I was honored to be 'webcam-interviewed' today by Tobias Ehnifrom the MMG ( MentalModels for GIMP ), a special development project from openusability , a non-profitorganisation who target a better usability for a lot of Free/Libreand Open Source Software (FLOSS). The target is of course GimpUi redesign for 2.8.
I was really happy to can share with a professional of usabilitymy workflow, and also show my favorite feature and also painfullmoment while using the Gimp to do my digital painting job. Iended-up with pretty similar critic as the one I said during theKrita sprint in may2011 . Tobias took a long time to analysis my actions, andunderstand my workflow and daily task I do with Gimp. Many thanksto him for his patience and professionalism.
This article is mainly a block of my various notes made beforeand after the interview. I hope they can be usefull for the MentalModels for GIMP project and also help the development of otherdigital painting software.
Actual workflow details ( user task ):
Creating illustration or concept art from scratch
- create new document. Sizes/margin/resolutions/printingrules/color profile settings are given by the publisher/studio
- downscale the document size, to paint thumbnails with good andfast painting performances.
- understand the client needs, sketchthumbnails or express a vision via thumbnails ( black and whiteor colors, I usually do around 3 thumbnails propositions )
- use painting tools to do a speed-painting version ( createbrush, color palette )
* use also on the speedpainting:
lot of color correction to match an ambiant Idesire
image manipulation, correcting size and proportions,deform here and there, use filters for fx
- when speedpainting got approved by client ( if not I continue totweak it ) , I start the detail process.
- upscale/resize to the final resolution size ( usage of mypaint tohandle the performance of painting at this step )
- finishing the painting, add details, textures ( most of the time,up to 60% of the workflow )
- creation of a 'presentation' over my illustration : title design,logo ; interface ( Game Ui ) ( layer Fx are very productive for this, but no FLOSS softwares got it ) .
- ( when for print industry ) deliver the product into a compatiblefile for printer ( CMYK , need a third-part application , CMYKTools)
- send file over FTP, server , dropbox-like service or more rarelyemails.
- batch export process if necessary and possible ( presentation ,file format , add copyright watermark , image magick script )
- archive project when all over, clean on disk and create a backupfor later.
Also during the whole process : export sometimes steps of my work ,as jpg preview for web , screen-sized for my client to check results.
behaviours ofusers : efficiency and productivity first
- I research hight efficiency and productivity. I use the mostkeyboard shortcut I can, work must be done fastly and effectively :time is money for my freelance micro-enterprise, and also for mycustommers.
- If an action I do is not performant because of the tool, I tendto change my artwork skill and style to fit the possibility of thetool. ( ex : as pasting and manipulating textures overlay are areal pain to do ; I found a smoothed style since I m painting withFLOSS to avoid having to do copy/paste of decals or texturing myscene. )
- I paint during long session from 3h to 7h continously with thesame apps open, stability is precious. If an app can do all , Iwill prefer. For the moment I jump between Mypaint and Gimp-painter the most , but if Gimp would have good performance/ergonomic I would probably stick to it for the whole process.
philosophies of users
- Have the control of the tool to can be "free" about it , andfocus on my artwork or feeling I want to share.
- Help others to masterise tools to can better express their-self (transmit knowledge in open content via tutorial , DVD )
- Don't make my art skill depend of commercials software company orservice ( Adobe / Autodesk / Corel / Microsoft ).
That's all , feel free to comment, I also copied here under thedocument I created with all my feedback.
Embeded document for development:
Details of my usability problems withGimp
Layer manipulation ( move / scale / rotate / deform ):
In Gimp this 3 action are considered as 3 'tools', and also needsto be applied separately in a chain. Many tools use nowadaysmanipulators on the corners of a transformation whitch can performmoving/scaling/rotating within only one mode. They also display alow-resolution of the result real time, to get a more accuratefeedback of the future high res transformation.
In Gimp, when performing a transform action , the source of thetransformation remains visible. And the 'Gizmo' ( the activelow-res real-time feedback of the transformation ) display on thetop of the layer stack , and without considering blendingmodes.
In this condition applying a texture or a decals to a digitalpainting in 'overlay' blending mode become so painfull, that mostof my paintings became untextured when I switched to FLOSS.
Workaround : Bind 3 shortcuts to Grab / Rotate / Scale ,try to anticipate them in a series of action , use tranform toolslayer option to display the active gizmo with a alpha transparencyto help positionning.
Copy/paste of selection :
Copy paste work for the moment works as default with a "floatinglayer" system , witch is confusing for me : I would expect theresult to be pasted in a layer above the copied content layer , andin the same place ( x,y position ).
- "Paste as layer" paste the new content on a layer above asexpected , but with the position 0,0 on the top left corner.
- Paste with floating, and press 'new layer' ( to transform thefloating selection into a new layer ) does the good things, but thelayer is always on the top of the stack ( witch is annoying on abig project with many layers ).
Workaround : script ' paste-as-new-centered.scm ' from Rob Antonishen . Can't livewithout.
Auto extend layer if painting out of a layersize
If a layer have a 500x500px and is centered inside a 1000x1000pixel picture ( let says, it happen after a copy paste ) ; it'simpossible for the moment to paint outside the 500x500px area ofthis layer.
Gimp should, imo , auto-expand the layer if a intention to paintoutside the area is detected.
If user want to limit his painting action to an area, the selectiontool is fine for that.
Note : here I don't use the layer limit display ( ugly yellow/blackdashed lines around layer limit, activated by default ) becauseit's hard to make eyecandy graphic with a constant display of this'helper' guide.
Workaround : A script from Alexia Death ' maximize-and-defloat.scm ' binded to a key , to extend layersize to image. Discovered this a week ago , thanks Alexia. Before Idid Ctrl+A ( my shortcut for select all ) and a shortcut binded to'maximise layer to image size'. Here now I have all of this in onekey.
Management of adding a 'alpha channel' automatically tolayer
A behavior for users to have in preference menu a checkbox toalways use Alpha layer by default. Many time it's annoying to opena picture, duplicate the base layer, and see the new layer createdinherit of the non-alpha feature of the base mono-layered picture.
It's annoying to erase on a layer and have the 'background' colorwho appear instead of a hole in the layer because of this default behavior.
Workaround : adding alpha channel each time manualy, rightclick on the layer , then 'add alpha channel'. Do this to many time a day.
Zoom and Navigation
The default zoom-in and zoom-out keyboard shortcuts in all pro 2D proprietary sofrwares are :
Ctrl + Space + click = zoom in
Ctrl + Alt + Space + click = zoom out
Space = pan
Having to go with hand on the opposite side of the keyboard topress on numkeypad '+' and '-' to have a kind of zoom shortcuts is counter-productive. ( hand position , need viewer attention toreposition hand ).
Also , having the possiblity to set the mouse wheel to zoom in orzoom out is already possible, but painfull to do . It should be a default behavior, imo.
The default color picking keyboard shortcuts in all pro 2Dproprietary sofrwares is :
'Alt' . In Gimp it's became 'Ctrl' ; this different shortcut ishardcoded , can't be changed.
Configurable use of right click menu
Applying a shortcut of choice ( idea : preset list or drag canvas)
Shortcuts key for "Scale brush radius" to incrementbetter
For the moment, radius action are configurable like this :
* Increase Radius more
* Increase Radius
* Increase Radius less.
Could be great to have a way to increment the brush size in a nonlinear way ;
* little value increment at low brush size
* middle value increment at middle size
* hight value increment at height brush size
the brush size can change exponentialy using shortcut ; nonlinear.
Save different workspace with Gimp
Differents task sometimes needs different panel position ; evendifferent position on multi-screens.
Saving configurations is already possible via copy/pastingpreference files , but a GUI would be more easy to switch workspace position.
Multi-document (2.7) thumbnails on the top of theimage
This thumbnails are displayed for the moment horyzontaly above theopened image. I prefer vertically , and also if I could reduce thesize of the thumbnails, vertical space is precious for my usage,and screen less hight and less hight.
Brush engine :
- Performances ( paint with big bitmap mask brush on big sizedpixel document faster and smoother ) - Presence of flow on thebrush system - Textured strokes ( having a pattern interacting withalpha of brush , scalable pattern ) Gimp-painter fork have. -Smudge and paint ( mixing / mixbrush / wet paint ) Gimp-painter fork have.
CMYK real support. Colormanagement and Display filters works ok ,but looks like a workaround, and style need a export plugin or a third part apps to do the proper conversion. I know this is huge,and the was discussed a lot. But at least having a proper exporter as CMYKTools inside Gimp as a Plugin ( as 'Save for Web' plugin ,would be like a 'Save for Print' plugin , a mix of separate + and CMYKtools )
Layer fx :
Real layer fx are intense time saving, for creating 3D textures / for design / webdesign / digital painting (fake bumpmap ) and so on and so on.
No other FLOSS raster tools have a similar features ( Inkscape start to get something similar, but for vectors ) , and I miss it a lot.