16 November 2019

Professional work with Affinity Publisher

I stopped using Photoshop and Illustrator a few years ago and with the release this summer of Affinity Publisher, it is time to start replacing Indesign in my workflow as well.

I started slow, replacing some poster work which is always given to the printer as a PDF file and that went pretty easily. Next was transitioning the monthly invitations I do for a client to the 4 colour press we use. Normally I would package the Indesign project and send it out to them so moving to Publisher meant having to discuss options with them. It went much easier than I anticipated. I don't send them Publisher documents, they don't have the software... yet. We had to work together to figure out the best configuration for the PDF files. I should say that at first they were horrified, thinking I meant Microsoft Publisher which is NOT professional layout material, but after I sent them a link to the Serif software website, they were relieved I hadn't lost my mind and I had found something of professional quality.

Aside from exiting the aggravation and controversy of the Adobe subscription cloud fiasco, are there advantages to doing this? Yup, plenty. Even though Publisher is, in effect, a version 1.0 release in many ways - working with it has been very productive. There are features I would love to have implemented and many will, I'm sure, eventually - but missing features or not - my work is getting done much easier and faster. One huge advantage is the workspace, it's always in what Indesign would call full resolution mode. There isn't another mode and there doesn't need to be, Scrolling and zooming is fast and effortless and being able to see everything clearing and as it will look in the final print version. I like how fonts and text are handled much better, though it takes some getting used to after a couple decades of Indesign use. One of the biggest changes and improvements from my old workflow is how editing of exterior files works. Indesign lets you open Photoshop or Illustrator, make changes, then update the files in your document. Affinity Publisher has an all in one approach - you literally just press a button and you are in the photo or vector app, no need to reload and update or have another program taking up screen space. It's a very fluid way of working. Importing images is different as well, and now that I have a grasp on the basics, it's so simple and fast I can't imagine going back to the old ways.

Some of the problems I saw on the horizon have been resolved. Blurb, the online book publisher has a plugin directly for Indesign but not Publisher, making it harder to design and send a project to them. Today, however I discovered they have a PDF calculator and set up page so if you are not using the Adobe product, you can still prepare your work confidently. It is not as easy, but it is workable. I will be experimenting with that soon. Speaking of PDFs, one thing I did not think about was that by sending in only a finalized PDF, I can work 100% on Affinity format with images and illustrations, meaning I don't have to format them as TIF or EPS files for the printing process, making it super easy to make changes and saving more steps than I realized it would. *This would work with Indesign too if  I wasn't sending in a packaged project.

My just published book, Indifference, was trial an error making Kindle and print versions but formatting mistakes I made at first were quickly corrected and I am very happy with the results.

I guess the best part of this has been I was able to do it and my clients never even noticed the change. I look forward to the iPad version next year for those times I am away without use my laptop since the entire, fully functional Affinity suite will be on iPad and for now I can use Photo or Designer to edit multi page documents to a large extent already.

All and all I would say I made the right choice to switch both financially and artistically.

10 November 2019

Indiiference: Short Stories by No one in Particular - Book release!

My book of short stories, Indifference: Short stories by No One in Particular is no for sale on Amazon! There is a Kindle and a paperback version.

These stories are based on earlier versions and notes about various things that have been lying around since the late 80s and through the mid 90s as well as some screenplays turned into short stories.

The subject matter does have an 80s punk/new wave feel to them and the humour is a little... odd, as some might say. I have spent almost two years putting this together so if you are interested...buy a copy and make every person you have ever seen in the entirety of your life buy one as well. If you like it, please write stunning review and rate it so it has a chance of others finding it. If you don't like, we need never speak of it again.

I do not have any social media accounts, so feel free to tell people on Facebook, Instagram etc about it. To be honest I have no idea how to promote this thing other than what I am doing here, right now.

Amazon paperback: 9.99$ USD
Kindle: 7.55$ USD


01 November 2019

drawing: balance 03

Affinity Photo.

Another in my acrobat series. I do think my hair is getting better and I am learning to be better at simplifying the details. I hated the bottom guy's pants in the event I took my reference images from and changed them a little here but they are still pretty ugly. I think so, anyway. I much prefer the kilt.

About 20 hours to draw from sketch to finished image.

19 October 2019

25 Years Later: new animation test shot

Working out textures, camera move and all those butterflies. It seems to work overall. Some textures, like the street and brick walkway need some tweaking and the position of the butterfly swarms could use some more thought before settling on a final composition. The Goulding on the right is fully made and textured so it can be used in another shot as is the car which will play an important role when one of the characters sees his reflection in the window. This set might be used in 3 to 5 shots in the end. Again it based on the entry to the South West Corridor park on West Newton Street in Boston but it isn't supposed to be a recreation, just have all the basic details so someone who knows the area might pick up on it.

The bushes are 3D objects but the trees are all image cutouts on a plane as is the building in the back, which I drew in Affinity Photo.  I have to keep the poly count down so render times can reasonable. With that in mind, I restricted some shading effects like ambient occlusion on the butterflies and bushes. I don't really go for photo real look in my animation shorts... just real enough.

18 October 2019

More artwork

It's the 60th anniversary of the Twilight Zone TV show this year and it's another show I can not believe I did not think of before when doing this icons series. Rod Serling is a personal hero of mine, as much as I have heroes. Not just his writing and creativity, but his moral and intellectual stances are all things we should strive to integrate into our lives. His war experiences coloured everything he did afterword and he suffered that trauma by being a better person and giving us fantastic art with messages we can still learn from.

I tried to give the items in the illustration a glow, similar to what we would see on out black and white TV when I originally watched the show.

Another in my acrobat series. I like these leaping about ones where the performers seem to be floating in air.

I have been injured and pretty much housebound recently, hence all the art getting done.

12 October 2019

25 Year later - progress

Almost done with the set pieces now, two more left. On top you see the Montreal interior shot which is almost 100% my actual home studio space. Pretty easy to make since for ideas I just had to look up from my desk. Even the bike is in the same place my bike is in right now.

Below is the Montreal exterior which is about 60% my street and home exterior. So much so my spouse immediately asked.. "Hey is that our house?".  This shot had a problem of being well over 3 minutes a frame to render, even without the character or any animation in it. I decided to use techniques I normally reserve for inserting animation into a live action video. I render the scene with none of the things that will animated in it as a single his res image and use that on a background object. I delete everything except objects that will need to have shadows or reflections on them, in this case it was just the street and project the same background image onto that. This eliminates all the rendering that needs to be done for 95% of the shot as pretty much only an image is being rendered with a few other items. It's down to 3 seconds an image now. The tree has moving leaves and to save even more render time I might render that out separately and add it in After effects later.

I added another step, something I really wanted to try for a LONG time. I painted in some elements like flowers and a flower pot. Since the shot has no movement this allows even more detail without have to render even more complex objects . I think it works and I'm encouraged to keep doing things in this direction.

09 October 2019

Drawing: another acrobat

So I finally did a colour drawing using the new Huion tablet and Affinity Photo. The last couple of colour drawings I have done were underwhelming and I have been questioning  whether I still had it in me to make stuff that comes out the way I imagined. So I went back to my old techniques and spent much more time sketching things out and experimenting with problem areas ahead of time and drew something I am happy with in the end. I draw in greyscale first, using the dodge and burn tools to create shadows and highlights, then colourize the section and add any needed additional colour or details on top. Getting sharp defined areas is hard to do this way and takes time, something I think I wasn't putting enough of in some previous efforts. I make a blue pencil sketch of the entire composition first, which is a throwback to when we would draw with blue pencil on paper and then ink it later as the blue was not visible on copy machines at the time.

I think I got the hair almost right with this one. Past attempts have not been very good. or at least not what I wanted them to be. Part of the improvement is the new tablet and improved pressure sensibility in Affinity photo, I think. I was surprised how close it was to sketchbook pro in terms the natural stroke when drawing.