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April 26, 2015

Cintiq Companion 2 (, , )

by fluffy at 4:53 PM

Maybe my standards are just too damn high, but I'm not happy with the Cintiq Companion 2 either, and I'm probably going to return it (although I'll give it a couple more weeks to decide, since there's a 30-day Satisfaction Guaranteed window on it, and return shipping is not free on that).

Reasons I'm unhappy with it:

  • The stylus tracking is still pretty bad (the stability is fine but the accuracy leaves a lot to be desired)
  • The battery life is abysmal - like, 1.5 hours or so
  • It's heavy and loud and cumbersome
  • Every time Windows Update happens I end up needing to basically reinstall everything, because Windows is still a pile of crap (and Windows itself is also really aggravating for lots of reasons)
  • And, a big one for me, is that being stuck with Windows also means needing to be stuck with Lightroom if I intend to do multiple-device photo management

I really, really don't like Lightroom. I also don't like what Apple did with Photos but at least there's the potential for Apple to fix the couple of glaring problems (namely the inability to migrate portions of a library between systems, which was the one reason I bought Aperture in the first place). Adobe has shown time and time again that they never ever want to fix glaring, fundamental problems with their software, they just like adding more features and complexity in ways that make it less and less useful. I haven't figured out a reasonable workflow for working with Lightroom, and even just using its basic functionality is painful and obnoxious. So, Photos is the lesser of two evils, and I'm probably going to switch back. But this means that I can't have a single device for both drawing and photography on the go... or does it?

Because there's an app called Astropad that basically turns an iPad into a Cintiq, and Peggy swears by it, and I've played with the demo and it's quite nice. So if I could just do what Peggy does and connect the iPad to my MacBook via USB, I have everything I want, right?

Well, probably not everything. But still, less aggravation than what I'm dealing with right now.

Anyway, I don't completely regret actually paying for Lightroom, because it's $120/year and comes with Photoshop, which I'd been, er, "borrowing" before. So $120 for a year of legal Photoshop is still worthwhile, even if I never touch the festering pile of garbage that is Lightroom again.

Meanwhile, I've ordered one of Astropad's recommended styluses and will try that out for a while, and I guess I should see if it's possible to migrate my Lightroom library back into Aperture so that I can convert it to Photos... or more likely, restore my Aperture library from backup. Because, ugh ugh ugh, I can't imagine trying to use Lightroom to actually do anything useful.

April 10, 2015

In which I purchase, and almost immediately return, a Surface Pro 3 (, , )

by fluffy at 5:07 PM

Lately I've been getting a lot more serious about my art, and while I upgraded my dying Intuos 2 to an Intuos 5 just over a year ago (holy cow, has it been that long already?), I'd recently been bitten by the Gotta Have A Cintiq bug yet again (mostly because I was chatting about tablets with Jake, since he'd upgraded from a Yiynova to a Cintiq a while ago).

October 23, 2014

Eclipse 2014 (, )

by fluffy at 10:32 PM

There was an eclipse today! If you didn't know about it, that's okay, apparently nobody else I knew did either. I guess most people just don't take an interest in their neighborhood.

Anyway, just like last time I took pictures, with a slightly better setup this time around (since last time I realized that the crappy mylar balloon I was using wouldn't cut it so I bought some emergency blankets specifically for solar photography).

October 8, 2014

More whining about drawing apps (, , )

by fluffy at 8:32 PM

Every now and then I start trying to draw comics again and every time I do I run into the same roadblocks where I feel like I'm spending too much time trying to work around Photoshop's crappy brush model instead of actually just getting into the basic drawing.

The big fundamental problem with Photoshop (and all of the Photoshop clones, including GIMP and Pixelmator) for inking is that it treats brushes not as continuous lines of varying width, but as sequences of tightly-spaced circular blobs of ink. This is the fundamental reason why its lines tend to be blurry with round tips and that characteristic inked-in-Photoshop look.

June 14, 2014

Photoshop CC gripes (, )

by fluffy at 1:04 AM

I have two gripes with Photoshop CC, which are tiny things that have a stupidly huge impact on my comic-making workflow.

The merely annoying one: no matter how I set my paint bucket tool, it only does partial coverage of my fill region and leaves a gap by the edge, unless I double-click to tell it to cover the covered region. What the hell? (Although an alt-backspace fill is quicker and doesn't have this issue anyway.)

The really frustrating one: pretty much all the freaking time it gets confused as to whether my Wacom stylus is being pressed down or not; often after I click or stroke with it, it thinks that the stylus is still down, and while in that state it doesn't let me change tools and it'll mess up polygonal lasso selections (which I use a lot) and so on. I end up having to tap AGAIN, hope that it lets me change tools, then cmd-Z out of whatever thing I just did to convince it to let me do a new thing. UGH. Never mind, turns out it was a bug in the version of the Wacom driver I had installed. Never mind again, this problem still persists.

I really wish there were any other drawing programs that were even remotely usable for me.

I'd just go back to CS4 (for this and other reasons too) but it doesn't work on my Retina MacBook. And I remember CS5 having many of these problems when I tried it.

April 18, 2014

Yet another round of comic-making app frustrations (, )

by fluffy at 11:43 PM

As implied in my most recent comic, I am basically done with Photoshop CS4. Which is unfortunate, as I am very used to its user interface (warts and all) but it's just no longer working reliably under OSX 10.9, so it's time to finally move on to something else.

So, once again, here's my whirlwind tour of all the comic-drawing software I've been trying...

March 28, 2014

Tablet upgrade choices (, )

by fluffy at 1:17 AM

So, that Monoprice tablet I got a while back didn't work out (because of the wavy line issue) so I was just sticking with my old Intuos2. Unfortunately, the stylus is still dying, and I'm also rearranging my workspace at home and I'd like something that takes up a bit less space while still giving me the same active area. Here's my notes on my choices.

August 9, 2013

Quick review: Monoprice graphics tablet (, )

by fluffy at 2:40 PM

The stylus on my trusty old 9x12" Wacom Intuos2 was starting to fail (generating spurious click events, which is what happens when the pressure sensing mechanism starts to break down) so I looked into replacing the stylus. Wacom no longer makes nor sells Intuos2-compatible styluses (they changed the protocol for Intuos3 and the Intuos2 was made about 10 years ago), and so my immediately-obvious choices were to either upgrade to a newer Wacom or to try one of the other Wacom-alternatives that have hit the market.

Years ago, all of the Wacom-alternatives were rebrands of Aiptek's terrible tablet which never worked even remotely right, so I was a bit wary of the Monoprice tablet (which is a rebadged UC Logic tablet). However, folks on Twitter spoke highly of it, and for only $90 I figured it was worth a shot.

May 20, 2012

Eclipse (, )

by fluffy at 10:47 PM

Today, something nearly ate the sun, but fortunately it gave it back to us before the world ended.

February 18, 2012

Technology updates (, , )

by fluffy at 12:07 AM

So a while ago I posted about wanting a new laptop, and in the comments said I'd ordered a ThinkPad X220 Tablet. It actually took a lot longer than expected (due to multiple screwups on Lenovo's end), but I finally got it today. Actually I got a much better tablet than the one I originally ordered, and for about $200 less. It also came with the gigantic "slice" battery. I can get around 15 hours of battery life total, in theory. (I haven't measured it.)

Anyway, I quickly found that the default Lenovo install of everything was crappy, and I never managed to get a full recovery DVD set burned out and since I was going to upgrade the hard drive to my 256GB SSD (partitioned 128 for Windows, 128 for Linux) anyway, I figured I should just install an OEM copy. Fortunately, Microsoft makes the actual install media for that readily available, and fortunately my OEM key worked without any troubles. (And fortunately Lenovo makes all of the system drivers readily-available too.)

I did find that Wacom's own Tablet PC driver works way better than the one Lenovo provides (Lenovo's tries to calibrate everything by the edge of the screen, where the digitizer is very jittery and unpredictable, whereas Wacom's uses calibration points that are in the actual work area — much more useful).

The keyboard is a bit mushier than I'd like, and I'm getting all sorts of typos. I'm sure I'll get used to it in time though. On the plus side, it's quite a bit lighter than the MacBook this is replacing, and a much better size than the Inspiron Mini 9 that was my alternate for when the MacBook felt way too heavy and big to lug around.

The laptop also came with a docking station, and I'm entertaining the thought of turning my current desktop system (a Mac mini) into an HTPC and just using this laptop for everything. It's certainly powerful enough to. I'll have to weigh my options with software, though. Windows has plenty of drawing apps available but most of them suck; Linux has only a few available and all of them suck. I need to give Paint Tool SAI a fair shake; the UI is gimpy but a lot of artists I follow swear by it, and it's pretty cheap, too. Plus, I like that it actually lets you seamlessly mix raster and vector layers for sketching and inkwork; at least in principle it matches my mental model of how a drawing app should work.

I'm not sure how much time I'll be spending in Windows vs. Linux, also. I'm starting to suspect I'll just run Windows all the time, since Windows 7 actually isn't terribly painful to use for day-to-day stuff. If there were decent drawing programs for Linux the choice would be a lot easier, though.

In other technology news, due to an early-purchase opportunity provided by my employer, I got a PS Vita a couple days ago. My initial impressions: it's much nicer than the PSP, its version of Lumines is wonderful (although I've already played the hell out of it, and it doesn't seem to have the same depth of gameplay as the PS3 version, but it does have a quite nice soundtrack). It's also got the best version of wipEout so far. I haven't tried Modnation Racers (which came with the system). I have run into some stability problems, though, as well as some ridiculous human factors issues when it comes to its power saving "sleep" mode (vs. being actually turned off), and I've had to rebuild the system database several times due to what I guess was filesystem corruption. But given that the system technically isn't even out yet (at least not for most of the world) I'm not surprised that there's firmware issues.

October 29, 2011

Pixelmator: Maddeningly close, but still no cigar ()

by fluffy at 11:23 PM

So, Pixelmator 2.0 is finally out, and I've done what I can to put it through its paces to see if it can replace my old copy of Photoshop yet. The quick verdict: No, it can't, but it's really close now.

October 13, 2011

Findra (, , , )

by fluffy at 10:35 AM

Now that the news is public, I'd just like to spend some time reflecting on the good times with Chris (Findra).

June 3, 2011

Nex-5 (, )

by fluffy at 8:57 PM

I decided to splurge a bit and ordered a Sony α NEX-5. I got it in a bundle with both lenses (16mm pancake + 18-55mm zoom), an 8GB SDHC card, and a carrying case, and I also added on the fisheye conversion lens. Today I received it, and had a bit of fun.

January 7, 2011

My current Pixelmator wishlist (, )

by fluffy at 9:19 AM

I'm trying Pixelmator yet again. It's made a lot of positive progress since the last time I wrote about it in detail (especially regarding its pressure-sensitive brush engine, which is now just as good as Photoshop's), but there's still a bunch of stuff that could be better, and which still keep me from switching:

  • Selection refinement (still) isn't particularly useful. There needs to be a way of growing/shrinking by a specific number of pixels (rather than percentage), and keyboard access to those values (right now only "smooth" ever gets keyboard focus, for some reason)
  • There (still) needs to be a brush set on a per-tool basis, rather than globally. Having to constantly switch between a small brush (for sketching and inking) and a large brush (for erasing) sucks. (This is the main thing that stops me from switching.)
  • It would be nice if there were automatic non-destructive layer styles like in Photoshop; in particular, I use Stroke a lot, and not having that is really irritating.
  • Magic Wand and Paint Bucket (still) need a way of restricting their area based on the full image, not just on the current layer.

Every version gets a lot more features that add gee-whiz factor, but none of them seem to address what I feel are basic workflow issues for producing art digitally. If the Pixelmator guys would at least acknowledge these requests on their forum I might feel more confident in my purchase (which I've made again thanks to the categorical App Store transition), but I'm starting to get a bit worried that they don't actually care.

December 31, 2010

Year in review (, , , , )

by fluffy at 4:43 PM
  • ∆songs: 5 Song Fight solo efforts, 2 Song Fight collaborations, 4 covers, 6 remixes, various sound experiments and short soundtracks produced, ~20 songs written but not recorded, 2 live shows (both went way better than any shows I'd done before)
  • ∆comics: 120 published; 1 long-running series completed (Unity), 2 short series in their entirety (Unity:Planetfall and Unity:Breeder), 1 long-running series rebooted (Pernicious), 1 short series started (Unity:Meat), several miscellaneous one-offs and journal comics
  • ∆artwork: various smatterings posted to various art-sharing sites
  • ∆body mass: unchanged within statistical error; still fat a little overweight
  • ∆grandparents: -2; grandfather(paternal, age=99y1w) passed in August, grandmother(maternal, age=99y7m) passed about an hour ago and I'm still processing it. Remaining grandparents = 0

All in all, the year could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse, too.

July 24, 2010

Reevaluating drawing apps again (, , , )

by fluffy at 9:42 PM
Since I'm in a break between comics, and I've been completely redoing my MacBook because of upgrading its hard drive and adding a dedicated NAS to my network and so on, I decided to go ahead and upgrade to Photoshop CS5. Which is, frankly, terrible in how slow and laggy it is.

I've owned a copy of Pixelmator for years, and they've improved it immensely over that time, but there are still a few glaring deficiencies in the UI. They've finally gotten the brushes to work really well, but now I'm finding that all tools are set to use the same brush all the time - including the eraser, which is always sized exactly the same as the brush tool. Which makes drawing much more of a chore than it should be.

So, once again I'm looking at alternate drawing apps. I have VectorDesigner as well, but vector drawing has never really agreed with me for a number of reasons (usually tablet pressure support is rudimentary or even nonexistent, and I also like being able to screw around with things at the raster level which I find to be much more flexible, even with its "inaccuracy"). This also pretty much rules out Inkscape, although I might give it a try again anyway.

GIMP on OSX is of course a joke (the various native efforts are in perpetually primitive states, and the X11 version doesn't support tablet pressure since X11 on OSX doesn't support much of XInput).

Basically, I need a drawing app with the following features:

  • Runs on OSX
  • A drawing/sketching-friendly workflow
  • Tablet support (pressure, subpixel brush positioning)
  • Layers (ideally with groups, and group blend modes)
  • Magic wand selection and filling, as well as fast selection refinement (expand and contract at least, ideally with fast keyboard access)
  • Is affordable and I can justify paying for it with the understanding that I'm an amateur who likes drawing for fun and doesn't intend to ever make money on this
There's a lot of free/cheap drawing apps out there, but most of them have critical flaws that make them pretty much not worth working with. It seems like there's a whole bunch of niche apps which work pretty well for their niche, and then Photoshop is what everyone else turns to, ignoring that it's slow, bloated, and massively overpriced for just a drawing app...

June 6, 2010

Anyone know what this is? (, , )

by fluffy at 8:15 PM
Today I was at the Alameda Antiques Fair, and came across what purported to be an original animation cel from the Star Trek: TAS episode Yesteryear. I of course bought it (after failing to convince Mark that he should), and then after framing and hanging it, I decided to watch the episode it supposedly came from.

August 6, 2009

Monsters of Webcomics (, , , )

by fluffy at 7:39 PM
Thanks again for submitting your work for the Cartoon Art Museum’s Monsters of Webcomics Virtual Gallery.

I’m pleased to say that your work has been selected for inclusion in our exhibition, and will be featured in the Virtual Gallery along with a wide array of webcomics from around the globe. This historic exhibition will include over 100 artists, making this one of the largest exhibitions in the Cartoon Art Museum’s 24-year history, and we’re thankful for your participation.

I am pleased as well! My stuff will be in a museum! I think this is only the second time this has happened.

Here's a full press release of the exhibit, and also you can read more about the goings-on at the Cartoon Art Museum on their LiveJournal.

I will have to finally go to CAM and maybe even meet Shaenon and Andrew in person!

June 14, 2009

The furry code ()

by fluffy at 1:16 AM
After a conversation with Mark the other night, I think I have figured out what differentiates a "cartoon animal" from a "furry."

The big deciding factor appears to be: if a character is furred and also has human-like hair, they are furry. Otherwise they are a cartoon animal.

April 21, 2009

I need a thicker skin (, )

by fluffy at 9:51 PM
I shouldn't let it bother me when a professional cartoonist goes out of his way to tell me at great length how horrible my comics are and how I should stop doing them because I am "clearly not interested in improving" but it does. I just like to experiment and try things and I think I've improved immensely over the last few years. Of course I'm not going to ever be as good as someone with formal training and who spends 8 hours a day drawing for a living, but I just do it because it's something I feel like doing. What the hell is wrong with that?
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