If you'd like to see Expresii available on Steam, please go to this page and press the 'Yes' button. Don't hesitate if you have any feedback for us. Thank you!
The Steam Greenlight is a place where games or software get votes so that Steam could decide if that particular game or software is worthy to be put on the Steam platform.
If you'd like to see Expresii available on Steam, please go to this page and press the 'Yes' button. Don't hesitate if you have any feedback for us. Thank you!
Thanks to CGVisual.com, we were able to participate in the SIGGRAPH ASIA 2016 Exhibition held in Macao last week from 6-8th Decemeber 2016. The show was busier than we expected! As a long-time SIGGRAPH visitor commented, "The show is quite respectable!" (๑•̀ㅂ•́)و✧
28" Tiltable & Rotatable Surface
For this show, we brought to you the freshly baked Expresii running on a 28" 4K screen held on a gas-strut flexi mount, which provides more degrees of freedom than the just-released Microsoft Surface Studio. We still can't get hold of a Surface Dial yet, so instead we use game controllers as our non-dominant hand remote. For pen input, we still use our trusted Wacom intuos 3 that supports stylus tilt sensing. This new version of Expresii accepts user-definable game controller button assignment. We ran Expresii on an ITX desktop equipped with a mid-range nVidia GPU from the latest generation (Pascal ) for a very smooth painting experience. This CPU used was only an Intel i5 from a few years back. Although Expresii's simulation is so much more advanced than all other paint apps, no super computer is required to run it! OpenGL is used for both our watercolor simulation and rendering.
SIGGRAPH is poised as the most prestigous conference for Computer Graphics & Interactive Techniques in the world. This time with a large 28" 4K screen, we amazed many visitors with the high-quality rendering of brush strokes and ink flows in Expresii. Everyone says WOW when they see us start rotating the screen and the ink flows down according to the inclination - just like in real life! （°o°；）
The following video shows you the secret of how we combine low-cost off-the-shelf hardware with Expresii to crerate this amazing painting experience:
We got lots of praises from Computer Graphics professionals including Richard Chuang, co-founder of PDI. It was much fun talking to visitors, student volunteers, or other booth staff members alike from all over the world. Look at that cute fox animation that got made right on the spot below! ୧༼✿ ͡◕ д ◕͡ ༽୨
Gamepad as Controller for Digital Painting
Did we mention we can‘t get hold of a Surface Dial so we use a gamepad instead? Both our i-rocks gamepad and the Dial are connected via bluetooth, but the former provides more direct buttons/control than the latter. It can also be held by your non-dominant hard for quick control as you paint (instead of having to be put on some surface level enough so that it doesn't slide down). We believe this is generally preferred over the Dial by digital painters - we want to use muscle memory for fixed functionality instead of figuring what mode we are in or going through radial menu . Wacom offers a similar hand-held Express Key Remote Control with several buttons for their large Cintiq (vs. just one single button and a dial rim). And ClipStudio Paint also offers their own one-hand controller. If one really likes a circular motion offered by the Dial, we can simulate it with the joystick, with which you can, say, circle clockwise & anti-clockwise for undo & redo.
Let us know if you prefer a Dial or a hand-held.
more collaboration please!
We look forward to Surface Pen being tilt-sensitive so that we no longer have to use another controller for adjusting the tilt. We believe both mobile and desktop are important to creators so we will continue working our butts off to innovate in both spaces. It is great that now Microsoft enters into the creator market. We really hope hardware makers can work with us for the best expereince possible. (•̀o•́)ง
This SIGGRAPH ASIA booth showcase won't be possible without the tremedous help from:
Mark Lam of CGVisual
Ah Man from VTech
H2o and Maggie from lfxLab
Angela Wong from Rooftop Animation
And Shuen Leung, who allowed us to print her Expresii artwork for the booth
We also thank all the old and new friends who came and supported us!
Digital Ink - moving forward
Another Connected Ink event was recently held in Tokyo by Wacom for the promotion of digital ink. Nearly 200 industry leaders from various global technology and stationery companies took part in this event. During the event, Wacom CEO Masahiko Yamada announced the establishment of the Digital Stationery Consortium, Inc., whose mission is to create a movement with cross-industry partners to make digital ink widely adopted and to promote the evolution of smart digital stationery.
One of the presenters was Kuretake , a famous Japanese stationery brand whose root is in making traditional Eastern ink and related art supply. Mr. Suguru Takemoto from Kuretake Marketing talked about the "History of Handwriting – roots of ink” and Expresii was used for digital calligraphy demonstration during his presentation on stage:
Expresii was also used to demo Wacom's AES pens, which are found in today's various Windows tablets, including the HP Elite x2:
Check out the AES pen ID demo and more from our previous blog entry on CES Asia & Connected Ink Shanghai.
Digital Ink Calligraphy - Pen or Brush?
Today 'digital ink' is often referred to as the digital counterpart of physical ink used with a pen. It's often rendered as rather uniform-looking lines.
However, if you mention '墨' (the Chinese character for 'ink') to a Japanese or a Chinese, the first thing they think of is the ink used in their traditional art forms, which inspired great artists like Picasso and Matisse.
'Brush Calligraphy' is one of the most important art forms in East Asian countries like China, Japan and Korea. For thousands of years, East Asians have been using brushes instead of pens to write. For lack of a better word, I could only translate an East Asian Brush as 'writing brush' - because it's designed specifically for expressive lines as required in Eastern calligraphy. Another difference between Western and Eastern calligraphy is the paper used. Eastern art papers are absorbent and you can get a wide range of effects depending on the paper type and how diluted the ink is. There are even a few types of ink that you can choose from giving you even more variations.
In the future, we might create a new app specific for this ancient Eastern art form, making it easy for users to use subtle ink effects like these:
And in response to Wacom's effort in promoting digital stationery, here is a calligraphy piece '文房具', which means Stationery in Japanese, done by our Dr. Nelson Chu earlier:
Let us know if you'd like to see an app specific for Eastern calligraphy from us.
Per user requests, we have made it possible to separate tabs from the main Settings Window. For now, only two of them are separable, namely Colors and Brush tabs and you need to right-click on the tabs and then select which tab to separate. I know you want to be able to drag the tabs out instead. Well, that may come later. ;-)
After the tabs are out, you can resize the windows and adjust the scrollbars to so that only those parts you use frequently are shown. By default, the auto-roll-up feature is enabled so if these windows overlap with the main window, they would roll up when your mouse cursor is not on them.
The separated windows would be semi-transparent when rolled-up, like shown in the following screenshot.
Popup Color Picker. The Popup Color Picker is invoked by double pressing hotkey Alt (updated 2016-11-06). The hotkey was first introduced as Shift-Alt, but this key combo is often used for switching input method for non-English language users so I decided to change it.
I love to hear your feedback on these UI updates. Please leave a comment below. Thank you!
You can see separate settings windows in action in this video demo:
If you happen to be in Hong Kong, you might want to check out this talk by our Dr. Nelson Chu on the development of digital brush / ink technology held by the Open University of Hong Kong on 9th Nov 2016.
Poster PDF / List of their other seminars
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of stylus tilt sensing. If your graphics tablet doesn't sense tilt, apart from using right-mouse-button-drag, you can still choose to add a game controller in the mix - a cheap one can be had for under US$10.
In our demo, we use a PS3 controller, because it's also equipped with a tilt sensor that can be used for paper tilt in Expresii.
Since the P3 controller is not native to the Windows OS, we need some third-party software to make it work on the PC: MotionInJoy driver, Better DS3. You first install the MotionInJoy driver, which also comes with its own control mapping tool, but it's better to use the Better DS3 tool for easier mapping.
If your game controller is native to PC, you probably can simply plug and play.
To test the game controller we use Joystick Tester . We map the controller tilt to R and U values as shown in the Joystick Tester .
The following is video showing how it works together:
The non-tilt-sensing graphics tablet used was a Huion H420 (US$30). Its three buttons on the panel itself can be mapped to hotkeys of your choice. It's cheap and good, except that the battery compartment gets rusty and gives bad contact now. We have had it for one year only. Another downside is that the hover distance is very little compared to that of a Wacom. But for $30, it's not bad an option for those who on a budget or want a very portable graphics tablet - it's probably the smallest graphics tablet that gives pressure reading!
And in case you also own a PS3 controller, here is the mapping we use. You can first press the 'Auto Fill' button to get a default mapping, and then modify it from there. It's mainly the SixAxis Tilt that needs to be assigned as Right Stick (X, Y).
I know many of you are artists and may not be too aware of the historical development in the use of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) for watercolor-like digital painting. I think it's useful to give a summary here.
Cassidy Curtis et al. was the first to apply CFD in watercolor painting [SIGGRAPH 1997]. He used what is technically called an 'implicit' method in solving the fluid equations. He was able to render one painting at 640 x 480 pixels in 7 hours on a workstation-class machine. At that time, fluid simulation was believed to be too slow for interactive applications.
interactivity, so he looked for alternatives. He finally adapted a CFD method called Lattice Boltzmann and the results were presented in his MoXi SIGGRAPH 2005 paper. If you take a closer look, you will find that Nelson's method produces more realistic ink dispersion compared to that of a usual Stam fluid sim, the latter being more like smoke in space than ink on paper. After Nelson resigned from Microsoft in 2011, he continued to improve the simulation method and that's what went into Expresii you see today.
Expresii is officially launched!! (ﾉ´ヮ´)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
Download Expresii 軟件下載 (for Windows only)
It's been a long time. When MoXi was first unveiled in 2005, I was asked how soon it could become an actual product. I answered, 'could be two years'. In 2006, MoXi was licensed to Adobe, and I was even hired to do tech transfer. I was hoping MoXi would have good future there, but the story didn't evolve as I thought.
Anyway, if they can't make it happen, we will.
I know we all love free software but sorry that we need to start charging for the tool now (introductory price US$59), since it took a lot of time and effort to create a tool with such advanced algorithms. I think this is the most direct and healthy way for Expresii to grow without going down the path of showing ads or telling you it's free but then charging you in some funny way. Your financial support would determine if small guys like us can survive or if we are left with tools coming from big companies only .
Expresii is a ground-breaking paint app featuring:
Expresii is a successor of MoXi developed by Nelson Chu over the past four years with improved simulation and rendering. Expresii for Windows is now offered at an introductory price of $59 with trial license key available.
Notes to Users/Reviewers
Here are a few points we would like to make sure you are aware of:
現在一般繪圖軟件，思想較近西方傳統，’brush' 一般就是用來‘塗’的，比較像‘刷子’。但東方毛筆是書寫工具，經多年發展表現力尤佳，東方繪畫的基礎訓練是書法，其正是要訓練操控筆的能力。在我們Expresii 軟件裡，您可以重拾筆的感覺：透過手的動作自然地做出不同的點、線、面。Expresii 的筆，也是眾多繪圖軟件中，最能充份利用帶側鋒感應的專業級電繪筆的。
We use Computational Fluid Dynamics for our ink flow simulation to give you the most natural results.
現在的繪圖軟件還有個問題，就是圖不能放很大，放太大會看到一粒粒的像素。 所以我們一再革新，用混合向量像素（hybrid-vector-raster）的方式來儲存繪畫數據，讓Expresii 的圖可以放很大。
We use a novel hybrid-vector-raster representation to allow high degree of zooming in.
感謝【狐朦大叔】作者Tom 一直支持。他也剛出書了（用Expresii 畫），感覺是一起生了小孩。還有感謝一直支持的Shuen Leung, Mark Lam, 日本的 Kuroda-san ，和盧生、李生和最近認識的飯主等前輩的經驗分享和幫忙，還有Wacom 台灣總經理Martin的推介和其他高層的賞識，和其他曾經給予鼓勵支持的朋友。
2002年去北京發表虛擬毛筆的論文，時年二十五當是個交代。現在趕在四十歲前把Expresii 推出了，也算是個交代。我的青春都放在這電腦繪畫的研發了。 作為一個東方人，我覺得有責任去把我們最好的東西，承傳並發展下去。筆有千秋業！
- Nelson Chu
^ 感謝去年澳門的學會請我演講給了點講費，幾年前香港Poly 的Wilson 找我也有一點點講費
Today, most digital painting s are done in the range of 2k - 3k or less resolution - if you zoom in, you will see big fat pixels. You can't print it large - it looks fine on a computer screen but printing it on a piece of paper would make the resolution insufficiency prominent. In fact, even our screens are getting higher and higher resolutions. In 2007 , Sony showcased a 4k projector as a very advanced piece of equipment - but now it's no surprise if you see a 4k screen around, be it desktop or mobile. We're more urged to address the resolution hunger than ever.
A Pure Vector Approach as Solution?
In late 2014 the new painting app Mischief made a splash being acquired by The Foundry. Mischief's infinite zoom is their core competence over other painting apps. However, infinite zoom has always been a feature of vector-based representation - and Mischief is in essence a vector program. The issue was just that most previous vector-based tools are more like a designer's tool rather than a painter's making it hard to do painting fluidly.
Like in most vector-based tools, the lines made by Mischief are crisp (except for the one brush that gives a dithering effect, which is another kind of crispness if you will), which is good for line arts or sketches. But if you regard the artwork as a 'painting', these lines are too clean. You can add more strokes to get more painterly, but with too many lines the system would slow down as details created by every line has to be redrawn every time you pan your screen - even with the advanced Adaptive Distance Field (ADF) tech behind it and that it is said to utilize the GPU for accelerated processing. Technically, if the number of strokes is N, the redrawing is of order O(N). *
A more Painterly Approach
In Expresii, we take a rather different approach to the fat-pixel problem. Our representation is somewhat between pixel- and vector-based. If the canvas/paper resolution is M, our redrawing is of order O(M), independent of N. This is a property of pixel-based tools. However, our magic is that we are able to zoom in a lot - a lot more than what existing pixel-based programs offer given the same amount of paint data. We may call this ' Good-Enough Zoom' (vs. Infinite Zoom). This is somehow akin to audio sampling - our ears can only hear up to 22KHz so sampling up to double of that namely 44KHz is 'good enough'. In real world painting, someone might draw a tiny figure, but he or she is not likely to add every detail to that figure. As a viewer, if you can zoom in so that you can see the fibers in the paper, that's pretty enough too.
Do we need infinity zoom? For cases like showing the world reflected in a girl's eye, yes. For such cases, people without infinite zoom could simply make drawings at multiple scales and switch between the drawings (which is what people currently do) so it's not really the end of the world.
In Expresii, we don't claim to do everything. We can't do infinite zoom. Our canvas/paper is finite, which is actually closer to a real-world painting experience - you have a frame to anchor your work. Instead of infinity canvas, Expresii offers extendable paper. Our end result is a rather organic looking painting that we can zoom a lot into. The strokes and flows are extremely natural - unprecedentedly natural.
Not only our ink flow simulation utilizes the GPU power. Our rendering engine (which we call Youji 有極 for marketing purposes ;-) is also GPU accelerated. Given a decent graphics card, you can pan and zoom smoothly.
BTW, we are really glad to see a steady growth of GPU hardware. We used to require an expensive discrete graphics card, but now even an integrated GPU can do the job fast enough. Interesting side note: When Nelson was speaking at the Adobe Headquarters in San Jose back in 2006, someone was bashing the use of GPU. I think he was like laughing at a person building the Internet at its early stage - hey network is so slow, why bother. Well, if you can see the potential early, you will be heading in the right direction. Now, even Photoshop itself is getting more and more GPU acceleration. What would that person say now?
Best of both Worlds?
Articles about Mischief often praised it taking the best of both worlds of vector and raster. Mischief promised 'the richness of pixel-based brushes'. Yet in reality we don't really find the promised richness of textured brushes like those in Corel Painter or Photoshop. Furthermore, operations like smudging or blurring, which are trivial for raster-based tool s, are not possible or at least the maker still can't demonstrate such possibility^.
In contrast, Expresii really gives you the richness of pixel-based tools. You can still blur a stroke (we don't have a separate blur tool but you can do so by stroking with a clear brush), not to mention our extremely natural ink flows efficiently executed on the GPU all thanks to its pixel-based nature. However, Expresii also has its vector personality - you can zoom in a lot as if there's no pixels. We believe Expresii is a true innovation in the history of digital painting, really 'taking the best of both worlds'. Give it a try today and see for yourself!
* In ADF there is only one distance field to be sampled but the sampling needs to be more refined when a new stroke comes in, thus causing the complexity to be O(N) practically.
^ Update 2016-12: the developement of Mischef seems to have stopped. FYI, Founder and Chief Scientist Sarah Frisken even left the new company founded due to the Foundry accquision. Head of that company Chris Cheung , who moved from Autodesk's Sketchbook, also left the company.
I was recently asked why one would want to paint digitally. The two most common reasons are:
And what are the cons of digital painting? Long time ago, I discussed with Wucius Wong on this. Wong suggested two main concerns:
As a software developer, there's still things we can do. We'll discuss digital painting tech innovation in our next blog entry.
王無邪 (Wucius Wong) 是少數很關心我們Expresii 開發的傳統畫家，他自己也很早就有用電腦輔助作畫。
傳統繪畫難修改，所以精品難求。但就純粹作畫者來說，容易修改應該是一個優點。但這‘優點’有時就帶來更多‘麻煩’ -- 就是改來改去，一幅畫拖太長。
When the painting is still there, there's always a temptation to adding a line or a dot to it. I think all artists would do the same thing naturally.
有人說一幅畫磨太久，不如把時間花在下一幅。Anyway, here's the Old Lady 'final' version：
Check out a video showing the process of creation:
^ In video 'Mountain in the Mind', Minneapolis Institute of Art, 1986.