Saturday 8 May 2010

Haha - fuck me. Nearly up to 365 posts! Almost a year of sketch blogging and it was pretty much a waste of time.

Anyhoo, once I espyed MS' 'new story' option where it arranges all the pages for you in one file and containing folder complete with little sidebar menu on the edge of the canvas, I decided I'd do four pages of an 8-page script in Photoshop and the other four in Manga Studio hopefully learning something as I went, seeing as how I'd opened it once before in the past, failed to import a page of pencils and never went back to it again - basically, I'd see how the pages (and apps) compared at the end. I wrote the script in something like eight minutes because I forsaw failure and didn't want anything too complex, so it's just two people talking at each other for a bit, then some stuff with a dinosaur and someone gets stabbed, but it'll do the job for an art tryout.
Anyway, for some reason, I started with page four first, and right from the off, Manga Studio wasn't making friends.

I had not a baldy about the layers and settings going in, so it was a struggle to get the thumbnailed page into MS to the point that I eventually gave up, and I still have no idea how to open a basic jpeg image all on it's ownsome, though I later discovered you actually have to import it into an open document, which is probably fair enough, as that's more or less what you'd be doing in Photoshop - importing the pencils as a separate layer. The brush settings were utterly baffling, mind, and I still have no idea how MS decides to attribute particular properties to new layers, but I now know the difference between a sketch layer (a blue 'pencil' layer which doesn't show up in exported image files) and a finished layer (a colour or black and white layer which holds the finished visual properties of the pages). The above was a first stab at a layout using the brush tool and the default settings for that, as I wanted to get cracking and could only spare an hour or two each day for drawing while I watched certain tv shows on the pc. During this, I did figure out opacity settings for layers and drawing tools, so that helped with the next step:

Making the basic panel layout.
I'd figured out the opacity thing by now, but the panels layer thing was just a confusing mess and I couldn't be arsed figuring it out as the only thing I had to watch on the pc by then was a three month backlog of Supernatural, and, to be blunt, fuck that. Instead, I used a black and white layer and the marquee tool to run up some basic panels, and that did for me. One thing I did decide to change at this stage was the layout of the comic store to something more resembling Belfast's long-gone geek Mecca Talisman (which was bought up by Forbidden Planet, then moved to a different location), as the name of the store in Turbo Katie is Forbidding Toyshop, an hilarious pun on Forbidden Planet, so I did some rough sketches and decided on a longer and thinner store layout, although until now I've just scribbled in random background details whenever I've had to draw the place, so this means I'll have to go back and redraw a lot of panels in previous strips. I also discovered the different settings for the Pen tool in MS, which I decided to use to ink the strip instead of the brush tool, which if I'm honest I'd only been using thus far because the hotkey is 'B' like it is in Photoshop and I'd probably just went there out of habit for the thumbnails.

The pen tool I quite like, as it has a 'stroke in/stroke out' option that corrects your lines for you, giving a very clean and mechanical finish, and I just scribbled away, happily leaving in duff strokes. The top panel came out awful, as I lost the likeness on the character and screwed up the fabric folds on her costume, though it occurred at this point I'd never figured out if her costume was supposed to be shiny plasticy stuff or textured cloth so it was a bit moot. Never corrected those screw-ups, and instead rushed onwards.

Scribbled in a few blacks on a separate layer using the brush tool. This didn't turn out a very good example of what can be achieved, I don't think, but I was starting to see how I could get some decent organic-looking ink effects, albeit inking that looks like it was done with a half-dry permanent marker. I also realised that the resolution on the image was far too small, but figured it wasn't worth correcting at that stage and chalked it up to a lesson learned.

Colouring was confusing as I can't figure out how to do good solid blocks of colour and went with scribbly strokes instead, which was horrendous to look at and really garish, since I had to use absolute colour states and couldn't figure out how to burn or dodge, or add new layers of tone/highlights that would do that for me. It occurred later that I should have gone with halftones instead, or done the colouring elsewhere, possibly in Painter, which I have also never bothered to learn to use.

Lettering was a complete pain in the arse. Leaving aside the sheer bloody ugliness of the finished article, I can't for the life of me figure out how to stop MS picking Tahoma 9pt as the default font, and had to scroll through the font list each time to choose Anime Ace (though normally I go with Blambot's Joe Kubert font for my lettering needs), though it would still do the text in 9pt even though the size was set to 7pt, meaning I had to select the entire text after I was done, then resize it all at once, then change the setup of the paragraph to reflect the new text size while an increase in the leading occurred when I was doing so (and there doesn't seem to be any values to manipulate to correct this), the text can only be moved when the cursor is inside a small (unmarked) envelope around the copy and if you're outside that it changes to the hand tool that moves the entire page instead, and trying to use the balloon option on the text window was like pulling teeth, as it puts a huge distance between the edge of the letters and the edge of a balloon, and for an overly-talky strip like this one, that dog just won't hunt. Instead I had to use the good old-fashioned PS method of creating the balloons on a separate layer under the text using the ellipse and 'polyline' tools, but lettering in MS is a fucking brutal exercise going by this outing.

So there you have my first practical attempt to use MS, and while the finished page was underwhelming and I'd rather redraw the entire thing instead of paste it where anyone can mock, I'll put my hands up to its shittyness as it's only a tryout and failure is probably just as important as success when finding your feet in anything.
I can, however, see the potential Manga Studio has if I stick with it, which I will be doing between Babble pages - which I'll be starting to draw again next week - and I'll put up the finished strip as and when it's completed so those pages can be mocked too.

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