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A "Blob Brush" would be welcome.


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Just got done watching the "Lockdown 2020" video: "Speed and motion: illustrating a car in Affinity Designer with Chris Rathbone".  One thought occurred to me: when it came time to block in the color, shadows and highlights, having the equivalent of Adobe Illustrator's Blob Brush would be more intuitive to work with and more efficient. The Pen Tool makes sense for line work, but a Blob Brush that "paints" freehand shapes would be better for painting areas of flat color.

 

(https://youtu.be/iMlJrYE8Xo0)

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4 hours ago, Mark Oehlschlager said:

The Pen Tool makes sense for line work, but a Blob Brush that "paints" freehand shapes would be better for painting areas of flat color.

 

(https://youtu.be/iMlJrYE8Xo0)

The Blob works better and faster than the way he did it, but even better would be to use a vector paint bucket (It was called Flood Fill in Serif's old DrawPlus) to just click once and fill the enclosed area with color.  

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1 hour ago, mackleys said:

I use the blob brush all the time.

 

I never do, because of stuff like this:

image.png.2b6d040e8f0a9b837cc440b657f97cac.png

 

Call me an 'old school' curmudgeon. 50 auto-generated nodes to draw a curve that should have no more than 3 intelligently-placed ones? It just makes my skin crawl, especially in anything supposed to be commercial-quality vector-based work.

That's why I just don't care much for instant-gratification 'brush-like' features in vector-based drawing programs in general. How many slightly-different tool interfaces trying to emulate free-form scribbling with some kind of analog brush or marker does a vector drawing program need to have? It's trying to make vector-based drawing act like something it's not.

This kind of stuff is way, way down on my priority list. Others obviously feel differently about it, and I recognize that. But my vote is for Affinity development to focus on delivering more sophisticated and elegant implementations of the core intent and inherent advantage of vector-based drawing; not on making its own carbon-copy of every user's favorite feature in every other drawing program out there.

JET

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15 hours ago, Mark Oehlschlager said:

@Kuttyjoe

I don't see how a flood fill paint bucket would be an advantage here. In the tutorial, the artist was not filling existing vector shapes; he was outlining new shapes with the pen tool before filling them. A Blob brush would enable him to "paint" in the new custom freeform shape with fill directly applied.

I misunderstood what you were saying there.

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@JET_Affinity

Plotting points is tedious and more in line with an engineering mindset. Some tasks are suited to careful, surgical point plotting, but for digital illustration which assumes an artists mindset, there should be direct intuitive drawing and painting tools. Natural, direct, efficient, intuitive.

As for your complaint about excessive points, that's a software engineer's problem, not an argument against a painting tool that creates freeform vector shapes. Consider the problem Serif had with excessive points for expanded strokes.

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5 minutes ago, Mark Oehlschlager said:

@JET_Affinity

Plotting points is tedious and more in line with an engineering mindset. Some tasks are suited to careful, surgical point plotting, but for digital illustration which assumes an artists mindset, there should be direct intuitive drawing and painting tools. Natural, direct, efficient, intuitive.

As for your complaint about excessive points, that's a software engineer's problem, not an argument against a painting tool that creates freeform vector shapes. Consider the problem Serif had with excessive points for expanded strokes.

This is a good point.  Different users would have very different perspectives and needs for the same software.  Jet may be coming from an engineer's perspective, you have an Illustrator's perspective, and I would personally have a production artist's perspective.  Jet is looking at precision.  You are looking at free form drawing, while I'm looking at the clock and asking, how efficient the tool and workflow would be.  I think though that Affinity Designer is absolutely being promoted for Illustration work so the blob brush makes sense.

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22 hours ago, Mark Oehlschlager said:

@JET_AffinityPlotting points is tedious and more in line with an engineering mindset.

No, it's not. It's a tactile skill. Just like painting with a watercolor brush is a very different skill from painting with an oil paint brush or twirling a lettering quill. 'Drawing' in a vector-based program is a different skill from 'painting' in a raster imaging program.

Why is the insistence on vector drawing programs being designed to emulate what boils down to raster 'painting' so much more common than insistence on raster programs emulating the way one works in vector programs? Truthfully, it's just because too many are intimidated by drawing paths. It's a new and different tactile skill to learn, just like using an airbrush is a very different tactile skill from using a felt-tip marker. You develop an intuition for it, just like you do any other hand tool.

Generating fluid curves is why vector-based drawing programs are based on Bezier curves in the first place. Developing 'second hand' skill with a Bezier tool with a well-designed interface is key to using a vector-based drawing program to its vector-based advantages. It has nothing to do with a 'technical' versus 'artsy' style.

Quote

As for your complaint about excessive points, that's a software engineer's problem...

It's just as much about human aesthetic discernment as raster imaging. It's why an artist knows that the result of an algorithm trying to draw an eyeball with an instant-gratification auto-trace feature is a displeasing and meaningless kind of vector ugliness because it's not even smart enough to know it's supposed to be round. It's why auto-traced fonts have always been considered junk and quality typefaces are still drawn with deliberate human discernment.

In the mid 80s we started doing in software what we did for decades before that in so-called natural media. My own work runs the gamut between 'cartoony' and 'technical.' The vast majority of my loosey-goosey artsy work begins with pencil sketches which I then manually trace in software to refine it with human intelligence and aesthetic discernment into commercial illustration that does not degrade when it is enlarged; which is the primary intent and purpose of vector-based drawing.

If one wants software to emulate working with so-called natural media, that's what Fractal Design Painter (later acquired by Corel) was all about. I don't know of anything that did it better. But after the novelty of it, I quit using it because the whole idea was to create something artificial. Fractal Design tried the same thing on the vector side with Expression, the drawing program forever in search of a home.

Like any other medium, elegantly-drawn vector-based pathwork has its own aesthetic. It doesn't have to try to fake one that is counter to its own nature. Using it inelegantly, by just 'throwing stuff out there' and assuming some algorithm can interpret a gesture often yields results analogous to overworking watercolor. In fact, individual drawing programs have their own aesthetic, because they are, in fact, different mediums, just as the aesthetics of gouache, watercolor, and acrylic differ despite their all being water paints. The 'feel' of working in Xara differs from that of Affinity, Draw, FreeHand, Canvas, etc., and it can come across in the results.

And that's my main point: HOW MANY subtly-different interfaces for trying to do the same basic thing does any vector-based drawing program need? I happen to like Illustrator's Scribble feature. It's pretty unique. But I don't expect it to be copy-catted in every other drawing program, or that I will consider other programs 'incomplete' until they do.

So what's functionally differentiating about Illustrator's so-called Blob Brush? I see basically, three things:

  • Smoothing of your gesture.
  • Elliptical shaping of the 'nib' for direction-based thickness ('calligraphic' thickness).
  • Auto union of the outlined strokes.

Which of these are the desired capabilities? Affinity's Pen and Pencil Tools have a plethora of adjustments and their Stabilizer and Rope modes. So for example, why not just request an option on the Pencil to auto-outline and union to any intersecting matching fills on mouseup?

JET

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3 hours ago, JET_Affinity said:

Why is the insistence on vector drawing programs being designed to emulate what boils down to raster 'painting' so much more common than insistence on raster programs emulating the way one works in vector programs? Truthfully, it's just because too many are intimidated by drawing paths.

I think the answer to this question was already explained very well:

..."but for digital illustration which assumes an artists mindset, there should be direct intuitive drawing and painting tools. Natural, direct, efficient, intuitive."

That makes perfect sense.  Artist learn to draw with pens and brushes.  They bring those skills over to the digital world.  They would like to keep working the way they've learned.  Artists are results driven.  They are not counting how many unnecessary points are created on a shape when they draw it.  It's not like the extra points cost money.  You're agonizing over excessive points on a path, (Illustrator resolves that example you posted literally with just a single click on the line), but Illustrators are not.  The question this is, what is the focus on these programs.  If you look at how Serif is promoting this software the answer to this is very clear.  It's a tool for Illustrators.  People like you and me, trying to bend it to do other things are just out of luck.  You will need to stick with your beloved Freehand, and I will have to continue to rely on Illustrator, but when I do Illustratations, I can still find some uses for apps like Affinity Designer and others.  But, I'm being realistic about it.

3 hours ago, JET_Affinity said:

Generating fluid curves is why vector-based drawing programs are based on Bezier curves in the first place. Developing 'second hand' skill with a Bezier tool with a well-designed interface is key to using a vector-based drawing program to its vector-based advantages.

Vector based programs and also raster programs have long since outgrown their original basic concepts and tool sets, and have become something greater.  I read all the time from random people who say, "Photoshop is not a painting program because it's primarily a photo editor".  I'm pretty sure that by the time Photoshop had reached version 2 or 3, it was already growing beyond simply being used to edit photos.  By version 4 you could have a caree with Photoshop without ever editing a photo.  Now we have software that combines the both vector and raster into a single program and it's very useful and I would say, amazing.

4 hours ago, JET_Affinity said:

why an artist knows that the result of an algorithm trying to draw an eyeball with an instant-gratification auto-trace feature is a displeasing

Beauty is still in the eye of the beholder, is it not?  If you find something displeasing, the next person disagrees and loves it.  Also, there's plenty to be said of "instant gratification", or I would say, instant results.  Instant results equal bigger paycheck.  Time is money.   As a freelance artist, most of my work dried up during the coronavirus lockdowns, but I gained a lot of new work in vectorizing art and preparing for print with limited colors.  I have to make a certain amount of money per hour and that would be impossible without a high quality vector tracing feature.  I'm absolutely relying on it.  The value of vector tracing in my opinion can not be overstated.  You just need a broader understanding of how people are actually using it.  You only understand it's use as a creative tool, which is fine. But some of us are using it as a production tool.

4 hours ago, JET_Affinity said:

does not degrade when it is enlarged; which is the primary intent and purpose of vector-based drawing.

No, that is more accurately a primary advantage of vector based drawings.  The primary intent of vector drawing is whatever the artist primarily intends to create with the software.

4 hours ago, JET_Affinity said:

If one wants software to emulate working with so-called natural media, that's what Fractal Design Painter (later acquired by Corel) was all about. I don't know of anything that did it better.

You're putting constraints on artists and telling them what they must use to create art?

4 hours ago, JET_Affinity said:

In fact, individual drawing programs have their own aesthetic, because they are, in fact, different mediums, just as the aesthetics of gouache, watercolor, and acrylic differ despite their all being water paints.

and....painting with vectors.  It has it's own aesthetic too, right?  If I were make an argument in favor of painting in vector software, that would be the strongest argument that I could come up with.

4 hours ago, JET_Affinity said:

And that's my main point: HOW MANY subtly-different interfaces for trying to do the same basic thing does any vector-based drawing program need?

That is a question that doesn't really need an answer.  A better question is probably, why not?  You make strong arguments against things that are not causing problems so why argue against painting with vectors, or using vector tracing features?  None of it is hurting anybody.  People are making great use of it.  Creating great art, and improving their productivity.  What exactly is the reason why these things are troubling you?

4 hours ago, JET_Affinity said:

So what's functionally differentiating about Illustrator's so-called Blob Brush?

Vs a pen tool, or brush tool, the main attraction is probably workflow.  You could achieve the same result with all 3 tools but you pick the one with the best workflow.  It's not more complicated than that.  If you suggest some features for the brush tool which gives it a similar workflow to the blob brush, then that is fine too.  Either way, artists should pick the tool that gives them the best workflow for what they are doing.  I may move a single piece of art through Serif's DrawPlus, over to Photoshop or Clip Studio, and possibly into Illustrator as well.  I'm using the best tool for specific tasks to achieve a result as quickly as possible.  Speed is among my primary goals.

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16 hours ago, Kuttyjoe said:

You will need to stick with your beloved Freehand, and I will have to continue to rely on Illustrator

No, I won't. I can get good productive and profitable work out of Affinity using what it can do. I don't need Affinity Designer to become a clone of Illustrator to do that. I don't expect every program I use to do everything all the others do in the exact same manner. Affinity already has a plethora of 'brush' features. It doesn't need another just to have one that acts exactly like a particular one in Illustrator. And there are other things I consider much higher priority.

That's my vote on this.

JET

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  • 4 months later...

So over the years I periodically do a search to see if Designer has added the blob brush tool yet. Just saw this back and forth and thought I should add my two cents as honestly the lack of a Blob Brush and matching Eraser is literally the only reason I haven't switched over to using Designer. I am still using Illustrator CS6 hamfisted into working on a newer OSX and Adobe Draw on the ipad (which is basically just the Blob Brush as an app).

I primarily do tshirt designs that I sketch out on paper, scan in, and then draw over with the Blob Brush. Gives me a very fast artist based drawing workflow that is resolution independent for re purposing the designs to other products etc. The blob brush is absolutely great for this, feels natural and is very quick to use and would love it if something similar were to be introduced for Designer.

I appreciate the pure idea of the pen sort of tool and for many uses it is the right choice, but for quick freehand artistic drawing, nothing I've tried beats the blob brush. Yes it creates lots of unnecessary points, but in terms of the end result of the artwork and the speed I get to create it, extra points really don't matter to me, it's the final image that counts and the ease getting there.

I liken it to back in the day when I used to 3d model in Maya, individually moving vertices around on polygonal meshes. I used to be all about exact, efficient models. And that's still great for certain applications, but compared to the free form sculpting packages that are around now, for pure artistic freedom and speed, I default to sculpting packages every time.

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On 5/6/2020 at 12:37 PM, JET_Affinity said:

I never do, because of stuff like this:

image.png.2b6d040e8f0a9b837cc440b657f97cac.png

I always use path/ simplify and dial it to 95 to 99 - does a pretty decent job.

Like all the missing basics, a blob tool would be most welcome - but would prob need a simplify path tool to be great

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I would def like to have a blob brush.  For me, the use case for vector drawing apps is twofold: precision and scaleability.  The pen tool (with bezier controls*) is essential for precision work.  Affinity for me has this done very well; and I have no real asks for that use case.

My second use case is to create graphics that will need to scale across uses (t-shirt, poster, web)--and much of this is illustration/free-hand work . For this a pencil tool is key.  (and I really love AD's pencil tool with sculpt) But the pencil tool is good for simple strokes, with simple fills.  I need the blob brush too for freehand fills  - usually with a pattern fill of some sort) 

TL:DR
pen tool: precision 
pencil tool: freehand strokes
blob brush: freehand fills


* vector nerd moment but i am fine with quadratic curve tools (like we use to don in truetype font design) instead of Bezier too

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I think a Blob Brush has its place in the program but I got tired of waiting so I rolled my own version using the tools in Designer. Here is how I did it.

You use the Vector Brush. I don't necessarily want to use a Blob brush just to fill in areas to color but to create shapes that are more organic, more freehand, less pristine and sterile. So I use the Vector Brush, create my shape and then I have a MultiAction set up with my Stream Deck XL. This is a 32 button separate input/display that I have set up with Designer and Photo

I press the key that I have set up as 'Blob', and it takes the shape (Curves) I have selected, performs an Expand Stroke, then an Add, and then selects the Pen Tool. Then I have to perform a Smooth command on it from that point myself as that is not accessible with a keyboard shortcut. At that point I then typically will use the Pencil tool with the Sculpt option to carve and trim away portions of that shape. 

The shapes that I can create in this manner with my 'Blob Brush' have a personality and charm that are distinctly different from me just using the Pen Tool. Like I said it has a purpose, just another arrow in the quiver to be used when the time is right. If I have time Sunday, maybe I will post a video showing this Blob Brush of mine in action.

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  • 1 month later...

@JET_Affinity I can understand why the extra nodes created by the blob tool would be annoying. I'm not going to repeat unnecessarily the reasons so many of us find  value in the ability to free flow line work. There's value in a certain level of vector in photo and a value in a certain amount of raster in affinity. Equally, it would only increase the value and ability and range of designer to have the less mechanical and more artistic ability with vectors. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

i found the blob brush great for simple character illustration.draw your outline and in the layer underneath, use the blob brush to fill in the main color of the character . its a great way to create a base color to do the rest of your painting over. im a newbie but the only otherway i see would be to go over you characters outline with the pen tool and fill in the shape. which seems more tedious to me

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  • 2 months later...
On 10/3/2020 at 8:40 AM, Scungio said:

I think a Blob Brush has its place in the program but I got tired of waiting so I rolled my own version using the tools in Designer. Here is how I did it.

You use the Vector Brush. I don't necessarily want to use a Blob brush just to fill in areas to color but to create shapes that are more organic, more freehand, less pristine and sterile. So I use the Vector Brush, create my shape and then I have a MultiAction set up with my Stream Deck XL. This is a 32 button separate input/display that I have set up with Designer and Photo

I press the key that I have set up as 'Blob', and it takes the shape (Curves) I have selected, performs an Expand Stroke, then an Add, and then selects the Pen Tool. Then I have to perform a Smooth command on it from that point myself as that is not accessible with a keyboard shortcut. At that point I then typically will use the Pencil tool with the Sculpt option to carve and trim away portions of that shape. 

The shapes that I can create in this manner with my 'Blob Brush' have a personality and charm that are distinctly different from me just using the Pen Tool. Like I said it has a purpose, just another arrow in the quiver to be used when the time is right. If I have time Sunday, maybe I will post a video showing this Blob Brush of mine in action.

Did you ever make a video about your setup for this? I'd be very interested to see

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  • 4 months later...
  • 3 months later...

I want to become a surface pattern designer.  Scalabilty of designs is extremely important in the surface pattern industry.  Most companies that purchase surface design patterns require that these designs are 100% vector because of this.  I do not like the simplified cartoon style that vector graphics is associated with.  Plotting points and tweaking handles to produce machine perfect lines and curves is not only excessively time consuming, it is inconsistent with the approach I want to take in my designs.  I'm currently in a college Adobe Illustrator class where I discovered and now use the pencil tool and the blob brush almost exclusively. 

I happened to Google search "Does Affinity Designer have a blob brush?".  My search brought me to this forum.  After reading all the posts from people begging Serif for years to include a blob brush, I wanted to add my two cents. 

I was convinced that AD was the software of choice as an alternative to Ai until I read that there is no blob brush.  To be blunt, this is a deal breaker.  The lack of a blob brush and the inability to produce fully vectorized images has made me decide NOT to purchase Affinity Designer.  The importance of the blob brush and 100% vector images for the kind of work I will be doing isn't something I can work around using AD.  It's too bad because I really hate Adobe and their outrageously expensive subscription model.

If AD is updated to include a blob brush and a way to create 100% vector images, I will immediately purchase the software.

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On 5/6/2020 at 8:28 AM, Mark Oehlschlager said:

@JET_Affinity

Plotting points is tedious and more in line with an engineering mindset. Some tasks are suited to careful, surgical point plotting, but for digital illustration which assumes an artists mindset, there should be direct intuitive drawing and painting tools. Natural, direct, efficient, intuitive.

As for your complaint about excessive points, that's a software engineer's problem, not an argument against a painting tool that creates freeform vector shapes. Consider the problem Serif had with excessive points for expanded strokes.

When I was new to the blob brush, I got lots of useless anchor points.  The trick with the bb is to work quickly and smoothly, a skill acquired with practice.   I consider the blob brush an essential tool for my surface pattern designs which always require scalability.  Mechanical drawing is not art.  Artists need a vector drawing program that allows for expressive works.  I don't see a problem with making AD work for engineers and artists.

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  • 5 months later...

My reference for wanting a BLOB BRUSH (about the only thing I liked about Illustrator) is my experience with the selection brush in Clip Studio paint when drawing comics. CSP also does vector brushes, but on on vector layers. My routine is to draw the line work using vector brushes and then use a combination of the polyline and selection brush to create an area I'd use for "flats". That would be used to mask colour and tone layers so that they don't leak outside the line work. Now I realise that I could just use plain raster brushes to do the same, but using a Blob Brush (and Blob Eraser)  would make things flow very quickly for me, and match house I use vector brushes. I've no interest in painfully using the least amount of points, but in covering areas quickly. The edges would be hidden under the vectors brushwork above (which has multiple brush strokes, not just curves and shapes) in any case. 

I think though one needs to be clear about just how a Blob Brush would work. At the moment you can can draw vector curves  by any means but combining them by expanding the stroke and then adding them (left and middle images in Example 1) but this is  NOT the same as say, how that other program's Blob Brush would combine (right image in Example 1). When the stroke gets expanded in Designer it connects the ends of the curve, and that may not be what you want.

BLOB BRUSH/ERASER DESCRIPTION
A working Blob Brush/Eraser would most likely be a circle or ellipse (a square would be odd but maybe workable) and would have to have a stroke width greater than 0 (otherwise the stroke is not adding/subtracting anything) . If either the Fill or Stroke of a Blob Brush/Eraser has no colour, that part neither adds or subtracts anything to the result. The width of a stroke would be variable like other vector brushes, so a standard width if a mouse is used, or variable with a tablet. .

  • If no existing curve is selected, the brush would create a new curve that followed the outline of the stroke, and an eraser would do nothing.
  • If an existing curve is selected, the Blob Brush would add a coloured area, and the outline of a coloured stroke (the colours do not matter) to the selected curve, using the selected curve's stroke and fill colours; the Blob Eraser would erase areas in the selected curve depending on whether the brush had a colour fill or stroke.
  • If the fill/stroke of a Blob Brush creates a curve that is not directly overlapping the selected curve, then it adds an extra curve to that object;
  • If the Blob Eraser subtracts one or more areas that bisects the selected curve, one of two things happen (based on a toggle setting): the original selected curve is divided into two or more separate curves (see middle image in example 2); or one object is maintained, but with two or more curves in it (right image in example 2). 

A Blob Brush/Eraser that worked in this fashion would add something new to Designer, one extra way of doing something, requiring many more steps otherwise. 

 

 

Combining.jpg

Subtracting.jpg

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