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Why I’m still using a 20-year-old art program (not exclusively, but still…a lot)

Three months after this post about getting a new computer, and things are going swimmingly. There was a building issue for a while with a Mysterious Hidden Process steadily filling up hard drive space, but this forum post had the fix, and poof, my free space went from 29 GB back to 129 GB.

I also did a writeup about Paint Shop Pro 7 back around that time, and figured it deserved its own post.

And hey, it pairs really well with this recording of the strip-creation process! Not quite start-to-finish, but most of the “cleanup-flats-shading-effects” process. (Light Quarantine Flashback spoilers.)

Programs you’ll see in use:

  • Legacy version of PSP: cropping, lineart cleanup, flats
  • Newest version Clip Studio Paint: tiled patterns, perspective effects, anything that uses nice brushes or complex assets
  • Either: shading, adjustment layers
  • Legacy (pre-subscription-model) version of Photoshop: files saved by Clip are just different enough to be unreadable to PSP, but re-saving them in PS fixes that

And here are the functions of PSP that make it extra-useful for basic comic-strip operations, i.e. the reasons I’ll keep using the program as long as it will run…

  • Opens real fast. Not as much of a bonus since I got the high-powered New Computer, which can even open Photoshop quickly, but still nice
  • Lets you paste on the layer you’re working on. I do a lot of “copy this bit of the lineart and paste it over that other part,” and if they generated a new layer every time, I’d be constantly stopping to merge them all
  • Same with adding text  — which I write in another program, so it can be insta-copied as text into a transcript (I fully expect Clip Studio to add an “export all text into a plaintext file” option one day, it’s such an accessibility gimme!, but we’re not there yet)
  • Lets you paste a selection with one color erased to transparency. Lots of white backgrounds I get to auto-erase
  • Color/pattern settings don’t have to be universal, they can be different for every tool. So there’s a lot less referring back to the palette — you can just pair 2 lineart colors with the pen, 2 flat colors with the bucket, 2 shading colors with the brush, and then one-click switch between all of them
  • Keyboard-shortcut instant toggle between layers. Based on their order, regardless of layer names (lowest is ctrl+1, next is ctrl+2, etc). Working on one layer when you notice something needs fixing on another — toggle over, fix it, toggle back, without your eyes/cursor/attention being pulled away to rifle through the layer window
  • Switching between “view all layers” and “view current layer” also has an instant shortcut. No matter how many layers you have, pick one and see it alone in a couple of clicks, no need to go through and individually hide all the rest
  • This one isn’t about PSP working better, since Clip and Photoshop both have much more powerful vector tools…but PSP draws 99.9% of the lines I need that for, and it’s the one I already know, which saves me the effort of getting used to a whole new “click these points and drag those handles to generate this curve you have in mind” system

I could make a whole list of features where Clip and/or Photoshop have a fancier version, which is useful when I need to get fancy, but for a lot of these average daily operations, it’s overkill.

So: Clip has all these sophisticated content-aware fills — great, but you don’t need any of them to handle black-and-white lineart. Photoshop will let you do all this precise warping and twisting of vector text — sure, but I don’t need Fisheye Perspective Skew for the “click” of a door opening, just a little tilt and it’s fine. Both of them have amazing brushes; I don’t need any of them for basic cel-shading, it’s all covered by “freehand selection” and “multiply fill.” And so on.

And listen, if you got your start in CSP or PS (or any of the freeware programs still being updated), and learned digital-art skills there from the ground up, your workflow probably developed to fit that program anyway. So maybe none of this sounds like a huge improvement on what you’re used to.

But if it might be valuable, or sounds intriguing, or you feel like trying something new, or you’re just really into retro programs by defunct companies that are so well-coded they still run after 20 years and 5 OS upgrades…I’m gonna leave this link here. Have at it.

Yuletide mostly-cheer

It started snowing on the night before Christmas, and kept going on-and-off ever since, so everything outside the window is carpeted with perfect winter scenery. Seeing as I don’t have anywhere to go, this has been great.

I got an absolutely heartwarming Yuletide fic, a new take on “Ozma decides to spend some time in Tip form”, featuring some quality Worried Dorothy and Protective Aunt Em:

Homecoming (6127 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Oz – L. Frank Baum
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Dorothy Gale/Princess Ozma
Characters: Princess Ozma, Dorothy Gale, Aunt Em
Additional Tags: Comfort, Genderqueer Character, genderqueer character misread as male, mentions of past emotional / physical abuse, aunt em has a bunch of unexamined gender and class biases
Summary:

A nice young person with experience on a farm comes to help Aunt Em with the chores for a celebration.
Meanwhile, Ozma isn’t in the Palace, and Dorothy goes looking for them.

More rec posts to come. I’ve been churning my way through all the promising-looking fandoms, trying to read everything in-the-moment instead of letting it disappear into marked For Later.

…with the exception of a bunch of Locked Tomb fics, because I’m still only 80% through Harrow the Ninth (the second novel), and any time I’ve looked at post-Harrow writing for more than 5 seconds I’ve been spoiled for something. (Fortunately, there are So Many wild and unpredictable twists that it’s turned out I was still unspoiled for most of them.)


On less fandom-y notes:

Half my family is being scrupulous and careful about COVID restrictions, and the other half is…not. I don’t know what to say. They’ve already had two scares (notable COVID-like symptoms that ended up testing negative), you’d think that would make them more cautious, not less. The hospitals are full of people who thought “oh, nothing bad will happen to me.” And by “full” I mean record-breaking cases, record-breaking deaths, “lining up beds in the hallways because all the rooms are occupied” full.

This Week In Virology had a good discussion of the new COVID variant that’s developed in the UK, including a breakdown of why it’s not likely to be more vaccine-resistant than any other variant. There is a serious chance it’s more transmissible, but even if that’s true, it’s not so transmissible that it can overcome all the usual measures — keeping distances, wearing masks, washing hands.

So we just have to stay serious about doing those.

Two and a half weeks in

New Computer was delivered on the 12th, and by this week I’ve finally got enough transferred/installed to do most of my work on it.

Old Computer never actually got a real name (Windows called it ERIN-PC by default, 9 years later and I didn’t change it), so it seemed like a good opportunity to name both of them together.

…the bigger, sturdier, older solid-black computer is Gideon, and the skinnier, more-powerful, younger solid-black computer that’s been busily absorbing Gideon’s settings/data is Harrow.

(Apparently not enough people in my internet circles have read the Gideon the Ninth series, but (a) you should do that, it’s great and (b) this is very funny on multiple levels that you will appreciate after reading.)

Had a brief scare with Paint Shop Pro not functioning — it installed, and seemed like it was running, but once I started trying to work on comics it became clear that a bunch of the tools weren’t working. Like…the brush. And the eraser. And the text creator.

Did a general uninstall/reinstall. It didn’t help. Did an uninstall, then a Google-assisted hunt through the registry to find all the places where Jasc would’ve put keys and delete them, then a reboot, then a reinstall. That worked!

Comparative screenshots:

(Gideon’s screen is physically larger, but Harrow’s is more pixel-dense, so it comes out to the same width and a tiny bit taller.)

There’s some minor display differences — e.g. the narrower bezels around the frame of each open file — and function differences — you can see the disappearing “expand/contract” button next to the “close” button on the Layer and Tool Options menus. (Haven’t actually used that for years, so no big loss…) And there are changes in “this window/option won’t be active unless the mouse cursor is Right Here” that are gonna take some getting used to.

But it works! I can brush and/or erase things again! The only remaining hangup was that it wasn’t registering “drag a file into the program window means open it” — and that comes back when it’s run on compatibility settings for Windows 7.

Really wish I could find the details of the specific coders who put together this release of Paint Shop Pro. You folks wrote a program so clear and solid that a machine from 20 years in the future, multiple generations of operating systems later, still understands how to pick it up and get it running. That deserves a shoutout by name.

Other little updates:

  • Having to switch every device between 1 USB port is annoying as expected — definitely gonna get some new converters — but in the meantime, it’s manageable
  • The power cord is USB-C, which means it can plug into any of the 4 existing ports; turns out it was easy to make my Executive Assistant lose interest, I just had to move it away from His Side
  • Forgot that World Community Grid doesn’t install with default limits; the poor fans on this machine went nuts a few times before I tracked down the problem and told it that no, it is not allowed to use 99% of the CPU when it has the chance
  • Used to be stuck in a 7-day trial window to give different filetypes more aesthetically-pleasing icons, but this time I did it with the freeware FileTypesManager
  • I have switched to making art over here, and ohhhh yeah, Harrow is noticeably faster
  • Photoshop opens in seconds, instead of minutes. Batch actions now get whipped through in the blink of an eye. PSP only took a couple seconds to save a file anyway, but now it’s half a second.
  • I am so looking forward to the most resource-intensive task in Harrow’s immediate future: Exporting A 192-Page PDF From InDesign

Bookshelf giveaway: comics (English & French), comedy nonfiction

One of my bookshelves started, uh, literally bowing down in the middle because of all the weight on it. So I figured I should take a stab at clearing it off.

All of these are free, but please PayPal me the shipping cost if you can. (Probably $3-$5 within the US, unless you want a really heavy stack of books.)

All in good-to-great physical condition unless otherwise noted. First come, first serve!

books

Comics

Little Orphan Annie, volume 1: Massive hardcover, the complete first 2 years’ worth of daily strips

Garfield: 20 Years & Still Kicking: Slightly less massive hardcover, slightly scuffed, anniversary compilation (now itself 20 years out of date), lots of favorite strips, making-of details, behind-the-scenes sketches, etc

Serenity Rose, book 1: Paperback, the spooky webcomic about a gay socially-anxious witch (I’m only giving this away because I got the 3-book massive hardcover compilation)

Angelarium: Little paperback, mostly-wordless sketchbook of super-weird angel designs

Miles Between Us, #1: Little saddle-stitched issue, odd little self-published fantasy, artist-drawn doodle on the inside front cover

Masquerade, #1-4 (not shown, but it’s this series): Four saddle-stitched issues, the revival edition of 1940’s “no powers, just wits and a snazzy coat” hero Miss Masque

Digger, volumes 1-3: Three paperbacks, the Hugo-winning webcomic about a lost wombat (another series where I’ve supplanted these with the all-in-one compilation)

The Hasty Pastry #1: Paperback, brightly-colored webcomic about retail comedy

The Thrilling Adventure Hour: Hardcover, comic supplement to the podcast, might contradict your appearance headcanons but otherwise charming

Sailor Moon, Volume 1 (first Kodansha translation): Manga, very obscure series about some teenage girl who fights monsters or whatever

more books

Comics & books in French

Bilbo Le Hobbit, volume 1: Hardcover graphic-novel adaptation of The Hobbit, through the arrival at Beorn’s place

Bone, volumes 1-2: Two paperbacks, adventures of the lost Fone Bone and family, through the Great Cow Race

McKay, volumes 1-3 (not shown, but it’s from this title): Tall hardcovers, weird historical RPF about Winsor McKay discovering the fourth dimension, Little Nemo features on the cover but makes very few appearances inside

Les 52 Mercredis de L’A2: Hardcover, lightly scuffed, apparently one French company got ahold of a bunch of disconnected international IPs — including Tom Sawyer, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Candy Candy, and Spectreman — and decided they should all go in the same compilation

Le Petit Prince: Paperback, another totally unknown title but I promise it’s pretty good

Comedy nonfiction

Me of Little Faith: Hardcover, Lewis Black writes funny things

More Information Than You Require: Hardcover, John Hodgman writes funny things

The Kid: Paperback, Dan Savage writes about his experience adopting a kid as a gay couple

Naked Pictures of Famous People: Paperback, lightly scuffed, Jon Stewart’s first attempt at writing funny things

The Daily Show’s 5 Questions: Paperback, lightly scuffed, super-vintage Daily Show questions for late-’90s celebrities

On the limits of White Listening

This is a long story and the beginning is probably going to sound trivial, but it has a relevant point, so bear with me.

To set the stage:

Back when I started college, my school gave its incoming freshmen a bunch of onboarding activities and presentations. One of them was “trying to give all our new white students, many from super-white areas, a quick shot of appreciation for the experiences of all the non-white students who have to share a campus with them.”

So we all piled into an auditorium, and a series of older students got up on stage, sat on a stool in a narrow spotlight, and gave little monologues about some of the everyday struggles they went through as young POC. There was a mic in the center aisle of the audience, so when each person was done talking, we were invited to line up and ask questions about anything we hadn’t understood.

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