"Life is too short to make bad art."

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Review: A first glance at Affinity Designer by Serif

I want to share the first experience I had with the beta version of Affinity Designer by Serif. The tool has been out for Mac for a while (there is a free trial version available as well as purchase version for £39.99). It has received much praise as an alternative to Adobe Illustrator. Serif released the beta version for windows a few weeks ago.

https://affinity.serif.com/en-gb/designer/

The free public beta version for windows can be found here:
https://affinity.serif.com/en-gb/windows/

I have been trying out version 1.5.0.5 on my Windows SurfaceBook and am quite impressed with the ease of use and the features provided by the program.

If you have been working with any vector design tool before (Illustrator, CorelDraw or Inkscape) the basic set of tools will look very familiar.
The toolbar at the top has three unique icons though. The tool let's you switch between a vector design mode [draw persona] and pixel paint mode [pixel persona]. Following those are tools to help you arrange, layer, snap and combine your shapes. All the icons are pretty clear and there is an tool tip when you hover over an icon for a little longer. 

The UI elements matched the resolution of my laptop. At a resolution of 3000x2000 pixels in the surfacebooks standard mode Illustrator and CorelDraw make it hard to select nodes and node handles. They become very, very small and are not scaled when zooming in. Like Inkscape Affinity Designer scales these nicely to make it easy to select and modify the objects. All input displays are scaled and big enough to read.




The tool bar on the left hand side has your usual tools [when in vector mode] to allow you to move objects, change the canvas, edit nodes, edit corners, use different types of drawing, edit the fill and the transparency, the standard object (rectangles, circles, rectangles with rounded edges and a nice set of predefined shapes ranging from triangles to hearts, arrows and even editable cogs). 

Note:
I really liked the canvas setting as it offered a choice of device specific settings such as ipad, ipad pro or iphone 6. A feature I found very helpful when designing a full screen layout or a background illustration that would match the desired proportions and sizes. 


Another nice feature is the corner tool allowing easy modifying of the corners of a node. It offers 5 different shapes from plain to rounded and rounded inverse to steps. The amount can be quickly altered by draging a marker or by entering a value. 
To the right you have your colour panel (with the HSL colour wheel as a preset but more schemes to pick from), swatches to help you organize frequently used colours, strokes to define the outlines and brush settings.


The layer panel underneath is very user friendly. Showing preview icons makes selecting elements via the layers panel easy. Affinity Designer offers the essential tools you might need when working with layers, such as locking and hiding elements or layer groups for easier handling.

The bottom right holds another panel for transforming, showing and editing your history and navigating the display area. 

Here's the resulting illustration while trying some of the frequently used features like combining objects, gradient fills, opacity and opacity gradients and was impressed how easy it was to use the tools and modify them.



Note:
To me the shortcuts are the key to working with a tool efficiently. Affinity Designer has some shortcuts set in unusual ways like the duplicate on CTRL + J. Those can be altered quickly in the settings to fit your own needs and habits.  


To sum it up:
I will definitely spend more time using and exploring the more advanced features of this tool. As far as creating illustrations and art work for games the program has convinced me with it's ease of use and the good quality of exporting the artwork to bitmaps to be used inside the game engines.
Once I have scratched more than just the surface of this tool, I will write a more complete review with pros and cons and some comparisons to the tools I have been using in the past. 


I would like to cover some of the tools and the workflow of Affinity Designer on this blog in the future. It's a very easy to use tool with a large set of tools ideal for creating illustrations and game assets.
Let me know in the comment section if there is any interest in covering more on this great tool.

Note:
Affinity Designer is being frequently updated. The newest version might already be different from the one I base this initial post on.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Create clouds using circles in Inkscape

This tutorial is a quick answer to a request about how to make make clouds. I have a lot of other tutorial series to finish but this one seemed like a nice little task while enjoying my last day in London.

So... let's get started with circles... :) Keep in mind that this is just one way to do it and you might prefer hand-drawing them or using the pen tool and creating the curves manually.
I quite often use these 'quick clouds' for layered backgrounds - usually with a few layers of mountains, trees or even city skylines on top. 







I hope this will help with the creation of clouds and improve your backgrounds. I had a lot of fun writing it - even with all the other tutorials on my mind and still not being as fit as I would like to be.

Note:

I am still without my main work machine and the better microphone making it hard to record a video tutorial. The laptop I am working on is just not ideal with it's insane resolution.  

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Creating 2D Special FX in Inkscape - part1

It took a little longer to get back into the right mindset and find some peace and quiet to start with the requested special effect tutorials.
I quickly discovered that there is not too much on the topic out on the internet and the area that can be covered is huge. 
I will try and break it down into small and easy to follow sections and make a several tutorials on different aspects of visual effects that can easily be created using Inkscape.

Let's start with motion trails/ light trails. They display the path the object is moving and help create the illusion of movement and direction in still images. In animations it's often used to exaggerate or define the character of a fast movement.

In this tutorial I will use two shapes to show the motion: a triangle shape for straight movements and a curved, modified version of it for spins and swings. 

Fighting scenes often use the motion trail to bring out the movement of the character or his weapon. A swinging sword is a perfect example.

The effects on the weapons will look even nicer in animations and I will show the use of them in the next part of the series.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial as much as I did writing again - even if the topic turned out a lot tougher to break down than I expected when foolishly agreeing to cover it. :)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Anguna GBA - a surprise from the past



I got mail today - old fashioned snail mail. A small parcel arrived out of the blue from an old mate. It contained my very own copy of Anguna for the game boy advance. The game was an indie game project Nathan Tolbert and myself worked on some 10 years ago...

and now Piko Interactive released the game.
 It contains a nice bunch of pixel art and animations - keeping the limitations of the GBA in mind. 
The box will look nice on the shelf along with 'Garfield and his nine lives' for the GBA and 'Impossible Mission' for the Nintendo DS.
    

Does it mean I am getting old, when enjoying a trip down memory lane? No... you don't need to answer - I am old... :)


Monday, April 25, 2016

Status update:still around and kicking... sort of...



It's been a while since the last post and I have been working on new tutorials but the going is slow... really slow at the moment. One of the reasons is a new medication I am trying to help me fight the pains and aches (after last years problems I want to add some chemical helpers to my tool kit to avoid prolonged periods of not being able to function).

So far it's been more about the side effects than actual pain relieve. I am hoping it will get better soon as it's driving me bonkers and I can't wait to be functioning at normal levels again.

Please stay tuned. The next tutorials will come (hopefully very soon). 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Back to the basics - Building art assets with squares

Here's the second tutorial 'Continue the fun with squares' as a video tutorial. This time it's all about squares as a building block for the game assets. Using the square as a shape and as a path (converted to manipulate the nodes) is an easy way to create art assets in Inkscape (or any other vector tool for that matter).

I am using inkscape v.0.91 - a free and versatile vector drawing program ( get it here ) on a windows pc. There might be small differences when using the program on a mac or with linux ( mainly as far as shortcut keys goes ) but those changes should be minute. 

Note:
The process used in the tutorial can easily be achieved in other vector tools like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw as well. The commands might be named differently and sometimes the workflow varies a little but it should be fairly easy to follow the tutorial even if you use a different program.

This video is an introduction to using inkscape's basic square tool to get started with game art creation. The vidoeo shows how to create more complex shapes using squares as the starting element and rotate, skew and deform them.

 




I hope you enjoyed the tutorial as I will continue to record some of the older but still popular tutorials as video tutorials. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Back to the basics - video tutorial using circles in inkscape

It's been a while since I first started to write tutorials on game art, yet the very first ones are still popular. After receiving a lot of request to cover those early steps in a video tutorial, I finally sat down and made a video of the first tutorial 'Let's get started with circles'.

I am using inkscape v.0.91 - a free and versatile vector drawing program ( get it here ) on a windows pc. There might be small differences when using the program on a mac or with linux ( mainly as far as shortcut keys goes ) but those changes should be minute. 

Note:
The process used in the tutorial can easily be achieved in other vector tools like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw as well. The commands might be named differently and sometimes the workflow varies a little but it should be fairly easy to follow the tutorial even if you use a different program.

This video is an introduction to using inkscape's basics and the circle tool to get started with game art creation.

 



I hope you enjoyed the tutorial as I will continue to record some of the older but still popular tutorials as video tutorials. 

Note:
I am working on new and more advanced tutorials (the special effects and the animation with spriter tutorials as voted by you) as well.