Yay??? At least they'll be able to put the correct address on it this time before resending it in the post.

Wednesday 30 March 2016
Returning to sender – Attempted Delivery – Customer refused – Banksmeadow NSW
We attempted to deliver the item, but the addressee or someone at the address declined to accept it
For redelivery, please contact the sender.

Wait.... Did I read that right???? Wacom just refused to take my returned parcel???

Wednesday 30 March 2016
Returning to sender – In transit – Botany NSW

Looks like I'll have to phone Wacom again.

Wednesday 30 March 2016
Returning to sender – Awaiting Collection at BOTANY POST SHOP – Botany NSW

What the hell's going on??? Wacom don't want it, so it's now sitting in the Botany Post Shop in the hopes that someone comes to get it??? I called Wacom for the second time since the parcel went rogue and once again I was told that I'd get a callback as soon as they knew what was happening.

Wednesday 30 March 2016
Returning to sender – address not known – Botany NSW
The postie or delivery driver couldn't deliver this item because the address was incorrect, incomplete or unclear.
For redelivery, please contact the sender

Hmmmm.... Looks like the Post Shop doesn't want it either.

Day Twenty One: (Day thirteen if not counting weekends or public holidays):
Thursday 31 March 2016
Returning to sender – Processed through Australia Post facility – Chullora NSW

So much for my callback. I didn't get one. At least the parcel's back on its original course, which hopefully will get it back down to Tassie again where it belongs.

Day Twenty Two: (Day fifteen if not counting weekends or public holidays):
Friday 1 April 2016
Returning to sender – Processed through Australia Post Facility – Sunshine West VIC

So as we come to yet another weekend, the parcel has once again arrived back in Victoria. Instead of taking 2 days to get there from Chullora in NSW it's managed to only take 1 day this time. Will it be ready to deliver once again in 3 work days as happened the last time it got this far? We'll see what happens between now and Wednesday. It seems that Wacom has determined I don't need a call back, so with any luck I'll soon be typing the last of this blog post using my new, fangled, rechargeable blue-tooth keyboard.

Day Twenty Five: (Day sixteen if not counting weekends or public holidays):
Monday 4 April 2016
Returning to sender – Processed through Australia Post facility – Chullora NSW

Oh look, it's bouncing between the sorting facilities in Sunshine West VIC and Chullora NSW.

It is now 9:28am and I've been on hold with Australia post for 48 minutes while a recorded message repeats every 30 seconds stating, “We apologise for the delay, we will be with you as soon as possible.”

9:54am, Australia Post tells me that because the parcel was refused at both ends it will now go to the dead letter department. Apparently Wacom did organise a redirection on the 21st but the incorrect address was never change, however both parties managed to stuff that one little detail up as well.

10:06am. I've just gotten off the phone with Wacom Australia who said they would normally send me a replacement but they're out of stock. I told them to just give me a refund, to which Jenny replied “I'll do that now” then hung up on me. Not so much as a sorry for wasting my time, she just hung up. I'll assume her name is Jenny seeing as the bloke who answered the phone said that Jenny was busy and he'd get me on to her as soon as possible. If Jenny doesn't have a thick Asian accent, then I've ended up with someone who does. Whoever she is, I've been dealing with her over the phone since this whole fiasco began. She never actually gives out her name when she answers the phone though. 

So this will be the last time I ever purchase direct from Wacom. Their customer service is appalling and their dispatch department just hasn't got a clue. Be warned if anyone else decides to purchase from them. Just don't!!!! First the faulty Cintiq Companion 2 that died within the first three days of use, now this big balls up because they're too useless to write the correct address on the parcel and too useless to give the correct address again when organising the redirection.

Day Twenty Eight: (Day nineteen if not counting weekends or public holidays):
Friday 1 April 2016
2:57pm. I sit here now in front of my Wacom Cintiq Companion 2, happily touch typing away on my brand new rechargeable Bluetooth keyboard.

Note, I am not using a Wacom keyboard. That was finally accepted as a returned item by Wacom yesterday morning. Instead, I'm using my Microsoft branded keyboard that I ordered from Officeworks a couple of days ago, and it also had to come from the mainland to get here to me in Southern Tassie. The main difference being that it got here in the space of a few days as opposed to Wacom's package almost taking an entire month and still not successfully being delivered to the customer.
Microsoft's Universal Bluetooth Keyboard.
After Wacom Australia finally took back the rogue keyboard package from Australia Post, I received a phone call from them. The man with the Australian accent did much grovelling and boot licking before telling me that even though I'd been given a refund, they were now going to resend it free of charge to say sorry. Apparently Wacom Australia is in the process of changing hands in the distribution centre which resulted in someone putting the wrong address on my parcel (you think???). He had no idea why the package was marked as refused when Australia Post attempted to give it back to them the first time. Apparently those that were there on the day claim that Australia Post never turned up with the package to begin with.

So when the now free Wacom keyboard finally gets here, if it does this time, I'll have two rechargeable Bluetooth keyboards for my drawing tablet PC.... I only needed one of the things.

Ebay anyone????