Design Tips

My new Intuos4

This isn’t going to be a very in-depth look at this tool, but I wanted to make a couple comments. First off, the Intuos4 Tablet is a graphic tablet designed by Wacom. I am testing out a graphic tablet mainly to decide if using a Cintiq would be something I am interested in doing. Unlike a graphic tablet, which you draw on and watch the results on the monitor, the Cintiq is a monitor which you draw on O_O. As you can expect, it is fairly expensive, so I wasn’t sure if I would even want to spend the money on one.

I bought the Intuos this weekend, out of the 4 sizes; I picked the smallest, which has a workspace of about 4x7inches. They do range to much larger, but I have limited realestate on my desk, since I share it, so the larger tablet would probably be more of a nuisance. I do currently work with a dual monitor, but after configuring the drawing area, I was able to get the tablet to only work with monitor 1. At first I was only getting use of 50% of the tablet drawing area. After I figured out that setting, I played around with button options, changing the first of the 2 pen buttons to Pan/Scroll, and the second to erase. I have not determined if the other tip of the pen is an eraser. I haven’t found it to be that way, but I may not have been on the correct layer.

After a couple spaced out hours of practice I did finally get the hang of the tablet. I found that drawing slowly and carefully got the best results. I normally sketch pretty quickly, not always to be a benefit, but it certainly didn’t work at all on the tablet. At first I only tried drawing circles, which were all sorts of oblong shapes, and then I tried to draw a simple face… Things were a little discouraging at first, but like I said, slowing down, and carefully planning out the placement of the strokes really made the difference for me. I actually got a very nice character study out of it, I was pretty surprised about it too.

The pen has awesome sensitivity, and it really does feel like I am drawing on paper. I really enjoy it, but I did run into a snag. After I created a decent sketch, it was time to make use of Photoshop, which was the entire reason I decided to get a drawing tablet. You see, my biggest issue with doing anything on the computer, when the origin is a sketch, is the problems I have getting a clean line art out of it. I thought that using a drawing tablet would 1. Save time on scanning, 2. Make for a cleaner image, since I don’t have eraser marks, and 3. Make creating a line art much more attainable.

I do remember creating some decent line art from sketches, but what I found with the tablet is that when I would draw on a transparent background, the filters didn’t work as they would normally. They would only work if I had a white background, at least with the fine lines I am used to creating. Anyways, I was pretty upset; it seemed that the tablet wasn’t really working how I expected it to. Even more discouraging, I found that many artists would just trace entire sketches. That is daunting, considering the amount of artwork I am expecting to put out in the next couple of months. I don’t want to spend hours upon hours tracing the images I draw. Totally defeats the purpose of the drawing tablet.

I digress… the point is, after a bit of research I did find a wonderful tutorial which quickly, and easily creates a line art based off of my sketch (virtual or hardcopy). I am pleased to say that I will be able to keep my tablet without guilt, since it wasn’t cheap. I would have felt guilty to keep it, only to do sketches and then still need to spend so much time tracing them. All in all I am very happy with this tablet; hopefully I can show off some of my work soon.

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Monday, July 12th, 2010 Design Tips, MyProjects Comments Off

Just a little note

I downloaded a version of CamStudio, a freeware recording software, that I want to use to create some tutorials. I figured it would be easier to record it, rather than try to explain all of the steps. I could, but I would write such a long tutorial, nobody would read it.

Anyways, I tested it out once I installed it, and just as a note…

Don’t try to record a tutorial while your boyfriend is playing a video game. He was mashing his keyboard so quickly, my audio playback sounded like I was recording with a mini machine-gun blasting up my living room. ^_^

Friday, April 2nd, 2010 Design Tips, MyProjects Comments Off

Microsoft Expression Design: A quick review by me.

I am a huge fan of vector illustration; this made it easy for me to transition from Adobe Illustrator right into Expression Design. Design is a vector based illustration program which generates XAML code for the images a designer creates, while working directly with Expression Blend to develop Rich Internet Applications in Silverlight and WPF. Creating clean, stylistic layouts for web application and sites is made easy with Design, with the intentions of bridging the gap between designer and developer.

Microsoft did a pretty good job of mimicking Illustrators user interface. Most of the tools in Design are easily recognizable and designer friendly. With Design, a more simplistic layout is revealed, and admittedly there are not as many options or tools when compared to Illustrator. I so rarely use those extra features that I never find myself looking for them. I noticed only minor differences in functionality in the interfaces, for example selecting stroke and fill colors, and in my opinion Design does that better.

I have read neutral or negative reviews about Design that bring up points such as “Why are there hidden tools in the toolbox side bar? It is odd that you would need to Right-Click to activate them.” My response to most of these observations is that anyone who is familiar with Adobe products will not be lost. Most designers aren’t venturing into these Expression products with zero experience with the Adobe Suites. I have also heard superficial complaints about Designs “Dark” GUI, but there is an included feature to switch it from Dark to Light in color.

For a designer or developer that doesn’t like Illustrator, or possibly hasn’t used it before, Design might be a challenge to learn. The idea of the pen tool, creating arcs and plotting points can be difficult for someone who hasn’t practiced at all. Still, I believe that Design and Illustrator make it fairly easy to practice these skills without being overwhelmed. The differences between Illustrator and Design are minimal usability-wise; for the purpose of learning how to use the different tools, I would not suggest one product over the other. For the sake of industry standards, I would lean towards Illustrator. However, if working with Silverlight or WPF applications is a goal, Design would be the way to go.

What I love about Design is how it actually interacts with its counterpart product, Expression Blend. Expression Design actually creates XAML code for you, and it allows you to copy the actual objects right out of the design-creation software (Design), directly into the web design software (Blend). That means – Directly into Your Website, and that is a big deal. You can also export individual items, or entire layouts to a XAML document, which you can then import directly into your Expression Site. It’s pretty cool, and it literally cuts out hours of time in website design.

  • Tip: When copy/pasting directly from Design into Blend, make sure your image in Design is ungrouped. Once you have copied your image into Blend, “group it” into a grid, and then set the margin points to 0. This will keep most of the styling and positioning from design.

Some cons about Design start to come into play when you want to work on projects from a printing aspect. Expression Design does not allow you to work in CMYK, and there are only a handful of export formats. If you have a copy of Photoshop, you can usually work around most of these details. If you don’t want to spend the money on that, you could always get GIMP, and get the add-on that adds the color mode CMYK. The need for a work around is always annoying, I must admit.

All in all, I personally find the dislikes of the Expression products are from those who are fairly set in their ways, who have already found their niche, so they are not interested in working with different software. There isn’t a problem with that; though I would not shy away from Expression solely based off of the negative feedback from several of the comments I have seen. Blend and Design offer a smooth transition between the design phase, implementation and development of complex applications and RIAs. I find this a huge bonus as a designer, and I look forward to see more improvements to the Expression family further down the road.

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Monday, November 30th, 2009 Design Tips, Expression Comments Off