I’ve been checking out the recent git version of MyPaint (the free digital painting app.) There’s a bunch of new stuff – a dark theme, new icons, and the layer etc. windows now automatically dock into a neat sidebar. There’s a new panel at the bottom of the window that relates some additional information, including possible keyboard shortcuts (zoom, rotate canvas, pick colour etc.) The colour swatches on the bottom left are kinda useful – you can use the left swatch to pick a different value of your current colour (lighter/darker) with the stylus which is nice. Of course there are also various colour pickers and a scratchpad.
MyPaint currently has an experimental branch with support for layer groups and, finally, layer masks. So these features are coming. There is also a new bucket fill tool, and I spotted a lock-transparent-pixels feature which is implemented as a blend mode on the brushes. Very handy for masking operations. There are also many new layer blend modes – the list seems to be nearly complete now.
The line/curve/ellipse tools are more visible in the toolbar and related keyboard shortcuts (turn a line into a curve, rotate an ellipse etc) are better explained. The brush settings window has been redesigned, so creating your own brushes should be simpler. A pretty nice new brush package has been included.
The major thing MyPaint is missing are selections. So I’m not sure why there is a bucket fill tool now, which would typically be used to fill a selection. Oh well. They aren’t indispensable for concept art with a plain background anyway, since it’s possible to just paint yourself a mask like I did here (the white) and there is also alpha lock for quick “masking.” Or you could just use temporary layers.
I believe I mentioned the HCY colour wheel (hue chroma luma), the support for loading and creating Gimp palettes, and the very cool gamut mask feature in an earlier post. This is pro stuff and a joy to work with. The colour picker that displays a realtime preview swatch while you move the stylus over the image is pretty cool as well. And last but not least, the git version now supports vector layers(!) which a lot of people will like.
Current git version is still a bit crashy, but I hope for a stable version 1.2 soon.
Ubuntu (and Arch) users have it easy – they can just install the mypaint-testing package to get a very stable git version; Windows users will have to jump through a few hoops unfortunately. The stable Windows version is ancient.
I did a comparison between MyPaint and Krita as well, and while the latter does bring selections and a text tool (which will please comic artists) there is no doubt in my mind that MyPaint still takes the cake for concept art and illustration because it’s smaller, leaner, faster and more user friendly. MyPaint seems to put more of a focus on its core drawing/painting/brush engine functionality.
Krita failed to support pressure sensitivity with my Ubuntu and Wacom tablet, while MyPaint does this out of the box. Krita’s UI is comparatively cluttered and seems overloaded with features. I’m not sure why e.g. special effects filters are necessary at all for digital painting. Something that really bugged me about Krita was having to go through a fullscreen “New file” dialog after every lengthy startup. By comparison, MyPaint simply displays its default endless canvas after an instantaneous startup.
For open source digital painting, the combination of MyPaint and GIMP Paint Studio still looks unbeatable – for what MyPaint can’t do (marquee selections, copy merged, free transform, text, gradients), you can depend on the heavy artillery of GIMP. The two apps interact perfectly via the Open Raster format (meaning layers etc. stay intact) and GIMP can read/export PSD files.
Still, options are great – I’m glad to see the Krita kickstarter was very successful. Free digital painting has come a long way. The only major Photoshop features still missing from GIMP/MyPaint, as far as I’m aware, are clipping masks (though Krita has those), adjustment layers, and an easy way to record macros (Krita does those, I think.) The various dev teams are also talking to each other – for example, MyPaint’s (excellent) brush engine can be loaded into Krita and is scheduled for inclusion in future GIMP versions. 16 bit colour support is also coming to GIMP.
Good times for free painting.
Bonus: I was recently made aware of this outstanding digital painting tutorial playlist. I can’t recommend this enough. Best of all, it is free.