Wednesday

BrushStroke 2 Tutorial - Part 1 of 2 and GiveAway




In my previous post I reviewed the new version of BrushStroke 2 and now I will demonstrate how to get the most out of BrushStroke 2, including how to combine the application with others and announce another GiveAway for BrushStroke 2.


While the new version of BrushStroke has been given many new filters, including more control over these filters, it should be noted that in preparing a file prior to introducing it to BrushStroke 2, can and will have an impact as to the outcome of how the image appears after post processing in BrushStroke 2 or any other special effect post processing program. It also should be noted that since BrushStroke 2 is a special effect program with a distinctive purpose, the image itself needs to be considered, along with what the users intentions are in what the images final appearance is like.


Prior to introducing ones photograph into BrushStroke 2, adjusting ones image over all appearance should be done. Making sure there are details in the highlight areas, as well as in the shadows, along with a good over-all exposure balance. Consider any possible retouching should this be an issue along with sharpening or blurring the image any. 




The iOS purists believe that only an iOS post processed image qualifies as an iPhoneography image, other may wish to use PhotoShop to simply improve the images over all appearance. If you do stay within the iOS system, there are a number of programs like SnapSeed, Photogene, iPhoto, PS Touch, Handy Photo, Leonardo, and a number of other programs. No matter how you go about it, the better the image prior to introducing into BrushStroke 2, the better the results.




You may even divide to go a step further and enhance your photograph with layers of textures with programs like Stackables, Mextures, VSCOcam, AFilter or ALayer. Even a program like ColorThief, which alters the colors of a photograph with the introduction of another could be considered helpful in the preparations of ones image before introducing it into BrushStroke 2.  


Now that we have prepared our photograph for BrushStroke 2, let’s have a look at the following various steps within the program. In order to remain truthful as to the results achieved with BrushStroke 2, I have made no alteration to the original image prior to introducing with in BrushStroke 2.







Once an image has been selected and introduced to BrushStroke 2, the program will apply a default paint style, which is Oil #01. From here the user then chooses from a variety of paint filters.




After trying a number of various filters and settings, I have selected Oil #05 and tried these at different strengths from zero to 50 and then 100%. This is to see how much effect the filter has upon the photograph and have chosen the strongest strength in order to maintain greater detail.



The next step in the process is the Tone layer category and it is here we can add a color mood or in addition change the appearance of the altered photograph from a painting towards a watercolor or drawing.







After trying a number of different categories as Tones, filter Fulton. From there I tried category Heavy with filter Amber; and in the next screen shots, two filters in category Varied, with Willow, then Amaranth




I finally settle on Themes and filter Scream. For the look I am going after is an early morning light in which the rising sun has little to no affect upon the color of the light, therefore a moderate shift towards the blue tones. When the filter is applied at 100%, it is too much blue and the scene appears more like late even after the sun has set. When the setting is changed to 30%, we see that the leaves change from a bluish tone to more its natural color, green and still yet having the feel of early morning.







The 3D category layer deals with canvas textures, various types of paper and color, and the last category consist of different hard surfaces. The default for this category layer is Auto


Because of the subject matter and what I’m trying to be achieve, I try to use the Primed filter in the Canvas category, then one of the colored papers. We see that the selection of Blue now colors in the sky, while also pronouncing the area undesirable. In the end, my choice is to select None


We now head into a very powerful layer category where we are given the opportunity to make final changes as to the appearance of our converted photograph. 




The first of many adjustments is Brightness and the default setting here is 50%. Since the goal I am trying to achieve is early morning and a little more brightness in the highlights which will cause a slight blur, I move the slider to 70%.




Brightness is followed by Contrast. The default setting here is also 50%, which I bumped to 65%.  




Saturation default setting is 50% and here I make no adjustments at all, but may come back after I completed with this Adjustment layer category. Now we come to one of my favorite controls in this category, Density. This is one of the few filters that does not default at 50%, but rather 39%. I normally like to bump up Density to over 50% and in this case I settle for 75%.




Though I like using Vibrance from time to time, I decided to bypass this filter because early morning colors are cool and so if I would apply some degree of vibrancy, the color of light shifts and would now appear more like morning then early morning.


Because increase in Density rendered the scene darker, I now need to alter the exposure to retain my earlier editing. The default Exposure setting is 50%, which I then increased to 66%.




The Shadow filter is another one that does not default at 50%, rather 0%. Since there are going to be no adjustments made here, the next filter, Highlights, defaults at !00% and once again I make no adjustments.




Last Saturday, when I reviewed BrushStoke 2, I said that of all the adjustment filters, Density and especially Temperature were my favorite ones. In the next tutorial, we will look at the awesome power of Temperature with a variety of images. As you can see that a slight shift from the default setting of 50% to only 45%, the scene takes on a more cool morning appearance.




As we come to the last two filters in the Adjustment category, one is given the option to alter the thickness of the painting’s brushstroke surface . The default setting for Thickness is 50% and I elect to reduce the amount to 35%, as this softens the edges of the brushstrokes.


The last adjustment available in this category is Sharpness, with a default setting of 0%. Again I elect not to make any changes here, especially since I lowered the thickness in the previous filter. While we are given the opportunity to sharpen the  image, we are not provided with a Blur filter and this I have mentioned in my review of BrushStroke 2 and asked the developers to consider adding this to future updates.




We now have arrived to the final category layer, Signature and this one has also been updated in version 2 of BrushStroke. We are now able rotate our signature and even add a shade of color. Of the five colors, two are default and these are white and black. The remaining colors are sampled form the transformed photograph and in this case, a dark green, then a cool shade of blue, with the fifth color sample being picked up from the leaves on the ground and rendering this sample camel color.

After resizing the signature and moving it around on the bottom of the image, I felt it was lost and since I did not wish to have it any larger, the decision was made to leave it out from the final art work.




As we come to the end of our post work efforts, it is time to save our new art work. The first options we are given is to either Save, Share, or Ship. Obviously one will choose Save first before deciding to move on to either Share or Ship.


The sharing options are to Twitter, FaceBook,Instagram, eMail and to add the image as a text message. What one is not given is a link to Pinterest, which I already remarked on in my review.


Our last option is to have the item printed as a poster, made into a canvas print or have the artwork professionally framed. The developers of BrushStroke have teamed up with CanvasPop.




Here is the final version of our transformed photograph into a BrushStroke 2 painting. In our next tutorial we will look at using specific tools in the Adjustment category layer as Density and Temperature, to achieve a variety of moods from a single image.


____________



BrushStroke 2 and more GiveAway Announcement

The people at Code Organa are going to provide me with a number of redemption codes for there newly updated program BrushStroke, including ToonCamera.

ToonCamera is an amazing video and photography app that turns your world into a live cartoon. Apply real-time cartoon and art effects to your camera feed, record video, snap photos, and convert existing video and photos from your albums to create instant works of art. See the ToonCamera video at YouTube.
Here is how you can get you copy of BrushStroke 2 and ToonCamera. Leave a comment on this post and make sure I am able to reach you when winners are announced. 
Contest ends on Sunday, November 23 at midnight Pacific Time. Drawing will be random and winners are announce on Monday, November 24. Good Luck !


iOS software programs  and vendor mentioned:










All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S. Srceen shots on an iPad 4 by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved










Saturday

BrushStroke v2 Review




A few weeks ago, Code Organa significantly updated BrushStroke into a powerful and meaningful application for the iPhone and iPad. Version 2 is certainly a significant update all around and a great step forward in being able to emulate a variety of painting and medium styles, including a few drawing techniques.


The program works on the principle of automatically converting a photograph into a painting based upon the user selecting from a variety of presets and then applying a percentage via a slider control. The slider is available throughout each category and filter and is operated simply by sliding ones finger from the left to the right and back again, which then adjust the strength or weakness of the style or filter numerically.



Selecting your photograph


When you open the application, you are prompted to select an image from your library and once you have done this, BrushStroke 2 then uses the default setting to convert you photograph into an oil painting. This of course can be changed or even bypassed for another category and filter effect, however the majority of the time one will start by selecting a painting style and then a filter before proceeding to the next layer category.



Paint layer category


In the first layer category Paint, there are 13 paint styles with various filter styles each, from which the artist can select from. The original version had 38 filter styles, which has now been increased to 73, almost doubling the number of painting variations at disposal to the mobile artist. 

               01: Oil 6
               02: Washed 10
               03: Medium 5
               04: Natural 7
               05: Hatched 4
               06: Simple             8
               07: Frayed             4
               08: Gloss  3
               09: Lead  2
               10: Bold 5
               11: Abstract 5
               12: Prominent  6
               13: Experimental 7


During the editing process, you can double tap the image or use two fingers touching the screen while going in the opposite direction, you are able to enlarge and see how your style and filter are having an effect on the image. Still using two fingers and moving across the screen in one direction, you can move the image around.



Palette layer category 


Once you have completed selecting a painting style, the next layer category available has 9 different tone categories with 56 filters. This layer category too has been expanded from the original first release of BrushStroke.

               01: Tones 4
               02: Heavy  5
               03: Shades 4
               04: Segment       3
               05: Saturation 4
               06: Varied 13
               06: Threes 10
               07: Twos 9
               08: Ones 3


Now some of these filters actually have the ability to overpower the painting style that has just been applied and turn ones image into a Grisaille, an image consisting of only monochromatic color. This type of painting is also considered an undercoating, which allows for greater depth  and richness when colors are applied over it. However with BrushStroke 2, some of these filters not only alter the shades of the painting, but depending on the filter applied, actually turn ones painted first layer category Paint alteration into a Conté or pastel drawing. While these drawing effects are certainly desired as an alternative medium, I am suggesting that the developers have another look at the second layer category, since these styles and filters can either enhance the painting, turn it into a drawing, or a monochrome Grisaille. 


By splitting this layer category into three separate divisions, one layer would serve as the underpainting and offer the user a number of monochromatic tones to select from and these would in effect deepen and enrich the colors of the painting. They would also add a slight over-all tint of the color that was selected to serve as the underpainting over the entire image, which would be user controlled by shifting the numerical slider.


The second part of this layer category would simply convert the effects of the first painting style into a monochromatic painting, by converting all colors into monochromatic shades of the user selected color. This would also prepare the image for the third part of this layer category.


The finally division, we come to the drawing layer, were the painting is converted into a Conté or pastel drawing. This will over time, permit Code Organa to add more specific filters with subsequent updates in which the user can select from several strengths of pencil and charcoal. 


While pencil and charcoal may seem out of place in a painting program, let us not forget in the very first category layer we are given 8 various filters which emulate watercolor and some artists like to use pencil to strengthen the image before colors are applied. As for charcoal, some painters use it to sketch out the scene on the canvas, before oils, acrylic or other medium is applied.



3D Canvas layer category


The next layer category 3D is a selection of various surfaces. You have Auto and None before choosing from three categories, Canvas, Papers, and Surfaces.

               01: Canvas 5
               02: Papers 8
               03: Surfaces    6


From the various textures of canvas, we find included Cold Press, which I am suggesting should be moved to papers, as Bristol Board comes in either cold or hot press and is used for illustration. The Hard Grain represents a painters board, were a thin but medium textured canvas is glued to stiff cardboard that has also primed. All other canvases are stretched to a wooden frame and fastened with heavy duty staples or in the past nailed.


The paper selection ranges from Natural Unbleached, White, Vintage and Grey, while the remaining 4 styles are toned papers, useful for pastel and Conté drawings, but can be applied to a painting in order to achieve a specific feel and look that one is after.


Artist not only use canvas or paper to paint and draw upon, but also alternative surfaces as Burlap and Wood are used and these are available in BrushStroke 2. However they have also included Particle Board, Rock, Stone and Stucco. While Stucco may seem out of place, it should be considered when ones photograph is of a wall covered in graffiti or simply when one desires more textures in their paint style.


We have now completed the conversion from a photograph into a painting, watercolor or drawing and our attention will now focuses on fine tuning the over-all look of our image. While the 4th layer category had very good controls in the previous version of BrushStroke, it has been made even better with the additions of a few more controls. 



Adjustment layer category


This last layer category Adjustment can be considered to be the most powerful, as it can seriously alter the appearance and mood of ones work. Of the 10 different settings, I have my personal favorite, Density and especially Temperature. Most of these settings in category 4 are automatically at 50%, a number of these are set to zero, 39 or 100%. Remember by sliding one’s finger across from left to right, one can adjust the strength or weakness of these settings.


The adjustment category consists of:

               Brightness
               Contrast
               Saturation
               Density
               Vibrance
               Exposure
               Shadows
               Highlights
               Highlights
               Temperature
               Thickness
               Sharpness
               Reset


After using BrushStroke 2 for a while, one will notice that some these settings hardly require much of an adjustment because of their default settings. Still, the adjustment layer category should not be taken lightly or even dismissed.



Returning to the Paint layer category in order to try another filter




Now that a new paint filter was selected, now trying a new tone filter




Because of the changes, adjustments need to be further fine-tuned


Since using BrushStroke 2, I find that once I have taken my photograph through all of the layered categories, I often go back and not only make further adjustment as to the strength or weakness of a certain filter, but may also try another a different paint style as demonstrated in the three screen shot samples above. This going back and forth to try alternative settings does come at a price. 


While the user is able to save the converted photograph and then return to further edit the painting and save another version, at the moment BrushStroke 2 does not offer the ability to save ones settings before making any alternative adjustments. 


Being able to save or import individual settings, then exporting one or all settings as a single document file is something most application lack and it is my wish that the developers at Code Organa would address this feature updates.



Signing ones name


Now that the converted photograph appears as a painting, watercolor or drawing, it deserves to be signed. Layer category Signature permits the user to sign their work, as well as to resize and adjust the angle of the signature. Then place the users signature anywhere on the final art work.



Sample colors for ones signature


In order to make the signature compatible with the painting, BrushStroke 2 samples the main colors of the painting and then offers the user 5 colors with which to tone their signature. Once the user has signed and made their color selection, BrushStroke 2 remembers the signature and its position. However the user has the option to clear the signature and create a new. If one decides not to change the signature, a new color sample can be applied that is based on the new painting.




Now that one is finished and ready to export the painting, there are further options given the user, you can Save, Share or Ship. After saving the artwork to the Photo Album, you can share to the following social media Twitter, FaceBook, Instagram or eMail, even attach your image to a Text message.



Framed Print version




Canvas version




Poster version




Selecting ones size


If you wish to have your painting professionally printed, you first select a Product, then the style of Frame and finally the Size. When choosing Product, there are further three options, a Framed Print, Canvas, or Poster. The price for each is seen in the very top of the screen. I would suggest that first one select the size then the product and frame, as size obviously impacts the price. When on the Ship screen, there is a details button (or arrow on iPhone), that allows one to get a price breakdown and other information on the product one is ordering.







          Final Thoughts

When BrushStroke was first released earlier this year, there were also a number of other painting apps released. While some of these received some updates, none of them was given the significant treatment as BrushStroke 2 has received.


The advancements made in this version provide more options and greater control over ones image as it is being converted then in the previous version of BrushStroke. Still one must not forget that there will be some images whose outcome will not be too satisfactory and this is not the fault of BrushStroke 2.




Only after using BrushStroke 2 repeatedly and by carefully paying attention to the resulting effects, can ones outcome become more successful. It should also be noted that preparing ones photograph before importing into BrushStroke 2, will only improve the results. In a subsequent BrushStroke 2 tutorial post, I will be covering preparations of ones photograph and the various ways BrushStroke 2 can be combined with other programs for some exceptional results. This will also include a demonstration of my two favorite adjustment settings options, Density and Temperature, with plenty of examples.




Though I have giving BrushStroke 2 glowing marks, there are a few items not found in the program. When selecting a photo from the Photo Album within BrushStroke 2 prior to importing for treatment, it would be nice to be given the choice if one wants to process the image as a JPG, TIFF or PNG.


The reason why I feel this matters is that now many mobile photographers shot with camera applications that permits on to save the image as TIFF. Therefore it should go without saying, programs need to begin to allow the user to select TIFF as their option to save the photograph/art work.




As BrushStroke 2 becomes so much better, one item also missing is the capability to choose from a number of brush strokes sizes and widths, including a number of palette knife techniques that in turn would affect the selected filter in the Paint layer category.


In the adjustment category we have sharpening, but not a blur function. Sometimes the textured edge has too much harshness and a touch of blur to soften this, is one task not to be overlooked.




When a filter is applied, the variation between zero to 100% only alters the filtration from marginally to minimum. I had hoped that when it is less than 50%, a little of the original photograph would appear through the painting and increase as the number is reduced further. This resetting of the function could act as a blender and make some paintings appear more life like and realistic.


I have already mentioned the need to save ones filter combinations as a single file, including being able to import previous settings. What I did not mention is that there should be a category layer dedicated to users previous preferences. Therefore it is important that users combinations be saved as a single and as a group file.




One last recommendation I have for the developers, is that the meta data imbed all the filters and there settings. This will allow users to easily repeat any of their work when the combination was not saved.


While in communication with one of the developers of Code Organa, in BrushStroke 2 there are some hidden items users most likely will not be aware of and I would like to share these with you now.


In addition to the undo and redo buttons, tapping on the title of the adjustment (for instance, "Paint +100") will reset that adjustment back to it's default value. Holding down on the undo button will also prompt to reset everything back to it's default state.


To collapse the toolbar in the main interface in order to see more of the image that one is working on, all you have to do is swipe down on the toolbar that contains all the icons that let you switch between all the layer categories. To bring the toolbar back up, swipe up on it, or tap any of the icons on the toolbar.




While Code Organa has produced a good program and followed up with a wonderful update, they are already thinking about what to do next. They are very receptive to suggestions and ideas users might have, including detailed notes if there are any issues, they will want to know.  You can reach Code Organa at: Support@CodeOrgana.com.


BrushStroke 2 is designed for both iPhone and iPad and runs on iOS 8 and is 64-bit support. Last updated was Oct 30, 2014, Version 2. Optimized for iPhone 5, 6 and 6 Plus. The price of BrushStroke 2 is $2.99 US Dollar and there are no in-app purchases.


Next Wednesday’s post will be the first of two BrushStroke 2 tutorials and the announcement of a BrushStroke 2 GiveAway. 




LINKs
BrushStrock at iTunes
Previous TiPA post on BrushStroke
Canvas Pop website

Technical Notes: 
All photographs were taken using 6x6 as its camera. Most images were post processed before being introduced into BrushStroke 2.




All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved









Wednesday

Why do so many app developers abandon their work


There are many good applications that have come onto the market place, but since then have had only minor updates since their first release. This is an issue for me, when a developer lets their invention just slip away.


As a consumer, I have invested in their product like many other mobile photographers. We praised their invention in words and samples of our work on FaceBook and other social media for days and weeks, certainly increasing the sales of the application for the developer. 


Varies websites specialising in mobile art have written reviews and sponsored GiveAways, further promoting the product, including published tutorials so that the user may take advantage of the applications full potential.


So when a developer neglects their own product, even when giving it minor updates or making it available for a new iOS system, they have in my views, abandoned their product and broken trust with the consumer who purchased the product. 




I can list a very large number of applications that have gone this route, but this posting is not to shame any of the developers, only to bring to their attention and you the reader, that the investment and trust we have placed in their product has been broken. 


At the same time, I concede that there are also a good number of applications that can go no further, because in the first place, it was developed with a limited usage in mind to the mobile photographer.


I understand that the profit margin needs to be also addressed with the longevity of an application. It can cost too much to develop an application further, but then I also ask, what about additional sales garnered by those who did not own the item before or what about any new user of a mobile device. Besides, whenever there is a major update, not only do mobile reviewers and mobile artists mention the update on social media, just as when the item was first released.


A couple of developers have even decided to release a fully redesigned and brand new version of their old application and charge a full price. This means owners of the previous version need to pay the full price if they wish to update to the newer version. But why not permit users who already own the older version be permitted to update to the completely new application through an in-app purchase at a discount in the old app. 


I know that in-app purchases are mostly frowned upon by users, but that is not a subject at discussion here and now. I was simply suggesting that when a totally new application of the previous version is released, original users should be offered the new version at a discount then having to pay for it at a full price and this should be done through a special in-app link in the old version.


Of course it is all a gamble for the developer, even for an item that is still in develop and one that has not been released to the public. So what is the answer to this problem and do users share in the responsibility for an application not to be further developed.


My response is “Yes.” We consumers bear some of the responsibility for the lack of an application not being developed further and here is why.


How many of you have actually taken the time to write a review on iTunes, let alone write the developer. If a user were to take a more pro-active roll and engage the developer into a discussion with suggestions for improvements, I feel we would see more developers change their tune. They would start to give their applications attention and further develop advancements, which only results in a prolongation shelf-life of the application.


We also need to remember that when users write a review on iTunes or the developer, to keep it professional and not rant because you are not happy because something may not be working. Constructive criticism in which the issues are clearly defined and explained, will be more receptively accepted and dealt with in correcting any issues.


Remember that developers need us just as much as we need them and by understanding this, forming a partnership with them, will only benefit all of us in the end. What are your thought on this subject.

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