You can always switch back
The high-DPI support is not perfect yet. We'll keep working on it.
We will now (v.2018-09-16) gradually rolling out high-DPI support that some of you are asking for (by giving bad review). Here, I'd like to say that High-DPI support not a simple easy-peasy toggle of a switch (if it were, Adobe would have had high-DPI Photoshop early on). We do rely on others' UI framework. When such framework doesn't work as expected, we need to look for workaround. Not all software developers are as big as Adobe where you can have a whole arm of developers to work on it. So, please be more understanding and don't give the lowest review score in MS App Store simply because we don't have high-DPI support earlier. Without high-DPI, Expresii is still functional and gives you the world's most organic digital watercolor. Like some of the users say, Expresii deserves the credit. So, please leave a balanced review if you are to leave one.
Using high-DPI rendering may not best suit your situation. If you're using a not-so-powerful GPU, you may notice slow-down after switching to high-DPI rendering. This is because previously the system is only using e.g. 1/4 of the screen resolution for artwork rendering and artwork rendering takes GPU times. With high-DPI support, we will use the full resolution of the screen and thus it'd take more time. You can see the rendering quality difference below (captured on my 2017 Surface Pro i7):
FYI, my 2017 Surface Pro with Iris 640 dropped from 100+ to 60-80 FPS switching to high-DPI, depending on the zoom level. So, depending on your GPU, using high-DPI support may or may not be your better choice. FYI, we just got a user reporting that he's very happy with high-DPI on his Surface Studio that still gives 90-150 FPS after the switch.
You can always switch back
You can always switch back to System scaling instead of high-DPI via System Override. You right-click on Expresii's icon, and then choose Property>Compatibility>Settings>Change high DPI settings and choose 'System (Enhanced)':
Using 'System Enhanced', some of the UI text gets proper scaling. You can check out the rendering differences:
So, if you find painting is too slow, we recommend using 'System Enhanced' so that it's not slowed down and that you still get some of the texts scaled sharp.
The high-DPI support is not perfect yet. We'll keep working on it.
Feeling the intangible
One of the reasons why traditional artists don't like digital painting is that digital artwork only exists in cyber space. They prefer something they can hold in their hands. To address this, we can simply print the artwork on real pieces of paper.
Eastern Art Paper for printing
A decade ago, printing on Eastern art paper was not easy because of the paper thinness causing jams. Nowadays, it is much easily given those designed-for-printer-use Xuan paper packs in size A4 or A3 or even in rolls available from taobao.com (sorry, site in Chinese). There are also Japanese paper designed for printing too (like Awagami). Looking at their website, it seems their papers are thicker than the art paper we normally use for Eastern art, and thus pigments won't soaking into the paper all the way through like in real calligraphy works.
十年前用宣紙打印很麻煩的，因為紙太薄送紙容易弄皺。但現在淘寶有專門用來打印的宣紙，A4、A3，甚至長卷均有出售，雖然還是會皺，但廢品率已經改善很多。日本也有為打印而設的和紙，還未試，但感覺如果紙太厚則沒通透感，會像普通打在紙表面的 印刷品，而非像真的書法作品那麼墨滲透紙纖維的 藝術品。
Here we use Xuan paper packs (really cheap at <2USD a pack of 100 sheets) bought from Taobao.
Printing with ink
For an authentic feel, we use Ink Jet printers instead of laser, because the paper absorbs the ink just like in real artworks. If you use laser, the pigment stays on top of the paper, giving an ordinary 'printout' feel. Here we use very low-cost printers with only 4 pigments. If you have more expensive printers using more pigments in different tones, the result should be finer.
See the process and more results:
Casual viewers probably won't notice those are prints. This is especially true when the work is purely black like in normal Eastern calligraphy.
For those who can't access Youtube, see if you can watch the same video hosted in this site:
Veikk sent us an S640 pen tablet for testing. We did some quick doodle and calligraphy with the low-cost (currently $26 on Amazon ; $28 on Gearbest) pen tablet:
The S640 is light-weight and portable. It is the thinnest I've ever tried. At first I wished the S640 comes with some shortcut buttons, but now paring it with a bluetooth keyboard I don't really need them on the tablet itself.
The S640 is very thin. See it for yourself:
I like the Huion H420 for being able to have its cable unplugged. But mine is not functioning after a year because of rusting metal for the battery compartment. :( The new Veikk S640 is battery-less so no worry for replacing battery and of course rusting metal is never an issue.
Low-Cost pen tablet for art education
Schools on a low budget should consider picking up such low-cost tablets for their digital art education. Digital calligraphy is big and we should further develop our tradition in the new era.
We were excited ever since the first Surface Book came out in 2015, since it gave the option for a discrete GPU. Now we have a chance to test with a Surface Book 2, thanks to Microsoft for providing the hardware for testing.
We are provided with the 13.5" model. Coming from the 12" Surface Pro, I like the bigger screen size. The hardware feels really solid and clean. And of course, with an nvidia GTX 1050, we get very good performance, although it gets a bit hot and the fan would kick on.
You need the base
When you detach the base, the GPU performance drops significantly, so you would like to attach the base when you use Expresii. In fact, when I detached the base and held the tablet part only, I realized how convenient the kickstand of the Surface Pro is! Note that the tablet part doesn't have any USB port (or video port), so you can't really use it in place of, say, a Surface Pro. I believe they designed it for only brief detachment like for the case of quick presentations.
See the calligraphy process video in Youtube:
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.
Hong Kong-based artist Shuen Leung tries out Microsoft Surface Studio and Surface Book 2:
Shuen does artwork in both traditional and digital media. She specially likes Expresii for its ability to undo. "Expresii 是可以undo 的 水墨!" (ﾉ´ヮ´)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
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°)┘
Lunar new year day was 16th of Feb, 2018. We wish you all the best for the new year of the dog!
Now it's being a tradition we play with the Chinese character for the year. This year, we play with the character 狗, which means dog:
Recently, ambigram is popular around East Asia, so we make one that reads dog and shows a dog 90-deg turned.
And notice how we use pen tilt to make organic marks.
Chinese characters give you so much room for imagination! We can't stop playing with them!
Only Expresii gives you this level of expression with brush and ink!
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.
We ended last year with SIGGRAPH Asia 2016 held in Macau. Little did we know it was a great start of an amazing year ahead. For Expresii, there are mainly two major themes in 2017: 1. Animation. 2. Microsoft.
Expresii x Animation
Soon after SIGGRAPH Asia, Angela Wong took Expresii for a spin and made some simple yet impressive animations like the Red squirrel and the Swallows . I think the Red squirrel now becomes a classic sample for modern ink animation. A Japanese anime studio has been using Expresii for background paintings for some TV series but now Expresii is used even for foreground animation! o͡͡͡͡͡͡͡͡͡͡͡͡͡͡╮(^ ਊ ^)╭o͡͡͡͡͡͡͡͡͡͡͡͡͡͡
'Ink Animation' (or 'Brush Painting Animation' or 水墨動畫 in Chinese) was a proud product of China from the 60's-80's but there wasn't much new development since then. There have been attempts to do ink animation using existing fluid simulation in 3D CG software packages but they mostly created something that look like fume (e.g. this) instead of Eastern ink painting. Another popular way was to map captured real brush strokes textures and map them onto 2D or 3D geometry - which could make the animation look like Chinese shadow play where you see fixed textures shifting around. In 2017 summer, Shanghai Animation Film Studio (上海美影廠) unveiled a new title 《斑鹿飛渡》 and gave a talk on the their new development on ink animation. However, what they claimed to be breakthroughs (building a library of stroke forms and combining 2D with 3D) aren't really breakthroughs.
Now with Expresii we hope to develop a truly modern way of doing ink animation. We are still experimenting and will unveil what we come up with when ready.
Expresii x Microsoft
We started to get attention from Microsoft near the end of last year. Once we got in contact with the right personnel things happened pretty quickly. In April we secretly flew to Redmond to meet with Microsoft technical folks and management including Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Devices, Panos Panay, who was impressed by our Expresii. Our saying 'every stroke has its own personality' struck him. He specifically asked to have our app ported to their App Store and we did . Panos asked why don't they hire this guy (i.e. our tech guru Nelson Chu). And he was told that Nelson did join Microsoft several years back and he was actually a key contributor to Project Gustav, which later became Fresh Paint - which Panos himself still uses to show their hardware. Within our short trip, we were filmed in Seattle for a Microsoft partner video (by Watts, see their page for a longer version of the video):
All these were in preparation for the then-top-secret global launch of the New Surface Pro in May. It's our honor that Panos decided to talk about Expresii on stage himself. We were also invited to local launches in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Later Microsoft also features Expresii on their Surface Pen page as well as their 'Apps for Windows Ink' collection.
We are especially proud to be the only team from Asia to be featured in Microsoft's 2017 app partner collage video. In fact, when we cut out the parts, we are surprised that Expresii bits total 30 seconds, or 1/4 of the 2-min. collage's length! And notice that the other app partners include giants like Adobe, Autodesk & Corel.
In Expresii, not only are we able to develop advanced software technology that even giant competitors can't make, we are also promoting the good side of our culture through technology. Expresii is not a me-too app. We have our own visions and we try our best to implement them even given limited resources.
In Eastern Watercolor, every stroke is essential to the spirit, the emotion. Each stroke has its own personality. - Angela Wong in the Microsoft Partner Video
Year 2018 ahead
Expresii is being developed as a painting app and we didn't expect it to be used more and more in animation. It was even used in this 2017 TED-ed Animation . We may be a bit quiet lately but we are far from being lazy. We just can't wait to show you new stuffs when they are ready. We are really grateful to our partners and friends for making things happen. We look forward to more industry collaboration and new possibilities in 2018! (ﾉ´ヮ´)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧