Background gradient

News

Back to childhood with AppleWorks

Published by Suisei at 10/03/2021 à 15h45

Hi everyone!

Today I'm going to tell you about a very old software that kept me busy for many, many hours during my teenage years and that I've had the pleasure of rediscovering these days.
Apple fans will have glitter of nostalgia in their eyes, others will have the opportunity to discover a beautiful tool that has not forgotten to be compatible with Windows.

It is AppleWorks!

AppleWorks was an office suite, installed on all Apple computers of the time, which, in addition to the classic word processor, spreadsheet and Power Point presentation, also offered a vector drawing tool and a bitmap drawing tool. It was my first experience in digital drawing and photo manipulation and with a bit of inventiveness, I was able to get some amazing things out of it.
Behind its apparent simplicity, this little soft hides an unsuspected power.

Let's go for a little trip back in time!

Small overview

AppleWorks is 6 softwares grouped into one.
When you launch it, it offers you the possibility to create 6 types of documents: word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation, bitmap drawing, vector drawing.

I quickly talk about Spreadsheet, Database and Presentation because I never used these modules.
Anyway, know that with Spreadsheet you could make like with Excel, with Database, create databases and with Presentation, make like with Power Point.
(You can click on the images to enlarge them to full size.)

And here are, then, the 3 modules that I really used!

The word processor

I wrote all my comics scripts, presentations and internship reports there when I was at school, until my dad bought Microsoft Office. Hard to compete with the Word arts. 8D
Except that Microsoft Office did not offer vector drawing software, nor bitmap drawing software. So it was not about to dethrone AppleWorks.

The vector drawing module

This module helped me a lot to make diagrams to integrate in the word processor, draw dungeon plans for our Donjons and Dragons sessions, make some logos or paste editable text on images like my comics pages.
I particularly liked its ability to generate gradients that roughly matched the shape in which they were applied, and there are recent vector drawing technologies that still can't do that and that's a little bit annoying to me.

And finally, here is the module where I really spent the most time!

The bitmap drawing module

Well...
Some geometrical shapes, a pencil, a brush, a filling tool, an eraser...
So far it doesn't look much different from Paint.

Wait until you see what it is capable of. :p

The painting module (bitmap drawing)

To begin, AppleWorks 6 is not the first version of AppleWorks that I worked with and already at that time, I had my little habits and what a disappointment for me when I didn't find my favorite features !!
Looking for a little bit it turned out that they were just a little hidden and just needed to be tidied up a bit.
Because yes! This small software already had a customizable interface by drag and drop as on a modern Photoshop!

Now all is clear, we can get to the heart of the matter: drawing! :p

I've already mentioned the toolbar on the side earlyer, which is already familiar to you if you've ever used Paint.
Now, let's move on to the area just below: the palettes.
AppleWorks offers a limited palette of colors.

You can combine the selected color with a pattern to apply. Some of them look like manga screentones.

Some fun colorful patterns are also available.

And finally a small palette of gradients is also available.

Well... A few funny patterns, some gradients. It's enough to have fun for 5 minutes, but nothing special. We will going not very far.

That's where the real work begins. :p

Do you remember? A few moments ago I added buttons in the horizontal bar at the top, including this one.

And this is what it opens!

A customization window! :D

Not enough colors in the default palette?
Never mind! You can create as many color palettes as you want.

Not enough patterns either in black and white or in color?

You can create as many pattern palettes as you want!

The default gradients palettes is too poor?

No problem! You can create as many gradient palettes as you want! And for the moment, I spent a lot, a lot, a lot of time on this section!

You can make circular gradients.

Linear gradients.

And gradients that fit the shape in which you apply them. Well, it's far from perfect with concave shapes, but it already allows for interesting things.

And to give the coup de grace to Paint, with AppleWorks you could even create your own brushes! :p

There are even some effects available such as blurring.

This AppleWorks is a piece of cake in the belly! :D

Now that we know about its possibilities, I propose to show you a small gallery of what I was able to do with this software from end of nineties to middle of 2000s. :D

Let's start with the very first drawing I made with AppleWorks in 1998.
We didn't have a scanner at the time, so I had to do it entirely with the mouse.

It was also a time when I didn't have much notion of saving the original files and I considered that as soon as I had printed the drawing, it was no longer worth keeping it on the computer to save space (the hard drive was 4 GB).
So this is a scan of the printed version you see here. x)

A good old Darth Vader! (1998)

Well, making a drawing from A to Z entirely with the mouse was laborious, so I also used AppleWorks to create backgrounds and print them. Then I would do my drawing by hand and cut it out and paste it onto the printed background.

I was able to make interesting effects by understanding the limitations of the software and exploiting them. By understanding that gradients were composed of a series of solid color bands, I could make focus line effects by filling them with the filling tool with a different patterns or gradients.

This posing remind some Dragon Ball character (Between 1998 and 2000)

It is also with AppleWorks that I made my first attempts at photo manipulation. I used photos from an encyclopedia we had on CD-ROM and manipulate them by tinkering them and copying and pasting small pieces here and there.
Then I printed my montages and paste them onto the comics pages.

My montages were mainly used for space scenery. (1999 - 2000 in collaboration with my sister)

This software really pushed me to be creative to get what I wanted out of it. I had even managed the tour de force of pasting a white lineart over a photo.

(2000 - 2001)

In the absence of layers, I had to work on 2 files in parallel and with the lasso select tool.

And then one day, our first scanner finally arrived home!
There the serious things could begin!

I was able to stop trying to make drawings with the mouse and use AppleWorks to put in color drawings made with the traditional way. So I was able to go further from the end of nineties.
It obviously started with Saint Seiya. x)
(You can always click on the images to enlarge them to full size.)

I loved the Aquarius saint. He was my favorite character from Saint Seiya. ^^ (2000 - 2001, this way)

At the beginning I was just doing solid colors, but as I experimented with the features and learned how to combine them, I ended up getting more and more advanced renderings.

Aoshi Shinomori from Kenshin and Ashram from Record of Lodoss War. These two were also my favorites characters at one time. (Between 2004 and 2006)

If you have enlarged the images you must have noticed that the line is particularly crenellated. There was no antialiasing, no layer system with opacity levels, no tolerance threshold for the filling tool. So it had to be black, or white, but not in between.
As a result, AppleWorks was not really adapted to work on drawings with small details, hatching or heavily detailled backgrounds...

I tried anyway. :p

These last 4 examples I think I made them between 2004 and 2006.
The comics pages come from the first version of the Nécrotech project which is currently in a dormant state (but which I intend to resume one day). You'll notice on the first image of the last page some effects whose style stands out a bit from the rest. It's normal, I made them in another old painting software, Art Dabbler, but this is another story. :p

In 2007, I got tired of suffering, I started to use The Gimp, in 2008 I bought my first graphics tablet, in 2009 I embarked on the Photoshop adventure and you know the rest: I sold my soul to Promarkers and Clip Studio Paint.

And then there are days like that, we fall back into childhood.
(Click on the image to see it at full size and distinguish the pixel patterns. I know, I repeat myself, but the devil is in the details. :p )

Last week, I decided to make a theme of the Drink'N'Draw from A to Z with AppleWorks to see what I could get out of it with 15 more years of experience in drawing and illustration. 8D

With some tips you can get a pretty amazing result!

I am happy with the result, especially the colors.
It wasn't done without pain. The feature I wanted to take full advantage of (customizing color patterns) is buggy on the Windows version of the software, so I had to set up a Mac OS X Snow Leopard virtual machine to be able to do the finishing touches. What an adventure!

In any case, AppleWorks is always well adapted to make pixel art and this experience has allowed me to learn new things applicable in recent and professional softwares.
I had never really tried pixel art, which I love, by apprehension of the execution time. I think I found the trigger to get serious about it. I will explore it further. :D

Well, well, well! But in fact, calculating gradient patterns for pixel art with shaders shouldn't be complicated. I think I will add such an effect in Péguy ! :D

Install AppleWorks

You've read it right! You can still install and use AppleWorks in 2021! :D

Windows

I did the test with Windows 8.1 on my Cintiq Companion tablet from Wacom, and in the comments it seems that it also works very well on Windows 10.

To do this you will first install the latest version of QuickTime 7 which you can find on this page. You double click on the installer and you do next, next, next... Even when you are asked if you have a product key. It is not mandatory and useless for our needs.

Then you go to this page and download the first file. You unzip the file and double click on the installer, then same procedure as before: next, next, next...

You can do retro digital painting now! :D

Mac OS X

Apple computers have changed so much in 20 years that it is now impossible or at least very complicated to run the original programs on today's machines. The manipulation therefore consists in using the Windows version with the Wine emulator.

If I had no problem with the procedure, it may seem a bit complicated for non-technical profiles so I simply propose you to download the final application I created myself via this link on Google Drive. You just have to download it, unzip it (with a double click) and launch it.

If you're a computer geek and want to get a version of AppleWorks without the color pattern bug, you can get the .dmg here and install it in a Snow Leopard virtual machine.

Be reasonable about the size of your files. This is an old software that will have trouble supporting surfaces exceeding 2000px by 2000px. There is a way to cheat a bit, it is by creating a vector drawing file and creating a bitmap drawing surface inside.

That's all for that nostalgic moment. I think I will come back with some illustrations made with AppleWorks in the future. :D

Have a nice day and see you soon!

Suisei

Categories : Discoveries, Graphic research, Illustrations,

View comments

Gul Dukat and timed inking tests

Published by Suisei at 20/02/2021 à 15h45

Hi everyone!

So as promised last time, today I'm going to talk to you about drawing, and even more precisely about inking techniques and timed tests.

I had been thinking for months about making a black and white illustration and inking it several times with different techniques while timing myself to see which one was the fastest. This approach is part of my search for optimization in the time it takes to produce my comics.
So there are all the drawing tricks, 3D, Clip Studio Paint's tools, the programs and softwares developed by myself with which I saved a lot of time, but there is still this inking phase whose execution time tends to resist any form of compression.

At the beginning of the year 2021 I made a penciled illustration, and it seemed to me to be a perfect candidate for the exercise: a character, scenery elements and various texture effects.
The illustration in question:

To introduce you a little bit to the man, it is Gul Dukat a villain from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine series, a humanoid alien with some reptilian attributes. This is my favorite character of the show.
You know me now, I like charismatic bad guys with complicated stories. x)

Let's go back to the illustration itself.
Concerning the pencil phase, I refined it more than necessary, but it's because I wanted to make a beautiful illustration and it was my pleasure. That said, I still used some tricks to make the work easier.
Basically, I drew the different elements of the illustration separately and then scanned and assembled them by computer. This allowed me to draw them carefully without getting bogged down in their interaction and optimize the final composition.

Then I printed copies of the final composition that I have already shown you in magenta for my timed inking experiments.
I have made exactly 6 versions of them, as follows. (You can click on them to enlarge them).

Well, if you have the impression to see 6 times the same thing, it's normal, the goal is obviously to have an identical or almost identical result with different methods, the finality being to get the fastest one to use it on my next comics projects.
Let's go through them to dissect the different methods.

The first version, I made it with liners.

It took me 5 hours. The main drawback of this method is that the clip on the liner cap presses on my « comic artist ball ». A callus ball that formed on my middle finger over time by dint of drawing, where the pencil rests. And after a while it's painful, so it limits the duration of the work sessions.

Then comes the brush version.

This is the version that took me the longest: 6 hours and 20 minutes.
The main waste of time is during the inking of the background. It has many geometrical shapes and the brush is unsuitable for that. On the other hand, for the character, it goes just as fast.
In any case, the holding of the brush is pleasant, the handle is thin, so it never hurts me. I can work as long as I want with this technique.
It is difficult to evaluate at this resolution, but overall the lines drawn with the brush are cleaner and sharper than those drawn with a liner.
So! Longer, but prettier and more pleasant.

Then, the 3rd version I made it entirely with the graphics tablet and the software Clip Studio Paint.

This attempt is the fastest so far: 4 hours 15 minutes.
The inking of the character does not go faster the flaw being that the pen slides much more easily on the tablet than a traditional technique on paper, so it is more difficult to control the line and I use a lot of ctrl+Z. Moreover, the pen tip does not deform under pressure, so it is more difficult to anticipate the width of the line and you have to repeat the process several times.
The big advantage on the other hand is for the background and its geometric shapes (circles, parallel lines, ellipses). The rulers integrated in Clip Studio Paint allow you to draw them really quickly and cleanly.
Also, for all textures and particle effects, I created a lot of brushes for Clip Studio Paint. So, I only had to make a click to draw each of the stars.

As on this version I had the impression that I was wastig time on the character, so I decided to try a hybrid technique: the brush for the character, the CSP for the rest.

This version took me as long as the one entirely digital. It seems impossible to reduce the work time on the character below 3 hours and I have confirmation that digital mainly saves time on the geometric patterns and elements and effects that can be drawn with brushes.

I leave these tests a few weeks and then I had a new idea.
Here is the result. I let you guess which tool I used, you have 4 hours before I pick up the papers. :p

Well, I stop making you marinate, here is the answer in picture. :p

And yes! It's simply a mechanical pencil! :p
The idea was to see if I work faster than with the usual inking methods and if by playing with the contrasts in the scan I could make it look like inking.
For this version, it took me about 5 hours. I was a little faster for the character than the other attempts, but for the background, it's always the digital that wins hands down.
The problem with the mechanical pencil is that to have an intensity of black roughly constant is that I hold it strongly to press down enough for a long time and I ended up crushing my thumb, so I had a hard time finishing the background. I think it slowed me down quite a bit at the end.

So! No tool is perfect on its own.

As a result, I still had one last thing to test: making the character with mechanical pencil and the background with graphic tablet.

And this time I managed to go below 4 hours of work. :D
3 hours and 40 minutes more exactly.
I managed to ink the character in 2h20 then before moving to the background I had to do some cleaning up because of an unwise choice to do some textures partly in pencil and partly in digital. I think I have a way to spare a few more minutes of work by optimizing some choices.

I'm happy to have finally carried out these timed tests.
Used alone, there is no ideal tool. Now I know that, once again, it is in the hybridization of techniques that I will have to look for optimization.
I have the idea that in the future I should imagine a small roadmap to ink or at to clean my comic pages. I will put all this into practice in the next project.

That's all for today!
Next time I will make again a small compilation of our online Drink'N'Draw sessions.

Have a nice week-end and see you soon! :D

Suisei

Categories : Graphic research, Illustrations,

View comments