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Rapid Transit

The White Whale
September 23, 2018, 11:16 am

I've been drawing and painting digitally for quite a while. It's not new for me. I've used all the programs. I started coloring back in Photoshop 4. I wasn't the first in the space, and certainly many of my peers have far surpassed my skillset. Go check out people like Matt Rhodes, Becky Cloonan, Corey Lewis, or Matthew Woodson If you want to see some of my contemporaries who went off and did great things.

But I have used just about every program. On just about every device. Trying desperately to find what I have often described as "My Perfect Drawing Program". My work has given me the opportunity to make art on all kinds of devices and applications. I feel like this story needs a preface that makes clear, I'm not some fanboy on any side. I am an agnostic device user. I use an Android phone, and an iPad, and a Surface Book for a laptop, and an iMac for a work desktop. I have Raspberry Pi devices strewn throughout my house, and a Linux desktop for a home server. I just need you to understand that this is a bipartisan issue, ok?

I've made a previous article about this basic topic before. And most of that still applies today. I list off a bunch of devices, I list off a bunch of programs, and for the most part it's all still the same.

But one major thing has changed for me. Infinite Painter on Android is now also available on iPad, and it has pulled out far in front of every other program I've used. I want to take a second and describe my perfect drawing and painting program and rate Infinite Painter on all those features.

Speed

I need speed. I need your program to run fast, like the wind. Like Forrest Gump in front of a car breaking out of his little broke boy crutches.

Infinite Painter is buttery smooth on the Note 8, and on the iPad Pro. I can push it to the point of slowing down, but I have to try real hard to do it.

Canvas Size

I need to be able to draw and paint at printable sizes.

Infinite Painter lets me set any arbitrary canvas size, save regular sizes for later, and it tells me more or less how making something at that size is going to affect my use of the program. A program can only go so big effectively, most artists understand that. But that should be more or less up to the user, not the program, unless the developer knows it will absolutely become unstable at certain numbers. But if I can make a one layer giant canvas, give me that option, and tell me if anything is changing.

Pro Tools

I am a professional artist who wants to make professional works whether they look like sketches or paintings. Nothing makes me more frustrated than a developer who has a couple really great features, but holds back on others because their program is "just for sketching". So what do I mean by pro features?

  • Selection Tools
    • Lasso Selection Tool
    • Straight Line Selection Tool
    • Smart Selection Tool
  • Free Transform of layers and selections
  • Curves Color Manipulation
  • Layers
    • Merge Layers
    • Blending Modes
    • Masking
    • Clipping
    • Groups
    • Clear Layer
  • Grid
  • Vector Tools

Kaleidescope

This isn't so much for me, as it is for the times. Kaleidescope and Symmetry drawing has uses in a lot of design and drawing. Having tools like these present is something that becomes more necessary once you realize how powerful they are.

Infinite Painter does have these tools as well as tile creation tools. Some are further along than others, but they are all at least present.

Brush Creation

This is one of the bigger things that can make or break my use of a drawing program. I need clear and complex tools for creating and manipulating brushes.

Infinite Painter has something miraculous for brush creation. Curves for the amount of effect that pen pressure, tilt, and speed have on a brush and texture. Once you create a brush using these curves settings, you will be frustrated at the lack of control other systems give you.

  • Custom Heads
  • Custom Textures
  • Color Mixing
  • Clear indication of change effect on brush quality
  • Clear indication of Texture settings changes

Tools Palette

I need a palette that lets me easily swap tools, but doesn't get in my way. It's a delicate balance to strike. I need to be able to swap between standard tools (or even better a set of tools of my choosing) and set the settings of those tools independently. Some programs give you the ability to swap tools, but their settings are linked, or stuck.

My ideal program would have a tools palette that is completely customizable, able to be set anywhere in the window, and has ease of access to common manipulation options.

Infinite Painter's tools palette is fantastic. It's small. It has separate paint, eraser, and smudge tools docked into the palette. Each can be set to a separate brush, separate size, and have their own opacity and flow settings. The palette buttons can be clicked for fine control or scrubbed for instant manipulation. Each brush can be scrubbed to choose between favorite brushes quickly. The only thing that might be better would be to arbitrarily be able to choose the tools present in the palette, but the simplicity of these options is palpable. The palette can be docked anywhere, and naturally moves out of the way of other palettes when it needs to.

Swatch Tools

Color manipulation is an extremely necessary part of any painting program and process. Most programs these days have pretty excellent Swatch tools (except perhaps Photoshop), but not all of them allow you to dock a swatch palette onto the screen.

Infinite Painter gives a Swatch palette with savable swatches. Draggable colors within the swatch allow manipulation, not just creation. The swatch can be docked to the screen and dragged to access more colors.

Color Picker

Color picking is a necessary process of any painting program. The ease of this can either hinder or greatly improve the painting procedure of any artist. My perfect program can select color easily with a drag operation, and can choose to select only one pixel of color or a blend of a square.

Infinite Painter allows you to drag from the Tools palette color button to color pick onto the document. It also has a finger press to pen move option. I see a lot of programs doing a long press option these days, and I've actually begun liking that less and less. I think a drag from somewhere to pick is the right way to do it, however that might honestly be dependent on screen size whether that can begun to feel tedious.

Touch and Pen

Many artists want to use their fingers to do certain manipulation, and I get that, but it is a very physical way of working, and it is in many ways a vestigial technique from when artists learned to work before digital. In my perfect program, fingers and touch are for canvas manipulation, and the pen is for drawing. And this is where a lot of programs are just not up to snuff. Either there is no real consideration for touch, or it is slipshod and shoehorned in.

Touch should not draw, or it should be an option that can be turned off in settings.

But I work in a touch world, and once you've used touch to manipulate a canvas, you can't go back. Any modern drawing program should allow you to pan, scale, and rotate a canvas with two fingers. The process should be smooth and not limited to one option at a time, and once you do it, you realize how incredibly intuitive it is, and how much you were held back by the old methods.

Keyboard Shortcuts?

I don't even want a keyboard when I'm drawing. A perfect drawing program should have everything available without the need of any keyboard shortcuts, even though I totally understand that they should still be there on desktop applications.

  • CTRL Z? Give me history tools at a glance. Desktop size devices should have 3 finger scrub to go back through history (not 3 finger tap) and Infinite painter gives always on undo redo buttons and shows a history slider for a few seconds.
  • ALT/OPTION? We already discussed color picking, and how it should be a drag out action.
  • SPACEBAR? Two finger pan zoom and rotate.
  • Tools? All those options should be on the Tools palette.
  • Tool Size/Opacity? On the palette.

Get rid of the keyboard and a reliance on it. Touch devices should remove that necessity.

Reference

My perfect drawing program has a reference layer. This unique layer palette is set apart from the rest of the document and always gives a view to a reference image while drawing. This reference should be able to be cropped, pinned to anywhere, and rotated or zoomed as needed. Colors should be able to be chosen from this reference image, and it should move out of the way when drawing near it.

Infinite Painter ticks most of these boxes off, and the ability to simply turn on and off the reference is very nice.

Hide Interface

Hiding the interface to allow a simpler drawing experience is nice. It's also extremely useful on mobile devices. But there should probably be levels of hiding. Hiding everything is nice sometimes, but hiding everything but the most basic tools seems like a more useful option.

Infinite Painter definitely lets you hide the main interface, while the only thing that stays will be your reference photo, and since you can switch tools with the secondary pen button click, you can still switch between erasing and drawing on phone. This mode should, however, only be thought of as a sketching mode.

Video Output

Any modern drawing program should have the ability to record and playback a video of the drawing being created. It should be able to simply output to mp4. It should start recording from the beginning of any drawing, or at least have an option to opt out. I draw too many drawings to remember if this option is an opt in.

Infinite Painter allows you to choose whether you want to output as a stationary document of your drawing, or a rotating moving screengrab of the actual view of your interface while you were drawing.

Export and Import

Any program should be able to at least import any jpg or png. But they should probably also be able to do the same for PSD, TIFF, or PDF.

Infinite Painter can handle import and export of most standard formats, and saves to its own proprietary format. I would actually like it if it saved to a more standard normal format like TIFF.


If you've been searching for the perfect drawing or painting program, it actually doesn't exist yet. But I am of the opinion that Infinite Painter is the closest thing we have at the moment. If you haven't given it a chance on Android or iPad, you should. The initial program is free to try, and you'll only have to pay a reasonable sum to access its full potential.

There is an active community of users on Google Plus, and Sean Brakefield is actively developing both the Android and iOS versions of the application.

BARTist
February 7, 2018, 9:30 am

Draw every day. Practice every day. Practice like you mean it.

Love this video portrait, made by my student Yingzi Zhang. Funny story, we shot footage for about an hour for this 2 minute video. If you ever want to fall asleep, just get me talking about a subject, and I'll keep going.

I've been in the news recently
May 20, 2017, 11:10 am

I've been getting questions recently after a couple local news organizations (KRON 4, SFGate) have run stories on me, so I think I should put up a post answering some questions.

FAQ, if you will.

What do you use to draw?
I currently draw on a number of devices. When I'm on BART I draw on the Samsung Note 5 and mostly in the app Infinite Painter. When I'm doing more professional work, I'll tend to use the Surface Pro 4 i7, 256 GB SSD, 8 GB RAM, in Adobe Photoshop. And when I want to do some fun experimentation or record a drawing, I'll draw in Procreate on the iPad Pro 9.7 using the Apple Pencil.
Why do you use those devices?

The Note line of phones are the only phones that exist that have a wacom pressure sensitive stylus. Any bluetooth pen that has to pair with apps just can't compare.

The Apple pencil, however, actually pairs with the operating system, so there's none of that latency other pens had on ipad devices when you use them, so it's great. Apple finally stepped up in that arena, and Procreate is a killer app for drawing.

Microsoft has been killing it with the Surface line of devices, and the Surface Pro 4 is a fantastic computer. It's also a full computer, not a "mobile" device, and so it can run all of the great drawing programs that exist for windows on it.

What are the best programs to use for these devices / What should I use to draw?
The programs I listed are my current favorites, but there are so many great ones.
So what device should I purchase?

That is really a complicated issue. You might not need as much as someone else, or you might need more than a particular device can supply.

If you want a full computer with Windows, and the ability to draw, touch, and install any software available, you actually have lots of options. Tons of devices exist that are tablet convertibles with pens and touch in the Windows ecosystem. No seriously, bunches of them. But make sure you don't just buy the cheapest one expecting it to be able to draw massive canvases with tons of layers. If you go cheap with a computer, you'll have a bad time.

On the other hand, if you're already embroiled in either the Android or iOS ecosystems, then you really only have a couple options, and both of these come with limitations and advantages. The Note 5 is a beast of a phone, but so was the Note 4, and it had a removeable battery and microsd card (and it's cheaper right now). Take that into consideration when purchasing.

The iPad Pro comes in two sizes, and one may not be right for everyone. I personally love to draw in a small space, and so the smaller 9.7 was a better choice for me, although both devices are essentially the same in their capabilities for an artist.

I've used a stylus before, it wasn't very good.

Well that's not really a question, but I'll try to address this.

Most "stylii" that you see out in the wild just have those big rubber nubs. Those are known as a capacitive stylus. Those "styloo" send the same charge as your finger does to the screen and allow you to touch the screen just like a finger. Those "stylaa" are not pressure sensitive. You can't press harder or lighter and get a different effect.

All of the devices I listed here use a pressure sensitive stylus. These "styluu" are specifically meant to be used by artists to simulate the touch and feel of a real media tool. These "stylee" will make all the difference between feeling like you're playing, and feeling like you could make real art.

How can I follow you on social media?
I have pretty much the same name for all major social media, and that's @bronkula. Twitter Instagram Facebook Youtube

Also, did you try to click that header image? HA. It was a total fake out. You fell for it. You rube.

I got so tangled and twisted
June 20, 2015, 8:39 am

I haven't done a portrait in weeks.

It just kind of hasn't worked out. I'm sorry, everyone who may read this and care. One of the portraits never contacted me back. One of the portraits got lost in the shuffle. This week I was communicating with who I thought was the next portrait, only to realize it was the next weekend's portrait, and today's just emailed me "Super excited about the portrait!"

AGH

I'm the worst. And I'm blasting it out on my blog. Because that's what you do with a blog. With Instagram blowing up, and Youtube blowing up, and Twitter blowing up, I sometimes feel like this is my last place of refuge to put something in writing on a public wall of catharsis and be confident that still no one will see it.

... Except my students when I begin to show them my site.

Sigh.

The new semester is off to a bright start. We'll see how long these kids last. The new batch seem smart, but summer classes are accelerated double speed, so we'll see if they can keep up the pace. On the other hand, in my 608 it's the first time I've ever had almost an entire class of people who took my class before. This is super exciting, and I feel like they're all way ahead of any 608 class I've taught before. Most other classes have felt like I was constantly behind trying to bring every body up to the level I expected them to be. But I don't feel that this time, and so I'm hoping I can push them even further.

I would, however, like to mention that I have been uploading a couple videos to youtube, and I've begun recording my daily sketches and plan to start adding more content to youtube. Here is one of the recent Instagram sketches.

Portrait Quarterly
April 24, 2015, 5:17 pm

Alright. After getting feedback from my copy editor Andy Franzen, after getting a test print printed, and seeing any things that need to be fixed, after feeling it in my hands and rubbing it on my face, after resampling, and re-editing, and reuploading...

I am proud to announce that I believe you should purchase a copy of the PORTRAIT QUARTERLY! (hopefully the first of many)

This book features 120 Pages of art and words by me, and a little room for something by you. It is a 6x9 perfect bound softcover book that holds art that I created, mostly over the first quarter of this year. It features the wonderful Agnessa Vardani on the cover.

Prints and such and things
March 7, 2015, 5:23 pm

I've been doing some things. I've been making stuff. I've been arting some arts. And I haven't been blogging enough, I apologize for that. I put up a few new pieces as prints on my deviantart account. I thought that I might as well mention them here.

Also, something is in the works. It will be awesome. I'm pretty sure it will be awesome. I hope it doesn't suck.

What if you fly?
Watercolor Deer
Watercolor Rabbit
Watercolor Elk
Watercolor Deer

The Portrait Project
January 4, 2015, 6:20 pm

Welcome to 2015.

This year I have given myself an artistic goal that is well within reach. I will post one sketch every day on Instagram, and I will be doing a painted portrait every weekend. The first painting has been completed of my friend Nikola Pope.

I'm still not certain if there will be a theme through the portrait project, but one thing is certain, I need more subjects. This is your chance to do me a solid, and yourself a favor. Who hasn't wanted a painting of themselves? Everyone wants that. I'm giving you your chance. A live portrait, on a weekend of your choice, as long as you're somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The details are these. You will pick a weekend that you can devote 2 to 3 hours of your time to the portrait (yes, you will sit for it.) Pick a place where you can be comfortable doing something for that amount of time. Playing video games, drawing, writing, working on a laptop, etc... Then I draw you. Then we have lunch or dinner or coffee, we catch up on life, and then we part ways never to speak again. I can't pay model rates, but I can give you a high resolution image resembling your face.

If you are interested in participating in this project, please email me at hamdiggy@gmail.com

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro
December 29, 2014, 10:18 pm

I've been drawing a lot on my Instagram, and I am starting to post more on my Patreon as well.

A lot of people have been asking what tools I use to draw. I draw mostly these days on my Samsung Note 3. I use a program called Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for Android. If you visit that link, and it says it's missing, you're screwed. The thing of it is, the version of Sketchbook I use is no longer available for purchase, and more's the pity, because I don't like the new version.

The old version (which can be found around the internet, by searching for sketchbook pro apk) had the ability to lock the tool and swatch palettes to the side of the phone. For the life of me, I can not find this functionality in the new version. This is a hard line selling point, and the whole reason I use that software versus other similar competing products like Photoshop Touch (which has fucking awful pressure sensitivity) and Corel Painter (which actually has some awesome pens, but not separate erasers).

So when I tell people I use Autodesk Sketchbook, technically I'm telling them I use a product which doesn't even exist anymore, which is a real shame, because I use it daily now.

2015 is shaping up to be a great year. My plan is to make a portrait sketch every weekday, and a painted portrait every weekend. It's an ambitious goal, and one that will rely on the timing of others, so here's hoping.

I just did a sprint of sketches on Instagram
December 24, 2014, 10:14 pm

So if you're not following me on Instagram, you like... totally should.

I actually really like drawing on my Samsung Note 3, and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro lets me spit my drawings into both Dropbox and Instagram really fast. I'm not sure if I can or even should keep up the pace on these, but they're actually really super fun to do.

I've created a sketch folder for this series, and I'll add to it as is appropriate later.

These are the larger, unfiltered versions of the Instagram pics, so clearly, coming to my website has led you to superior product. Thus your series of good decisions has finally paid off.

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