Sculpting Hotkeys

Another Sphere head

Last night I took the time to mapped out the sculpting brushes so that I can easily get to it in future experiments. Blender sculpting is fun once you know the shortcuts to each individual brush. By logically organizing them, I’m able to experiment and try out more brushes on the fly.

Here’s another experiment earlier, and as you can tell, it’s based on a reference this time so it looks a bit more real, and not creaturely. In this test, I found myself using the “Clay” brush more, a lot more, because it’s a female head and things need to be round and smooth.

Clay Strips gives a rough look, and it’s a good brush to block in the form in the earlier stage of sculpting. It also gives you the clay effect. Yet at the same time, it can mess up the details that you have worked very hard on, if you’re not careful. When you already have a lot of details in place, use the Clay. If details don’t matter, use Clay Strips. If you want to be subtle, use Clay. I tend to use both the Clay/Clay Strips at 100% strength. At 100% strength, Clay Strips allow me to easily block in the form. I can still manage the strength via pressure sensitivity, but it’s at 100% strength that I use these two brushes. The SculptDraw brush on the other hand is very extreme. I would put both the Blob and SculptDraw in the same category.

Smooth and subtle. Brush’s strength is at 100%.

I use the Grab brush a lot throughout my sculpting session. Earlier stage to fix the overall shape / proportion. Mid stage to adjust / fix the proportion of the nose, mouth, etc… When the proportion or shape doesn’t look right, the Grab brush is your friend. A lot of time we tend to be so fixated on detailing our mesh that once we zoom out, things look off! This is normal by the way. That’s why the Grab brush will be used throughout. For subtle changes, we have the Thumb and Nudge brush. Thumb and Nudge works a bit differently, but both are there for minor and subtle changes that does not affect other area of the mesh. If the jawline is too high, you can bring it down with the Thumb brush.

More can be said about Scrape, Pinch, and the Crease brush. That’s for another post.

Blender needs Transpose

The hand is a challenge to draw, model and sculpt (digitally). Earlier I decided to give it a try, starting with a sphere. I didn’t bother to finish it because it’s way too much work to manually move and reposition the fingers. I enjoy sculpting things manually, and for those that do, Blender really need a way to quickly bend / rotate the mesh—something like the Transpose tool in ZBrush.

Here’s my tip if you want to sculpt the hand: Let the palm face you (front view, “1” on the numpad). That way, you can use your left hand as a reference.

Have Some Good Ref Near By

As of this writing, I work with a 15 inch screen at 2048 x 1280. What this means is that there’s not enough space to fill the screen with references, and because of that, I have a habit of doing things from memories. I’m a bit lazy to open up references when all I’m doing is experimental sculpting on the fly. For me, one way to counter this is to have an actual figure sitting on my desk. There. No more excuses for not getting the neck right. You simply can’t trust your memories as evidenced in the fact that people still forget where they put their keys (pun intended).

Also, take advantage of that empty wall of yours. Whatever you’re struggling with or needed to be reminded of, print them and stick it.

Experimenting with Environments

I spent two days just experimenting with these environment concepts. These were quick thumbnail sketches using just one brush throughout the entire experiment. Two things I’m not good at are: Environment and Mech. With these experiments, I’m trying out something new that is outside of my comfort zone.

Casual Perspective

One of the excuses that I had for not getting into environmental concept at first was that I didn’t know perspective that well. But when you think about it, most people that do character concepts don’t know perspective that well either (just enough to get by). When you start to have realism in mind and placing them in an environment or finishing that masterpiece of yours, that’s when it really matters. Same thing goes for muscle names in your studies. The major muscles and bones are enough, and you can always learn more later down the road, but it’s not necessary to start off learning every muscle and bone (you’re an artist, not a medical student).

How often do you see artists on the street have their rulers out when sketching/drawing from life? I don’t remember seeing one. Which means most of them are doing it casually. Not everything has to be perfectly lined up. It’s okay if your perspective is off when you’re quickly fleshing out your ideas. Afterall, these initial sketches aren’t meant to be final. They’re there to get [the point across]. This is the mindset or attitude that you perfectionists (speaking to myself as well) need to adopt. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have carried out this experiment and learned something in the process.

Having said all that, here’s another thing to keep in mind: If you’re a [digital] artist, you don’t have to master perspective (you can if you want, if you got the time), anatomy or even lightning. Blender (or any 3d app) will help you with that. If you think that’s cheating, then you might as well go back to traditional medium :). The fact that you use the “undo” button and layers to assist you already say something.

SET 1

All the examples in this post were done freehand. And I quickly ran out of ideas because I’m inexperience in this area. Roughly 1-4 minutes each. Take note of the brush strokes…

SET 2

When you have nothing to look at, and you haven’t done environment that much, you will quickly run out of ideas. Scribbling is one of the ways that ideas can be quickly generated. To make it even more random, I did it with both eyes closed. Then I opened my eyes, duplicated that chaotic mess. And painted it over. Take note of the brush strokes. Notice how the last part of this second set is very different from all the previous ones. The first part of this second set is bold and straight to the point, with high contrast (dark/light). The brush’s opacity was at 50%. The second part of this second set has a lot more light values (brush’s opacity range from 10% to 50%). I was more relaxed and confident in the last part of this experiment, and it shows in the brush strokes.

Creatures and Re-topology

Modeling or sculpting creatures is a great way to learn the 3d app you’re using. Creatures allows you to make mistakes, and to be free and relaxed in your experimentation. With humanoid, you have to keep the anatomy in mind otherwise people can look at it and know that it’s off.

Sculpting this piece from a sphere was quick and easy. It’s also my first attempt at retopologizing. Blender by default has all the options and features that make this easy, but the actual process of retoplogizing (manually) can be long and tedious! I might have to look into RetopoFlow later on.

Another Speed Test (15 mins)

This time I slowed down and tried to be a lot more intentional with every stroke. I wanted to see if I could find a shortcut to block in a decent head form within 10 minutes from scratch (sphere). Apparently there is a shortcut. The shortcut is the “Grab” brush. After blocking in the basic planar of the head, take time and carefully reposition/adjust the shape of the head with the grab brush.

This looks like I won’t be going back to regular box modeling for organic/creature concept. Sculpt and Retoplogy is where I’m setting my eyes on. If I were to do this with regular box modeling, it would take a lot longer.

First attempt at Speed Sculpting

1 Hour Speed Sculpting in Blender 2.80 beta. Completed in 55 minutes. Started off with a Sphere.

Completed in 55 minutes. No reference. Forced myself to improvise. I was a bit nervous before I hit the clock and wasn’t sure if I could pull it off because 1) My knowledge of anatomy is still lacking (the neck gives it away, I think), 2) Still learning what each brush does. Would love to experiment with other brushes, but I stuck to what I know best: Clay Strips. My left hand was hitting a lot of hotkeys and I was going as fast as I could. There were a lot of hiccups in between as I reached the numpad keys with my right hand and that kind of slowed down a bit. I’m a keyboard cowboy and haven’t fully mapped Blender’s keys to my liking yet.

Anyway, I’m very surprised by the result. Let’s just say I got lucky!

Sphere Head

Another test piece. Done in Blender 2.80 beta.

I was going to abandon this test piece halfway, but persistence pays off. In case you’re wondering why:

It’s all about refinement, analyzing and correcting, from first to last. The mistake or mark we make becomes a point of reference. To have a nose that looks about right, it must begin by looking wrong. And that begins the refinement process.

Krita’s Line Tool

Testing out perspective theories

Krita gives you quick access to the Line Tool and it’s great for testing out perspective theories. However, I came across one limitation in Krita with the way the program handles straight line. Other softwares keep the line straight when you draw it while holding down the Shift key. I found out today that you can change Krita’s profile to function like Photoshop! Once you change the profile, the “Shift” will allow you to draw straight lines. But upon closer look, it’s actually a Line Tool. That’s where the limitation is.

On the left image, if you want to draw a perfectly straight line that covers both top and bottom, starting at the center, you can’t with a line tool. You would have to lift up your pen and repeat, and the problem is that it might not align with the first line perfectly. You can do it manually, image on the right, but without locking the initial angle/direction of the stroke, it will look off.

Features I wish Krita has…

I keep a personal list as I explore and work with Krita. I’m sure more will come up in the future, but for now this is what I have on my list:

1) Fit to Height: Currently, we have “Reset Zoom to 100%”, “Fit to Width” but “Fit to Height” is missing. Sometimes knowing where I am on the Canvas height-wise is more important than width-wise.

2) Hotkey to toggle on/off the below or above’s layer’s visibility, and still remain on the current layer while working on it: Useful for inking and working with reference images.

3) Hotkey to toggle on/off “Snap to Assistants”: This will definitely speed things up a bit when using perspective guides.

4) Visual Feedback: In fullscreen mode, it’s hard to tell what opacity level my brush is when I increase/decrease the brush’s opacity via a hotkey. When resizing the brush, we have an idea, but opacity, no clue.

5) Hotkey to change a brush’s size like how it’s done in Blender when sculpting: For artists who use both Krita and Blender’s Sculpting, sometimes it can be very confusing. In Blender, it’s “F” and then you move a mouse (not dragging) to change the size, click to confirm. In Krita, you hold down “Shift” and you drag the pen and then release the “Shift” to confirm. I try my best to make both Krita and Blender work in harmony, which means sometimes I have to change things in Blender to match Krita and vice-versa. Then there are times that it’s not possible.

6) Brush’s Tips selection: This is a bit more advanced stuff. Right now we can select colors, but what if we can select different brush tip on the fly? Instead of having 5 brushes with the same setting and everything, why not have just one and then change the brush tip as needed? Great for quick thumbnailing, working with texture brushes etc…

7) Expand Canvas in any of the four directions (Left, Right, Bottom, Top) via the arrow keys without. A quick way to get more space for drawing/painting during a study session without moving the Canvas away.

Thoughts on Blender Sculpting

Early 2016 Blender Sculpting Experimentation

I really like Blender 2.8’s Viewport. The wireframe, color and MatCap makes sculpting a joy. I was going through my old sculpting files back in early 2016 and imported them into 2.8’s beta just to see what they look like. And speaking of sculpting, here are a few thoughts:

At the time of doing these experiments or test back in 2016, I had no idea that I would end up with these results. I was just playing around with Blender’s GUI, exploring its features etc… and then sculpting came to mind. I had no experience whatsoever with digital sculpting or even traditional sculpting. Didn’t know what DYNTOPO was and how it could help with sculpting from scratch.

What most people usually do first before entering sculpt mode is this: They block out the form with proper subdivisions and everything. Wireframe looks clean and so on. If the resolution isn’t high enough, then you can’t sculpt in tiny details. You would have to increase the resolution of the mesh [throughout] the entire model. Things can slow down if you don’t have a fast computer, which is why a lot of hobbyists give up due to the lag/slowness.

That’s where “DYNTOPO” comes in. The entire mesh will be triangulated. In Dyntopo mode, Blender will add or remove local resolution as you sculpt (depending on your dyntopo setting). Overall, it’s a lot faster! And you don’t have to think about topology or subdivisions of your mesh. In my opinion, DYNTOPO is what makes digital sculpting fun!

You can take out a cube or any primitive object and start sculpting right away. Here was a cube I did yesterday. It was not planned. I scribbled around with the Clay Strips brush and really enjoyed the pixelated look of the mesh. Sculpting in dyntopo mode gives me the illusion that I’m working with clay. As you can see, it wasn’t that difficult to block in the face.

The first hurdle is software related. Technicality. The second hurdle is artistic. How do you go from a Cube to a finished piece of art? I’ll touch on that in my second post.

Blender 2.8 Sculpt Test

Blender has come a long way. I like its Sculpting mode/setup and this was a test to relearn the Sculpting brushes. Started off with a SPHERE.

The main sculpting brush I use is the “Clay Strips.” It’s what I used initially to block in the form/details (image: left) and it’s also what I use throughout the Sculpting process. I prefer this brush over the “Draw” brush. The “Pinch” / “Crease” brush also come in handy for refining/sharpen edges (image: right).

EDIT: Another test. I’ll probably do a lot more digital Sculpting in Blender later on.

Sculpted from a Cube as the base.

EDIT2: Another test. I can’t seem to resist the temptation to get into Sculpting at this moment, but I must resist and focus on my 2d studies! 🙂

Started with the standard Cube! No scaling or anything. That figure is actually pretty small!

Blender sculpting is extremely addictive once you get a hang of it! After the first test (Skull above) I thought I could take a break from it, but did two more tests. It’s that fun! Again, my primary brush is CLAY STRIPS, 95% of the time.

Vanishing Point

Randomly I decided to pull out the Vanishing Point assistant tool and scribbled a lot of random lines (with snap on). Then I removed all the assistant tool and I’m left with scribbling lines (image: left). Then I did the rest freehand, having the perspective guide as a layer below. This is the first time I have done anything like it, and I’m very pleased with the outcome. With the perspective guide below, I didn’t have to think about perspective, but instead focused more on blocking out my ideas, loosely and casually. This is a very quick way to thumbnail environments that will look a bit more realistic!

Snap to Assistants

The Vanishing Point in Krita is very helpful. I first saw its use in Autodesk SketchBook and was very impressed by it. I’m so glad that Krita has it! ArtRage has the perspective grid, but it’s not as flexible as the Vanishing Point. However, without a shortcut to turn on/off (in real-time) “snap to assistants” it can be a bit troublesome to use. Right now, I only use perspective theory casually. I have no intention of having it 100% accurate all the time, and therefore do not need to have “snap to assistants” on all the time. I find it extremely inconvenient to have to turn on the snap manually (and then off again) when I only need just a few lines in correct perspective.

Krita needs a shortcut for this. If there is, I can’t seem to find it.

Transform Tool

They looked a bit narrow. With the help of the Transform tool, I was able to widen them without having to reblock them manually.

I consider myself a purist, but I’m slowly breaking that mindset to take advantage of the tools that are available within the program that I use. When things don’t look right, I clear the canvas and start all over, and I believe there are times for that. But it’s not always wise, considering that we’re doing things digitally.

I don’t understand why Krita has two separate tools (Move, Transform) when they can be one. V for Move and Shift+V for Transform is my setup.

Notan Experiment

I took the default “Ink-7 Brush Rough” and modified to have a medium-thin straight square (vertical) brush’s tip. These were extremely quick sketches without giving much thought to the process. Just one value (black) and an eraser mode. This is a great way to focus on the overall composition/shapes. The mind has an interesting way of recognizing shape/pattern from chaos, so sometimes, it’s best to leave it unfinished and let the mind fill in the blank.

Practice, smartly…

Know your aim and what you’re practicing. There is no need to draw in all the details if you’re struggling with proportion, angles and correct measurement. By not focusing on the details, you’ll be able to go through many images in a short span of time, and that will speed up your training/progress. This is how I train: Open a search engine and look for a subject to practice. Training my eyes to capture the proportions, measurements and angles. I avoid drawing in the details and making a complete artwork out of it. Instead, I stay focused on the overall shapes.

PureRef

Krita is a bit buggy on Mac. Sometimes I can’t pan my Canvas or draw anything on it without tabbing out to my desktop and back into Krita. In severe case, I would have to restart Krita. I have learned to put up with this minor problem because Krita is the best free drawing/painting program at the moment. The problem I just described will occur more often when I’m using “Subwindows” mode. The more documents to manage at once, the more likely these glitches will occur. Which is why I prefer (not the only reason) to stay in “Tabs” mode.

In my previous post, I talked about importing images as Reference Image. They are very helpful if you’re composing an image. But for practicing, that setup is not the best. I needed to have my reference images on the left at all time, while I scroll/expand my image to the right. There are two ways you can accomplish this:

  1. Import all your images as Reference Image, anywhere outside your Canvas. And then make a new window view (Windows -> New View) of your current document. Organize/position this new view, and then in this new view, zoom in to your reference images. Now you can switch to your main document and start drawing. Pan as much as you want and the images will stay there. OR you can create a completely new document and use this document to hold all your reference images. The same logic applies to this new document.
  2. In order for that to work, you need to be in “Subwindows” mode. And if you’re on Mac, forget it. I came across PureRef.com while researching my problem and that’s the best solution for a Mac user at the moment. Actually, even if you’re not on Mac and even if you’re not using Krita, PureRef is a very handy program to have. So check it out! It’s a pay what you can app. If you want to try out for free, just put in “0” for the price.

Insert as Reference Image

Working in Fullscreen with all images in one place.

Bravo to the developer who coded this. Earlier I was practicing some landscapes and had a few images opened on my desktop, all lined up horizontally at the top of my screen. However, there’s a few problems with this: 1) It clogs up my space: can’t see what’s beneath these images such as Krita’s toolbar and so on. 2) When moving/zooming the Canvas, these reference images stay there the same. 3) I’m on Mac, and these images won’t show up when working in Fullscreen mode. In Fullscreen, Krita takes over. And that’s when I said to myself, “This can’t be good. I need these references! What do I do?”

That’s when I decided to drag and drop them into Krita and imported as “Reference Image.” And that solves all the problems. Insert as regular layer doesn’t work. In order to have these images outside of the Canvas, you must “Insert as Reference Image.” You can rotate, scale, flip, or even lower the opacity of the reference image. Another reason to love Krita!

Krita’s Dark Theme

macOS Dark65 Theme: Works best with Canvas Border Color: 66,66,66 (which becomes 65,65,65). Don’t know why Krita minus 1, but that’s just the way it is.

KDE doesn’t look that great on Mac. And since I use Krita a lot these days, I have taken the time to put together a dark theme to make it looks a bit nicer. Feel free to modify it to your liking. Right click on the file and save it to your computer. Put it inside this folder: ~/Library/Application Support/krita/color-schemes

macOS-Dark65.colors

If you want a darker selection, look for 106,107,134 and replace it with: 70,70,77. This is so the window bar doesn’t stand out when Krita is in “Subwindows” mode. There doesn’t seem to be anyway to change just the color for the window’s title bar. You either change all, which affects the selection. When choosing a selection color for the theme, I avoid the color that is available for the Layer’s color.

Date/Time Stamp

Last night I found out that each time you saved your document while working in Krita, the original date/time stamp for the file you’re working on will be override. Other softwares keep the original stamp. This is good if you’re the kind of person that likes to keep track of your progress and like to go back in time to discuss certain things. I cropped a few files to clear the empty space and the original stamp got replaced with the new stamp. My only way around this at the moment is to rename the bottom layer of a new document and input the date/time into its layer title.

Faith Imitates Art

It is difficult to pinpoint what it is exactly that makes our spirits respond in a raw and instinctive way to the arts. Perhaps it is because engaging the arts reminds us that we are made in the image of a divine artist, a God who colored the sky and the flowers; who delights in trees that are pleasing to the eye; who specifically requested “Bezalel … to devise artistic designs” in Exodus 35; who requested that the tabernacle curtains be made of “fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns, with cherubim skillfully worked” (Exodus 36:8); not to mention the breathtakingly beautiful detailed tailoring of the priestly vestments in Exodus 39.


The arts not only remind us that we are made in the image of a creator but they invite us to ponder the age-old theological and philosophical understanding that beauty, goodness and truth are inextricably linked with the things of the spirit and the nature of God.

Read the rest…

Click to Expand

Krita has a great little feature that allows you to expand the size of your document that you’re currently working on. What this means is that you don’t have to worry about coming up with a document size. You can just start with any and get right into practicing your forms (or whatever you’re doing on the canvas). Once you reach the end of your document, by moving it (up | down | left | right), the expand will appear for you to click on

It started with a small document to practice drawing the eye. Then I got into form practicing and it quickly expanded
Constructive drawing: Practicing forms (Sphere, Cylinder, Cube etc…)

Brush: Pencil-5 Tilted

I’m using a tablet that does not have tilt support, with a brush that was made for tilted tablet (I’m assuming because the setting for this brush has tilt settings). I can’t imagine what it would be like, and I’ll have to get a better tablet to find out later in the future. In the meantime, this is what I use to practice gesture drawing. Default setting, but I set the brush size to 260.

Krita’s Blending Brush

I’m about to head off to bed, but before I go I decided to fire up Krita and do a quick scribbling. Had no idea where I was going with it. I grabbed the “Wet Paint” brush and played around, and to my surprise, this is something you can achieve in less than 15 minutes!

I’m not into painting at the moment. That’s something I’ll explore later on. For now, I’m exploring LINES, gestures, poses, etc…

EDIT: Another quick test early next morning. Trying out the blending brush (“Wet” Circle, Paint, Paint Details)