Google Images is such a pile of manure for picture research these days, even when you know how to search and can knock out all the search-pollution coming from Pinterest and Wikipedia and YouTube. For many types of searches, DuckDuckGo’s Images Search is now far superior in terms of relevancy. The range of search modifiers is not yet perfect, but they’ve just added a new “Extra Large” to their search.
Smith Micro currently have one of their periodic 50% software sales on the 2D comics maker’s choice, Clip Studio (aka Manga Studio). Get the lesser ‘Pro’ version for $25, or the more fully-featured Clip Studio Paint EX for $87. The latter being the real ‘pro’ choice.
As many readers will know, Clip Studio was formerly called Manga Studio. It’s the same software, just a new name. The reason for the change was that the Japanese developers of the software, Celsys, required all their worldwide translators and agents to use the Japanese name — Clip-Studio — so as to have uniform global branding. I don’t think they were aware of the unfortunate connotations of the word ‘clip’ in English — naff ‘clip-art’; clipped as in ‘shortened, lesser, cut-down’; and ‘clip-joint’ being slang for a sleazy scam.
Anyway, the deed is done and the name is changed now.
If you have Poser then I guess you’re probably not going to be very dependent on the stock 3D mannikin figures, which ship with Clip Studio Paint EX. Though they do look kind of handy if you’re drawing by hand. They may even be useful for quickly story-boarding your comic / nailing down your panel layout, before setting things up in Poser.
Though I should point out that Clip Studio is very complex, as complex as Photoshop in its own way. So, if you already have your Poser PNG character/prop/background renders in a folder, it’s only fair to point out that the software Comic Life 3.5 could be a much easier alternative in which to do your panel layouts and lettering. (Ignore Comic Life 3’s very cheesy kiddy-fied marketing material, it’s perfectly capable of slick quality output).
But back to Clip Studio. EX is the version that can do 3D import, which is great if you need something that goes beyond the stock rag-dolls or the couple of manga schoolkids which ship with the software. Such as complex clothes, uniforms, ten-headed monster-dogs from the planet Wuff-Wuff, that kind of thing. I’ve tried the demo without becoming a user of the software, but last I heard 3D import is best done as .FBX (which allows some re-posing) and .OBJ (static), and these can be imported with materials intact if you first package everything (materials, .MTL and 3D mesh) up into a single .ZIP file.
The EX version also allows multi-page documents and also helps with the printing specs. I read that it can even export for a Kindle ereader or as an .ePub.
I see that EX also offers “Convert 3D objects into 2D LT (line and tones)”. But it appears that this is a fixed-pixel-width toon line outline, not to be compared with the more artistic results one can get with flat lighting and Poser’s Comic Book preview mode…
You can see it’s also adding manga zip tones, rather intelligently.
I found a big library of free celebrity faces for FaceGen, as .fg FaceGen files.
They’re from 2010 but I assume they’ll still work with FaceGen Artist Pro, software which lets you output famous or custom faces/heads for all Genesis generations in DAZ Studio. There’s a lengthy new tutorial webinar here, including things like work-arounds for neck-seams caused by the different body/head textures.
The July 2017 PC Pro magazine (UK), the leading PC user magazine, has a free copy of CrazyTalk Animator 2 SE. As far as I can tell from the features grid, it’s the same as CTA 2 Standard except you can’t output high-res frames. CTA is currently at version 3.1.
CTA is an excellent intro to 2D animation, and especially so for bright kids, without all the hang-ups of pro-level animation software. Even less able kids could use it, to make static comic-strips for the Web — for which you don’t need high-res output.
Got Photoshop brushes? Got too many Photoshop brushes? Yup. And, let’s face it, Photoshop’s brush management and preview pallettes are something out of an archeological dig — even in the newer versions.
What are the alternatives and helpers, for managing your brushes? Here are all those I could find.
* The $19 Anastasiy’s MagicSquire 1.5 is billed as a “brush organising agent”. It’s rather expensive for what it is, which is a better ‘but not that much better’ replacement for the usual panels. Still… colour codes tabs, drag-and-drop sorting, better auto-generated brush-stoke previews and more are all improvements. If they’re worth $19 to you, then it’s the one. The great advantage it has over the Brusherator (below) is that it works in older versions of Photoshop… “CS3 CS4 CS5 CS6 and CC”.
* The $13 Brusherator 1.3 is for Photoshop CC and higher. Probably the most elegant of the lot, and you can configure it how you want it. But to use it you need to be running a newer version of Photoshop, and its management methods and menus are far from intuitive to learn. It’s also nearly impossible to set up on a second pen-monitor with a pen, and so it needs to be set up on your main monitor with mouse + keyboard.
* The $13 BrushBox seems similar to MagicSquire, but looks more basic. It only runs on “CC 2015.1 and above”.
* The $2 drbjr Custom Brush Manager. The panel uses Flash (and is thus an inherent security risk), but it does support Adobe Photoshop CS6 and early versions of CC on Windows. The panel UI is rather basic, but it is obviously has quite a few features and it only costs $2.
* The $10 Preset Viewer Argus is a general standalone Photoshop Preset Viewer. It renders out a big library of thumbnail previews from all of your Photoshop brushes and presets. No more squinting at tiny little “what is that?” icons, which may be useful for those who know what they’re looking for. It works with presets and brushes from all CS6 and CC versions, and has been updated to run on all versions of Windows.
* The freeware BrushView QuickLook PlugIn is another oldie, from circa 2009, and seemingly aimed at Photoshop Elements users. It… “allows you to see the contents of Photoshop brush files. Now you no longer need to load a brush file into Photoshop to see its contents. … supports three different version of Photoshop [Elements] brush files — versions 1, 2, and 6.”
* The freeware abrMate 1.1 was a “Brush Viewer, Organizer, Converter, and Exporter for Windows”. Nice, but it was last updated in 2011 and only supports brushes made in Photoshop CS5 or lower, so is not really that relevant now. Apparently it required Microsoft .Net Framework 4.0 to be installed.
That’s it. I’m guessing that possibly I could also do something with Adobe Bridge in finding brushes, but I never use that and don’t want to start.
The excellent 2D animation software CrazyTalk Animator is now shipping the promised .PSD Photoshop templates with the $299 CrazyTalk Animator Pipeline version 3.1 (not to be confused with 3.01). This is from Reallusion, and so the new templates are very clearly documented.
This relatively-simple software also looks increasingly useful for re-posing 2D characters of the sort used in webcomics production, to save a whole lot of hand-drawing. So it might be considered by artists, even if you don’t want to plunge into all the pain and fiddly slogging that comes with making a full-blown animation with its backgrounds / video-editing / voice-acting / music / titles etc.
Also, I see Reallusion has iClone 7 on a pre-order with special discounts, for delivery in “June 2017”. Upgrading from iClone 5 Pro would cost $199, and that would include the vital companion software 3DXchange 6 Pro (required for working with the current incarnation of 3D Warehouse, older 3DXchange versions being no use now in that regard, because 3D Warehouse have junked all their old file versions).
I’ve looked at the new features but am not really tempted to get back into iClone, unless perhaps… if iClone 7 reveals a Comic Book inking mode that can do better than Poser 11 can. iClone 7 development looks to be pitched heavily toward meeting a slate of industry pre-vis feature requests, and competing with videogame engines such as Unreal and Unity (both free, but for now they’re stuck with nightmare interfaces intended for game developers).
The DAZ Hexagon 3d modelling software is currently on sale at $7.98. Somewhat old now, not having been developed for a few years, but fairly easy to learn and still perfectly capable of producing props and getting them to DAZ Studio and Poser in a quick way. I grabbed mine years ago, back when it was free, but it’s been full price for a while now. For your first step in learning it, Fugazi1968’s “Make your own Starfighter Tutorials” are well worth your $10, taking you through the basics in a very practical “let’s make something” way.
Worth your $65, I’d say, just for the Comic Book Mode. Also the options that owning Poser would open up, in terms of the seamless pipeline to using Vue as a renderer. The latest Vue works fine with Poser scenes and supports Poser shaders (it ‘knows’ how to render them properly in Vue). Both Poser 11 SR6 and Vue 2016 SR2 are now fully patched and integrated.
Got Vue 2016? There’s now an R2 update patch for Vue 2016. This weighs in at a 350Mb download, and in the changelog I see that they’ve added 360° VR panoramas and additional viewports, plus a host of fixes for EcoPainter and fixes for various stability and loading niggles. There’s also an R2 patch for Plant Factory.
If you don’t have Vue but want to try it, E-on has just announced the PLE (Personal Learning Edition) and trial versions of Vue 2016 and Plant Factory are now available.
The free 3D software Blender is getting a real-time render engine. Blender’s Eevee engine roadmap has just been published, and the development team are now heading toward presenting a basic demo at…
“Siggraph 2017 [end July], with a more polished usable version by the Blender Conference.”
The excellent free 3D mesh conversion and poly-reduction tool MeshLab has had a long-awaited update to MeshLab 2016 (Win 64-bit and Mac).
HandBrake 1.0 has been released to the public, after years in beta. It can do things like: take the huge raw video files from your camera, and turn them into something that’s much easier and smoother for your video editing software to use. The new v.1.0. is free and…
“brings tons of new presets and support for more devices and file types”
HitFilm Pro 2017 (version 5) has been released. It’s an affordable video editor and VFX/greenscreen compositor combo, packed with presets for easily applying raygun blasts and suchlike. It’s less costly and somewhat easier to learn-and-use than After Effects + (shudder) Adobe Premiere, and generally seems to be aimed at makers of fan-films, indie films and creatives in small production studios.
Among the new features I spotted in v.5:
* “Go Pro and 360° video support”. So I’m guessing you can seamlessly add their large library of VFX to your 360° VR, and not have them look distorted when seen in the headset viewer?
* “Autodesk FBX format support”.
* “Queue up a number of high quality tasks to export”. So there’s now some form of a Render Queue, so users can do things like render out their footage overnight.
£308 in the UK and (turns on VPN proxy and pretends to be in the USA…) $349 in the USA. Which at current exchange-rates should be £281 in the UK. So presumably they’re adding VAT sales tax, to get the UK price up to that £308 figure. As with most forms of video editing, you’re also going to need a powerful PC and masses of empty hard-disk space.
Bedroom Producers Blog has an excellent short review of what’s new in HitFilm 2017, and concludes with useful tips on how to to use HandBrake to convert your humongous source camera-footage to something that HitFilm’s timeline will work more smoothly with.
There’s an interesting new thing from Adobe, aimed at beefing up Photoshop’s presently mediocre 3D capabilities. Adobe is doing a simple for-dummies version of Keyshot, called ‘Project Felix’. It aims to make 3D more accessible for 2D artists to use in 2D pictures. Without having to learn the equivalent of the control interface of a nuclear submarine, as is the case with software such as Blender and many others.
Project Felix is still in “coming soon” mode, with a public beta set for “later in 2016” before eventually shipping with Adobe Creative Cloud sometime in 2017. It looks like it’s aimed at people who are so limited that they couldn’t even handle a half-day basic training session on Keyshot, which is just about the simplest 3D software to use.
Basically it seems to be Keyshot, plus the ability to seamlessly take the render into Photoshop as a layer. The V-ray render doesn’t look very impressive in the video, but it does look fast — so either it’s on an ultra-fast setting, or Adobe have added some special sauce to V-ray, or they’re expecting users to have a couple of ninja graphics cards available.
I wonder if the Keyshot guys will react to this move by Adobe, re: their pricing, ability to interface seamlessly with Photoshop, and maybe even a V-ray hookup? Their $1,000+ pricing, at least, will likely come down.
The other interesting thing will be to see if Adobe will support the transparency alphas in .FBX and .OBJ models exported from DAZ Studio and Poser? Will such exports have blocky square leaves and white ‘slab’ eyelashes, because Felix can’t juggle the transparency mapping correctly?