Jan 21, 2013

Open source drawing software review: Krita and MyPaint

One of the most fun things to do as an artist (at least for me) is trying out new tools.
Either if it's something traditional like pastel crayons or markers or something digital like new drawing software.
The latter is something I actually use more these days. Not that I don't ever touch a real brush again but it seems to grow more and more as 'my' medium, next to the plain old pencil for sketching of course.

Now, drawing (and painting) software can be an expensive thing, but there are actually free alternatives out there. Most of you must have heard of GIMP. It's doing pretty good as an alternative for Adobe Photoshop, especially seeing that Photoshop costs A LOT of money.
Lately I have seen people using other software as well, and I became too curious not to try them. Those I'm going to review here: Krita and MyPaint.


Oh, this reminds of the days I studied Artificial Intelligence (yes, I totally did for 4 months :P),
since open-source software is forever under-construction the website is full with calls for more help.
I tried to ignore the code-and-programming-talk while searching for the right version to download, but it actually did frighten me a bit already. I got it installed however, so there...no worries.

But when I tried to open it...it actually took some time. Even more time than Photoshop. But I guess that is because it's actually made for Linux, not Windows. I also was quite confused by the doubled windows when I wanted to open a new image-file and had a hard time finding the 'create' button, because the interface-frame was bigger than my desktop so I had to drag it up and make it smaller so I could actually click the create button. User friendly? Not that much.

Now, Krita's interface on first sight looks standard: tools on the left, options and advanced stuff on the right.
It has actually a decent amount of tools, everything you would need for a good painting session.

Yet one thing I really missed: the option to change the radius of the brush. So I had to look it up on Google, apparently..if you use the mouse you have to click about three times to change it. There wasn't a brush-slider in the version that I downloaded.

Now, if you read the comments below, you can see my post stirred quite something. That and they were already working on a brush-size-slide on the top, as you can see in this screenshot:

They also changed the standard shortcut to [ and ], which is used by most painting/drawing applications, so it's also compatible with the newer line of wacom tablets (which uses these shortcuts). Hooray!

At the moment Krita is still in a developmental state, is what I conclude. I'm certainly going to try it another time, since they also said to work on weighted-line smoothing, like is used in Manga Studio and Painttool SAI, which can be useful if you create comics or manga-styled art. Looking forward to it!

If you are not afraid something new, I think you should at least try Krita and see if it is something you like.


Now here is something I could get used to. MyPaint is quite the easy program. It doesn't have all the Photoshop-like options and is mainly focused on drawing. But it does have extensive options to change brush settings. Which reminds me of the iPad drawing app ProCreate (and that's a good thing!).
And it's fast. So I think I'll try MyPaint for sketching in the future!

Unfortunately, not for whole drawing projects. First, there is no option to save it in Photoshop format. There is .ora, which you can use in Gimp. But Photoshop is the industry standard so I can't use it professionally.
Next to that, I can't easily, from scratch, define the size of the canvas, like something 300 dpi A4 size. It's true that the canvas size increases as you 'pan' and draw, but can I really use it for a 300 dpi poster? Nope.

I understand that open source programs aren't supposed to be compatible with Photoshop or other Adobe software, but it would be nice. I guess it costs money (though I don't see Painttool SAI having a problem with it).

MyPaint is great for starters, for GIMP users or for real fast sketches.

After trying out both applications I can conclude that open-source software isn't really something I can use as an illustrator, else than sketching, thumbnailing or for-fun-doodles. Which is not to say that people shouldn't use it. The quality and the amount of options and brushes really did expand and amaze me. I wouldn't have thought that 'free' software could have that much.