Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

Vector Programs: Cheating?
Metalbender92 at 6:58PM, Sept. 6, 2009
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This is a rather silly question, but it's been on my mind for a while. Do you think using a vector program is “cheating”, artistically? It gives you the ability to have your line work instantly smoothed out, making something that would look horrible on paper look fantastic on the screen.

What's your opinion? Do you think it's an easy way out, or just another tool for the artist?
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last edited on July 14, 2011 1:59PM
usedbooks at 7:53PM, Sept. 6, 2009
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There's no such thing as “cheating” in art. Some people have access to better tools and media and some opt to take “shortcuts” while others work painstakingly on details (which usually shows). Artists should always make the best use of their tools.

Otherwise people who draw in paint would constantly be crying “foul” to anyone who dares to “cheat” using photoshop or other decent graphics program. And people who draw with a cheap tablet would call those with better tablets “cheaters” for using their equipment.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:38PM
skoolmunkee at 2:28AM, Sept. 7, 2009
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Illustrator isn't a magic route to making your art look fantastic, either. I've seen some comics done by people who claim to use Illustrator and they look just as wobbly and amateur as if they were done with a normal pen and paper.

Most people who use Illustrator are looking for a particular style, or want to have art that is scalable to any size and looks good, like large prints.
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last edited on July 14, 2011 3:42PM
Astar at 5:42AM, Sept. 7, 2009
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Is using a nice artist grade 3B pencil, a stomp and good paper, instead of a cheap school pencil and notebook paper cheating?

As long as you aren't “stealing” someone else's work, I believe you can use any tool you like. There is a risk anyway if you use automatic predefined effects from a software program, your work might end up looking the same as thousands others.

last edited on July 14, 2011 11:02AM
ozoneocean at 5:53AM, Sept. 7, 2009
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Yeah. When I first got into digital art I tried “cheating” with Illustrator. lol!
Didn't work T_T
Like Skool says- Illustrator, flash, Corel Draw Freehand and any other vector program are good for certain specific uses. I use Illustrator every single day for work but I mostly only ever use the vector line and shape tools for constructing various shapes, designs and logos where I have to be 99.9999% precise.

Illustrator is brilliant at that sort of thing, but for doing conventional style artwork it's crap. -Unless you want the specific flat, poster-art look, but even then it's still a bit of screwing around. Stuff like Flash is smoother and more intuitive to use for artistic work but extremely primitive compared to programs like Illustrator in terms of advanced control.

…But then I haven't tried the latest versions. Now that it's made by Adobe as well maybe the controls are more advanced…? I tend to doubt it though since the vector art controls in Photoshop CS4 are just as crappy as they were in Photoshop 7 and that's STILL way better than any version of flash I've tried.
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:35PM
GracehFaceh at 9:31AM, Sept. 7, 2009
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I used to think that people who did digital art were cheaters because their art was a lot brighter and better looking than mine was. Then I got a tablet and photoshop and realized that it didn't change that fact that I was struggling with my art. So, no, it's not cheating because the only thing that can actually improve your art is practice. :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:38PM
Jabali at 7:54AM, Sept. 12, 2009
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GracehFaceh
I used to think that people who did digital art were cheaters because their art was a lot brighter and better looking than mine was. Then I got a tablet and photoshop and realized that it didn't change that fact that I was struggling with my art. So, no, it's not cheating because the only thing that can actually improve your art is practice. :)

Amen to that statement.

I think most people fear the new technology only because they haven't tried yet. Others are a bit “purist”. I have to admit that I used to think the same way. But to say the truth its not easier inking or coloring digitally than with pen, brush, water colors or markers at least technically speaking.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:05PM
demontales at 8:58AM, Sept. 12, 2009
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The same thing that happened to GracehFaceh happened to me. Actually, I realised that if I had to draw on the computer directly I was better with a mouse than a tablet. I never use a tablet when I work on photoshop(but I work traditionnally most of the time).

I think the only thing that “could” be called cheating, and I'm not saying it is cheating, is the ctrl+z option. When you work traditionally, lots of mistakes are hard or even impossible to correct.

Actuallly, I think it is good to work with both digital and traditional style. Photoshop has helped me understand how to paint, and increased my precision and stability.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:10PM
Ronka at 9:05AM, Sept. 12, 2009
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Also, a lot of nuance is lost just using vectors. You get a nice smooth line, yes, but it has no variation. There's no weight where there needs to be weight, no soft lines where there need to be soft lines, and everything is the same width, so it often comes out looking pasted on. I tried using vectors I few times, and while I thought it was cool, if you try to do anything dynamic it just looks flat.

So vectors, like all other art tools, have their ups and downs. :)
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:10PM
NickGuy at 1:38PM, Sept. 12, 2009
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raster > vector

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last edited on July 14, 2011 2:16PM
Aurora Borealis at 1:54PM, Sept. 12, 2009
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Metalbender92
This is a rather silly question, but it's been on my mind for a while. Do you think using a vector program is “cheating”, artistically? It gives you the ability to have your line work instantly smoothed out, making something that would look horrible on paper look fantastic on the screen.

What's your opinion? Do you think it's an easy way out, or just another tool for the artist?

Do you think using a ruler vs not using one is cheating? after all, it gives you straight lines instantly. Same thing :D

I found that SAI has great vector tools (could use a circle drawing tool though, one thing that's missing) because they're designed with lineart in mind. And you can drag/tweak the lines.
But generally I say this… use whatever tool that gives you the results you want.

And the vector tools in Photoshop 7 are HORRIBLE.I STILL don't get the curve tool at all.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:08AM
benjin at 2:05PM, Sept. 12, 2009
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The only way to cheat is stealing other peoples work.

Using vector graphic programs, image processing programs, layout programs don't make a good piece of work if you have no idea of what to draw and how to use those tools best. They are just tools, they don't do the work alone.
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:20AM
Phillby at 4:01PM, Sept. 14, 2009
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Vectors have their place.

And that place is miles away from beginner comic artists.

Draw your comic with mouse clicks and you'll never improve.
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:43PM
elektro at 8:41PM, Sept. 14, 2009
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Vector programs are not really that great if you like to actually draw comics. While one can draw freehand in Illustrator with the brush/pencil tools, it is very difficult to do right. A program like Photoshop is actually better if you like to draw freehand.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:21PM
BffSatan at 12:24AM, Sept. 15, 2009
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Smoother lines =/= neater lines
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:21AM
ozoneocean at 3:19AM, Sept. 15, 2009
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Ronka
Also, a lot of nuance is lost just using vectors. You get a nice smooth line, yes, but it has no variation. There's no weight where there needs to be weight, no soft lines where there need to be soft lines, and everything is the same width, so it often comes out looking pasted on.
You can get variation. You just have to use custom brush settings. It's great if you're using a Wacom tablet :)
 
last edited on July 14, 2011 2:35PM
mattchee at 8:54AM, Sept. 15, 2009
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Vectors are just a different approach to making a line or mark. Whether or not they're better than another method is subjective, and since there's a number of ways to do it (illustrator, inkscape, manga studio EX), all of which have their pros an cons. I would have to say that the main benefit of using vectors is that they're infinitely scalable without any degradation in quality (IE I could blow something up 400% and it will still be just as sharp, where a raster or scanned image would look like pixelated or blurry (depending on option) crap).

I also don't believe in the concept of “cheating.” I've noticed as digital routes in art seem to be taken more and more, people are getting really butt hurt about it, and having to call it cheating. GET OVER IT. Unless you're straight up blatantly copying SOMEONE ELSES WORK (ie - not doing any work yourself), its not cheating. Other than that, anything you do that gets you to the final output piece desired, in my opinion, is fair game.

I mean, if you don't like the results, okay. I happen to love art that looks traditional, almost silver-agey (my love of Mike Allred's art is no secret), so there are certain directions that digital OR traditional art can go in, that just don't do it for me. Its the results that don't do it for me though, not the process. Then you have stuff like Repoman's Endstone here on DD that is all digital, and MINDBLOWINGLY fantastic traditional looking artwork, which I love.

You could really take this “technology is cheating” thing pretty far. I mean, I could call an oil painter who doesn't find and grind their own pigments to make their own paints a cheater, but I'd sound ridiculous, right? People who specialize in making really good paints make the paint nowadays, and the painter just worries about making the painting. People who specialize in making really great art software can make my software, I'm just gonna worry about drawing comics.

last edited on July 14, 2011 1:55PM
Jabali at 10:13AM, Sept. 15, 2009
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ozoneocean
Ronka
Also, a lot of nuance is lost just using vectors. You get a nice smooth line, yes, but it has no variation. There's no weight where there needs to be weight, no soft lines where there need to be soft lines, and everything is the same width, so it often comes out looking pasted on.
You can get variation. You just have to use custom brush settings. It's great if you're using a Wacom tablet :)

True, In the case of Illustrator and Freehand, most (if not all) vector brushes are pressure sensitive even using cheaper tablets like the wacom/bamboo (like mine, lol).

I've seen fantastic and mind blowing artwork from Repoman's Endstone and Matt's Mastorism both inked digitally but with dynamic line art that equals traditional work. Both are done by people who obviously know how to draw well in any medium but decided to do their work digitally.

last edited on July 14, 2011 1:05PM
kaitoukage at 11:05AM, Sept. 15, 2009
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I use Illustrator for almost all of my artwork these days, including my comic. My decision to use Illustrator, though, came because I prefer to color with in cel-style or with smooth, clean gradients. For these coloring styles, I personally think vector art looks much, much better. Your colors and lines are sharper and your picture has much higher quality when you convert it to web format.

I know most versions of Illustrator have brushes which allow for line variance and a more “real” effect. Illustrator CS4 really takes it a step further with the Blob Brush, which is a brush tool that allows almost Photoshop-like freehand drawing functionality. It's very pressure-sensitive and it flows mostly like a hard Photoshop brush. It does smooth out your lines and there is some issue with it trying to auto-correct too much on sharp or complex curves. But overall, it is just as useful as using a raster brush.

The biggest difficulty I have noticed in vectors is getting a pronounced smooth, “painted” look. If you want sharp, clear colors and an overall “clean” feel, then vectors are excellent and provide the appearance much more easily than rasters. However, the softer, more painted or airbrushed look takes a lot more work to do in a vector. The mesh tool is really powerful but really, really time consuming and hard to get the hang of.

In short, YMMV but I think vectors are very good – better than rasters – for certain kinds of art.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:13PM
megan_rose at 2:44PM, Sept. 15, 2009
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Oh man. When I did vector art for my comics for a while, they took waaaaaaaay longer to do and were way more complicated than my line-drawing comics.

It's only cheating in the way that taking a longer way to get to the end of the race is cheating. By which I mean, it isn't at all.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:59PM
kaitoukage at 6:17AM, Sept. 16, 2009
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megan_rose
Oh man. When I did vector art for my comics for a while, they took waaaaaaaay longer to do and were way more complicated than my line-drawing comics.

I can imagine. I stopped using the pen tool and started using the freehand blob because I got frustrated on one page because it was taking so freaking long.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:13PM
benjin at 7:59AM, Sept. 16, 2009
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You are all talking about drawing a comic by hand, aren't you?
You draw with pen & paper, digitalize and vectorize it, or you draw with a tablet directly into a vector program. Either way you draw by hand in a traditional way.
It means that you have to be skilled in drawing characters from different points of view and in different poses and your audience identifies them as all the same character.
I'm not sure if my audience could identify my characters if I draw then by hand. Sometimes I draw a face that's really good looking, but I can't reproduce this. Not even in the same pose.
Therefore I use other ways to make my pictures. My current comic has very few pictures. They are mostly speech bubble art with a few pictures :) A vector program is used to make the layout, draw frames around the pictures on a page, insert speech and text bubbles.

Do you think, people like me, who are not that skilled in drawing, should not use modern techniques to tell their fantasies in a graphical way?
last edited on July 14, 2011 11:20AM
kaitoukage at 9:42AM, Sept. 18, 2009
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My opinion is just do the best you can. If you want to improve at character drawing then you have to practice. More importantly, you have to challenge yourself – you can't learn if you don't try new things.

In any case, you shouldn't use computer programs as a crutch. Remember when you draw that even though you might not like how something comes out, most other people won't see the same issues. I've drawn several pieces I consider pretty crappy, but have gotten generally positive reviews.

Benjin, what I think someone like you needs to do is not try to cover up things you're not comfortable doing. Even if you don't feel like you can draw characters the same way every time, keep drawing them anyway. Not only will you get better with practice, but the only way you can learn to do things you're not as good at is by doing them.

So instead of using large speech bubbles to hide your character art, let the character art stand out large. You'll get better at it if you keep practicing. Using your vector program to make speech bubbles is fine – just don't use it as a crutch.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:13PM
Syndactyly at 12:55AM, Sept. 25, 2009
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Smooth lines does not a fantastic piece make. I don't think it's cheating at all.

But an artist would probably be able to improve their skills and ability to draw smoother lines from practice. The vector tool at a point should no longer be necessary.
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:05PM

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