CinePaint and The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics

Excellent book by DC Comics illustrator Frederick E. Williams II  shows how to create comic book art using paint software and has clues for improving CinePaint

By Robin Rowe

The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics, book has clues how to improve CinePaint

The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics, book has clues how to improve CinePaint

HOLLYWOOD, CA ( 2011/12/4 – DC Comics illustrator Frederieck E. Williams II uses many digital tools for creating comics including Adobe Photoshop and Google SketchUp. While artists like Williams must operate within the limits of what their tools are designed to do, CinePaint has the flexibility to have new features added through open source programming. This video from Williams gives an overview the process of using a master page template to create comic book pages for comic book publishers DC Comics, Dark Horse, Image Comics or Marvel.  This process is much the same no matter what tools you use. Williams has a free template in TIFF format that you can use in CinePaint.

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The technique Williams teaches is to start with a very rough drawing then refine it by adding layer after layer. The lower rough layers are used as a guide then turned off to disappear from the final drawing. The most significant layers are Rough, Breakdown, Wireframe and Inking. Rough is just a doodle. Breakdown has the proportions of the final drawing. Wireframe is the image as line art with no shading. Inking adds shadows and shading. There are many more layers than these, such as Script and Reference layers. The Reference layer contains reference art from the artist’s library or other sources.  The Gesture layer looks like a storyboard, with a page of the script on the left and four or five panels of sketches down the right hand side.

Stat backgrounds are reusable backgrounds that characters can be moved in front of after characters have been made into cut-outs. To add half-tones, Zip-a-tones are added to selections made with the Lasso tool. These are newsprint-like dot patterns. Another trick is adding motion lines, a layer with a series of lines radiating from the vanishing point toward the viewer. Williams uses Transforms with warp for such tasks as exaggerating perspective on buildings and fitting superhero logos (e.g., the Superman “S”) onto uniforms. Another way he achieves perspective is to draw backgrounds in 3D using Google Sketch. To keep perspective under control in 2D, Williams uses a Perspective Path. More in this video…

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Seems like a lot of work for the artist to do This is a good example of something we could implement better inside of CinePaint.

Actions (recorded macros) enable Photoshop to repeat tedious tasks to save time for the artist. Actions can be mapped to a function key or saved to a file as a Droplet. Once it’s a Droplet, you can drop image files onto the to automate the same task across many files without opening them one-by-one. Having a good macro-recorder in CinePaint is something I’d like to see finished soon.  Work on that was disrupted by the GTK1/GTK2/FLTK GUI coding challenges. The plan was to take CinePaint from GTK1 to FLTK, and when that got delayed CinePaint adopted GTK2 in the interim.  All the GUI work was vastly delayed by build system obstacles from legacy code in CinePaint. Enhancements are being made to the build system to overcome that.

Photoshop CS supports using JavaScript, which Williams says he doesn’t know how to use. Most artists are not programmers. CinePaint has a Scheme-based interpreter it can use or Perl or Python, but none of these are ideal. Many programmers are repelled by Scheme and using Perl and Python creates build and platform problems. Using JavaScript, Squirrel or UnderC would probably serve CinePaint better.  Adding embedded Java using JamVM was researched, but had enough technical obstacles to prevent going forward.  Using a small embedded language is key for making the build and portability reasonable.

Because CinePaint has similar features, any digital art tutorial tends to be a good source of inspiration for working in CinePaint. Here are some magazines that provide tutorials…

One Comment
  1. News Release…

    “CinePaint Releases Version 1.0, Preps for 1.1”

    Deep paint software used by artists, professional photographers and film studios has new release

    HOLLYWOOD, CA ( 2011/12/4 – “The Thanksgiving release of CinePaint fixed many build errors and offers a source tarball that can be downloaded and built on Linux,” says CinePaint project manager Robin Rowe. “There hadn’t been a release of CinePaint in a long time. Now that we’re back, the priority is to adopt a ‘release early, release often’ strategy.”

    CinePaint is a free open source deep paint software that’s an alternative for users seeking high fidelity painting tools like Adobe Photoshop, Apple Aperture or Corel Painter. CinePaint has been used for frame retouching on many feature films including “Harry Potter”. It’s valued by professional photographers for its HDR color capabilities and gallery-quality B&W. Community development is hosted by SourceForge.

    An obstacle to making speedy CinePaint releases has been its legacy build system that had become so complex that even a small change to CinePaint’s code could take a day to build and test. Build system changes are being made so it will be faster and easier for developers to build and turn around CinePaint releases in the future.

    The Thanksgiving release of CinePaint was numbered at version 1.0 rather than incremented to 0.26. That was done for administrative reasons, to keep the new build changes distinct from the old series. The CinePaint 1.1 release is scheduled for Christmas.

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