January 27, 2009

Data Backup Addendum

In answer to the backup problem, I ended up buying two Maxtor 500GB external hard drives for A$100 each. The backup of the Time Capsule seems to be working, although I’ve only done a cursory check so far as to the data integrity. I’ll need to figure out the best way of double checking the backups are fine - they’re no use if they are corrupted.

All goes to plan, then I’ll have more than enough copies of my work - my iMac hard drive, the Time Capsule archive, two backups of the archive on external hard drives, and the occasional DVD-ROM I burn of my workspace directory. Even in the case of a major disaster I should have a working backup from which to pick up the pieces.

I’ll make a post later or tomorrow about what I’ll be working on next. The weather might become an issue. The room I work in is a giant heat trap, and Melbourne is currently scheduled for the hottest week in a century, apparently. I’m only one stupidly hot day in to the heatwave and its hot and stuffy - if it doesn’t cool down overnight, by Thursday it’ll be like an oven in here

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January 23, 2009

Data Backup, Time Capsule

One thing I’ve never been that great about is my data backup procedures. For the last few years my backup procedure was to burn a CD-ROM or two every week of certain directories on my hard disk. Really important files would get put on a USB stick or copied to a USB drive daily to be carried around with me as a method for porting to other computers. All good in theory, but it had the teensy flaw that I’d often forget to burn the discs and the USB sticks and drives tend to get beat around a bit when I carry them with me. I’m also a bit wary that I’ve never had to test my backup CD-ROMs to find something old.

This year, I’m ramping up a notch in my efforts for proper backup. Today I set up a 500GB Apple Time Capsule (an Xmas gift) to work with Time Machine. It’s pretty straightforward to set up, which I like: less chance of me screwing things up. Example why this is important: I ruined the first two attempts to do the first full backup due to me curiously poking around with the settings while it was running.

The Time Capsule seems to run pretty well. It’s nice and quiet, although it does put off a lot of heat. For a little while today I was storing it in the foot space under a chest of drawers, but I was worried about the ventilation in such an enclosed space and on carpet. While it did have at least five centimetres of space on every side save the bottom, I moved it to a spare bookcase shelf instead. I’m not sure if I’m being a bit paranoid there, but it’s no good having a backup solution if it goes up and dies on you prematurely.

Time Machine seems to be good as a just-run-and-let-it-go backup service. I really should have been using it earlier, but my USB HD was a bit small and conked out on me around the same time I got the iMac and I never got a replacement. Now I’ve got backups of the entire hard disk every hour. I’ve still got to figure out which directories I need to exclude from the backups - there’s no point backing up temporary directories that change all the time - but that’s not urgent.

Now I’ve got an external hard disk and a regular backup system, I’m not sure what to supplement this with. The Time Capsule on its own isn’t sufficient, as in the case of damage or theft in my office both the computer and the Capsule are likely to be damaged. The Capsule is great for on-site backup, but I’m going to need an off-site backup too.

I could pay for one of those internet backup services, but I’m not sure that’s best for me. My internet connection is pretty darn slow and expensive by world standards.

Alternatively, I could get a couple of USB HDs and either regularly mirror the Time Capsule or do manual backups. Then I can keep one in an off-site location and swap it every now and again. That’s not too bad an approach, although it does mean buying at least two 500GB USB HDs, manually doing the backups and storing them somewhere that isn’t here. There’s also the possibility that Time Machine might mangle the backups without detecting the problem; it’s not much use having multiple copies of corrupted backups. Manual backups instead of mirroring could fix this.

Or I could stick to burning CD-ROMs. It’s not that expensive to burn a CD or two every week, and it’s easier to store them off-site nearly anywhere. Plus I’ll have a different method of backup in case one method goes awry. The downside is that I have to remember to do it, the directory structure needs to be set up in such a way that important files are all together, and there’s a limited amount of data that can fit on one disk (although I can go to DVD to help fix that issue).

And of course, I could do multiple of these. However there’s a downside to tying up the backup procedure with too much bureaucracy; I could end up just avoiding doing any of it. That’s why I wanted the Time Capsule in the first place.

I’m still mulling this one over. The logical part of my brain says the USB HD thing makes sense, as if the Time Capsule conks out then I’ll have a perfect mirror image with which to create it. And my gut feeling is to at least burn a CD-ROM every month or so in case something horrible goes wrong with the whole system.

I’d like to read what techniques you use for backing up your important data. Is there some nice techniques I’ve overlooked?

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January 22, 2009

Painter Essentials, GIMP, Inkscape

A very quick review of some other editors…

Name: Corel Painter Essentials 4
Company: Corel
Platforms: Windows, Mac
Brief Description: Consumer grade paint and photo editing program
Demo Restrictions: 60 day trial
Cost: A$100 in Australia (US$66), unsure elsewhere
Web Link: www.corel.com (link goes to product page)

Corel’s Painter series has renown as the industry leader in emulating natural media. The professional package Painter X has a professional price tag to match ($799), but the consumer priced option, Painter Essentials, is considerably cheaper. A boxed version can be bought from Apple Australia for just a hundred Aussie bucks, so that is within my budget for tools.

Painter Essentials 4 lies somewhere between ArtRage and a traditional digital editing suite. The prime feature is the natural art tools: brushes, pens, chalk and so on, but with a more traditional art software GUI and digital tools.

The GUI itself was not that hard to figure out. There’s a paint mixer panel on the right for blending paints to make colours, and the last used brushes are listed in a column on the left next to the tools. However, the icon used for the brush bugged me a little. Often the size of the brush drawn didn’t match the circle. When one brush showed nothing at all I realised the tablet wasn’t properly configured for Painter Essentials, but after calibration it still didn’t always match what I expected.

For sketching, the lines are smooth and follow the curves I make. The resulting pencil lines were too pixellated for my tastes. When compared to the default pencil in ArtRage or Sketchbook Pro, Painter Essentials is somewhat ugly.

The deal breaker with Corel Painter Essentials 4 was my quick demo was plagued with glitches. Sometimes a phantom brush icon would be left on the screen, and many times the extendable brush window would not be selectable or retractable. The experience just did not feel as seamless and polished as I expect for a commercial art program.

In fairness to Painter Essentials 4, this was a whirlwind review. But I just did not get a good vibe from using the pencil tools. I’ll give Corel a pass this time.

Name: GIMP 2.6 (The GNU Image Manipulation Program)
Organisation: The GIMP Team
Platforms: Linux, Windows, Mac
Brief Description: Open source image manipulation and raster editor
Demo Restrictions: Not Applicable
Cost: Free
Web Link: www.gimp.org

Ah, the GIMP. This is the most popular open source, free digital editor out there today; the Linux users replacement for Photoshop. Some might argue this, but at least you can’t beat the price. I’ve had GIMP 2.4 installed for a while, but this quick test was an excuse to upgrade to the latest version (2.6).

The interface is mostly that floating tool panel on the right in a separate window, coloured in what I like to think of as “Linux Medium Grey”. GIMP does its best to remind you that you are using a program designed for Linux. On the Mac, it is based on X and thus runs in X11, which means you won’t get the Mac standard of having the menu in the top bar. This isn’t actually that bad when you get used to it, but GIMP also goes out of its way to retain its own unique look and feel. In this sense it is somewhat like ArtRage which also uses its own style, but in the GIMPs sense it feels far more… well, I was going to write “utilitarian”, but that means “practical rather than attractive”. I’ll get to that next paragraph, so I’ll just say “Linux-y” instead.

The problem is the GIMP interface seems like there wasn’t much thought put into how it would actually be used as a tool. I don’t like the arrangement of the tools and the choice of icon shapes in the toolbox - I keep having to hover over each one to read the tooltip even though I’ve been using the GIMP for a while. And I don’t know why every single transformation type needed its own separate icon - rotate, scale, shear, perspective and flip. It’s also very annoying having the toolbox in a different window. It means every time I select a tool, I need to dab the stylus once on the image window to reselect it again before I can draw. This does not feel like a tool designed to work with graphics tablets.

The actual act of sketching with the pen is all right though; passable, but with a few niggling flaws. You still get the jaggies on circles if you go too fast (the circle on the lower left in the screenie above shows this to a degree). An annoyance is that the cursor used with the pen tool is just a typical mouse arrow with a pen icon offset against it, rather than a cross hair or some other more intuitive cursor. It’s definitely usable as a sketching tool, but there are better alternatives out there. (Edit: I’ve been informed in the comments that this is adjustable in the preferences. Thanks, Skip!)

To be fair to the GIMP, it does excel at what its name sake is. I prefer to use GIMP for image manipulation, such as cropping and resizing images to stick up on the web like the screenshots I do in this review. For that it works quite well, although the transformation tools are a bit of a pain in the arse to use. In all, GIMP feels and runs like a programmers art tool, made by programmers for programmers and the sorts of image manipulation programmers want to do. Unfortunately, that doesn’t translate to a natural art experience when you want to get in touch with your creative side.

To sum up, you might as well get the GIMP (it’s free!), but you’ll probably need other tools for your art needs.

Name: Inkscape 0.46
Organisation: www.inkscape.org
Platforms: Linux, Windows, Mac
Brief Description: Open source SVG editor (vector graphics editor)
Demo Restrictions: Not Applicable
Cost: Free
Web Link: www.inkscape.org

Anyone who has been reading my journal knows that I love Inkscape. It’s my favourite vector editor. Actually scratch that, favourite art software in general, even when compared with more costly alternatives. This might just be because it is a rare beast: a complicated open source application with an interface that does not suck. GIMP might try its hardest to remind you its from the world of Linux and the world of programmers who want to things there own way, but the Inkscape people decided they might as well emulate the interface from actual usable tools in their domain (FYI, the interface was modelled off Xara). Inkscape looks clean and professional as a result.

As a consequence and given that it is free, it is ideal for beginners to vector art to pick up and learn. That’s what I did, and it’s why I favour vector art to raster. Even when using something like Illustrator or Flash, I prefer to do the base work in Inkscape and port it across; although to be fair that might be because I haven’t put in as much time to master their interfaces. (Flash doesn’t seem too bad, but Illustrator seems to suffer from some moon logic with the node tool. But I’m digressing).

Inkscape can also be used as a sketch tool via its calligraphy option. You can get some nice smooth curves that can be used for scribbling. My current technique before doing anything complex with vectors is to scribble out some guidelines with the calligraphy tool, much like in the screenshot above.

Now that I am doing this as part of a test, I notice that drawing the curves feels a bit delayed. I don’t think this delay is real, but it is a consequence of Inkscape’s translation of the curves made into vector form. Inkscape will highlight the current section you are drawing, so as you draw it feels a bit unnatural. Once you release, it then sets the curve, so there’s a bit of a shift in appearance. You get used to it after a while, but it’s a bit disconcerting if you are looking closely at what you are doing and are expecting a more natural, pen like curve. The other issue is that sometimes if you go really fast, the curve will stop drawing.

Summary: Inkscape actually works fairly well as a vector based sketching program, but you might only want to use it as such if you are then going to build something in vectors using Inkscape. For general sketching, another tool is probably better. Note though that for vector art, you can’t go wrong with downloading and trying Inkscape - it’s free, after all. I also posit that for programmer art it is a better choice to pick vector over raster, as you will have a greater chance of making something pleasing to the eye. This is especially true if you don’t have a tablet - vectors work well with the mouse, raster in general does not.

My general conclusion is that ArtRage offers me the best bang for buck as a sketching program and as for digital art improvement. I’ve bought myself an license for ArtRage 2.5 Full, and I’ll see what I can do with it when practising the basics.

Note: I left out Adobe Photoshop from my comparison list. I actually have a license for Adobe Photoshop CS3 and need to learn to use it too. However I feel the interface for Photoshop is a bit overly daunting for learning the basics. It seems well suited for touch up work, but until I feel more like an artist I want to stick with something more simple.

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Autodesk Sketchbook Pro

Time for another quick art software review: Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

Name: Autodesk Sketchbook Pro
Company: Autodesk
Platforms: Windows, Mac
Brief Description: Professional digital pen software with gesture based interface
Demo Restrictions: 15 day trial
Cost: US$100 download in North America and Japan, unknown elsewhere
Web Link: www.autodesk.com (link goes to product page)

Sketchbook Pro is a simple yet elegant drawing program. Originally made by Alias, creators of Maya, it is now owned by Autodesk, famous for its range of engineering grade modelling software. Like an engineering tool, Sketchbook Pro has a professional aura about it; it looks and feels like the tool an architect would use.

Sketchbook Pro has a very minimalist interface. All the key functionality can be accessed through the tool ring in the corner. Select an icon with the stylus, and a wheel of options can be selected through a gesture. It is elegant to use and lets you focus on drawing. I like how the tools can be moved to either the left or right corner; for left handers like me, its nice to have the tools in the more easily accessible bottom right corner.

The tools available are shown in the screenshot above, but it is deceptive. There is actually only [i]one[/i] drawing tool. The differences all come in the variable presets, of which the tools above are standard. You can define custom drawing tools if you wish, although they will only be accessible through a tool box, not the gesture friendly tool interface. Personally I find all the tools to look a bit same-y. There doesn’t seem to be much difference in feel between the pencil, ball point, chisel tip pen and paint brush.

Unlike ArtRage, Sketchbook Pro is a digital editor through and through, so you get cut, paste and lasso tools as well as moving, scaling and rotating the canvas, as well as layer support.

So, how does it stack up to sketching?

Doodling around with the pencil is actually surprisingly fun. The line algorithm is used in Sketchbook Pro was developed well. Lines feel smooth and crisp, and there isn’t the jerky bumpy quality you get with quick curves in other programs. The actual result might not look as much as natural pencil as with ArtRage, but it feels good to brainstorm ideas with.

Now for a more involved character sketching test…

Sigh. Now you know why I want to improve my art, as well as why I tend to stick to very blobby abstract cartoon designs in vector format. This is another character from the archive from years back. My drawings back then were terrible too, but better than this. Not a fault of Sketchbook Pro, though. This was very easy to sketch up. The ball point pen does not feel quite right as a line inking tool, especially when compared with the oil paint in ArtRage, but it does a decent enough job. The interface is painless to use for sketching.

Sketchbook Pro does not have much other utility than as just a sketching tool. It does not seem well suited for playing with colour in the same way the paint in ArtRage does. But for what it does, sketching lines, it does extremely well.

The main drawback for Sketchbook Pro is availability and price. For those of you in North America or Japan, you can buy a download version for US$100. This is more expensive than ArtRage and other tools more aimed towards hobbyists, but is not that expensive when compared to the full price of art tools like Corel Painter X or Adobe Paintshop Pro. Given that Sketchbook Pro is just a sketching tool, nothing more, you will need to weigh up whether this functionality is worth the price. If you are serious about sketching, then Sketchbook Pro may be for you.

Unfortunately, Autodesk’s online store does not sell to Australians for some unknown reason. For those not in the U.S., Canada or Japan, you need to buy Sketchbook Pro through a local reseller. In Australia, all the local Autodesk resellers aim for the business market, and as such have very spartan websites that do not mention the price of their products; most do not mention Sketchbook Pro at all. My hunch is that Australian business will be selling Sketchbook Pro at the original price - US$179 - plus the usual Aussie import mark up fee, plus business expenses. Given that Autodesk wants me to jump through hoops just to give them money for what is essentially just a unlock code for the demo I already have, I feel extremely disinclined to send them my business. Rule one of business: never make it hard for willing customers to give you money for your product.

In review, Sketchbook Pro is in my opinion a smidgen better than ArtRage when it comes to sketching ideas. If you do a lot of sketching, this may be worth the extra money to get the product. For me, it is not worth the extra effort to figure out how to get Autodesk to sell it to me.

Next up, I will try Corel Painter Essentials. Then perhaps a quick recap of GIMP and Inkscape when it comes to sketching.

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January 20, 2009

ArtRage Starter Edition 2.5

Time for a sketch software trial. I’ll try to do one of these every day or two this week, weather permitting (my air conditioning is rubbish and it’s summer at the moment.)

I am trialling these on an iMac (20 inch screen, 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM) running Mac OS X Leopard (10.5.6). While I am using a Mac, everything should have a Windows equivalent that I am assuming is similar.

My input device will be a Wacom Intuos3 6×8 inch (A5) tablet that I picked up a year or two ago but have not yet used to its full potential. It is a great piece of hardware; I picked mine up with an educational discount at the cost of some bundled software.

For those of you without a graphics tablet, I highly recommend getting one. A Wacom Bamboo is only US$79. If you do any form of drawing activities at all - which should include nearly everyone who works on games - then it is invaluable.

Today’s review is for ArtRage 2.5 - Starter Edition. First, the skinny on the software:

Name: ArtRage Starter Edition 2.5
Company: Ambient Design
Platforms: Windows, Mac
Brief Description: Natural paint media software with a minimalistic GUI
Demo Restrictions: Special: this is the demo for ArtRage Full Edition
Cost: US$25
Web Link: artrage.com

ArtRage is a digital painting program, with an emphasis on “paint”. It simulates natural media: oil paint, chalk, pencil and crayon on canvas or paper. It combines this with a very minimalist interface in order to help the artist focus on creating rather than micromanaging tools.

The demo version, ArtRage Starter Edition, is actually a full program in its own right - no time limits, no crippling of save functionality. Many of the tools and functionality of the full edition are greyed out, but you can make art with just the Starter Edition alone if you want to properly trial the software out, or happen to be really skint.

ArtRage does not have a massive number of tools and brushes, but the tools it does have look quite nice. The Starter Edition tools are oil paint, pencil, felt pen, palette knife (for smearing paint around), chalk, crayon, eraser and the colour picker. Also included is an adjustable ruler, an example of a stencil: more stencils are available in the full version. You can also adjust the type of material that you are working on. Rough surfaces give a different texture to smooth ones.

It is important to note what ArtRage doesn’t have. ArtRage’s focus is on simulating real media, real art tools on real surfaces, rather than as a typical digital editing tool. As such, ArtRage does not have some of the basic features that most digital editing tools have, such as cut and paste (although it does have undo and redo for mistake prone beginners like me). The Starter Edition does not have layers; you will need to buy the full version for layer support. So if you are used to digital tool techniques such as selecting regions, cutting, pasting and transforming these regions to make your art, you’re out of luck with ArtRage. This isn’t that kind of tool.

That being said, one extremely handy feature ArtRage does have is that ability to rotate the entire canvas, just like you might do with a piece of paper to get the best angle when drawing curves on it.

Still, I am not looking for an all-purpose digital art editing tool; I’m looking for good software for digital sketching and concept art. How does ArtRage fare for my purposes?

First brainstorming through sketches. Well, ahem, yeah. I’m not much of an artist and I couldn’t think of anything in particular to brainstorm here. So it’s a simple cartoon guy and some shapes. For this test I didn’t put much care into perfect lines and curves; I just went at it. This is generally what I do when I’m just doodling around for ideas.

The drawing process feels quite natural. I didn’t feel like I was fighting against the interface. It’s extremely easy to move and rotate the canvas around with just the tablet. Overall, ArtRage feels very nice to sketch things with.

The pencil tool itself is generally okay. I may not have chosen the right settings, but it does not look quite like it would if I were to sketch with a real wooden pencil on an A4 sheet. But it is serviceable and it does have an “arty” look that I like. It is plausible that with more ArtRage practice I will hit the right settings for the look I want. I can also try the felt pen and paint tools instead if I want a crisper line.

Of note is the difference between the circles in the bottom right corner. The “fast” circle was drawn quickly from my wrist. You can see that the resulting circle is somewhat bumpy, which I assume is from the sampling rate from my Wacom. You can see the same bumpiness in the sphere on the left which was drawn the same way. The “smooth” circle was drawn slower using my shoulder and elbow and is smoother. This may be an issue if you draw curves really fast.

For a concept art sketch and given that my creativity in brainstorming seems shot today, I raided my archives of game project ideas for some character ideas to recreate. Above is one of them, roughly sketched out in blue pencil then with lines filled in with black oil paint. Note to self: must practice perspective, hands and feet.

Again, this was not that difficult to do. I never felt like I was fighting against the interface. Probably the only issue was switching between blue pencil and black paint - I’d have to choose the colours manually. The full version does have a colour palette option, so that might work better. Also in the full version I could do both the rough sketch and the paint on different layers rather than the same one as done here.

Overall, I think ArtRage handles my needs as a sketching program quite well. Certainly better than the other tools I’ve been currently using.

For additional features, what ArtRage does well is paint. You can smear paint around your canvas, and it interacts the way you would expect paint to interact. This leads to some interesting effects if you are a skilled painter, and results like a kindergarten finger-painting class if, like me, you are not. I would like to experiment more with the use of colour and the paint effects look like they could have some good uses, so this is a feature that is a big plus to me.

Furthermore, the great thing about ArtRage is the full version only costs US$25. This is very cheap as far as art tools go. At this price, I don’t think I can go wrong just buying the full version and seeing what it does.

In all, ArtRage is solid enough for it to be strongly in the running as my sketching program of choice. Due to its low price, buying the Full Version is an easy decision, and even if I do not use it as my primary sketching program it will not be money wasted.

Next test: Sketchbook Pro.

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January 17, 2009

…haven’t forgotten about the trials

Quick update: I haven’t forgotten about trialling all that drawing software. I’ve got stuck on some other work right now, and it’s been sucking away my time and energy. I should get this latest batch done over the weekend, and I’ll be reviewing software next week.

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January 13, 2009

Sketching Software Trial - Introduction

This post is in stereo, posted both at my personal journal at trazoi.net and at my GameDev.net journal.

One of the things I plan to do in early 2009 is to brush up on my skills, as well as learn some new ones, in some dedicated practice sessions. My goal is to become skilled in all areas of game development and management. This is for a number of benefits: if I really have to I can make a game by myself; I can attract freelancers’ interest better with higher quality working prototypes; and I hope to find good synergy and innovations between the combinations of all the different fields.

A big area I need to work on is my art skills. I did some somewhat undirected doodling and scribbling throughout the last few years and brought my skill up to “poor”. After a lapse of the better part of a year, my art skill has deteriorated down to “very poor” or possibly “terrible”. It needs some serious work, and that means serious practice.

I think this time I will try more digital art practice than before. I used to just doodle around on paper with pencil, but things hardly ever got finished that way. I have never been very good with ink due to my somewhat bad left handed pencil grip; everything smudges so easily. With digital it is easy to correct mistakes, plus I get more practice with my Wacom tablet and actually getting images into the computer.

At the moment I am only reasonable at using Inkscape, the free open source SVG editor. However a vector editor like Inkscape may not be the best tool for this job. Therefore I am looking for another good tool for a relative art beginner to learn with. I am currently reviewing a few that I have heard are good for this.

A brief checklist of the properties I am looking for:

  • Good as an equivalent for freeform rough pencil sketching, brainstorming ideas and building up interesting characters. Typically I do this with a pencil on A4 paper when trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. For a software tool to emulate this, the interface should stay out the way and make it easy for the ideas to flow.

  • Good for sketching the basic skeleton of an image. When I draw a typical Inkscape image, I usually start by doing a rough sketch as a basis. Currently I do that within Inkscape itself using the calligraphy tool, but importing raster images works too. A high quality finished result is not necessary for this stage, but it needs to be good to use as a reference image or as an underlay.

Highly desirable additional properties are:

  • Ability to ink the rough pencil sketch into a final version. The more I can get done in one tool the better.

  • Ability to extend further to make full pieces of concept art. Not essential, but would be extremely useful if I get good at a particular tool.
  • Any other features that I think would help in learning art - shading, colouring, use of different styles, ex cetera. This is not mandatory, but every extra useful feature for this helps.
  • And obviously, price is a factor too. I am more likely to buy useful software if it is cheap.

In short, I am looking for something that offers a fun, easy to use interface for rough pencil sketching and hopefully inking and other art features as well. A zillion extra professional features is not required.

Over the next week, during the periods I can stand my un-air-conditioned office space during the current hot spell, I will trial some software to see how it meets this criteria. My art skills are a bit shot, so I’ll do a few quick doodles to see how it feels then try a cartoon figure. I’ll spend maybe a few hours on each tool, then post a review up here with my comments. Once I’m done, I’ll buy whatever I think makes the grade.

My list of software to trial has expanded a bit since I posted a query in the art forum:

  • ArtRage 2.5 - emulates natural media, especially oil paint but also has pencils and markers. Comes in a free Starter edition with less features, and a cheap US$25 Full version.

  • Autodesk Sketchbook Pro - designed to be a digital sketch pad. Is very popular with artists for the role I am looking for. US$100 for North Americans, unknown price for me.
  • Corel Painter Essentials 4 - Painter X is the leading product in natural media software. Essentials is the toned down version for a fraction of the cost. Essentials costs US$100 from Corel, although Apple Australia is offering it for A$100. (Painter X is about seven times the price).
  • Adobe Photoshop CS3 - The big brand name art tool. CS4 is the current version, but I already own Creative Suite 3 (I got it to get Flash plus all the other Adobe tools with an educational discount). Costs about as much as Painter X, but you can get the stripped down Elements for less. For me, cost is moot as I already own it.
  • GIMP 2.6 - The open source raster art editor. I have had misgiving about GIMP, but for fairness and completeness I will add this into the trial. Cost: free!
  • Inkscape 0.46 - Last but not least, my favourite vector editor, Inkscape. I currently do sketches with Inkscape’s calligraphy tool. I am putting this in last just for comparison, plus I can compare a vector editor to all these raster editors. Cost: free!

That’s probably enough for a series of handy tests, unless I find out about another good tool out there. I’ll post each individual review here when I am done with the test.

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January 10, 2009

Belated New Year, 2009!

Belated Happy New Year, trazoi.net blog! Welcome to 2009.

I was wanting to post something in here early in the New Year, but I just wasn’t sure what. Embarrassingly I have been posted lots over at my other, game development related journal (Trapper Zoid’s Trapper Keeper, over at GameDev.net). It’s the problem I’ve always had, having two blogs. The GameDev blog gets more traffic and seems more suited to game development posts, but those are the only ones I seem to have. I could reserve this one for just posts about my regular life, but frankly I find all the non-game development bits unworthy to share with the entire world; they’re either private or very boring.

To complicate things, I will be starting another journal later in the year. I haven’t worked out all the details, but this journal should subsume most of the posts from my GameDev journal as well as here. I will still be posting the occasional cross post over at GameDev mentioning posts at my new journal. However I am uncertain as to what the fate will be of this site. I think it still has a purpose as the repository of everything I want to stick on the internet in an informal way. But the blog might degenerate to just a news update for any changes to the site, in which case I might as well scrap it and replace it with a plain HTML page. I’ll have to wait and see.

Probably the only news I can post here at the moment that’s not game development related is that I’m working on getting fit. Over the last couple of years I have really packed on the kilos, and it’s starting to affect how I feel. I’m hoping to force my weight down to nearly what it was a decade ago (I was a bit thin back then). It might take a couple of months, but it’s doable. I don’t have a specific plan, I’m just moderating what I eat and upping the exercise to a significant level and seeing what it does. So far I think I’m two kilo lighter, but it’s hard to say if that’s permanent.

From now on, I’ll be cross-posting game development articles to both my GameDev journal and here, so I can get back into the groove of blogging and basic website management.

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