Software of the Month: Sketch 3, Graphic, & MacClean

This month, I've made a couple of purchases that have become a part of my art-making process. I've always used Photoshop for work and other projects, and Paint Tool SAI for other random doodles or light drawing studies. Although I greatly enjoy working with these products, my love for discovering other tools thankfully never dies.

Around two weeks ago, I went software-hunting. It lasted for three-fourths of the whole day but I came out of it feeling really satisfied with my finds. Of course, my primary goal was to find free software that didn't suck, but there are seriously great products out there that are worth the price. Note: These applications were made for Apple devices. I'm not sure if there are versions for these on other systems.


MacClean - FREE


Image courtesy of Imobie





















Since the upgrade to El Capitan, my Mac has been lagging a lot. Photoshop was at its worst, just opening a Finder window would take a minute or two, and it felt like my Mac was at least three years old. After installing MacClean and allowing it to sweep my system, my former issues were gone.

I've tried other cleaning apps but most are only free to try for a limited number of days with incomplete functionality, while some have even worsened the state of my system. I highly recommend MacCleaner to others who suffer from a slow OS after upgrading. The cherry on the cake? It's FREE FOREVER.

Download the software here: MacClean


Graphic by Autodesk - $24.99


Image courtesy of Autodesk




















Autodesk has some incredible products on their catalog. I don't think there's anything I'm not fond of in their list, from Maya, Mudbox, and now, Graphic.

Whenever Photoshop flips out for some reason (it probably just needs an update/optimization fix for El Capitan), I find myself immediately shifting to Graphic. While Photoshop has an insane amount of features for editing and creating, Graphic has a simple interface with straight-forward functions meant for graphic design and vector illustration. They both have the pen tool (Graphic's pen tool has become my personal favorite), layers and blending modes, the brush tool, and a few other similarities.

I'll say it again to be clear: Graphic is a vector creation software. It doesn't pretend to be a replacement for Photoshop and it also doesn't say it's the ultimate art software around. It's great for it's primary purpose, but it's also an awesome substitute for Photoshop.

Know more and buy this software here: Graphic


Sketch 3 - $99


Image courtesy of Sketch













My favorite out of all the software I've purchased this month, Sketch is a GODSEND. For someone looking into UI and wanting to get started, this application is truly one of the best (if not the best) available.

It does come with a huge price tag, but when you think about the vast capabilities, the number of things you can do with this in your software inventory, it just makes sense to purchase this awesomeness. Personally, since buying Sketch 3, my interest in UI has gone up at least 50%. Everything is easy with Sketch 3, from creating wireframes, full-blown website mockups, to creating UI for iOS and Android devices, plus.

The money you'll spend buying this app is used to it's full potential. They have tutorials, kits to get started, a sh*tload of resources to help you get on the train, and more.

Discover and purchase Sketch 3 here: Sketch 3


What are some of your favorite software this month?
Let me know - I'd love to try them out too!

HTML/CSS 101: Part 1 - Introduction


Have you ever wanted to spice up your blog and make it completely you, but have no idea how?

I've always wanted to customize my blog theme but I had zilch knowledge on making it happen! It's incredibly frustrating when I know how I want my blog/website to look like but don't know how, so I made it my goal to learn the basics and move forward from there. (Note: I'm not claiming to be an expert. What you read in this series will be based on my self-study and experience coding my blog and other people's.)

Before we dive into the coding itself, it's important to know what HTML and CSS are and what their functions are.


What is HTML?


HTML (short-form for Hyper Text Markup Language) is a markup language for describing web pages. HTML documents are described by HTML tags, and each tag describes a specific content.

You'll notice that forms of the word describe are repeated in the definition, and it's because that's exactly what it does. It paints the page's elements - placement, content, sections, navigation, link addresses, and others. It's the interpretation of code you see in a site without the formatting, which is where CSS comes in.

What is CSS?


CSS is short for Cascading Style Sheets and can be applied to HTML in three ways - inline, internal, and external.

Inline - uses a style attribute within HTML elements
Internal - uses a style element in the HTML head section
External - uses one or more external CSS files

In simple terms, CSS is the custom formatting you can apply to an HTML tag. This is where you can add color, borders, and practically everything you want to make your site/blog even more personal.

Now, let's get started!

What does a basic HTML document look like?


HTML documents all have this basic format:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<head>
<title>Page Title</title>
</head>
<body>
<h1>My First Heading</h1>
<p>My first paragraph.</p>
</body>
</html>

Here's a brief run-through of what these mean:

DOCTYPE defines the document type to be HTML 
<html> and </html> describes your HTML document
<head> and </head> gives details about your document
<title> and </title> gives the title for your document
<body> and </body> describes what you see on the page
<h1> and </h1> defines the heading
<p> and </p> describes a paragraph

You'll notice that they have a start < and end /> tag - anything inside will take on the description given by tag names.

The simplest examples would be styling text bold, italicized, & underlined. Take the following:

<b>Make this bold.</b> is translated into Make this bold. 
<i>Make this italicized.</i> is translated into Make this italicized. 
<u>Make this underlined.</u> is translated into Make this underlined.

HTML keywords, also called tag names, are enclosed in angle brackets. It is common for these to come in pairs as they determine where a certain keyword ends. End tags are, therefore, very important.

This is just the introduction to HTML/CSS styling, so keep posted for the next part.

What would you like me to include in the next parts? Leave a comment and I'll do my best to deliver. Ciao!


My Illustration creation process

If there's only one thing I could be sure about when it comes to this, it's the fact that there is no one way to create 'art'.

People are different, and the way we think, the way we learn, the way we do things, and the way we perceive one another is highly unique to each one. There may be similarities from time to time, but they're never exactly the same. That being said, I'd like to show you my 'creative process', if I could call it that.

I've still got a long way to go in terms of technique, but since I've recently started to notice a pattern in my process, I figured it's a good time to write about that.


The finished illustration



My art style is what you can call 'non-existent'. Simply saying, I've got no specific style apart from what my emotions were during creation. My friends know it's been a struggle of mine to find my style or my distinction, and up until now, I've lost hope. Now, I know I do have a style, but it's a mish-mash of influences added to my emotions. Still pretty vague, but I understand it a lot.

Can you tell what I was feeling based on the illustration above? Are her eyes looking directly at you, or are they on something else beyond?

This wasn't supposed to be a 'finished' artwork. I had intended her to just be a sketch with black and white shading and a touch of red/pink, but an hour later, I found myself looking back at this. It seemed to me that I somehow got lost as I was painting her.


Process


Click image to enlarge. 











Whether by sketching or color-blocking, the first thing I do is plot the background and the figure. I try to stick to grey tones first, but eventually add color to get a better glimpse of what it might look like. Since her hair is plain black and has no shine or anything, I completed that part first.

Next come the basic shadows and a sketch of the face. When I do shadows, I have my layer on either multiply or overlay depending on the effect I want to achieve. The color adjustment tool has become a staple in this process.

Sometimes, when I want really clean lineart, I sketch the whole thing first, then do the lines, then the color. With this illustration, I started with color blocks, so that other process wasn't necessary to do.

This is around 30 minutes into the illustration.


Click image to enlarge.











It's usually around this time that I get a mental image of how I want it to look like subconsciously. (Like I said, I give my hand and emotion free-reign at this point. Everything I do from here is out of feeling.)

Since she already started looking like a vampire the minute I blocked in that red gown and raven hair and also because it's almost Halloween, I went on to make the piece a little more eerie. I didn't know if I wanted it to stay "dark" as is typical, or something a little brighter. I guess my subconscious wanted the latter.

I added a greenish glow to her, some bubbles, and the rest of the elements you see in the image above. I was thinking "elixir", or something.

This was 50 minutes in.


I'm not quite sure if it's evident that I tried to make this messier than my usual style. :/ I tweaked the brush settings to achieve this sort of crayon texture, but that's about it. The rest was just a matter of adjusting the opacity, size, and pen pressure.

So, that's it. I illustrate based on how I feel. I don't stick to one style or theme as well. If ever, I stick to females. I don't know why, but I guess... it comes more natural to me.

Have any tips or questions for me?
Leave me a comment and I'll be glad to talk.

Ciao!


The Thrill (and Horror!) of Wearing Glasses


My need for glasses started when I was in second grade. 

I had just arrived in Sydney, Australia and was settling in to the new culture and surroundings at my new school. Shy, I didn't tell anyone that I had a hard time seeing things far from me at first, and I'd simply request to be seated at the front or be allowed to sit on the carpeted floors in front of the board. Then, health month came and we were subjected to a few tests - including an eye check. Turned out I was near-sighted. Figures. That week didn't end without me getting glasses.

It was initially incredibly irritating. To make things worse, I got the ones with a string (don't know what it's called) attached to it so I could hang it around my neck like it was some sort of accessory. I kind of hated my first pair. They were close to round-shaped and had a weird zebra design on the rims. It would take me at least 6 months to finally embrace my new friends.

Believe me though, glasses aren't all that bad (especially if you really need them).

  1. Everything you see are in High Definition (within the shape of your lenses, of course).
  2. Glasses may make you look more 'scholarly'.
  3. It's a trend these days (shout-out to my Hippies).
  4. It may complement your facial shape and features.
  5. It'll help correct eye problems (like mine). 
  6. There are now heaps of styles to choose from, so think of it as a fashion statement.
  7. They can protect your eyes on windy days (personal experience, everyone!).
Naturally, they have their disadvantages as well.

  1. Taking them off when going swimming sucks.
  2. Depending on the type (plastic or metal), irritation can happen where it makes contact with sweat.
  3. You've got to take extra care of them when playing sports, sometimes making you more focused on keeping it on your face than on the game.
  4. If you have lashes that are quite lengthy, be prepared to have scratches on your lenses. (I've had to buy new ones just because my lashes have permanently marked them.)
  5. Wearing headphones while wearing them can be quite uncomfortable. I usually just put on my headphones first them my glasses second, so it doesn't get squashed or pinned to the sides of my lobes.
From someone who has been wearing glasses for 16 years, I definitely wish my genes worked with me and gave me perfect 20/20 vision. It's not that bad now though, since I can wear contacts when I don't feel like putting on my glasses or when I have to attend parties and special gatherings. Contact lenses have their own evils too, so it's really weighing my options and tasks for the day. If I have to do work on my laptop for most of the day, I stick to my specs, if not, I wear my contacts. 

Do you wear glasses / thinking of getting a pair? 
What are your experiences wearing them?

Review: OSX El Capitan - Initial Thoughts


Ever since Apple's new OS became available for download last September 30, mixed reviews (some bad, some good) have been popping up, and as much as I wanted to upgrade on that same date, a number of reasons held me back. Now that I've been able to test OSX El Capitan on my Macbook Pro, I'd like to say a few things that I like and those that could be better.

The Positives


General Notes


Compared to Yosemite, El Capitan looks even more slick and intuitive. The new OS also runs incredibly well (and surprisingly fast) on my mid-2012 MBP, even with Adobe CS and a whole lot of files stored. I didn't even bother clearing my cache before installing, and it still works great. The trackpad functions (swiping, zooming, etc.) have become smoother and transitioning between screens is a lot better than before. It looks cleaner and more minimalist, something Apple has been doing very well recently with its iOS and OS releases. The lag has definitely decreased (especially when opening Word and Spotify) and the waiting time for opening apps has gone down. It totally feels like a new computer.

Apps


Since I'm a Graphic Artist by trade, the usability of certain software is crucial. After installing, I proceeded to test them one by one and I'm incredibly relieved that they ARE running on El Capitan. Adobe Photoshop CS6 and the whole suite is functioning nicely, Mixed In Key is also good, and Riffstation as well. Reading a bit of the documentation for this OS, I found out that most apps that ran on Yosemite will work like a charm on El Capitan as well.

The only thing left for me to test is if the current driver for my Wacom Manga Pen & Touch Tablet will continue working.

The Negatives


The Split feature has been on Windows for forever, and now that Apple has taken steps towards the same thing, it should be a good thing, right?


Well, not so much. I agree that being able to view two windows/apps at once is great, allowing for multitasking, but the way the pages are fitted into each side could've been thought out more. They could learn a few things from looking at a Windows screen with the split feature.

Another feature I'm having second thoughts about (takes a lot getting used to personally) is the ability to 'pin' your most visited or your favorite websites to the browser for easy access. Here's how it looks:


If you look at the top left corner, my pinned sites are there. The reason why they take effort to get used to is because it sometimes gets confusing, and I find myself looking for that "Facebook" label on the tabs. I know it'll be helpful in the long run, but for now, I'm not so sure. Does it double the mac's processing need or not? It'll always be active whether or not you're actually using it, right? (This might be more of a positive than a negative though.)

Basically, this is just a short, right-off-the-bat review of OSX El Capitan. I might post a follow-up once I play with it more, but for now, here's my two cents.

Who's excited for October?




Another month has just rolled into the year, and I am more than excited to be moving along with it! It's been a while since I set my foot down and decided to alter my appearance and I realized October would be the perfect month to do so.

One problem (out of quite a few) I've had since I was a kid is my weight. I've always been more on the "fun-sized", "bonus pack" side, and though my weight on the scale screams "oh my God", I've always been healthy. I get colds very rarely, I'm not allergic to anything, and I can do everything a slim person can do, and sometimes better. Growing up, I didn't feel insecure about my frame at all. I was active in swimming and track & field, did a little dancing on the side too so in my young mind, I was okay.

Now, at 23, everyone around me (including myself) disagrees. My career has pushed me to stay on a chair all day in front of a laptop, and my work hours are quite longer than average. When I do get free time, I spend it resting or doing more side work to help my family financially. I used to go to the gym 5-6 times a week (had a membership at The Avenue Hotel) but life has strapped me onto an office chair. You know the "myth" that once you've stopped going to the gym, you'll gain weight faster? Well, it's a fact for me.

So, since I've been energized by new friends I've gained on the internet and new sites I've been exploring (also, the fact that I'll be attending a few events that need me to look presentable), I'll be doing my best to eat healthier, eat less (I've already cut back on snacks), and move more. Given my busy schedule, documenting my progress regularly on the blog might not happen, but that's why we have Instagram. I think that would be the easiest way to keep track of what's going on in regards to my (hopefully) weight loss.

If you've read one of my previous posts from last month, I talked about buying something that I wanted to show you, but couldn't because I was reserving it for something special. Well, that product is actually a limited edition Cara Delevingne crop top/sweater from Penshoppe. Here's the twist: I bought it two sizes smaller than my current dress size.


My reason behind it is simple. If I bought something priced a little higher than most apparel in a smaller size, I'd be pushed to make changes to myself to make sure the money I spent on it would be worth something.

That's exactly what's been happening. Since buying that top, I've lost 1.5 kg. I know, it's not a lot, but considering I've done everything the same (I just cut back on the in-between snacks) with minimal exercise (mostly just daily, brisk walks to and from the office), that's something I'm proud of. Just imagine how much more I could lose if I stepped up my game!

It's all about healthy living for me this month. Go October!