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Old 07-05-2006, 05:42 PM   #1
Jane the Ripper
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Default Getting started in Open Canvas 1.1

Hi there. I thought I might add some notes on Open Canvas here in a mini-tutorial, since I notice lots of people are using it, and it's my favourite drawing program at the moment. :)

I'm using Open Canvas 1.1 b72 (though b68 will work just as well, though it may cause you problems when networking if you're not both using the same version.)

This is going to start out with some real basics, for those who've never used Open Canvas before, or who don't have a full grasp of how it works or what it does. Then we'll get on to some more specifics about painting. And if people like this or find it useful, I'll add to it as we go along. This is by no means comprehensive! This is simply what I've learned and the features I use. ;)

So, let's begin! :D

Here we are in open canvas. First, I'd like to make a few notes on the various tools available, for those who've never used it before, and on the making of a set of brushes. My canvas here is 2000 by 3500, which is pretty damn big - but I usually work this size (or slightly larger). Be careful about making your canvases TOO big, as Open Canvas will have problems saving these as anything but a .wpb (it's default save file, which retains the layers). You will not be able to save as a .jpg or a .bmp with REALLY big files in OC, making it hard to export from OC without a lot of fiddling about with screenshots! ;)

There are four types of drawing tool in 1.1, and they're all visible on your tool panel - which is that square box over there on the right, above the colour pallette. To select a type of tool, grab one of the tabs on the left. To select one of the tools in this set, grab a tab on the top. You can make sets of tools for every occasion, which is helpful for painting and inking.

The first (topmost) tool is the ink pen. Beneath this, you have the watercolour brush, the eraser, and the smudge tool. Each can be adjusted in a number of ways. See the little save icon? I've marked it "save" in my crummy handwriting. This will save any settings you change, and ONLY if you click it, so you can mess around with your tools as much as you like and not fear losing the presets unless you click "save". Underneath this icon, there are three little oblong-shaped icons. The first one (on the left) looks like a grey dot with a black dot in. This will toggle pressure-sensitivity/size on and off. This is only helpful if you have a tablet: ie, if you press harder, you'll get a bigger line. Next to this there's another icon that looks like three dots in a row. This one toggles opacity on and off (how opaque, or conversely see-through, your tool is). You'll notice I have my watercolour brush on - and these have opacity on as default. Ink pens do not. Next to the opacity toggle, there's another button that looks like a little gradient in a box. This toggle edge-smooth - how soft the edges of your brushes are. You cannot turn this on with ink pens. I have mine turned off for watercolour brushes, but you can turn it on if you want to make your brushes softer.

At the bottom there, there are also two sliders - I've scribbled next to them, max/min size. This is for your first toggle - the pressure/size toggle. Your max. size and min. size depend on how hard you press, so if you have a mouse, it makes no difference. You can adjust these as much as you like, as well as the other settings, to make yourself a brush set. Once you have a set of brushes you like (and have saved them) you can draw pretty much anything.

On the canvas, I've drawn a line with each of my ink pen and watercolour brush sets, to show you the basic sizes I use. These pretty much cover every eventuality for me. Note that the bigger a watercolour brush gets, the more it spreads colour, but the softer colour it uses. It will spread colour further (by dragging it across) but the colour it produces is weaker. Very small watercolour brushes will make fairly hard-edges lines, like a slightly softer ink pen.

I'm not going to mention the eraser or smudge tools at all, because I never ever use them. To erase, I'll simply select white, and use an ink pen to erase. More on the use of white in OC later. To smudge, I'll grab an appropriate colour, and use a watercolour brush to smudge. To me, both eraser and smudge are redundant.

Now, away from the brush box, and on to the tool set. Next to the brush box window there's a grey box of tools, some of which I've labelled with numbers. These are the ones I use, so the ones I'll talk about briefly.

1 - draw. Select this to draw with whatever brush you have selected. (obvious)
2 - move. This will actually move your image around on the canvas. Bear in mind, OC will "forget" anything that moves off the side of the canvas, unlike photoshop (for example). So be careful when moving.
3 - move 2. This moves your canvas around on the screen - which is different! This can be handy, trust me. ;)
4 - rotate. This rotates your canvas, making certain lines easier to draw, just as you'd rotate your paper on your lap when making a conventional drawing. Hit alt to have it square back again after rotating.
5 & 6 - zoom in a out. Self explanatory. (ps, because my canvas is so huge, I'm actually at maximum zoom-out at the moment, and when I open a canvas this large I have to zoom out completely to see it all. However, a large canvas is helpful for little detailing later on.)

Right! Got all that? Asleep yet? XD Moving on...

Layer types. :) There are three types of layer in Open Canvas, and how they work deserves a small mention.

The first type of layer (default) is the multiply layer (X). On this layer, black is opaque (ie, you can't see through it) and white is transparent (ie, it's invisible). This means, with two multiply layers, if you draw a white and black image on one, and then colour on the other, the colour will show through the white bits but not the black bits. All the colours in between are semi-transparent, so will affect other colours on other layers. It doesn't matter what order the layers are in! So, think of the colours in OC as working like pieces of stained glass, letting light through. On my canvas here, I've drawn a big blob of a darkish red colour on my multiply layer, with a large watercolour brush.

The add layer (+) kinda works in reverse, in that white is opaque and black is transparent. However it also ADDS light, much like the dodge/burn tools would in photoshop. So this is useful for intense highlights, such as sunshine or shiny metal. I've drawn in the same red colour as before on the add layer. Where the two reds cross over, I add red light. Where the red crosses over the white, you can't see it at all - since you can't add red light to pure white light (if that makes sense?)

The subtract layer (-) removes light, kinda. It actually removes pigment. You can see on my canvas I've drawn some of the SAME red colour as before. Where it crosses the red on the multiply layer, I've removed red light and I get black. Where I draw over the white, I remove all the red pigment (the red light) and get a green colour. To be honest, I don't use the subtract layer much, though it is handy for taking all of the red pigment out of that purple hair you've just spend ages carefully shading, in order to make it cooler, and things like that. Use sparingly, though. ;) Less is definitely more with the subtract and add layers.

Your default layer will always be multiply, but you can change the layer type by clicking it's symbol on the left there. Bear in mind, the default layer colour for the multiply layer is white (since white is transparent), whereas on the subtract and add layers, the default colour is black (since black is transparent). So you'll get some odd effects if you just change the layer type.

Other buttons on the layers: the visibility slider does exactly what it says on the tin. In photoshop, you'd select "blend options" and then rack down the opacity some. The visibility slider does the same. Bear in mind, when you've taken the visibility of a layer down, selecting colours that are on the canvas with your forward click (on a tablet pen) will select what you can SEE and not what is actually there. Therefore, you'd select a lighter colour, because the visibility of that layer is down. If you just want to make a whole layer lighter, take the visibility down, make a new multiply layer with nothing on, and then make all the other layers invisible (with the eye icon on the far left of the layers). Then say layer>combine (visible layer). It will combine them at full visibility, and you'll keep your faded colours. Then you can easily continue working on it.

So, that's about it for layers. I'm gonna post this, and then start work on post two in this thread, which will be about actual PAINTING in Open Canvas. ;) Hurrah!
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Old 07-05-2006, 06:17 PM   #2
Jane the Ripper
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On to the actual painting. I'm going to take a quick sketch I made before, and add some paint to it, to show you roughly how I go about making a painting from a sketch. I do all my sketching in Open Canvas, and I usually sketch with a small watercolour brush and black.

Here are the initial lines of the sketch. Very very rough, done quickly to capture (in this case) movement. Usually, I'll have a few more lines to indicate musculature and bone structure, but in this one, I just wanted something quick to colour so I could demonstrate how to colour.

Okay, so first of all, I open up my image in OC 1.1 and make a new layer. Unless I mention otherwise, I'm only going to be using the multiply (X) (default) layer type for this painting. I will also only be using watercolour brushes for this painting, unless I mention otherwise.

Now I have two layers. The first layer (at the bottom - OC will usually add the new layer in right above the one you have active), has the black and white sketch on. As I mentioned above, white is transparent (and black opaque) on a multiply layer, so I can paint colour on to my new layer, and it'll show through the white bits.

I pick a colour I want for my backdrop and the general feel of the piece (in this case blue), and with my empty X layer active, I hit insert. (It's right above your delete key). This will floodfill the whole layer.

Then, I grab a dark to medium brown colour (I painted a blob with an inkpen in the corner so you could see which brown I used), and start to paint in the shadows of the skin, on the blue layer. Because I'm painting with a watercolour brush, it will pick up some of the blue and mix it in with the brown as I paint, adding a slight cold tint to the shadows. I want this to happen, it'll make the whole pic hang together a little better when it's done.

Once I'm done painting in the very rough brown shadows I need to start with the highlights.

Notice I'm being very rough, just sticking some colour down. I don't intend to keep the sketch forever, and at the moment all I'm doing is getting some colours on to the canvas in approximately the right places. At this stage, I have no intention of being exact.

I'm using a pale pinkish-orange for the highlights (see the blob I drew on the left there), and blending it ever so slightly with some of the brown where I feel like it. The more midtone colours I "make" on the canvas with this mixing process now, the less I'll have to handpick later.

And once I'm done making very quick highlights:

I combine the two layers. Now my sketch, and all the blue and brown and pink are on the same layer. This is when I start to destroy my sketch. Note, I've zoomed in to the face area. This is pretty much all I'm going to paint in this example, just to show you how I work.

What I've done is, grabbed a darkish brown (slightly darker than the original brown I picked) and used it to start adding some darker shadows in, and smudging out my original sketch lines. The sketch lines are black, so they'll immediately add dark black smudge shadow wherever they were, unless I make an effort to scrub them out carefully. I've also started to detail at this zoom, using my highlights and shadows to pick out the shapes better, such as the eyelids and lip line. I'm not being incredibly picky at this stage, not trying to get everything perfect, just neatening things up a little and making things blend a little better. I'm still picking most of my colours from the pallette at this stage, too, rather than from the canvas. All I do now is start to refine areas until they're as detailed as I want them to be - you've pretty much seen all the steps to painting as I do it already. And I always paint on just one layer (by the end), unless I want to add some shiny highlights with the add (+) layer.

Here I've also started to colour the hair. Blue, because I felt like it. Again, I start out with the dark colours, and then add the light colours, and then detail. Unlike with the skin tones, I didn't make a new layer to do this - just painted right over my sketch lines. Also, with hair... A few notes. Notice how on the left there I have a horrible-looking pale blue smudge with a white smudge in the middle? That's me defining where the light will hit her hair, where I want the shiny to be. After that, I grab a dark colour and a nice big brush, and sweep (gently) from the white to the dark blue lower down. This spreads the highlight out nicely, dulls it down slightly, makes it all smooth and good. After that, I'll run over with a small brush and a dark blue, and put some strokes through the shiny to add shape and texture. You can see that I've already done this on the right side of her hair.

Last image for now.

I've pretty much just added more detail on this, occasionally zooming in more, mostly just staying at this zoom. More detail on the hair and face - I really haven't started working on any other parts of the painting yet.

Notice how there are still blue tones on her face, despite the fact that it's pretty detailed already (though not really finished). The blue from the background is still in there, making the whole feel cooler in tone - this is a good thing, it means whatever colours I use for the rest of the image will pick up that tone and make it cooler - at the end, it ought to hang together as an image better as a result.


And finally, a quick note on direction of painting:

(Can you tell I forgot to put this image in the first post? XD)
Basically, when painting with a watercolour brush, it'll pick up whatever colour your start in, and drag it across - it'll blend. This is endlessly helpful for painting with, and means once you've done a lot of a painting, you can pick most of your pallette to continue with right from your canvas (forward click with your tablet pen, don't bother with the eyedropper tool). However, it depends which direction you're painting in!

All the strokes I've made across this piece of blue go from left to right. You'll notice that when I draw from the white, it drags some white into the blue - but by the time it gets to the other side, it's dragging blue out into the white. It doesn't matter what colour you're drawing with, if you draw across that blue you'll end up with some blue in it.

For blending, it's useful to keep an eye on what direction you're drawing in, so you know which way you're dragging your colours, and get your shapes right. To make that highlight bigger, grab a midtone and drag some of the bright out. To make that shadow bigger, grab a midtone and drag some of the dark into the light! Simple as that.


Okay, so I'm stopping here, for the time being. Let me know if you found any of my rambling useful, and I might continue with painting my dancing girl and continue this tutorial, or make some notes on painting other things, like scenery? What do you think?
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Old 07-10-2006, 08:29 PM   #3
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Nice tut, Pixie.

What drives me nuts is only being able to have 2 layers when I'm drawing/painting with someone else and I can't make an Add layer. Dumb question: How do I use pure white in this situation??

Multiple layers drive me nuts. Why are they like that and not "normal" like photoshop?
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Old 07-11-2006, 02:09 AM   #4
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You can actually set the amount of layers you start with in the networking menu before you host . Really nice tutorial btw.
PK Sketchbook - http://www.polykarbonbbs.com/showthread.php?t=3667

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Old 07-11-2006, 09:33 PM   #5
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Thanks, both of you! :D I may yet continue it, then... I was thinking everyone thought it was crap... XD

Kwiix - yeah, you can set the number of layers in a paintchat, although only the host of the session can do this, and it doesn't help with the add layer issue. To make pure white, really the only thing you can do is erase - ie, draw on your base layer in white. But if I'm going to do something major (that I'm not sure of), usually I'll copy the layer and make it invisible before I begin. I can always delete it later, if my erasing worked. ;)

XD And, actually... I much prefer the multiply layers in Open Canvas to the "normal" layers in photoshop. It makes the layers more cohesive, imo - and therefore, the picture hang together better in the end. Though on occasion, I wish I -could- make a layer which wasn't multiply. And to be fair, I usually only work on one layer. >_>
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Old 07-11-2006, 09:45 PM   #6
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But my problem is that when I color pick a color someone else is working on and try to match their color it doesn't work, it just multiplies that color making it darker.

You're doing a great job. Don't think because you're not getting replies that it's not helping anyone. Please continue.
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Old 07-12-2006, 10:38 AM   #7
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*grins* Oh, what you're probably doing is... if you pick a colour someone else is using, and then over their colour draw on a new layer, it has double that colour! ie, you're shining light through two panes of that colour glass. Hence it being darker. There's really not much you can do about this in paintchat, since you're working on different layers - but in regular OC sessions, just work on one layer, unless you want to double the darkness of your tone. Then it won't be an issue. :)

I'll continue this at some point, mebbe today... I have some additional notes to add on making shiny things, using multiply and subtract layers effectively, shading things other than skin and hair, lightsources, things like that... :) But that'll all have to come later. A tad busy, atm... painting commissions. >_< argh.
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Old 10-14-2006, 09:21 AM   #8
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yes!!!!this tut is exactly what i was looking for, i was downloaded oc because i think i'm finally ready to throw my hat into dig coloring/painting and i didnt know how to use the damn thing, seems more simplistic than photoshop 7 which i was slightly using but i like the water color aspect of oc. thanks a lot man

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Old 10-14-2006, 09:55 PM   #9
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Awsome tut. Great job, insanely useful.
So as not to seem self-obsessed, he writes this in third person.
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Old 10-26-2006, 06:05 PM   #10
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are there any useful hotkeys that I should know>?
My sketchbook: BANANZA!
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Old 11-11-2006, 01:22 PM   #11
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ahhh - so this is how the lump of crap is used - nice one mate - this is just what i needed!
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Old 12-20-2006, 10:19 PM   #12
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Thanks for all your comments. :)

Hanzozuken - yeah, it is much simpler than Photoshop 7, but that's the beauty of it, really. There are one or two things Open Canvas doesn't do that I wish it did (I can't crop images in it, for example)... but otherwise, it's a very small program designed for drawing in. This means it's never going to eat up all your RAM (like Photoshop will try to, if you ask it to do something complicated) and it'll always be able to keep up with you. It doesn't have bells and whistles - it's just a drawing program. That's what I like about it. It's all down to how you use it. :)

D4Shadow - insert floodfills. alt will put your image back to square if you've rotated the canvas. Forward click with the tablet pen (right click on a mouse, I think?) will select the colour right off the canvas. Apart from that I'm not aware of any hotkeys.

I'm actually making a new version of this tutorial for Deviantart, and it ought to be a bit more comprehensive, and go into some other tricks and techniques I've learned. I'll link to it once it's done (need to kick the boyfriend off the main computer first, damned Sims 2 stealing him away!)... XD
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Old 02-22-2007, 07:22 PM   #13
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THANK GOD!!! I had no clue how to use the OC but I got it anyways. THANK YOU!!!! ^_^ *bow down in unworthyness*
Bouncing with Joy!
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Old 03-05-2007, 05:48 PM   #14
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worked out how to make a blender brush the other day .

in the water colour effect sliders turn the middle one on full, have a muck around with it set like that, though you do still have to have a similar colour or it will add or reduce the colour you have on your brush.
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Old 03-09-2008, 11:05 AM   #15
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I have a little question. I would really like to do some OC jam, but. every time I install open canvas and try to draw, I cannot get a decent curved line, all I get is a bunch of straight lines. What is more, it takes time until the PC reacts to movement on the tablet. (which is not a problem of my pcs performance because all other programs work great (photoshop etc...)
If someone has a solution I would be grateful.

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Old 11-12-2008, 10:12 AM   #16
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wow, wat a story is this!!

i cant imagine at all....

is it a comic or some thing else....

really superb.. especially those pics
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Old 11-12-2008, 04:52 PM   #17
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very nice. i've taken this tut to heart, as i've never had much success using a tablet like paintbrushes and i got oc to practice with

i would love to hear more about adding metallic shine with o.c
like my doodles? check out my new sketch book!

Sketch book!

Web Comic now up! site still under construction.. its a slow process but check it out every now and then.
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Old 01-23-2009, 09:32 PM   #18
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