Bitmap editing in Inkscape

bitmap, edited using Inkscape

This is an attempt of mine to use Inkscape 0.46 for bitmap editing. I got the idea for this sometime last year, and I already posted a few attempts of mine on Flickr. The reason for all of this is, that the handling of the bézier curves in Inkscape is so amazingly intuitive that the idea for using this for bitmap editing came kind of automatically, after I had imported a few bitmaps into Inkscape and tried out different things. (I actually cannot exactly recall when it occured to me that Inkscape has possibilities for bitmap editing, but I guess it was when I trie d to to edit a few of my own photographs and had to realize that the possibilities of the Gimp where somewhat limited for the things I wanted to do.

Here’s just one example of a task that is a bit challenging when trying to use the Gimp:

The problem is that the clone brush doesn’t work so well because the transition between the different brush strokes is not as smooth as it should be. In Inkscape, though, I found a feasible solution for this by using gradients. By superimposing several circular gradients over one another & then fine-tuning the result in Gimp (read: adding some noise and using the clone brush a bit here and there) I was able to get satisfactory results. (At first—before I decided to use Inkscape—I even gave CinePaint a try, but although the brushes in CinePaint are of far better quality than in Gimp, the look of the edited areas was not as smooth as I wanted it to be.)

After trying some basic bitmap editing, I went one step further & used Inkscape for things like additional eyelashes, eye shadow, and lip gloss.

Then, still one step futher, I painted some floral vector pattern on top of the respective bitmap & exported the result as a PNG.

Yesterday I made a new discovery: that it is possible (and comparably easy) to use Inkscape as a vector paint app, similar to the—as to my knowledge discontinued—paint* by discreet; only that the strokes in Inkscape cannot be animated that easily. (Basically it is feasible, though, to animate SVGs by using a language such as JavaScript.)

Image of the Week

Editing: Gimp 2.6.7, Inkscape 0.46. You can find more of those photographs on my Flickr page.

Image of the Week

This is one of my favorites from my own “shop windows” series. I find the facial expression very poetic. Editing: Inkscape 0.46 and Gimp 2.6.7.

Tim Borgmann

Image © Copyright by Tim Borgmann. Reprinted with permission.

Although the rendering above is actually a few years old, I just couldn’t resist posting it, because I find it just beautiful. Software used: Realsoft 3D. Realsoft 3D is actually a commercial app, but there’s a free 60-day trial version available.


Featured Artist: Stephan Martinière

White Room

"White Room" by Stephan Martinière. © Copyright by Cyan, Ubisoft. Reprinted with permission.

Among the web sites I discovered in the course of the last few days is the site of French artist Stephan Martinière , only to learn—much to my surprise—that he is responsible for two of my absolute favorite digital paintings: “Hostile Takeover” and “Red”. I encountered those images now and again on the Internet and was absolutely amazed both by the masterful technical execution and the powerful artistic vision, but I didn’t know who had actually done them.

Now that I finally found Stephan Martinière’s web site and looked at his body of work, I realized how good he actually is, and when comparing his own work with the work of other artists in the genre, it becomes quite apparent to me that he is clearly among the best digital artists we currently have.

In the course of his career, Stephan Martinière has worked as a character and environment artist on “Inspector Gadget”, for theme parks, and as a concept artist for movies such as “I, Robot” or “Star Wars, Episode II” and “Star Wars, Episode III”. In addition, he has done award-winning book covers (“Hostile Takeover” being one of them) and worked for several game companies, among those a three year stay at Cyan, working on “Uru: Ages Beyong Myst, “Uru: The Path of the Shell”, and “Myst 5”. He also issued several volumes consisting of his own art work, such as “Quantum Dreams” and “Quantumscapes”.

What particularly amazes me about his work are the astonishing amount of detail and the power of his artistic vision, and when taking a closer look, it becomes quite obvious that among the artists who influenced him are people like Syd Mead, Chris Foss, and Moebius.

Having done graphics myself now for more than thirteen years, besides Stephan Martinière’s artistic vision, one thing I absolutely admire is his masterful use of Adobe Photoshop. But, I think, his art goes far beyond the merely technical; imho, this is what sets a truly great artist apart from the mass. Having been tired of the tons of CGI cars, monstes, and the like, it is a great relief to know that there are people out there who handle the comparably new digital tools with such mastery, hopefully encouraging aspiring artists to do likewise.

Further reading: A number of articles on Stephan Martinière’s web site.

A bit more about myself

At first glance, this blog seems to be just another web site where the owner is trying to make a few bucks.

Actually, it’s not that simple.

To explain this further, I would love to have an app available that would be able to trace my history on the Internet since late 1996. That’s when I basically started doing computer graphics & getting acquainted with the Internet. (I already did some bitmap editing about two years prior to that; this was in some sort of public library, the computer being a Mac, and the bitmap editor the then available version of Photoshop; I guess it must have been version 3.0.) I still have the files stored on a floppy disk; unfortunately I cannot access them because a) I don’t own a Mac (I’m using a PC with Ubuntu Linux), and b) new Mac’s don’t have a built-in floppy drive anymore.

Anyway, here’s a photograph of a print I made right then on an Apple inkjet printer, to give an impression of what I came up with at that time:

experimental graphic

© Copyright 1996 by Claus Cyrny.

This was basically just me following my intuition and playing with the options available in Photoshop, and after all those years, I’m still amazed by the quality of the things I did then. Because drawing and painting is quite natural to me (I have been drawing since kindergarten), it wasn’t that difficult. During my teens, I used to sit at my desk for hours, drawing stuff like (more or less futuristic) houses, spaceships, spacesuits, futuristic weapons (I was heavily into sci-fi at that time), and more along that line.

All of this changed when I entered high school (or the German equivalent, respectively, called “Gymnasium”, albeit this is something entirely different than the English “gymnasium”). For no obvious reason, I stopped drawing altogether (except when we had to draw something in school, especially for biology). In hindsight, I realize that part of the reason that I became fed up with arts for a number of years was the fact that, in middle school, I was confronted with a completely mechanical attitude towards art, which created a severe block in me, especially towards painting with watercolors. I recall that we frequently had to paint watercolors of the respective season (autumn leaves, snow, etc.). This pretty lifeless attitude towards art, in addition to the fact that the teachers basically didn’t care about the abilities of the pupils at all, and—very obviously—didn’t seem to have any specific training in teaching art in the first place, resulted in art being one of my least favorite classes, and the block which I developed kept me from drawing or painting for almost seven years. It is interesting, though, how I was finally able to overcome it.

Since I lived in the southwest of Germany then (where I still live right now), I used listened to a certain German station on the radio that had a surprisingly good pop/rock program at the time (early 1970s), and, after a while, I discovered the jazz program of this station. This finally (I had meanwhile gotten my own record player) resulted in my buying my first jazz records in 1978, which were: “Alexander the Great” by Monty Alexander, the Carnegie Hall concerts by both Benny Goodman (1938) and the Dave Brubeck Quartet (1963), and— surprisingly advanced for someone new to jazz—an amazing live recording by the John Coltrane Quintet, featuring Eric Dolphy on alto saxophone and flute.

After having moved away from home (this is a different story altogether), I kept buying jazz records, although at that time my focus was still on pop and rock. Finally (this was sometime in January, 1980) said jazz station played a very unique Miles Davis tune entitled “Circle in the Round”, and after having listend to it (it opccupies an entire side of the double album of the same name), my mood had changed so completely that I suddenly felt the desire to draw something—thus, without being aware of it at that time, my block was removed.