I’ve been pretty focused on visual art these last few weeks, rather than writing. I don’t think it’s a newness factor, since I have been making visual art on and off since I was in middle school. I think I have just remembered how much fun it is.
Recently, I have been trying out a different sort of program, called MyPaint. MyPaint aims for a clean, quick workflow, and is specifically designed for digital painting. Complex selections, digital processing, levels adjustment, and the like aren’t in the project’s perview. The suggest using GIMP or Krita, which already do those things very well. The picture at the top is by me, painted in MyPaint, and cropped for presentation in GIMP.
My Review: What MyPaint does well is present you with a canvas, and a lot of powerful tools with which to make your mark upon it. Brushes in MyPaint have an extensive and effective set of parameters that you can use to fine tune them. Change them based on direction, velocity, tablet pressure, or at random. It comes with a large number of brushes already defined, though I find myself gravitating to a few favorites: Basic, Blend+Paint, Pallet Knife, Smudge, and 2B Pencil.
MyPaint also makes use of an “infinite canvas.” However large your painting is, the canvas stays just a bit larger. You can never find yourself out of room, because you just paint into the area you need.
I think my favorite aspect of MyPaint is the variety of color management tools. It uses the familiar color-triangle from the GTK+ toolkit, which can also be used to match a specific RGB value or HTML code. In addition, there are two more tools you can use in place while painting. The color wheel is a series of rings, one each for hue, saturation, and value, with your final product shown on the innermost ring, which surrounds an open space so you can compare it instantly to the color you’ve got on the canvas. The Quick Color popup allows you to quickly switch between colors of the same hue with different saturations or values. Finally, you can quickly cycle through color history using the right mouse button (or tablet button.) Color blending on the canvas using the smudge, palette knife, and blend+paint tools is a much better experience than attempting the same in GIMP or PhotoShop.
However, for all its usefulness, MyPaint is a young program (the latest release is 0.7.0.) The UI is still evolving, and layers support is far from polished. Don’t let it scare you away, however. The keyboard shortcuts are well laid out and easy to learn, and the freedom and workspace it offers is more than worth it.
What it is not: MyPaint is not a drop-in replacement for Corel Painter. MyPaint does an excellent job of giving you a paint-like mechanic and workflow, but it does not attempt to recreate the physical properties of different media the way Painter does.
My Grade: MyPaint gets a solid, with potential for much more. I look forward to using this software and interacting with its community for a long time to come.
Posted: July 18th, 2009
If you want to see some more of what MyPaint can do, check out these links:
- Screenshots at the MyPaint website
- MyPaint wiki, including gallery
- Developer Martin Renold’s DeviantArt gallery
- Griatch-Art, an active and helpful community member. (You may recognize some of his work from the screenshots.)