Graphics Apps I LURVE! Pixite Assembly

I made a cute thing in Pixite’s Assmebly app. I’m calling these guys “Shroomies,” because they’re squishie and they’re sitting on mushrooms.

Shroomies art

Aren’t they cute?!


If you haven’t used Assembly, it’s really nice and fun. The app gives you a blank art board and a library of shapes to create artwork with. You don’t draw in the traditional sense. Instead, you assemble the shapes like collage pieces to make an image. Assembly lets you set the color, transparency and outline of each shape, and you can also add shadows. You can group multiple shapes together, as well as combine or cut out shapes from each other. And, best of all, if you make a custom shape, or group of shapes (like my little Shroomie creatures above), you can save them in a custom sticker library to use again and again!

Assembly does have a couple limitations. First, it only offers flat colors, not gradients.  To get the gradient effects above, I exported my original artwork as a PNG, and then brought it into Shift, another Pixite app, to touch up the colors and add some scratchy, old-photo texture.

A second issue is the lack of layers. While you can group shapes, the app doesn’t offer layers to make organizing parts of your artwork easier. In other graphics apps, I like to use layers to separate my background, foreground, and mid ground elements, but that’s not an option in Assmbly.

Still, I love Assembly by Pixite! I’ve made some really great artwork in it, and I can always export artwork from Assembly as an SVG, if I want to bring it into Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator, or another vector graphics app. Assembly is pretty simple to use, and I can do a lot of cool things with it.

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 – Landscapes in Manga Studio 5 EX

I’m still doodling away with Craft-a-Doodle, but I’ve also been playing with something else on the side that I thought I’d share this week. I have always loved to draw, but I struggle with drawing backgrounds and landscapes, especially when I need to create them from scratch. This can be a problem for someone who’s supposed to be a webcomic artist. While I can usually get away with nothing more than a colored gradient in the background, sometimes I need to actually set the scene. If we’re outside, where are we? At the pool? In the park? On the moon?

After years of avoiding the problem as much as I could, I finally decided I needed to learn how to make landscapes. I started simply at first, working with basic foreground, mid-ground, and background layers. For a lot of this, I used Pixite’s Assembly app on my iPad, because it gave me pre-made shapes (trees, mountains, clouds, etc.) that I could layer over and under each other to get what I wanted. Then I started to get a little more ambitious, creating my own vector shapes in Pixite, making more complex trees, fancier mountains, and so on. And once I felt confident enough working with a library of pre-made shapes, I moved on to drawing things from scratch in other vector-based apps like Concepts or Inkpad on my iPad.

Today, however, I decided it was time to move from my iPad to my Surface, to see if I could take things a bit further. I love having a library of pre-made objects to pull from when I’m working on a more complex landscape, but I also want to be able to easily create organic shapes on the fly. My iPad apps let me do one or the other, but I haven’t found an app that lets me do both, so I pulled out my Surface Pro to see what I could do there.

It turns out that with a bit of fiddling, Manga Studio 5 EX is perfect for what I want. I was able to create a vector drawing tool that allows me to draw organic shapes, AND I can then save those shapes to Manga Studio’s “materials” library to use again later. The vector drawing tool I came up with is basically a dialogue pen balloon tool. I turned out off the outline, using only the background color to fill the shapes I draw. I set the correction for the pen stroke very low, since I want my shapes to be complex and not over-simplified. And then I just started drawing with it.

Because I’m using a tool meant for dialogue balloons, I can set the tool to either draw on a new layer or on a pre-selected layer. This way I can sort the pieces I draw in an organized fashion. And even if I do draw multiple shapes on the same layer, each shape retains  its own vector path instead of merging into other vector objects on that layer. So I can still select each individual object to edit it as I need to.

I realize all this sounds very technical, but if you’ve ever worked with vector drawing programs, you probably have some idea of what I’m talking about here. And if you’ve ever worked with Manga Studio and are looking for a way to play with it, this is a pretty good option!

Anyway, here’s the current landscape that I’m working on. It’s inspired by a postcard I have of Sequoia National Park. The postcard was painted in the style of the old WPA posters, perfect for vector graphics. The original was painted by Doug Leen and Brian Maebius. They did an entire series of postcards for the national parks, and you can find out more at www.rangerdoug.com.

In the meantime, here’s my version of their postcard 🙂

Vector landscape

Manga Stuio 5 EX vector landscape in progress

Like I said, this is a work in progress. You can see that so far I’ve done the trees in the background and in the foreground. I’ve only just started working on the mid-ground. But what’s nice is that I’ve been able to save pieces of this as objects in the Materials library, so now I can reuse them again if I need to. For example, those big trees in the background could come in handy later on! And they’re saved as vector objects so I can easily adjust their size, color, opacity, etc., as needed.

Anyway, that’s it for this week’s drawing practice. I’m working on doodles of cats this week, so that will show up in next week’s blog post!

Creature Comforts – Day 27 & 28, Sick Days

Yesterday afternoon (Day 27 of Creature Comforts), I started to feel a little less than stellar. By evening I had a pounding headache, aches and pains, and an upset stomach. I managed to do the bare minimum of work – crocheting together another strip of granny squares for the monstrous blanket of doom. 

Kittens and blanket

The kittens did their best to make me feel better.

 

I decided to sleep late – very late – this morning, and spend the rest of the day doing as little as possible. So I curled up on my beloved couch and did a little more work on the blanket. Then I decided that was too hard so I switched to drawing instead.

 

Sick Day Drawing

She looks better than I feel.

 
Really, this is more tracing and coloring than drawing at this point, and since I find those to be comforting activities, I’m including this drawing in Creature Comforts. I did the pencil work on this earlier in the week then transfered it over to Concepts on my iPad. I think I’m going to spend more time mindlessing coloring in tomorrow, since that’s about all I feel like doing. I’m still not 100% today, and I have a ton of volunteer work to do this weekend, so I’m taking another sick day to recover and I will get done whatever I get done. I’ll try to show the results tomorrow, if I’m feeling well enough. Good night for now.

Krampus Challenge – Day 26, Krampus Kawaii

 

Krampus Kawall!

I have big plans for this little guy.

 
I spent a little time playing in Assembly this evening. They have a few shape packs available for free download right now, if you’re interested in checking out the app. It comes preloaded with some nice packs, but more shape packs are available for sale. And yes, this does export as vector.

Krampus Challenge – Day 15, Creepy Eyeballs!

Look! I made a pretty holiday picture!

He sees you when you're sleeping...

Doesn’t this make you feel festive?!

I obviously still need to do a little cleaning up on this, because the strings for the two smaller ornaments are peeking up through the lettering on the top, but that’s for tomorrow. I’m going to hunt down Zazzle’s latest greeting card template and put this on there. I know it’s very late to set up holiday cards for Christmas, but hey, some of us don’t get our Christmas cards out until July!

Technical info – this graphic was made with Assembly for the iPad, with text and gradients handled in Corel Draw on my Surface Pro.

I’m going to bed now. Sleep tight! And don’t let the sugar plum fairies bite!

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 🙂