Testing out Clip Studio Paint for the iPad

Gibbie and I go out for a run

A test comic of me and Gibbie going out for a run

Oooooh! What is this? Is it… a WEBCOMIC?!

Well, sort of. One of the biggest stumbling blocks last year to me getting the webcomic done was problems with software and hardware. I had purchased a new Microsoft Surface Pro with a larger screen, in hopes that the larger screen would make Manga Studio EX more readable, thus leading to more regular output of webcomics from me.

Alas, this was not the case. The Surface Pro really isn’t the ideal laptop for me, even with its touchscreen and high resolution. For starters, the stylus for the new Surface Pros last year was not a Wacom stylus. I have used Wacom styluses (styli?) for years, and I love them. They are dependable, easy to use, and work beautifully with a huge list of desktop software and iPad drawing apps. But for some reason, Microsoft decided to NOT use a Wacom stylus anymore and instead sold its own stylus with the Surface Pro.

What a lousy idea. First off, the Microsoft stylus runs on AAAA batteries! Do you know how hard it is to find AAAA batteries in local stores? We had to order the damn things just to get the stylus to work. That made no sense to me whatsoever. Wacom figured out a long time ago how to make styli (styluses?) that didn’t require batteries for power! My current iPad stylus, a Wacom Creative, is actually set up to charge off a USB port or Apple charger (just take out the attached cable and plug in Wacom’s charger attachment and power that sucker on up!).

The second problem I encountered was that Manga Studio DID NOT LIKE the Microsoft stylus. Rather than let me draw quickly and easily, it seemed to reject the stylus at every turn, as if the software instinctively KNEW that I was trying to pull a fast one by using a Microsoft stylus instead of a Wacom.

I struggled with it for a while, but eventually, the problem was so ridiculous that I gave up on Microsoft’s stylus and on the Surface Pro (what a waste of money). I tried searching for apps to draw webcomics on my iPad, but by that point, I’d been spoiled rotten by Manga Studio. It had layers! It had vector AND raster! It had materials and tones! It had so many effects and bells and whistles and I used all that stuff to make the webcomic!  Nothing else had this, except for a few apps that just did not play nice on my iPad. And then life started to fall apart in general and that sort of put paid to the idea of me drawing anything for a while.

Then earlier this year, I discovered that Clip Paint Studio, the original Manga Studio, was available as an app for the iPad. I decided to give it a try, but wasn’t very hopeful as I expected to encounter some of the same problems I’d had with the Surface Pro, that of having a full fledge software program on a small screen.

HOWEVER! Clip Studio Paint did look just fine on my iPad, so I plunked the money down for a subscription (yeah, it’s subscription based, which sucks, but….) and went to work on drawing new webcomics

Then I ran into the another problem that reminded me too much of the trouble I’d been having with Manga Studio on the Surface Pro. THE APP DID NOT LIKE MY WACOM STYLUS.

It liked the Apple Pencil just fine, but for some reason, it wouldn’t see the Wacom stylus as a pressure sensitive device, and so while it would let the Wacom draw, I lost all the ability to make lines thick and thin just by adding a bit of pressure (and if you draw comics, you know what a HUGE problem that can be).

Now, I have an Apple Pencil, but the damn thing is constantly running out of power. Honestly, I just can’t keep it charged. The power will last for a couple days and then FBBTZZ! Nothing. The Wacom can last for weeks on a single charge, so I never have to worry about not being able to use it, but if it wouldn’t work right in Clip Studio Paint… Well, let’s just say that contributed to another 8 or 9 months of hiatus from the webcomic.

Well, last week, I decided to open up Clip Studio Paint (I had paid for the damn thing, after all) and give it another try. I don’t know what they did, I don’t recall any update, but for whatever reason, the app now works just fine with my Wacom Creative stylus. So I decided to knock out a test drawing, see how long it took to make (still takes me longer than I’d like to draw even a single panel comic), and the result is the image you saw above waaaaaaaaaaaaay back at the beginning of this ramble.

Long story short, I may finally be able to get back to drawing webcomics the way I want to. Long story not quite as short, I may still have to suck it up from time to time and find some other way to draw the webcomic. So I’m going to research other apps that I see recommended, including Procreate and SketchClub and others, and I’ll show the results of my research here from time to time.

’Nuff said.

Messy Monday – life is messy and so is my drawing but I love it!

I am doing my best to blog two to three times a week, but things are pretty crazy, as usual. Both girls are home all day, and we’re working all day long to train the puppy. On top of that, Princess has cross country practice Monday through Friday, at 7AM, at a different location every day. Our schedule is such a MESS!

But life is always messy, so I am doing my best to draw everyday and to get at least two blog posts out every week. And they may get posted a little late, but that’s better than not at all!

For this week’s Messy Monday, I thought I’d share a drawing I’m working on. 


It’s a mermaid! I’m drawing this one in Concepts on my iPad Pro. I decided to do this drawing in a deliberately messy style, using Concepts’ filled area tool to draw all the lines as well as other shapes, because I get the best results in Concepts when I draw that way rather than try to create very controlled lines and shapes. I started out using my Apple Pencil when I began working on this piece, but I wasn’t happy with how the Pencil was handling. The tip of the Pencil is so slick, it was just skidding across the screen of my iPad, causing me all sorts of problems, especially lots of stray marks. I mean, I wanted a sort of messy style, but not that messy! 

Desperate to get some sort of control over my stylus, I put my Pencil away and pulled out my old Wacom Creative stylus. Yes, it’s older. Yes, it has the fatter tip. But that tip is made of rubber, and it grips the screen so much better! So I decided to keep working with the Creative stylus.

Then, one evening, when I posted an earlier version of this drawing to Twitter, I happened to mention I was drawing it in Concepts and using my old Wacom stylus to do it. And you know what? The folks over at Concepts saw that tweet and asked me which old stylus I was using. After a bit of conversation about my old Creative stylus and the problems I was having with my Apple Pencil, they asked me if I might be interested in getting the newer Wacom Bamboo Sketch stylus. Uh, yeah I would! And that led to Concepts talking to Wacom, who just happened to be looking to give the new Sketch stylus to a few folks, and whaddya know?! Less than a week later (today, as a matter of fact), a brand new Wacom Bamboo Sketch stylus showed up in the mail!

I’ve been working with the Sketch this afternoon, and used it today on the mermaid drawing above. I like how it handles! The tip is definitely smaller than my old Creative stylus, but it still has a nice feel to it, gripping the screen of my iPad just enough to keep from skidding erratically all over my artwork.

I will post an actual review of the new Sketch stylus sometime in the next week. For now though, I just want to play with it for a while. I have a little free time tonight, which I’m going to take advantage of right now. Because with my messy schedule, you grab that free time whenever you get a chance!

Practice Drawing – Cats, cats, and more cats!

I am slowly working my way through the book Craft-a-Doodle, playing with the tutorials for drawing fun little doodles. I got stalled on the exercises in the second chapter though, which was about drawing pugs. The tutorial is very straightforward. The problem is, I didn’t want to draw pugs. To me, pugs seemed to be the signature motif of the artist who wrote the tutorials for that chapter – Gemma Correl. Her pugs are adorable, but they’re also her pugs, and I’m not doing this drawing practice so that I can perfectly imitate anotehr artists.

I opted therefor, to draw cats instead. I know nothing about pugs, but I’ve lived with cats all my life. We have three prime specimens in the house right now, in fact! So, after reading through Gemma Correl’s pug-drawing tutorial, I set baout drawing cats.

The basic idea behind Correl’s pug drawings is that they’re very simple and very cute. Everything is composed of basic shapes, mainly circles and triangles. So I tried to stick to that idea when I drew my cats. However, things didn’t quite workout the way I wanted…

I drew my first cat in Paper on my iPad and immediately ran into problems. Paper doesn’t give me a lot of control over how the tools work. I can pick a tool and I can pick the color to draw or paint with, but I can’t make any adjustments beyond that.  And there’s a definite limit to how far I can zoom in. In some ways, that makes Paper the perfect app for doodling, but in others, I feel crippled by the app. I can’t draw as smoothly as I can in other, more sophisticated apps, nor do I have the tactile advantage of working with more traditional media, like markers and card stock. Anyway, I drew the first cat, and here’s how he turned out.


Okay, he’s not bad, but I wanted to draw him with a thicker line and I didn’t have the option to do that. The result was a scratchy little drawing that just disappeared on the page. Since the lines were so thin, I thought maybe coloring him would help him pop out more. I opted to give him Siamese coloring, and discovered that the watercolor brush in paper has some quirks when it comes to blending and layering colors. Frustrated, I decided to redraw my cat in another app.

Here’s cat number two, drawn in Tayasui Sketches. Again, I did a simple pen drawing with watercolor.


To me, this was even worse. The water color blended better, but I had such limited control over the size of the brush that colors were constantly bleeding into areas where I didn’t want them. Keep in mind, I wasn’t using the pro version, of Sketches, although I did pay to unlock all the features in the version I am using, so I’m not sure what the differences is between the two apps. I also don’t know if the pro version would allow me more control over the brush size. That’s something I’m going to ave to investigate. But the biggest problem I had with Sketches was that it worked sooooooooo slooooooowly on my iPad. There was a definite lag between when I drew a line and when it actually appeared. I don’t know what the problem was, but that’s something else I’ll have to look into.

Anyway, frustrated with both Paper and Sketches, I finally opened up my favorite drawing app, Sketchclub, and drew a cat in that. Sketchclub has a pen tool, excelelnt zooming, panning and rotating capabilities, layers, and shape drawing tools. It doesn’t have water color brushes, but it does have plenty of other tools that I think make up for that. And since at this point I was damned and determined to draw a cat the way I wanted to draw one, I ditched the whole idea of a simple doodle and pulled out all the stops to draw a Siamese cat. And here it is!


Again, not a doodle at all, and the complete opposite of the point I think Gemma Correll was trying to make, but this was the one cat drawing I was happy with, so there you go.

This is not the end of the cat saga, of course. I had not accomplished the goal of the tutorial, and I refused to be beaten by this, but I did set the tutorial aside for a while. I’ll show you the results of round two next week!

Bring Out Your Dead – 6 April, Greeting Cards for Goths

A miracle has occurred. I’ve managed to squeeze in about 6 hours of work in the last 3 days! That’s the “might possibly earn me some money” kind of work, not the “I sold my soul to Girl Scouts” kind of work.

I’ve also managed to do some yard work, clean the house a bit, cook a few meals and exercise 3 days in a row! So many miracles! And I am soooooooooooooooooooo tired right now.

But it’s a good kind of tired, because I made a choice about how I wanted to spend my time and I didn’t let myself get derailed by what other folks wanted. Did I mention that I even played video games with the kids this week? Far out, dude!

But back to resurrecting my dead career. My current goals are:

A) Get back on a regular schedule with the webcomic, so that I’m back to putting out a new strip every week.

2) Draw and publish one or two new greeting cards (or mug designs, t-shirts, etc.) each month.

Which brings us to the topic in the headline – Greeting Cards for Goths.

I do not consider myself to be a Goth, though I love to wear black and I celebrate Halloween all year long. I’m more of a general geek, with a sort of minor in punk, zombie, kawaii and Goth interests. In other words, I enjoy lots of different things. One thing I especially enjoy is drawing beautiful but creepy ladies. I get a lot of inspiration for Edward Gorey (who doesn’t?) and Aubrey Beardsley. Combine that with my fondess for twisted humor and you get some very interesting ideas for greeting cards. Like greeting cards you can send to people you don’t like. Greeting cards made for people who despise the mundane world. Greeting cars for people who live in Night Vale. Greeting cards for people who like their humor the way they like their coffee – sweetened with the blood of innocents and the tears of the wretched. In other words, greeting cards for people just like you and me!

So I’ve been working on drawings for these cards. I do this at the local library, where I have the perfect excuse to turn off my phone (if I don’t, the librarians will sacrifice me to their dark gods). I find a nice comfy chair, spend an hour working on the webcomic, and then spend another hour working on the greeting cards. Here’s a peek at what I’ve managed to produce so far this week:  

Cool sketch!

“I’m so gloomily beautiful, I may faint!”

 Isn’t she lovely?!

I’m doing the sketch in SketchClub on my iPad. Once I’ve got both the inside and outside artwork sketched out, I’ll import the images into Concepts to ink and color them. Final clean-up and formatting will be done in Corel Draw on my desktop.

I’m very happy with this piece so far. Like I said, I feel like miracles are happening this week. Just making the decision to reduce my volunteer hours has given me a real boost. Hopefully, I’ll get my boundaries between volunteering and work firmly established by the time cookie season comes around again. Because I do not want to get sucked into a black hole of unending burn-out ever again!

I’ll post another update later this week. Until then, have fun!

November Drawing – Day 30, Finishing “Time”

I took this drawing as far as I could go in the Concepts app…

 

What a way to end the month!

 
I have exported the SVG of this to work on in Corel Draw. I don’t know if I’ll get to him this week, but I think I can finish the Pirate Queen. And I will continue to work on the other mermaid I started at some point before 1 January.

Considering that my main goal this month was to draw every day, I’m very pleased. I finished up 4 drawings on the iPad, and have a 5th drawing about 3/4th finished. I do believe I got the hang of the Concepts app. It helps that they released a major update at the beginning of the month.

Today I also found out that Indeeo’s Graphic app also had a major update. Graphic is another vector app that I use, though I haven’t played with it much lately. That’s going to change! Indeeo added the ability to  draw tapered vector strokes using a variety of brushes. Add to this that Graphic has a text tool, complex shape tool, alignment tools, SVG export and import, and other nice features, I’m thinking that Graphic is going to become one of my go-to programs from now on. And did I mention it plays nice with Concepts? Yeah, going to use those two apps a LOT from now on.

As for Adobe Illustrator Draw, I will be abandoning that app. They just did a nother big update today, and still no SVG export. I doubt they will ever add that option back in, and that stinks. I paid for the original app, paid to unlock the layers and SVG export features, and now I have drawings on there that I can’t do a damn thing with because I can’t export them as SVG UNLESS I OWN A COPY OF A PROGRAM I CAN’T AFFORD AND DON’T WANT TO BUY ANYWAY. I will export low-res PNGs of my work from there so I can redraw them in either Graphic or Concepts. It’ll be a lot of work, but it will be worth it.

So that’s the end results for November Drawing! Tomorrow we start work on December’s Krampus theme. YAY!

November Drawing – Day 29, Flat Colors for “Time” Finished

 

Flat colors!

I have no idea why I chose these colors, but they seem to work.

 
I am hoping that tomorrow I can finish off any detail coloring on this one. Then I’ll spend the rest of the week fniishing off the red-haired mermaid I started at the beginning of the month (yes, I am STILL detailing her hair). When I get that done, I’ll clean up all the drawings from this month. I plan to offer at least four of them as prints. I have a Society 6 shop, but I also have a Zazzle shop. I’m thinking of closing the Society 6 shop and just moving everything over to the Zazzle shop. I don’t really have the time to manage multiple shops, and the greeting cards I sell do well on Zazle, so I think it would be best to consolidate there. I’ll be taking a look at both shops this week to see.

Anyway, tomorrow is the last day for this challenge, and then I move on to the “Krampus” challenge for December. Fun times ahead, people! Fun times indeed 🙂

November Drawing – Day 27, Drawing “Time”

I decided to see if I could squeeze in one more drawing this month. 

Just one more drawing this month!

I think I will call this “The Fly of Time.”

 

I think this was kind of sort of inspired by the latest trailer for “Alice Through The Looking Glass,” but I wasn’t really consciously thinking of it when I started drawing. I was just thinking about what it would be like to have one really big giant eye. A really big giant clock for an eye.

I did the pencil sketch in Sketch Club on my iPad, then imported that into Concepts. I love Sketch Club for sketching quick pieces but also for more involved digital painting. I’m thinking that sometime in the next couple months I may do a painting challenge.

Meanwhile I’m looking ahead to next month’s challenge. I’ve decided that for December the challenge will be “Krampus.” I want to do a series of projects related to Krampus – drawings, Krampus cards, ornaments for my personal Krampus tree, and maybe a few Krampus related gifts. I’ll be crocheting, doing computer graphics, sewing, and who knows what else. We’ll find out next month!

November Drawing – Day 26, I’m thankful for a cleaned up SVG!!

I did it!! I managed to clean up the Victorian Mermaiden this morning!

Pretty, pretty Mermaiden!

Oooooh, so cleaned up and pretty!

It took a few hours of work, but I think I managed to make this look really nice! I created a custom brush stroke to use on the inking lines, and then had to fiddle with the settings for a while to get a stroke that wasn’t too thick. It helped that I scaled the drawing up by 250%, but was able to keep the stroke width of the inking from scaling up with it!

See the difference between the before and after images!

Sad mermaiden drawing...

No line variation, just thick heavy clunky lines!

Happy mermaiden!

MUCH better! The lines look like ink strokes, and the colors look nicer too!

I spent a lot of time playing with the colors. The background frame really gave me trouble. The original colors were way too dark, but I wanted to have a strong contrast between the frame and the mermaiden. So when the dark colors weren’t working, I went in the opposite direction. Lightening up the frame made a huge difference!

I still want to add a few touches to the background frame, but this one is pretty close to done. Yay!