Thursday, January 30, 2020

Stumpy Pencil for Procreate

For those of us who have taken to the iPad Pro, and the accompanying Apple Pencil, there is probably no better digital illustration application than Procreate. It's a matter of opinion of course, and there are many other competing illustration applications for the iPad that are worthy. But for me, Procreate is easily the best. It has a lot of usability and workflow features that I just love. It's amazing responsiveness makes drawing feel organic and natural. It's user interface is an exceptional combination of simplicity and depth, taking great advantage of the touch interface and the Apple Pencil. It's wide range of native brushes, that are included in the one-time purchase, puts other illustration apps to shame. I could go on, but this isn't really meant to be a Procreate review.

Recently, Procreate 5 was released, and it came with a lot of new features. Like all previous versions, this update was free to existing customers. One of the main new features was the ability to import brushes from Photoshop. This was great because, while I liked all of the "pencil" tools native to Procreate, none of them were really "The Stumpy Pencil." So I joined the Beta team when it launched, and one of the first things I did was translate the brush over to Procreate.

I don't know if it was because of the early Beta version of the software, but the brush definitely did not behave the same way as it's Photoshop parent. The translation function in Procreate has probably been refined considerably in the months since that first beta, so I don't mean this to be a knock on the software. Regardless, I had to dive into the extensive brush settings to get proper performance out of this brush. And I'm happy to say that I've refined the brush to the point that I'm happy to release it.

I hope you find this brush as fun to use as the Photoshop version. I find that, combined with Procreate, this brush is even more true to it's inspiration. It's meant to feel like a hand sharpened No.2 pencil. It's "lead" is fairly soft, meaning it gets fat and dark with only a little pressure, yet can still hold a light thin, light line with practice. This is my "default" brush to start, and often finish, any illustration or animation project.

As always, I offer it for free, but request samples of your artwork created using the Stumpy Pencil that I can post on my blog. It's not a requirement, just a request. And I rarely have time to update my blog so I can't guarantee you'll see it posted in a timely manner. But I really enjoy seeing all the great work, and I will post it when I can.

Although this brush is pretty well developed at this point, I will probably tweak it slightly over time. So check back occasionally to see if there are improvements. 

The Stumpy Pencil v.3.0 for Procreate is available here.
See this video for instructions downloading and importing this brush on iPad.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Cintiq Pro Ergo Stand Braces

I haven't posted to this blog in REALLY long time, but I just completed a small project that I thought people might find useful. About six months ago I retired my trusty old Wacom Cintiq 21 UX and upgraded to a new Cintiq 24" Pro. I also opted for the Ergo Stand. I've been working with various models of the 21 UX for many years, and honestly I really loved them. But the new Pro models have a lot of new features and expanded capabilities: High density 4K 3840 x 2160 pixel resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio, Full Adobe RGB color gamut, and more accurate and responsive pen are all great features that are very useful to me. I didn't get the "Touch" model because the Ergo stand promised the ability to physically rotate the monitor, which I prefer.

However, the Ergo stand is a bit of a mixed bag. For those of you who remember, or still use, the 21 UX, you'll know it came with a stand that was packaged with the monitor. It was fairly light, and featured paddles on the sides that allowed the monitor to be shifted to any angle from almost straight upright to down and almost completely flat. The paddles acted as hand brakes, so you could press the paddles, angle the monitor where you wanted it, and when you released the paddles the monitor would hold there. It was simple and worked pretty well. I had a few quibbles with it: The paddles controlled height and angle at the same time, and the brake on the paddles wan't particularly stiff, so there was a bit of "settling" that could make it tricky to get the screen right where I wanted. Minor things.

The Ergo stand is a very different animal, and it has a different design focus. First thing I noticed is that it's an absolute tank of an object. It is large and heavy, even prior to the considerable assembly it requires. It has a huge weighted base, so after the monitor is mounted, it can allow the screen to come forward and over the edge of the table it is on. The 24 Pro is a pretty heavy on it's own, so the weight of the stand offsets that when it is fully lowered. For the most part I don't mind the bulk of it. It has forced me to re-organize my desk a bit, as the monitor and stand require a lot of real estate, but this isn't a big issue for me. Once assembled it is very sturdy, and manages the cables well.

However, there is one big issue in how the stand works for positioning and angling the screen that immediately aggravated me. Like on the UX stand, there are two paddles on the side. However, on the Ergo stand these paddles are exclusively for angling the screen. The don't raise and lower the screen at all. To change height, there is a button on the base that will disengage the latch that holds the hinge, allowing the two arms that hold the screen to rotate down. The big issue here is that there is nothing to stop and hold the monitor at any position once the brake is released. Once the latch releases the monitor, the hinges will rotate until the monitor is resting on or over the desktop. So essentially the monitor has three positions: All the way up, resting on the desktop, or resting slightly over the edge of the desk. There is no way to stop the monitor at any position in-between.

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but if you've been drawing for as long as I have, you get pretty set in your ways. And immediately none of these three positions were acceptable to me. All the way up it is impossible for anyone to draw on. Resting on the desktop is too low for me, and also prevents the screen from being rotated. Over the edge of the desk is so ridiculously low I can't fathom how anyone would want to work like this. So I'm frustrated by Wacom's lack of  design functionality here, and I'm surprised this stand ever got through product testing. But hey, maybe it's just me.

My preference is to have the monitor several inches from the desktop, at an angle around 40°, with my keyboard set off to the left for use with my left hand while drawing. I cobbled together a short term solution by stacking DVD cases under the bottom of the monitor on the right and left sides. This put the monitor at the right height for the angle I wanted. But it's a clumsy solution. It needed a lot of fussing to set up. The boxes tended to poke out from under the monitor, causing interference with my hand while I was drawing, and they were bulky, always getting in the way of the mouse and keyboard. It prevented the screen from rotating, and it always made my desk look cluttered. Not a wonderful combination with my expensive and elegant screen. Every time I used it to draw I would be working on other solutions in the back of my head.

So this past weekend I designed and built a better solution, in the form of two wood braces that slip under the hinges and hold the arms of the stand at exactly the angle I want. For the most part, they work great. They hold the arms sturdily, so the screen is confidently held in place above the desktop. And they don't put any undue stress on the Ergo stand. By holding the monitor off the desktop, I can draw at the height that is most comfortable to me, and prevent back pain from hunching over. I am able to rotate the screen as intended. The gap under the screen also allows me to slide the keyboard underneath if needed. The braces stay in place even when the monitor it upright, so they are ready to go when I lower the monitor for drawing.

The only real downsides are they look a bit sloppy (solvable with better woodworking skills) and that they aren't adjustable. If you decide to build something similar with this design, you'll need to figure the angle you like the best and stick with it. I'm not really a great woodworker, so perhaps someone with better skills than I could design and build an adjustable brace. But these serve my use just fine.

There are few important things to note about this design. The small wedge at the back side is needed to hold against the back of the hinge and prevent the weight of the monitor from pushing the brace forward. Also, the base piece is cut from 3/4" furniture grade plywood, but is about 1/16" too high. This required me to get a Dremel with the cylindrical sanding bit to sand a small divot out. Lastly, I stuck some felt pads, meant for furniture bases, on all the contact surfaces to prevent scratching to the stand and the desk. I have included my dimensions below, but it's all relative to what angle you prefer your monitor to rest, so this is all subjective to your preference.
I don't know how common my complaint is, but I hope others can benefit from this solution, and improve on it. The Wacom Pro Cintiq with the Ergo stand is an expensive package, and for this price I think Wacom should have recognized this flaw in their design and solved it before it went into production. My solution works well, but feels very inelegant compared to the otherwise well-designed and constructed Cintiq. I hope Wacom recognizes their error in this regard and redesigns this stand for improved functionality in the future.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Garland

Here's a couple brushes I created for all your Christmas garland needs. There are two brushes (set up as Tools) in this set, a "Pine Garland" and a "Silver Garland." Both create nice bristly ropes of garland that you can loop around anything. I couldn't get the flow up where I wanted so you probably will want to go over the lines a couple times. Also, they look extra good if you add a slight shadow emboss layer style.

Created in Photoshop CS6 so they may not work in earlier versions. See the sidebar on the right for installation instructions.

Enjoy, and have a Merry Christmas.

Download Pine and Silver Garland brushes

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pumpkin Style

Apologies to the person who's pumpkin photo I stole.
I actually had shit to do tonight, but then I was walking the dog and saw my first Jack-O-Lantern of the season, I knew right then and there that I was going to build a Pumpkin Brush instead. Well, it's not a brush, but actually a layer style. I recommend using the Pen Tool to create basic vector shapes of your design and then apply this style to it an watch it light up. It works best on dark imagery. It doesn't have to be pumpkins, you can do it on anything. Mess up a picture of your face. Pumpkin yourself. Happy Halloween!

Download Pumpkin Style!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

CS6 upgrade

Hey y'alls, I thought I should let everyone know I have just upgraded to Photoshop CS6. I haven't had time to completely explore it yet, but one thing that jumped out at me are the new airbrush options. Finally, PS has a decent airbrush! It has a nice stippled spray and there are new options for spray direction based on stylus tilt. And, finally, there is a nice wide spatter diameter. They work great. I have been trying to emulate these very effects for so long that I had given up, so they are a very welcome addition.

I'm not inclined to write a full review of CS6, but future brushes posted to this blog will probably require CS6 to work. Sorry to leave the non-adopters behind- I know there are more than a few of you- but I find if there is a reason to upgrade it's best to do it.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Gallery Time 2, Part 2

 Blogger is buggin' today so I've broken this Gallery post into two parts in an attempt to make it happy. The first part is here. So without further ado...

This Stoplight monster by Max Davis is particularly awesome

Milica Andelkovic created this adorable little critter

Pola RG made great use of the watercolor tools

Shameema Dharsey created this classically beautiful drawing