Painter or Illustrator? Tips plz

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  01 January 2007
Painter or Illustrator? Tips plz

Hi, I am new to digital art and recently purchased Corel Painter IX because it's amazingly simple to use and is so versatile. However, I am interested in making my own comic but it seems that my images will come out pixelated using Painter. I tried using Illustrator but I just hate it. It has virtually no compatibility with my tablet and is the complete opposite of Painter when it comes to learning curve. I was just using it to try the vectors but are vector images needed in a comic book? If I am trying to draw an image should I simply draw farther out and make the images larger so the pixels aren't so distinguishable? Thanks.
  01 January 2007

a bit more info about your process and workflow would help the helpers.

which resolution do you normally work at?

work as large as comfortable (speedwise) and then scale down when either compositing your page or printing.

I think pro comic artists do the initial drawings with pencil/paper and then work in Painter or PS on the scanned images.

Check out the fantastic "how to draw a comic" tutorial by eliseu goveia !

does that help?

Oh, and don't give up on Illustrator just yet, as it's the tool for comic book lettering!
  01 January 2007
When using raster programs you need to work at a high dpi for things to appear smooth when you print the image.

300 dpi is good for most color work.

600-1200 dpi is best for line art.
  01 January 2007
Originally Posted by WizGamer: Hi, I am new to digital art and recently purchased Corel Painter IX because it's amazingly simple to use and is so versatile. However, I am interested in making my own comic but it seems that my images will come out pixelated using Painter. I tried using Illustrator but I just hate it. It has virtually no compatibility with my tablet and is the complete opposite of Painter when it comes to learning curve. I was just using it to try the vectors but are vector images needed in a comic book? If I am trying to draw an image should I simply draw farther out and make the images larger so the pixels aren't so distinguishable? Thanks.

If you want a vector based program but don't like the learning curve in Illustrator, try Xara Xtreme:
  01 January 2007
Originally Posted by Improv: If you want a vector based program but don't like the learning curve in Illustrator, try Xara Xtreme:

And be sure to check out the galleries for examples of what it can do, especially the comics by Zeb:

Last edited by Improv : 01 January 2007 at 12:06 AM.
  01 January 2007
I am new to painter. Right now I am doing 300 dpi. I do a base layer for the sketch which I do in pencil. I then do a second layer for the detailed shape, and then I do a third for the final sketch. Then I will apply a fourth for final line art. I prefer doing it all on the computer because it saves space, I don't have the art supplies to do a comic book on paper and I just got an Intuos tablet. If anyone has comics where they have used painter and drawn it using a tablet, I would appreciate it as inspiration.
  01 January 2007
Smile Would your process require more than one app?

My thought is you may want to do all your free hand art in Painter then move into illustrator or other more structured tool. I am playing with different work flows too and am open to more ideas that gives thought to all the tools at our disposal.

Any thought?
Steve - Southern California "OC"
I think I'm in the right place.
  01 January 2007
I am going to assume that you are serious and don't want to do just pin-ups. I am going to describe the process for complex paneled pages.

If you got your hands on Illustrator, I hope you got your hands on Photoshop? You really really really should start with photoshop if you are doing anything in digital art. In so many ways I feel that Photoshop is my operating system. Almost everything 2d goes through Photoshop at some point. This is true for me and a MASSIVE percent of all digital artists. Illustrator does have a bit of a learning curve, but considering that you REALLY REALLY REALLY should learn how to use Photoshop, you will have a solid leg in Illustrator as well.

Make a canvas 10"x15" at 300 dpi. FYI, that is a big file. Some of that "info" will be thrown away. It is up to you, work smaller and risk pixels or take the resource hit at the higher level. You can save A LOT of file size and resources by working in greyscale. I gave up on almost all current american comics about 5 years ago, but I kept reading Japanese comics. Point is, Black and White is cool, but so is creative freedom with color. The bigger sizes have bonuses as well because you can always go down, you can't go up. If you go to a con and want to set up a table, large style prints will be a great option. This was the standard Marvel Comics submission guide line a few years back. I have to assume it is still approximately accurate.

That can be your "base of operations". Everything will end up there.
Next, breakdown your pages.

Illustrator ROCKS for this, although most of the tools I imagine you using are available in Photoshop. Drag out the overall 10x15 shape of the page using PATHS. Super undetailed thumbs are good here as well. Painter is specifically not suited for this part because its paths are a bit wonky and the options are limited. Many roads lead to Rome here.

Crop marks, real world printing concerns:

If you plan on printing stuff at home on printers in limited quantities you will need to experiment with this. If you plan on getting things professionally printed you should ask them what they want as far as BLEED and CROP MARKS. Google it because this post is growing faster than I want.

OK! Page is laid out in panels, lets assume you went with a classic 4x4 panel page a'la "Watchmen" just to keep it simple. Don't give up on Illustrator. You will be able to lay out panels and page designs that are amazing...if you try it, you will see what I mean. On the flip side, don't overuse it. You will get it when you check out an older classic comic by a true master and see some elaborate recap page with all kinds of panels and bubbles and stuff over two will be able to recreate such layouts within minutes.

This is where the true power of digital comes in. Your Thumbnails for your page layouts are going to be part of your finished piece : ). You can continue to tweak it as you go.

Side note: Photoshop has been smartly improving its workflow using non-degrading procedures to maximize your projects editability. YES, you can emulate much of this functionality by just making copies of things before you hurt/degrade them; but the workflow will be smoother and your capabilities and flexibility will be greater if you maximize photoshop's abilities. ....this is getting long...

OK, you have a massive blank page in photoshop with some panel borders and rough thumbs. If it makes any sense for things to be on their own layer, like each panel border, do it. If your computer can manage the file size, start to build up your image as is. Painter, Illustrator, Photoshop; whatever.

To get to Painter I would save the page breakdown as a single image. Open the image in Painter and go to town. This is a very classical procedure, basically like tracing, a lot like what you said you were already doing. Again, I would develop each panel as a seperate layer but that isn't necessary at this stage. Depending on how you work I would shoot for a goal of bringing the page to a tight breakdown stage level of detail. More can be better, but there are advantages to not.

Bring everything you got back into Photoshop.

Chop up the image by panel to seperate layers. This can be messy, it is ok. Use the panel border paths to create Layer masks for each image. Layer Masks, Very Important. Creative Freedom.

OK. Each panel has a layer and the paths are still there looking like nice crisp panel borders (I hope you aren't a Steve Dillon fan, you'll figure it out if you are). The images are contained tightly within the panel borders and by properly using the layer mask you can drag the image around inside of the panel border which won't move. that I see my tight breakdowns and the borders and gutters are all cleaned up...I think panel 2 will be better if I flip it, panel 4 needs to be tilted and panel 13 needs to be zoomed in.

LOL If you got this far, the above changes are SIMPLE SIMPLE SIMPLE. No need for me to explain. Plus if they aren't "inked" you can resize up or down.

Again, if your computer can cut it, work on that entire file. Otherwise save the layers as you wish to work on them in Painter. You can crop, save and undo crop to get each panel its own smallish file, you can try to cut and paste...again many roads. I wouldn't crop each panel tight though because you will be surrendering options, what if you want to zoom the panel out for instance. There is only one major warning at this point. Scale.

Once you think you have a finished panel, you can shrink it freely. You can grow it with risk. EZ to go down, hard to go up.

The other side of scale, too small. John Byrne had a bigg problem with this in the 70's because his work was so detailed, a fair bit disappeared in the printing process. You need to make a test sheet. It should be a series of lines displaying different widths of lines. I am going to assume that you will end up with an "inked" look which will make this process easier and more definitive.

Make a new image, maybe the size of an index card relative to your 10x15 piece at the same resolution. Draw lines of varying width from teeny tiny up to .5". Downsize this image using the same scale that you are going to print at, via the printers or home. Print. Look at the screen and the lines you drew and the printout you hold in your hands. Some of the skinnier lines probably disappeared. Bring the original file into your Comic Page photoshop file. Compare the lines you have been drawing to the lines on your test sheet. Specifically look for the lines that are as skinny as the lines that disappeared when printed. Well, those lines were wasted : (. Important.

And that is basically it. You have the total comic page assembled in photoshop and the means to work on as much or as little of that page as you want in other programs piece by piece. Going from each application to each and assembling in Photoshop using editable panel border paths and Layer masks is about all of the freedom you could want. (except until Photoshop implements free rotate, a Painter brush engine, watercolor layer and "illustrator" layers{Pshop contains a very solid chunk of illustrators capabilities already} in which case I would never leave Photoshop. Plus more and more eye popping 2D art in these parts is being done exclusively in Pshop. I personally need free rotate)

Line quality specifics...Unless I am WAAAAY off and you are going for low detail drawings I would stay away from using Illustrator for too much actual "drawing" but it will dominate in certain areas like the panel layout idea mentioned above. Another area is smooth lines. Inkers have it rough and we should appreciate their craft. The elegant brush work of comics inkers is really cool. Dick Giordano, Legendary multi-talented Comic creator motivated me to study inking by this philosophy, "as a penciler I am mostly concerned with proper anatomy, perspective and storytelling/flow. Sometimees I get to cut loose. I feel most like an artist when I ink." Think about those cheesy Michael Turner pinup covers where 40% of the image real estate was the open shape of a womans thigh and heiny. The flow, accentuation and elegance of the inked lines played a big part in those images working. Calligraphic Lines is the fancy talk name for this.

Illustrator can do those lines pretty well. I find the process fairly slow but you can't make a smoother shape in the form of a line. There are other tricks and approaches within Illustrator via brushes. A really cool approach is the constrain to path function in Painter. Thin line-path the shape and then "trace" the path with the Painter Brush of your choice, varying the width via pressure control. This is the best, fastest way I know of to really emulate long, elegant, graceful, brush lines in the shortest time.

Illustrator makes a great classical drafting table to assist in drawing perspective as well, but I would just try to learn a 3D app instead.

I hope this helps you. I started trying to figure this stuff out in 1996..../sob because of Battle Angle Alita. The artist was doing some perspective work that I was completely convinced was CG assisted. I had lightly touched photoshop and autocad by then and was frustrated with the time consumption of producing really hot perspective work. By the time I got a handle on this stuff I was not really into comics illustration, but when broken down this process is very standard use of all of the mentioned programs capabilities. Good Luck.


wonder where my morning went. Jeesh...
  01 January 2007
I hate to edit posts.

Most of the above posters speak in terms of dpi, but I always found that confusing. I was right to be confused because dpi means nothing without specifying where those inches are; in the relative world of the computer or printed.

The bottom line is that you need to decide what you want as a finished product, and print a test sheet. If you know you want to print stuff, do not commit too much effort until you have compared a printout to the filesize and resolution you want to work at.

...And, when you say Comic book, I think Marvel/DC mostly. Mostly high detail work. Don't discount Illustrator though for more "cartoony" stuff.

Now I'm done.
  01 January 2007

To add a bit to martindesign's post:

DPI is not only confusing for the reason Martin listed:

When creating digital art, the correct term is PPI (pixels per inch).

DPI means dots per inch, used in relation to printing, incorrectly used in relation to creating digital art.

When the image is to be printed, there is a definite relationship between image dimensions and Resolution (PPI).

In that case, open your image using inches as the unit of measure, then specify the Resultion (PPI).

300 PPI (pixels per inch) is the generally safe number when an image is to be printed.

Depending on a few factors, you may be able to work with a lower Resolution (PPI) and in some cases, you may need to work with a higher Resolution (PPI). If your image is to be printed at a print shop, talk to an expert at the print shop to learn what Resoluton (PPI) you need to use that will work best for:
  • The print shop's printing machines
  • The kind of image you're having printed (i.e. soft watercolor, sharp detail, text, etc.)
  • How the image will be viewed (up close or from a distance)
  • The kind of surface the image will be printed on
  • Where the image will be used (as fine art print, in a magazine, etc.)
  • ... and more, your print shop expert should be able to tell you about if you let them know you want all the necessary information to produce the kind of print you want.
  01 January 2007
Painter or Illustrator

Generally, asking the printer service is the best way to go, but when you don't know that... These are some good rules of thumb:

300ppi for an image is a great size-- no doubt.
If the end result is for a magazine layout, 200ppi is ok (can look blurry in a glossy mag)

but for large format work 11"x17" (tabloid) or greater:
600ppi or greater yields the sharpest output. I don't know of anyone that uses anything larger than that.
  01 January 2007
You might also want to take a look at Artrage. I find it far easier than Painter or Photoshop.

INCREDIBLE interface. Only $19.99.
...which brings me to a thought. Artrage should have its own forum.

  01 January 2007
Acually, ArtRage does have its own forum, on the Ambient Design site:

ArtRage Forums

Here's the home page where you can read about updates, etc.

Ambient Design

  04 April 2007
Painter or Illustrator? Tips plz

One caveat is that Painter's shapes look ok in Painter, but when exported to Illustrator, sometimes the corners are manipulated, and appear differently in Illustrator.

Note that in the attachment, the yellow lines are the vector lines in Illustrator.
Attached Images
File Type: gif painter-lines.gif (9.5 KB, 15 views)

Last edited by pixel_streamer : 04 April 2007 at 01:56 AM. Reason: highlighting the yellow as the difference
  04 April 2007
Returning to the question of vector-based programs, I found that recently a new software has become quite popular for vector illustration, it is Inkscape. Its main advantages are a very friendly node editing function (the best I saw until now) and the fact to be free.
The site is:

The problem is that Inkscape uses the open format .svg, and I don't know how to use that in Painter. Anyone here has already tried the program, and knows if is it possible in some way to import its files in Painter?

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