Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Ingredients of Visual Expression

My April/May AfterCapture Magazine Express Yourself! column is now available for download as a PDF file. This column describes a a way to look at the ingredients of visual expression.


Lynda.com Painter 11 Title in Development

I'm currently in the process of producing a Painter 11 Essentials title for lynda.com. It's shaping up to be 8-10 hours of tutorials. I'll be in Ventura, California next month for the video production. I'm guessing that Painter 11 Essentials will be ready for release in June.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mapping the Wacom Intuos4 for Corel Painter

Click to download PDF

I've been enjoying working with the new Wacom Intuos4 tablet in conjunction with Painter 11. After a bit of adjusting, I've come up a mapping scheme that works well for me. In particular, I've found mapping Painter's 32-level Undo/Redo to the TouchRing to be highly useful. I've set it up so that the 32 undo levels are cycled by a counter-clockwise motion on the TouchRing. Redo, then, is applied with a clockwise motion. This setup enables the ability to review your most recent actions, providing a powerful safety net that encourages experimentation.

I've applied subtle brush resizing as the other TouchRing function. I do a lot of detail work, so I like to be able to adjust my brush in small increments (1- or 2-pixel resizing). For large-scale brush adjustments, I've mapped an ExpressKey to OPT + CMD (ALT + CTRL on Windows). This enables me to press this ExpressKey, then click-and-drag on the current image to quickly resize the brush (using an onscreen circle preview while dragging).

Because I use the Undo/Redo and brush resizing functions so much, I've double-mapped them to the 4 TouchRing positions. This keeps both functions only one click away. And, to be honest, there aren't a lot of possibilities available in Painter for continuous functions to map.

Another ExpressKey is set to invoke the Rotate Page tool. I press and hold this key, then click-and-drag on the image to rotate the canvas to the desired orientation. (Note: You can't map Painter's page rotation to the TouchRing—Painter doesn't currently have individual commands for clockwise and counterclockwise rotation.) The rest of the ExpressKeys are used for screen navigation.

I've created a PDF of my Intuos4 mapping setup. You can download it by clicking on the small preview image at the beginning of this blog post. If you are a Painter user with an Intuos4 and wondering how to take advantage of the tablet's control surface, you might want to use my setup as a starting point—or use it as is.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Look at the Wacom Intuos 4 Tablet

In prepping my upcoming lynda.com Painter 11 title, I've been creating some graphics relating to the Intuos tablets.

Here is how I've currently got my Intuos4 set up. I've included a shot of the tablet surface so you can see how the OLED displays work:

Intuos4 UI

I've got 2 variations for brush resizing: The TouchRing is set up to resize in 2-pixel increments (a 1-pixel setting is good, as well). This control works well for fine detail work where small brush size changes are desired.

The OPT + CMD (Win: ALT + CTRL) button is used to invoke the adjustable brush size indicator. This is used for large brush size changes.

As you can see, I'm currently limiting the use of the TouchRing to 2 functions: Brush Resizing and Undo/Redo. I use these so much that I doubled them so that I'm only one click away from either function. And, to be honest, there aren't a lot of continuously variable controls available in Painter. Another option would be zooming. Painter 11 now restricts zooming to standard increments (5/10/25/33/50/66/75/100/200/300/400%. etc)—which is a good thing in my opinion. These zoom increments provide the best resized image quality as they are integers that minimize the jaggies at these zoom levels.

Here's how I have my Intuos3 set up:

Intuos3 UI

This layout uses the same controls as the Intuos4, just mapped according to the Intuos3 surface.

I arrived at this layout after a lot of adjustments over time.

Because the Intuos3 doesn't have built-in labels, I created some that I applied to my tablet with 2.5" clear packaging tape.

You can download a correct-sized PDF of my labels here:

John's Intuos3 Labels.

I've got both left- and right-handed versions on the sheet.

Regarding the pens, the Intuos3 pens are not compatible with the Intuos4. Right now, the Intuos4 version of the 6D Pen is not yet available, and it will be an added expense for Intuos4 owners when it becomes available.

The extended pressure range is very noticeable and offers significant sensitivity enhancement. Those extra levels provide a much more tactile stroke and control at thin mark-making widths. There is a "Precision Mode" available (if you want to assign a key to it) that temporarily increases the tablet resolution. The effect is one of slowing the pen stroke down for very fine control.

The Intuos4 can be set up for left or right hand orientation. I'm left-handed, so I have the control surface on the right side of the tablet. There are 2 USB mini ports so that you will always have the cable located at the upper left or right edge of the tablet, which is the way you'll want it. The OLED displays flip for whichever orientation you've chosen.

Another feature that I've not yet gone into depth is the Radial Menu. This is a configurable onscreen menu that is triggered by a button on the tablet surface or the pen barrel. These menus float over any current onscreen imagery.

Here is the default Radial Menu:

Intuos3 UI

The top menu is the initial menu. It can be set up to have functions in all 8 pie slices.

The menus with the arrows near the center have a secondary menu, shown at the bottom of the above image.

Again, all of the commands can be programmed. In theory, you can have any number of sub-menus. Theoretically, most of Painter's commands could be organized in the Radial Menu's organizational structure.

Here's a look at a simple Radial Menu that I set up with some Painter commands. I invoked it over a painting so you can see how it looks in a working environment:

Intuos4 UI

Overall, I think the Intuos4 is a significant evolutionary step for Wacom. The configurable OLED labels point the way to future products. The enhanced pen sensitivity is very obvious—at least in Painter.