Vector editing - needed features (pen tool)

I’ve been trying to use pencil in a more serious way than just pencil tests. Potentially it can be a great tool to make animated game sprites.

However the way the pen tool currently works really let’s it down.

When you try to ink a pencil sketch, the pen tool automatically smooths your strokes and they are rarely what you want. The auto-smooth operation is a good way to keep the vertex count. I get that. But it’s not very good at estimating the strokes.

The proposal for a much improved pen tool:
Instead of autosmoothing strokes so much:
-Add slow position tracking - it makes smooth inking much easier and much more predictable than autosmooth. It’s available in mypaint. It is also available in inkscape(under caligraphy brush -MASS value)
-Add a “reduce” command, that autosmooths a stroke by increment when you ask for it (like the one in inkscape- crl+L)
-Add a variable to tell the pen tool to what degree to autosmooth a stroke (move it out of preferences and into the tool options - visible!)

The proposal for a much improved smudge tool:

  • add ability to select more than one vertex
  • add a smooth falloff deformation value
  • ability to delete vertices (del key)
  • double clicking on an empty space of the stroke creates a new vertex.

ok I thought about it and if I have to put one feature above all of the listed ones. The one feature that absolutely is needed in order to use the pen tool:

The ability to delete vertices.

It’s impossible to clean up a stroke atm.This breaks it for me.

Right I vote to keep in the vector tools. Why?

Pencil has some of the best cartoonist centric illustration tools.

It allows you to use the pencil tool too slice up cell tone areas and fill in gaps. It sounds like a small thing, but it greatly simplifies the process of cell shading coloring. This is where inkscape fails- it cannot slice up fills like that.

The bucket tool makes perfect fills with no annoying things to clean up at sharp corner areas- this is where inkscape fails miserably.The bucket tool there suffers from the same problems a bitmap based bucket tool would.

Also the fills are glued to the outlines, which means that changing the shape of a line affects the fill as well. This is where inkscape fails miserably again.

Pencil2d can automatically glue strokes you make to ones that are close to them. This is extremely handy when you have to bucket fill stuff afterwards. However pencil does not give the artist control over the glue threshold. Sometimes the stroke gluing is unwanted, forcing the artist to zoom in more to reduce the threshold.
Inkscape does not have a way to autosnap stroke’s start/end , creating a lot of mindless clean up work for the artist. So pencil2d wins here too.

Pencil2d currently hast vastly superior workflow approach for cartoonists to inkscape. But the tools need some polishing. And some of this polishing is really low hanging fruit work;

Here are the low hanging goals:

  • The pencil tool defaults - vector curve smoothing value is by default too high, giving strokes a rather unpredictable result. At first I didnt know that this value is in preferences, so I kept it default and raged on how much its smoothing my strokes. So reduce that value to about 25-30%. Its too high by defaylt.
  • the hidden stroke smoothing value - it’s currently hidden in the preferences window. In my opinion you should bring it to the left side panel- to be always visible and quick to change.

Higher hanging fruits:

  • Its difficult to clean up overshoots with the smudge tool. We need some sort of a way to slice a stroke and delete where it overshoots. At least delete stroke nodes.

  • There should be a way to control how much a stroke’s start/end autosnaps to previous strokes you made (GLUE) . This is very useful atm- its like a killer feature- but it needs more control!

If a developer is willing to put in the work, I am willing to fund this or create a funding campaign similar to the one that synfig is having.

Dont kill pencil2d’s vector tools. They are the only open source alternative to toonboom’s inking/coloring tools. Inkscape really really sucks at this atm.

Speaking as someone who has very minor 2D vector experience, I can’t say i’ve had any particular problems with Inkscape but i won’t doubt the problems exist.
I like your ideas. I didn’t notice you couldn’t delete vertices…that’s pretty important for any serious vector graphics. I suppose i haven’t done more than just push them around so far.

On the subject of pushing multiple vertices, i fully agree. I don’t know what programming would be required, but from an interface perspective the existing “Size” slider could manipulate a circle around the cursor which gives a visual hint of the cursor’s influence on surrounding vertices. Right now it seems like multiple vertices are forced to move together, if they are very close together…it makes it nearly impossible to move just one vertex in that case. I’m guessing if that’s the case then there must be some sort of threshold already built into the program, which perhaps can be manipulated at runtime.

I really like the ability to create arbitrary color blends in a single shape…it seems to be unique to Pencil.

On the subject of auto-smoothing, i haven’t paid much attention to it yet. Personally i am more concerned about the way the curves appear to crimp. It almost looks like the way a vector brush creates a shape rather than a line. I wouldn’t have any issue with this, if it were in fact the brush tool doing it, and if it were in fact a shape rather than a line. Vector lines should, in my opinion, be of uniform width from end to end, unless you happen to change the miter.

yeah thats another value- the pressure tick box should be off by default. Good observation.

So far here are the defaults: inking pen pressure off vector curve smoothing- 20 or 25% by default

GUI: Move the vector curve smoothing slider to the left panel- so its constantly available/visible.

Implementation: add a slider to control the “glue” (auto curve snapping) effect for the pen tool and the pencil tool. At least to turn it on and off.

I am inking some stuff now with it to test out what can be done. If the developers need any aid in getting these tools improved- I will actively create content (cell shaded illustrations) with them to both promote pencil2d and to give feedback.