Sunday, August 31, 2014

SketchBook Pro 7... a mini review.

Got it a couple weeks ago.  Similar to Adobe, Autodesk (the software house that produces SBP 7) encourages the "subscription" purchase option.  A small amount per year and you get all upgrades and new versions as part of the deal.

The price to subscribe to SBP is more than reasonable... $25.00 per year.  At that price they're essentially giving it away.  If you prefer you can purchase the license outright: $65.00 for SBP 7.  Based on the new functionality being offered... and the promise of yet even more functionality... I highly recommend subscribing.

I won't belabor all the new features.  Their website does a much better job of explaining them than I ever could. 

I haven't even started to experiment with Flipbook.

Probably due to all the new features this version of SBP tends to be buggier than previous versions.  I've had several crashes... and SBP never used to crash before.  And I still can't use the dang canvas rotation feature.  I don't know what it is... I'm running Windows 7 on a fairly new machine.  In truth I have never been able to get that feature to work and I've been using SBP since 2009.

What's infuriating is the ulta-inexpensive ArtRage rotates the canvas effortlessly.  I think you can spin it round and round if you're so inclined.  Corel Painter rotates with no problem as does Photoshop.  So c'mon, Autodesk, what exactly is the problem?

My latest project (next post) was done with no importing to Photoshop.  All the transformation, selection, and gradient tools I needed are now in SBP.  I couldn't be happier. 

Eliminating the unused paper on scans is also pretty easy.   This is part of the work flow if you import paintings and place them into your digital compositions because you'll have to isolate the painted object from the surrounding paper.  Up to now I've used some form of selection tool in Photoshop, refined the selection, and then set a mask to eliminate the paper.

In SBP 7 the process is similar.  Be sure to (1) set your background layer to transparent - another new feature of SBP 7 - and (2) copy the scan layer so you don't inadvertently destroy it and have to scan all over again.
  • Start with an overlarge selection using either the lasso or polygonal selection tool.  
  • Hit "edit/cut" and the bulk of your unused paper is now gone.
  • Now hit the remaining unwanted areas with the "magic wand" selection tool which does a very accurate job.  Again hit "edit/cut."  
  • It will probably take a few passes but the painted surface will be completely isolated on a transparent background.
Extremely useful.

The one critical tool you won't find in SBP is Photoshop's Level Control.  With the level control you can optimize each layer relatively easily and quickly.  The adjustment tools that come with SBP are a pretty abbreviated set: adjust Hue/Tone, Brightness/Contrast, Gray Scale, and Invert.  I suppose clever use of the hue adjustment in conjunction with the brightness adjustment can get you close... but it's nowhere near as convenient.

Overall Autodesk has hit another home run with SBP 7.   The new tools are - as we've come to expect - intuitive, easy to learn, and tutorials are available if you need them.  I was using the perspective tool almost immediately, just as if I'd been using it all my life, without any sort of tutorial reference.  It's virtually self-explanatory.

I can't recommend SBP7 highly enough.

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