While I haven’t been writing a novel this month for the infamous NaNoWrimo, I have been working on a different and still very interesting (at least, to me) creative project.
Astute readers may recall that I dabbled in the creating of a web comic about a year and a half ago. It was an exercise in many ideas, not the least of which was — simply — my interest in creating a web comic. But the effort itself was also very useful in allowing me the chance to burn some serious practice hours on a real project inside of a great little piece of vector graphic software, Inkscape.
For those less techie folks who read this blog, I should explain: there are pretty much two categories of image editing. In category one, Photoshop is the industry standard in basic and advanced photo-slash-image-slash-raster editing. This is essentially taking a defined set of pixels and changing each pixel’s colors in a controlled way. There are lots of nifty tools and filters inside the software to change anything from individual pixels to large sets of pixels, either independently or relatively (to each other or the tool itself) all of it giving the effects of drawing, painting, smudging, blurring, twirling, posterizing, or whatever… but it all comes down to changing a pixel of one colour to a pixel of another colour, and it all resulting in a rectangular image with lots of pixels that look like something as defined by the artist.
In the second category there are vector editors like Inkscape. Vector editors don’t concern themselves too much with individual pixels (at least not until you export the final image) and instead act like really complex mathematical drawing tools — but without showing you much of the math (unless you so choose.) The vector artist will define shapes, lines, curves, fills, and spend his time twisting the tiny arc handles and shaping the curves between a very finite number of plotted points to generate a desired shape. In essence, you use tell software to (in the simplest form) draw a circle of radius X, paint it colour C with a transparency of T and outline with a line of S thickness — but with a much nicer interface — then you nudge parts of that circle until it isn’t a circle, but instead it’s the shape of a nose or a finger or a light bulb. And then you export it as crisp image of a nose or a finger or a light bulb in either full 1080p HD resolution or as an icon just big enough to sit in your task bar — or whatever size and shape you want, really.
Both types of editors have their strengths, weaknesses — and roles — in design, and I could write a book on the advantages versus the disadvantage of each. But instead I’ll just say that cartooning in vector graphics (if you learn how) is definitely the way to go… with one caveat…
Unfortunately there is one little gap — at least from my personal workload perspective — Inkscape exports just fine, drops a clean image of whatever size neatly into a PNG or JPG file, or whatever I happen to be working with. But putting the pieces together — that post-production part — is way easier in pixel image editor like Photoshop. And this puts me in a bind. Why? Because, buying a seven hundred dollar copy of Photoshop (not gonna pirate one, so don’t offer that as a solution) for a bit of cartoon post-production is not sensible. And doing ten times as much work in Inkscape to do the same post production fudging of the work is boring and a bit of a fun-killer.
So, last night I spent a couple hours revisiting the world of open source image editors. And I also decided on a bit of a professional-slash-creative goal: I’m going to be publishing another web comic in the coming months. This isn’t a vague goal: A bunch of the art is already done, about ten pages worth of story are in the bag, and I just need to piece it all together… somehow. But, seeing as all the work I’ve done so far has leaned upon the free software world, I’m going to see if I can maintain that status for the whole project. I know perfectly well it’s possible, but here’s the thing: I want to deliver a completed web comic in the clear and open. I want to write a full comic designed and complete with free and/or open source software.
I’ll explain more in future posts… stay tuned.