Friday, 29 June 2018

Meander II

Last week a user over at the gimp-forum inspired me to have a look at my 2014 Meander tutorial for Inkscape and i noticed its pretty outdated...

Keep in mind that in may 2014, we were still at Inkscape version 0.48 and i didnt know the program as well as i do today.
Its also quite possible the 'Live Path Effects' (LPE) were buggy and not as refined as they are now.
So that probably explains why i used the 'Pattern Along Path' Extension and not the LPE.

Today i'll show you the best method for 2018, which is not only easier but also looks better.

Im using Inkscape Version 0.92.3.

The pattern building works pretty much the same as in the old tutorial, with a grid, but without the need for invisible placeholder.
As you can see, the meander pattern is build from multiple squares with the same height/width.
So the first thing you have to do is decide on a „Unit“.

I work with a canvas of 800x800px and a circle of 605px (Visual Bounding Box).
The Unit im using for the grid is 8px.

Build the pattern with the help of snapping.
Duplicate, resize and rotate the rectangular building blocks as needed with the buttons in the Tool Controls and Command Bar.

Once everything is in place, 'Unite' all the pieces into one single path.
This is the pattern we are going to apply to the circular skeleton path.

Copy the pattern to the clipboard.
Either with the keyboard shortcut (CTRL + C), or the Menu (Edit → Copy), or the little icon in the Command Bar.

Make sure the circular skeleton is a path and has a Fill but no Stroke.
Once selected, apply the 'Pattern Along Path' LPE.

In case you dont have the LPE window open, you can find it in the menu under 'Path → Path Effects'.
Inkscape says the keyboard shortcut is 'Shift + CTRL + 7' but on my (german) keyboard its 'Shift + CTRL + 6'.

In the 'Pattern Along Path' (Pap) menu, click the 'Paste' button and set the 'Pattern copies' to 'Repeated, stretched'.

You may notice that once the pattern is applied, the skeleton circle is slightly deformed. This can be remedied by adding nodes. Just select the circular path with the 'Node Tool' and hit the 'Add Nodes' button.

Here are some examples for variations of the pattern (click image for bigger version):

Whenever you work with a pattern that includes space beyond the bounding box, the 'Spacing' option comes in handy.

As you can see, the distortion of the Pap LPE takes great care of the pattern and turns it into a circular ornament.
You can get a similar effect form the Pap Extension by adding more nodes to the pattern, but its not as flexible as the LPE.

(distress effect made with Gimp and G'MIC)

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Lets Get A Stroke

Something i made after reading this topic on reddit:

Original artwork looks like this:

For the base effect i used 'path-inbetweener' and 'ofn-stroke-visible-paths'. You can get both plug-ins here:

More background information can be found here:

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Warp Text with Ofnuts' 'Bend Path' Plug-In

Making warped text in Gimp or Inkscape was a challenge until recently.

There was an experimental script by saulgoode, that worked but took ages (like 30minutes) to render the text.

It was slightly quicker in Inkscape but not easier. Node editing is still a lengthy process and the Bezier Envelope, an extension written for Inkscape 0.48, has its problems.

When Inkscape 0.92 introduced the 'Perspective/Envelope LPE', things improved slightly, but its still far from perfect and has to be performed on individual letters, often followed by more node editing.

In comparison, making warped text in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop is easy. Its flexible and has a ton of options. But then again Adobe products arent free :)

Here are some examples of classic warped text, with the names borrowed from Illustrator.

This situation inspired ofnuts from Gimp-Forum to write another excellent path tool for us at the end of 2017.
Its lightning fast, maintains straight lines on the vertical and easy to use.

Download and installation

You can get it here, its called 'ofn-bend-path':

Unzip your download and put the file into your Gimp userfolder for plug-ins.

On windows thats:         




Note that you also get a folder named 'doc', which contains useful information on how the plug-in works in the form of a html file (double click to open).

Preparing the text

Start with the text you want to warp into shape. Some fonts work better than others.
The examples above were made with 'Times New Roman Bold'.

Also choose your text wisely. Especially the first and the last letter can make all the difference.
Some letters dont warp very well into extreme angles, and some need an extra step of editing afterwards to look nice.

The curvature of the letter S or D for example can look bad.
Letters with straight vertical lines work mostly well.

Here is an example with the word Silly.
Notice how it looks unbalanced, especially at the left upper corner where the S ends and leaves a gap of open space.
This could be improved by editing the path manually, but its an extra step, that might be hard to get right.


Also make sure the kerning is perfect ! Kerning is the space between letters.
You can adjust it by placing the cursor between letters, holding down Alt and using the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard.

Here the space between the L and Y and the two L's is much bigger compared to the other letters. Visually, you get holes, which may or may not look worse when the text is warped.

Usage of the plug-in

For the example, im using the font League Spartan Bold.

Decide on the shape you want to give your text.

We need to make an envelope path that tells the script how to map the text into its new shape.

The width of the envelope can not be smaller than the width of the text !
It must be equal or bigger, otherwise you will get an error !

The height of the text can be smaller or bigger, but most of the time you will probably want a part of your text to stay the same height.

For my example i will go with an upper arc shaped envelope (the gray shape in the image below).

Use guides to make a box around your text and add more guides to help achieve the curvature you want.

Then draw a path with the Paths Tool.

It doesnt matter in what order you create the nodes, but we are limited to two strokes (= paths) !

Draw your first stroke. It can have more than one node but for most cases a simple two node path is enough.

Make sure the 'View → Snap to guides' option is active - this will make the placing of nodes easier.

To get the second path, hold down Shift ! This prevents the new stroke from being connected to the first with another segment but will create the stroke as a part of the same path.

Alternatively, you can duplicate your first stroke in the 'Paths Tab' reposition with the 'Path Tool' by holding down Alt (Move Mode) and merge them later with the right click option: 'Merge Visible Paths'.

Then give your envelope path the desired curvature. Ofnuts has made this easy for us:
instead of trying to get both handles into the exact same position, you can just use one. Neat !

When the envelope path is ready, convert the text you made into a path.

In the Paths Tabs, right click on the Text-Path, go to Tools → Bend.

A dialogue box will open.

Select the correct Envelope Path in the dropdown menu, in case you have more than one.

When ready, click okay, and the result should appear immediately.

Now you can call up a selection from the newly created path, fill it on a new transparent layer, and start decorating. The text path also comes in very handy for adding a stroke.


'Bendiness' is an option i never had a need for, but it allows you to affect how the plug-in handles the warping process. For the plug-in to warp text into the envelope form, it converts all segments into curves by extending its handles. This Bendiness dictates how far the handles are extended. That may still look (visually) like a straight line, but trust me: its a curve now.

At Bendiness: 0 the handle is on top of the anchor while at 200 its completely out ending at the next anchor. The default of 100 is the middle ground.

The other option in the 'Reference lines' dropdown menu is 'Guides'.

Basically you can tell the plug-in, which parts of the textpath you want to be stretched (the area between two horizontal guides).

The horizontal (guide)lines are mapped to the strokes of the envelope, and everything inside (and outside) is stretched to match.

One way of using this feature is to add padding to your text, which can be useful when you dont want to fit the path tightly into the envelope, but add space to the top and/or bottom.

Alternatively, you can define a line with a guide, that will be mapped to the envelope and the rest follows around it, so to speak.

Which makes this kind of effect possible:

Also dont forget that you can use the plug-in for any kind of shape, not just text, as long as its a path !

Using the result in Inkscape

If you want to use or edit your warped text in Inkscape, export the path with the right-click menu in the paths tab. Make sure to add a descriptive name and the .svg file-ending when you export !


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

How to make a blocky gradient

Gimp's Gradient Editor can be intimidating. Im here to change that.

In this tutorial i will show you how to make a blocky gradient that has lots of uses.

Make sure your colours go from black to white.

Click 'Create New Gradient' at the bottom of the Gradient Tab.
A window will pop up. You can resize this window to make it larger.
Give the gradient a name ('8 Bar') and save it.

Go inside the right-click menu and 'Replicate Segment' by 2.

Select only the left part of the gradient by clicking inside the bar where the little triangles are located.
Change the colour of the segment to black by changing the 'Right Endpoint's Colour'.

Next select the right segment and change it to white.

Now select both segments by holding Shift and replicate again. We want eight bars, so we have to replicate by four times.

And thats the whole procedure. You can exit the gradient editor - it automatically saves.

You should make yourself an arsenal of blocky gradients: 8, 10, 12, 24 and 32 bars are good for a start !
I will show you two uses in the next tutorial.

How to make a sunray in Gimp

You can use your blocky gradient to make a super quick sunray effect.

Prepare a 24 Bar Gradient.

Set up your canvas (im using 700x700px) with guides at 50% horizontal and vertical.

 Activate the 'Gradient Tool' and for the Options', tick 'Adaptive Supersampling' to get the best quality.

For the shape choose Conical and asymetric.

Now drag the mousepointer from the crossing of the guides to the edge of the canvas. You can either restrain angle by holding down Ctrl or use the snap to canvas edges option.

Bam, instant sunray !

In case you wondered what happens when you choose the symetric cone shape: your sunray will come out wrong….

...and this is what happens when you dont use 'Adaptive Supersampling'. Jaggy Edges......

For different colours, here is a quick way of changing the colours and keep it flexible.

Copy the b/w sunray layer to the clipboard.
Create two new layers in your colours of choice.
Add a layermask to the top layer.
With the layermask selected, paste.
A floating layer will appear and you must click the little anchor to merge it down.

Now you can change the colour easily by dragging and dropping colours.
This way, you will never need more than one black & white gradient and still have every colour you want.

But theres more !

Create a 12 Bars sunray.
Put a new layer on top and draw an 8 Bar gradient with the shape set to 'Radial'.

Now change the Blend Mode to ' Difference' and you get a checkerboard Star Wars style.

We can colourise it the same way we did with the sunray.
Go to Edit → Copy Visible.

Create two new layers in the colours you want.
Add a layermask to top layer.
With the layermask selected, paste and anchor.