The recently released TabMate from Clip Studio is a controller designed specifically for digital painting. Long-time Expresii user Shuen Leung is very happy with the new controller. The following is a video walk-through for setting up the controller for use with Expresii:
The setup process is very similar to that of the Nintendo Joy-con. However, the TabMate gives constant left or up signals for the Left and Right Joysticks, so user would need to disable the Joystick readings or function assignment from inside Expresii.
Acknowledgement: we thanks Shuen Leung for lending us the controller and providing feedback and suggestions using the TabMate. Let us know if you have any feedback in using similar controllers! You can read more on the TabMate in this English review by Scigor.
We recently added native support for Microsoft Surface Dial. The combination of pen, touch and wheel gives you a new way to interact with Expresii.
Two custom menu items, Rotate & Brush , are added specific for Expresii:
When Expresii's main window is in focus, a press-and-hold on the Dial takes you to the above radial menu. When Brush is selected, you can press the Dial to invoke our own Brush Control Menu, which has four items, namely Brush Size, Loading, Wetness and Scratchiness:
For instance, you can use the Dial to adjust Brush Wetness while you stroke:
All of these controls, except brush size, can be adjusted as you stroke. Yes, as you stroke, instead of between strokes. Things happen in real time. You can rotate the paper with the Dial as you paint. By adjusting your pen tilt angle at the same time, thanks to the tilt-sensitivity of the pen, you can create interesting patterns!
When you enable gravity in Expresii, your rotation actually directs the ink flow. Expresii's advanced paint engine give the most natural simulation of brush and ink hands down. You won't believe what your Surface device can do!
And of course the Dial is also handy for undo and redo. See it in action for yourself:
We had a lot of fun playing with Expresii & the dial. We hope you do too! As always, stay creative! └(°ᴥ°)┘
Soon after the Nintendo Switch was released in March 2017, digital artists have been using the controllers, called Joycons, as a hand-held controller for digital painting. In contrast with all previous low-cost single-hand game controllers we tried before, the joycons ($80 a pair ) are equipped with gyroscopes, accelerometers and even IR motion camera.
The joycons works on Windows even without installing a driver but the analog thumb-stick only works as digital buttons. Thanks to this Joycon driver for Windows by Matthew Fosse, we can now also use the analog joystick (and maybe later the gyroscope too).
After installing vJoy and Joycon driver as instructed by the Joycon driver page, we are able to use Joycon for quick controls for Expresii. We had to connect the Left joycon instead of having left and right combined, since the mapping of the combined controls is different from what Expresii currently accepts. We tried x360ce to remap the controls but we didn't figure out how yet. :) Currently, Joycon driver outputs gyroscope data as rotational impulses rather than tilt angles so we can't really make use of the gyroscope for brush tilt yet. Anyway, here is a short video of using Joycon with Expresii:
We thank Mandy Ng of Rooftop Animation for providing the Joycons.
Previously we've been trying cheap bluetooth VR controllers but they either don't really support Windows, or they don't offer analog joystick input (joystick only act as buttons):
Thanks to Shuen Leung, recently we discovered a couple of Keysco branded bluetooth controllers that could act as analog joysticks under Windows. However, they could only be seen as DirectX devices so we also added support for DirectX (DX) game controllers in Expresii. These should be the cheapest single-hand controllers that offer analog input for Windows on the market now. And they are more comfortable to hold than then R1 shown in the youtube video shown above. If you can communicate in Chinese, you can get one from Taobao for RMB35 (=$5.3). Otherwise, you can buy one from Amazon currently at $9.8 or Ebay at $6.95.
Below is a process walk-through video for connecting the controller and using it in Expresii. You can press WIN and type 'joy.cpl' and press enter to get to the control panel item for game controller shown in the video. And FYI, those Keysco controllers we tested only give 4 buttons - those shoulder buttons actually maps to one of those A B C D buttons! Also, the analog sticks are not very sensitive as some of the more professional ones like XBox or Plasystation controllers.
Such a controller is useful for quick access if you don't want to use a keyboard. In particular, if your stylus doesn't sense tilt yet, you can also use the analog stick for pen tilt, or even for painting surface tilt.
Let us know if you need more function assignment for game controller and we will consider adding them. ^_^
Update: Controller known NOT to work as expected
The white one on the left doesn't even connect to a Windows machine via bluetooth, although the description says it supports PC. The Mocute on the right connects to Windows device, but those buttons and thumbsticks map to number keys - not working as a game controller as expected. :(
The Nintendo Joycon connects to a Windows machine via Bluetooth and can be used as a remote control for painting. If you want a (much) cheaper alternative, here is one VR controller called 'R1' that costs only $5! Thanks to the booming VR thing, there're many such controllers released recently, but you have to be careful because some of them do not connect to a PC. The R1 in particular is known to connect to a Win8/Win10 PC via bluetooth.
I love the R1 being a one-handed bluetooth device, but it may not be the most comfortable to use because of the positions of the buttons. You can of course use a conventional game controller like we showed you in this blog entry, but then they are designed for two-hand operation and are less portable. Personally, I use keyboard shortcuts mostly because when I paint, I'm mostly sitting on a desk. I think if I train myself well, those controllers can be very useful for quick operations when I don't have a keyboard. FYI, the R1 doesn't send multiple-button signal and the thumb-stick doesn't give analog signal when paired with a PC. Normal game controllers designed for the PC should have no problem with these two things.
We're also lucky enough to finally get hold of a Surface Dial. The following is a quick video after we have had it for a few days with the Surface Pro 4:
My first impression for the Dial is that it's not designed for quick muscle-memory operations. I wished it had more buttons. As it is, I think it's best used for timeline scrolling or, like in our demo video, canvas rotation. For zooming & panning, I surely prefer multi-touch gesture. Interestingly, a dial with buttons actually already exists - the $60, wired ShuttleXpress (and also other similar products). Wish to try it one day. ﾍ(=￣∇￣)ﾉ
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).
CES (Consumer Electronics Show) Asia
Recently we've been working closely with Wacom and our latest show was at CES Asia held last week in Shanghai, China. This is the second year we have CES Asia in addition to the CES in the US.
Wacom is promoting their Pen ID feature and Expresii was used to show off that. Essentially, Pen ID allows you to associate your brush settings to a particular physical pen so that you can simply switch the physical pen when you want to switch your virtual tool . Here is a demo:
One of the tablet models we used was the HP Elite X2, among others from Toshiba and Lenovo. Check out the following amazing flow demos in which the HP wa s used .
Wacom's Connected Ink
Our Dr. Nelson Chu was also invited to be a Panelist at Wacom's event Connected Ink to discuss the future of digital ink. It's held on the 93rd floor of Shanghai World Financial Center , one of the world's tallest buildings during the second day of CES Asia.
Expresii attracted many of the participants, including both hardware and software makers. The flowing ink, which you can control by tilting the tablet itself, is simply amazing.
Wacom has been pushing forward the Digital Stationery Consortium as a joint movement around “ink of 21st century”. We are totally aligned with this development. In East Asia, we have been using a writing brush to write for thousands of years. Today calligraphy is a still big part in our lives. The following is a piece of calligraphy '文房具‘ meaning ’ Stationery‘ in Japanese (yes, those are actually Chinese characters ;-) done with Expresii . Notice the high quality rendering that other apps just can't match.
Expresii is the best tool I've ever used for calligraphy and ink painting! - Nobutaka Ide, Sr Vice President, Wacom
In deed, the strokes and flows in Expresii are so natural, people seeing it for the first time are often in awe. In conclusion, now hardware and software are finally coming together to make advanced creative tool like Expresii easily accessible!
We think stylus tilt is really important in using paint programs like Expresii. Unfortunately, today most Windows tablet, including Microsoft's latest Surface Book and Surface Pro 4, do not support stylus tilt (Apple's iPad Pro does!). To remedy this, we explore using a smart device as a stylus tilt controller .
In doing so, we acquired the world's smallest android smart phone Melrose S9 (US$58 here), and an android 4.4 smartwatch HOPU EC720 (US$105) and here is the result:
Yes, it is possible to run Expresii on a Mac via Parallels Desktop. However, in our test case, it's about 25% slower than running on Boot Camp.
FYI, Wacom tablet doesn't work out-of-the-box under Parallels, but it's possible to fix it. Due to these limitations, we recommend running Expresii on Boot Camp so that you get the performance your hardware is capable of. However, if your machine is a very fast one like the Mac Pro 2012, it's probably okay to have the 25% performance hit.
Expresii 兼容 Parallels Desktop，但我們建議使用Boot Camp 來跑Expresii，因為測試中用Parallels Desktop會比Boot Camp慢約25%，而且wacom 繪圖板不能用到壓力和斜度感應（有補救方法）。如果您的電腦本身很快（如Mac Pro 2012），那慢25%應該還跑得順吧。