May 26, 2018

Vector painting - 'Crossing Death's Frontier'

This work probably is completed now (June 10 2018). A first attempt at making a realistic 100% vector portrait created in Affinity Designer. To be brutally honest I hate the proverbial vector portraits drawing method (no offence) that are full of hard lines that artists often try to hide by fiddling with the colours of semi natural shapes, because most vector drawing programs are simply unable to produce proper blurred edges. This shortcoming has been promoted to be some type of trend (which is what dodgy marketing departments do and gullible artists mindlessly believe), but it remains an absence of functionality nevertheless. Affinity Designer does not lack this crucial function. I admit that similar effects can in theory be created (in Illustrator and CorelDRAW) using the mesh-fill tool, but that requires a whole lot more time and skill and leaves significantly less room to improvise (which is what I did a lot in this particular painting).

Affinity Designer's parametric characteristics allow to change almost everything at any point in the designing process. This is impossible to do on-the-fly while using the mesh-fill tool in Illustrator and CorelDRAW. I'm aware of the mesh-fill technique b.t.w. because I tried doing that in the past. It requires a heap more time to create, painkillers to combat headaches and does not allow much tinkering once a drawing has been created, where as Affinity Designer offers almost unlimited possibilities in this field that don't require a great deal of time to accomplish. The magnificent open source program Inkscape has similar features, but its user interface is rather difficult to see through, particularly for those used to the Corel and Adobe UI's. Affinity Designer has a similar look and feel as those and shares many (programmable) shortcuts.

I'm currently trying to prove that by creating this vector painting and the vector portraits I've previously created, it is possible to create art that is indistinguishable from pixel art - the advantage being that vector art is resolution independent; it can be scaled to any size without losing quality. The results may not be perfect yet, but I feel I'm getting there. The outer edges of the shapes were blurred intentionally to give the painting a realistic appearance. Several sub-drawings were created to create ornaments mostly that were later placed (and edited) in the main drawing. Below you see the progress sequence. I will be posting updates in the time to come. This is a meticulous and labour intense process, so it may require some time. Affinity Designer's almost 100% parametric functionality allows endless tinkering to correct mistakes and / or apply enhancing effects. Click on an image to see larger versions in Google's light box that also allows to scroll through all images.

This is what it would look like when framed
Current hight over 1 meter, but infinitely scalable

HDR effect added

Completed (for the time being) vector painting
stage 20 of June 10 2018 12:08

Detailed view of vector painting
stage of June 10 2018 09:33

The measurements of the original drawing are 156 x 126 cm, but the image can be resized infinitely to be smaller or bigger without losing quality (which is a characteristic of vector drawings). Creating this vector painting approximately cost me 2 months, working on it on and off. I am considering to make it available for print. This can be done on paper, (behind) plexiglas or on (dibond) aluminium by a print shop of which I am certain they can produce optimal quality. Contact me if you are interested.

May 14, 2018

CommuniCats went dark

Today I customized this site's theme to dark. It's more friendly on the eyes than the flashing white sites that bombard you with photons. I wrote something related to this in 2013 already. This site's previous theme wasn't white, but still too light. Hope you enjoy. There are plenty of 'experts' blurting out tons of reasons why websites should have a light background, but that doesn't mean they are correct. They just parrot what others whom they consider to be experts, say after which they look like experts as well to those who don't have a clue if what they say really makes sense. Even if so called scientific research allegedly proves that backgrounds should be light, you should never take it for granted. If you give a fuck, that is.

CommuniCats turned dark. Forgot to take a screen shot
of what it looked like before, but anyway, that is history

Mainstream science hasn't yet figured out that many diseases are caused by light that has a harmful wave form and frequency, which is called dirty light, which of course is caused by dirty electricity. Perhaps because they're paid by the parties that benefit from people not being healthy, which is a multi-billion-dollar industry. That is because certain wave forms of electricity and light contribute to making you die early in a not so pleasant way. Sounds far fetched, I know, but that's what they want you to think. But 'science' has a rather wretched track record of spreading lies. It's only scarcely known because the equally corrupt mainstream media does not report them. No one pays me to make this site and I did my own research, so this is why this site has a dark background. It's difficult to find on Google's search engine (which is conspicuous by itself), because they don't want you to know, but when using DuckDuckGo it can be found instantly.

Those who exclusively rely on mainstream channels to gather information of course disagree, but in my opinion mainstream is the mouthpiece of factions that cause the miserable situation that this world is in today - they have the power and funds that can put out anything they want at any time and all of that is aimed rendering them financial benefit, which is why they have off ledger bank accounts that no one who appreciates being alive dares to check, while the rest has their (non-existing, i.e. plundered) capital written in red type. The site to where the last link leads to b.t.w., is believed to be a leak source of (factions of) the British intelligence community, which is why these dirty little secrets came out anyway, because it is quite difficult to dispose of a well trained and properly informed bunch of spies that have advanced weaponry and access to inaccessible networks. So, in spite of the would be web-experts' hallucinations, CommuniCats went dark.

Have a nice day.

May 10, 2018

How to create a vector woodcut portrait

I've been experimenting with creating vector woodcut portraits, which is a bit of a nuisance. I knew it was possible in programs for pixel pushers, but I wanted to see if it could be done in a vector drawing program. Of course I used my favorite Affinity Designer for this. It is Microsoft's developer award winner of 2018! Many things to consider when constructing such drawings. Still a tad confusing at this point. After approximately four trials and errors I arrived at this level of design complexity. I used my vector portrait of Abe Lincoln (its exported png of course) as the image for this test. The images were duplicated several times and to each a different 'Threshold' setting was applied, which exposes more or less of the original image. After applying these values, the images must be Rasterized in order for this woodcut effect technique to work properly.

The image Threshold values are
indicated in the Layers panel

Below you see various versions of the portrait with layers turned on or off. Click on the portrait to see the different versions in Google's lightbox for better comparison. For those seriously interested in mastering this technique, I would urge them to study this article all the way to the end; Affinity Designer has so many options and each of them can add to the quality of the artwork. The appropriate options for this particular technique are all described here.

Abe Lincoln vector woodcut portrait
with all layers visible

In the Layers panel all layers are marked
visible which results in the image above


The portrait with the zero degrees Curves turned off

This is what you see in the Layers panel
with the 0 degrees Curves turned off


The portrait with 0 and 30 degrees turned off

This is what you see in the Layers panel
with the 0 and 30 degrees Curves turned off

If you do exactly what it says below in Affinity Designer, you should get a proper result. For this portrait I created 6 different sets of sine lines that mask the image and rotated them 15 degrees relative to the previous one, starting a zero degrees. The sine stroke width was as thick as the space between the strokes. The image size is 1000 x 1000 pixels.

Working method:
  1. Create a sine line, using snap to grid and standard grid lay-out
  2. Duplicate it until entire page is covered 
  3. Select all lines and ‘Expand Stroke’ 
  4. Combine all expanded strokes – after which they will show as a single ‘Curve’ in the Layers panel 
  5. Duplicate a number times of your choice 
  6. Rotate each of them to different angles, making sure they cover entire page – you have to enlarge them until they do 
  7. Import an image 
  8. Duplicate it to the same number of combined strokes / Curves that you duplicated in step 5 
  9. Apply a different ‘Threshold’ level to the original image and duplicates 
  10. 'Rasterizeall images 
  11. Drag each image inside a curve so that the Curve serves as a mask 
  12. Make sure none of the Curves has a fill or stroke width assigned 

The 0 degree sine lines Expanded Strokes
that were combined, given an outline for visibility.
Note: The final result should have no outline or fill
assigned to any of the Curves!

This is what shows in the Layers panel
when only the 0 degree Curves are visible,
that have the above settings applied (temporarily)

  • The initially drawn wavy sine line is duplicated to cover the entire page, then Expanded Stroke (under Layers in the menu bar) was applied, after which they were Combined which results in a single Curve in the Layers panel
  • The rotated Curves must be enlarged to cover the entire page
  • The Curves, as described in the previous point, were duplicated and rotated in increments of 15 degrees
  • The combined strokes shown as Curves will show up over the images. Hit the Magnifier Zoom tool to see the result without the Curves overlaying them 
  • Each Curve containing the rasterized image can be manipulated in several ways – opacity, type of filter
  • I gave the Curves a 3% Gaussian blur to make the portrait more realistic, also selecting Scale with Object, hence the fx shown in the Layers panel. This is a function not present in Illustrator or CorelDRAW. It opens up a world of possibilities the competition is incapable of
  • The Rectangle shown in the Layers panel can be switched on or off and given any desired colour fill. The document itself was given a transparent background
  • I started this portrait with wavy sine lines, but any shape of curve could of course work
  • The rotation angle of the duplicated Curves is in the names of the layers; I used increments of 15 degrees, but also here different angles could give the desired result
  • When a satisfying construction of Curves is found, probably any image could be used to turn into a woodcut portrait or drawing
  • This was a first experiment for this type of drawing, when more effective constructions of the Curves are found I may update this blog entry

Improved result

Some further improvements applied to make it look more woodcut like - is as in the image below:

Improved result of vector woodcut portrait

This was done by editing the original image that is on top of all layers, as shown in the Layer panel below to 54% Opacity and using the Add filter. The values are displayed inside the red rectangle.

Layer settings for best result

The idea is to simply stop at nothing to achieve the desired effect. 

A Great Tip!

If you click on one of the Curves in the Layer panel, that basically are the containers of the rasterized images, and then select Lock Children in the Interactive menu bar below the Main menu bar, you can move, resize or rotate the Curve container while its children - the rasterized image - remain in place, do not resize or rotate while you are editing the container Curves. This allows you to alter the effect of the Curves containing the rasterized image in the portrait, dramatically changing its appearance instantly without any hustle, allowing you to make the image look exactly the way you want.

The beauty of Affinity Designer is that 99% of all actions can be undone or re-done. It is non-destructive and parametric and has a huge number of undo levels (set to 1024 standard). It also has a history panel that allows you to change any action at any time. These functions (among a great number of others) really set Affinity Designer apart from its competition - qualities that graphic artists most definitely appreciate.

Final result

And here's what Abe Lincoln's vector woodcut portrait may look like when framed after some more tinkering was applied - background fill with 100% noise and a 36% opaque rectangular overlay with 100% noise and a Glow filter. The frame was drawn in 3D in Rhinoceros:

And here's an other one. Monsieur Voltaire. In this one I did not rasterize the images, which allowed me to experiment with even more parameters - Threshold, fx and rotation angle of the Curves masking the images.

When using the above mentioned settings, it allows endless tinkering that often results in very different results of the same subject in this type of portraits. Affinity Designers parametric qualities make it possible.

Another magnificent function

When clicking an image in the Layer panel that is contained inside a Curve (or not) a button appears in the Interactive Menu Bar that read 'Change Image'. Clicking this button does exactly that; it will open a dialogue box that allows the user to choose another image that will replace the original one, keeping the centers of the original and replacing image aligned. If the image are roughly similarly sized, this means that in the case of creating woodcut portraits or other types of artwork, the existing Curves can be used as a template in which different images can be placed! An absolutely brilliant option of Affinity Designer.