Author: ryan

Designed for the GPU

Helping a friend or relative transition from a traditional phone to a smartphone can be a Herculean task. They must relearn already mastered tasks in the name of increased efficiency and ease. Instead of fumbling with a camera and then either developing the film or downloading the photos to a disc to share, pictures can be sent by a few quick flicks of the thumb. Instead of using a rolodex, contacts are sorted and alphabetized automatically. Instead of searching for a wadded-up map, speak your destination and the quickest route is dictated to you. Traditional information reference points must be uprooted and changed for the user. Even though the new world of smartphones can be learned, the many tethers to the past are tough to break.  Many of the new technologies features are not fully utilized or embraced.

Compare this to someone who only knows smartphones. They fully utilize the power of the device: sending photos, checking news, live-streaming. Being born in the smartphone world, this type of information exchange is the air they breathe and the water they swim. Their tasks are engaged simultaneously, harnessing the entire power of their device. The smartphone is an extension of their internal world.

When presented with a new phone application, which smartphone user will be most effective? The one with reference points staked in the past, or the one who only knows the new medium?

In the 2000s, developers started to code for a new type of processor, the GPU. Unlike the CPU, the GPU allows for programs to multi-task rather than follow a strictly dichotomous process. The result is graphics rendered quickly and smoothly. Programs developed before the GPU are noticeably less flexible, appearing on limited devices, all the while suffering from the lack of latency and fidelity provided by a modern processor.

Many legacy art programs were developed before the GPU and suffer from similar problems: limited device support and cumbersome code.  These problems stem from a code base too old and large to transition to modern devices. Similar to the traditional phone user, they can function in the modern environment but without its full potential.

Like the modern user, Sketchable is coded from the ground up in this new environment, embracing the full power and possibility of the GPU. Sketchable works seamlessly on a broad range of devices, consistently delivering industry leading latency and fidelity. Art is created in real time. Sketchable is designed for modern chips and the modern world. It is at home in the artist’s studio or on the subway there. Without the ties to processors past, Sketchable allows a cleaner, more responsive experience.

Economy of Movement

Martial Arts legend, Bruce Lee, stated that “The successful warrior is an average man with laser-like focus.” Sketchable is deliberately designed to provide creatives with that focus through an economy of movement unique to sketching applications. Every facet of Sketchable’s UI is meant to keep the user focused on their work, making creation less cumbersome and more engaging. From Sketchable’s floating color picker, stroke preview, and spring-loaded tools to assigning tools to touch and the intentional integration of Microsoft’s Speed Dial, Sketchable is the main weapon of the successful creative warrior.  

 

The floating color picker is easily assigned to any part of the canvas through a simple click and drag, allowing for quick, subtle changes in tone.  When combined with the stroke preview feature, changing a tool’s opacity and size with only two motions, creativity is not hindered by multiple menus.  

 

When adventuring beyond the simple brush and palette approach, users will find a surfeit of options and tools. Multiple view filters, paper textures, drawing overlays, and simple canvas manipulation might be awkward to access were it not for Sketchable’s thoughtful design and features like spring-loaded tools. Tools like the hand, rotate, and zoom are “spring-loaded” and will snap back to the previously used painting tool after a single use. Features like these provide users the opportunity to utilize its vast library of features and then quickly return to their work rather than muddle through menus. 

 

If one tool is not enough and multiple tools are needed concurrently to complete a task, Sketchable provides the option to assign different tools to one’s finger, stylus tip, and eraser.  Users can paint and blur or quickly sketch with an eraser at the ready. Having one or multiple tools easily accessible offers the user with customizable experience that can change from project to project.   

 

Microsoft’s Surface Dial provides another level of efficiency for the Sketchable user.  With Sketchable’s 3.0 update, users can manipulate brush settings, canvas positions, brush settings, and the undo/redo state all with one hand on the Surface Dial. This original innovation from Silicon Benders is called the Speed Dial, a more intuitive UI for the Surface Dial that reduces the number of actions between the user and their vision. 

 

Sketchable’s focus on economy of movement removes the most massive of creative blocks–distraction. Designed from its foundation to keep the creative’s attention laser-focused on their project and not on menu searches, Sketchable is a necessity in any artistic arsenal.

Stroke Stabilization and Dial 2.0

Image Credit, Sketchable Artisan, Don Seegmiller

Stroke Stabilization

A common issue with digital inking is hand and pen jitter. This is most common when making slow diagonal lines.  Because of hardware limitations like sample rate and grid density, the data being reported can create a stair stepping effect. Stroke Stabilization is a software solution to achieve smoother marks.

Stable marking lends itself to calligraphy and ink drawings, art where crisp lines must be distinctive. With Sketchable’s new Stroke Stabilization capabilities, artists can choose how tight or loose to set their stabilization ramp. Sketchable offers another dimension of control through pen sensitivity, allowing quick movements to be more persuasive on the canvas. Sketchable’s Stroke Stabilization compensates for the change in precision as the pen increases in speed, providing a custom stabilization experience that should be effective on any pen enabled hardware.

Dial 2.0

Last October, Sketchable 3.0 was released in tandem with the Surface Studio and Dial. Included in this release was the Speed Dial feature–a custom UI control that allows users to manipulate colors, brush settings, canvas position, and the undo/redo state right from the Surface Dial. This tool was specifically created with practicality in mind. With the release of the Windows Creators Update, new APIs enable Sketchable to go even further. The UI is enhanced in three ways: system menu suppression, press & turn gesture, and custom haptics feedback.

Before Sketchable 3.0, the system menu was the default UI utilized by Windows on a long press of the Surface Dial. It required up to three steps to navigate to your desired mode and a long press to launch. By suppressing the default UI and displaying the new Speed Dial UI with any Dial interaction, both the learning curve and required steps are reduced.

The Surface Dial press and turn gesture is particularly powerful. Users can now navigate the entire Speed Dial UI without removing their hand. Clicking the Dial still cycles through variable settings, but now a press and turn cycles through the modes as well. This feature allows creatives to keep focused on their work by quickly reaching their desired mode and setting.

The third enhancement is precise feedback with custom haptics. Generating feedback through subtle vibration, users know precisely when they have achieved the desired effect–whether a simple undo or a change in mode. The satisfying tactility of the Dial’s interaction with Sketchable further enhances the experience of the user.

These three simple changes have a profound effect on the efficiency of the Speed Dial. Users start quicker, navigate the entire UI without lifting their hand, and physically sense changes. The combination of these new features and the Surface Dial create an engaging creative experience.

Video presentation of the features:

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2017/T6095-R2

 

Change log

Sketchable Version: 4.8.2.0

New features

  • Stroke stabilization
  • New Creators Update Dial Features
    • Press and turn
    • Custom haptic feedback
    • Suppression of system menu
  • General bug fix and maintenance

Sketchable Newsletter 

We have created a newsletter to help deliver content to our user base. Subscribers can expect content ranging from interviews of Sketchable Artisans to helpful tips and tricks. Our goal with this newsletter is to highlight the capabilities of Sketchable and grow the community.  If there is a particular subject you would like to see covered, let us know! Your feedback will help drive the discussion, so please comment below and join today! 

Penciled In

Image Credit, Sketchable Artisan Don Seegmiller

Software interactions are data driven. The more input available, the more immersive developers can make the experience. Touch and mouse are limited to location and velocity, where an active stylus can also provide pressure allowing more realistic inking simulations. At its core, this is what makes pen so powerful. In Sketchable, the harder or softer you press while inking can affect everything from diameter to opacity.

 

Many new hardware venders are expanding the input variables by incorporating tilt. Sketchable utilizes this novel feature to create realistic drawing affects. For instance, tilting with the pencil tool will cause a realistic graphite rubbing affect. In Sketchable’s latest update, the tilt control has been added to diameter, feather, opacity, and penetration. There are also controls to adjust the start angle of these affects and the range they will last.

 

Tilt is now becoming widely adopted as pen enabled devices are more available and growing in popularity. Some prime examples are the new Surface Pen, Wacom Mobile Studio Pro, Dell Canvas, and Samsung Galaxy Book . This combination of premium hardware and Sketchable’s brush engine produces the fastest and most natural painting experience to date.

 

Download new Pencil brushes with tilt here…

 

Sketchable Pencil Brushes

New Brush Settings

 

  • Diameter
    • Tilt Scale – Sets the multiple at which the size of a brush is distorted when tilted.
    • A toggle for Stylus varies with tilt.
  • Feather
    • A toggle for Stylus varies with tilt.
  • Tip Opacity
    • A toggle for Stylus varies with tilt.
  • Penetration
    • A toggle for Stylus varies with tilt.
  • Two new blend modes
    • Soft Grain
    • Hard Gain
  • Focus Slider
  • Noise Slider
  • Stylus Settings
    • Start angle – the angle at with the “tilt” affect begins
    • Range – A percentage multiplied by “tilt angle” to calculate the lower bounds of the tilt effect.

 

 

Change Log

Sketchable Version: 4.8.8.0

  • Increased size of Brush Preset buttons.
  • Updated German Translation
  • General maintenance and minor bug fixes
  • Updated Default Brush Presets

Sketchable Version: 4.8.7.0

  • New Surface Dial Features
    • You can now adjust stroke stabilization settings with the Surface Dial
  • Updated Languages
    • Russian
    • Spanish
    • French
    • German
    • Simplified Chinese
    • Korean
  • Moved from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 In App Purchase APIs

Sketchable Version: 4.8.3.0

  • Stroke stabilization
  • New Creators Update Dial Features
    • Press and turn
    • Custom haptic feedback
    • Suppression of system menu
  • General bug fix and maintenance

Sketchable Version: 4.8.0.0

  • Fixed issue causing a hook at the end of paint strokes
  • Improved memory management
  • Reduced memory foot print.
  • Fixed issue with large documents on 4 GB devices
  • Fixed various crashes
  • There were three presets not mapping to the right size
  • Fixed bug with the eraser where it would not draw as the preview suggested.
  • In some cases, repaired damaged pages
  • Fixed an issue with undo/redo causing the document to be unresponsive.

 

 

Sketchable Version: 4.6.2.0

New Features

  • Due to customer requests, a magic eraser tool has been added for one click erasure of color areas.
  • A defeat tilt variations button has been added to the Stroke Preview Palette

Maintenance

  • Considerable work was devoted to insuring that a share to Sketchable now works even when Sketchable is not currently running (will continue to improve this experience in future releases).
  • Transform of small objects is now faster
  • Startup times have been improved.
  • Journals with loading errors are now shown, and a click on them will reveal the underlying issue with them. (this should allow you to both see, pass along debug info to our team, and delete journals that cannot be parsed). Please reach out to us at support@siliconbenders.com if you see old journals reappear with errors that might have content that can be recovered.
  • Journals are now loaded that have pages that contain too many layers to edit. This allows you to edit the other pages in the journal, while viewing the pages that consume too many resources to be edited.

Sketchable Version: 4.5.3.0

  • Ability to set the application language in preferences independent of system settings.
  • Added Korean as a choice in the app prefs for controlling language.
  • Added Hide while painting checkbox in prefs to control whether or not the brush cursor is visible while painting
  • Added Hide with integrated stylus in prefs to control whether or not the brush cursor is shown with built in stylus.
  • Bug fixes for
    • Symmetry with certain tools
    • Some Layer stack problems
    • Sharing from Sketchable
    • Review prompt appearing too often
    • Some 4 gig devices were allowed to create too many layers with larger documents.
    • The blender tool now works properly with larger sizes or on the edges of a document
    • Feathered brushes now size properly (before they were growing too large, so the brush cursor did not match the alt

 

Sketchable Version: 4.5.0.0

  • Diameter
    • Tilt Scale – Sets the multiple at which the size of a brush is distorted when tilted.
    • A toggle for Stylus varies with tilt.
  • Feather
    • A toggle for Stylus varies with tilt.
  • Tip Opacity
    • A toggle for Stylus varies with tilt.
  • Penetration
    • A toggle for Stylus varies with tilt.
  • Two new blend modes
    • Soft Grain
    • Hard Gain
  • Focus Slider
  • Noise Slider
  • Stylus Settings
    • Start Angle – the angle at with the “tilt” affect begins
    • Range – A percentage multiplied by “tilt angle” to calculate the lower bounds of the tilt effect.

 

 

Sketchable Version: 4.3.7.0

  • Fixed issue with merge all layers turning image black
  • Fixed a crash related to layer compositing
  • Fixed a crash related to canceling open/close dialog
  • Fixed a crash layers palette or layer’s info palette
  • Correctly update layer compositing when toggling visibility of layers
  • General bug fixes and maintenance

Sketchable Version: 4.3.5.0

  • Fix issue with smaller journals not rendering to screen.
  • Fixed crash on minimizing App or window resize
  • X-ray vision is now working properly when using a checker board background
  • Fixed a startup crash on older Nvidia Cards
  • General bug fixes and maintenance

Sketchable Version: 4.3.4.0

  • General bug fixes and maintenance

Sketchable Version: 4.3.3.0

  • General bug fixes and maintenance

Sketchable Version: 4.3.2.0

  • Increased the maximum number of layers on 4 and 8 GB devices with Intel Graphics
  • Improved painting performance up to 2x( Requires Windows 10 Anniversary Update)
  • Improved performance on layer compositing
  • Improved Application Launch time
  • Optimized query to Windows Store for IAPs
  • Verifying purchases will no longer stop the app from starting up.
  • Added link to Change log in About Us
  • Fixed issue with 1280 x 720 journal size not loading after creation
  • Fixes issues with layer thumbnails and layer stack compositing
  • Lowered power consumption while user is inactive
  • General bug fixes and maintenance

Sketchable Artisans

sketchableartisan1842

From the very beginning, Sketchable has been a work of passion. The mission was to create a product that allowed people to create digital art in a more natural way. Sketchable has become one of the top apps on the Windows Store. Its thought out integration of pen & touch inputs has been recognized by Microsoft and has become their creative demo for Surface technologies in their stores across the US. Most importantly, creatives are constantly sharing their wonderful works of art, made in Sketchable.

Every person that has taken the time to leave a review, send an email, or publicly share their work, has been a part of this success, but there are a couple that deserve to be acknowledged publicly. They are Don Seegmiller and Lawrence Mann. These artists have worked countless hours to provide feedback, discus features, create artwork, and share their passion for Sketchable. In the past, their contributions have been represented in the about section of Sketchable, along with a link to their websites and profiles. However, this does not seem adequate to represent the magnitude of their contributions. So they are also to be made the inaugural recipients of the title, “Sketchable Artisans”.

As Sketchable Artisans, their names, bios, and website links will be available on the SiliconBenders.com/SketchableArtisans page. Their work is impeccable, their passion is infectious, and they can be looked towards to inspire other artists who pick up Sketchable.

 

Our Spin

 

flower-transform-2    The Surface Studio and Dial represents the reason why we chose windows as the launching platform for Sketchable. Creatives can be hands on and focus on their work. With this combination of software and hardware, traditionally tedious tasks, like brush editing, take on a unique creativity of their own.

 

     For decades, creative productivity was driven by the mouse and keyboard working in tandem. However, modern natural user experiences take more of a hands on approach. This empowers the user by letting them work directly atop their art with an active pen. Although while this form factor is more powerful and intuitive, it does leave the nondominant hand idle. The Surface dial meets this need and it has enormous potential in reinventing the way people directly interact with their artwork. This is most evident when the Surface Studio and Dial are used in concert and that was the inspiration for Sketchable’s Speed Dial feature.

rainbow-brush

Classic interfaces rely on grouped icons, typically on the edge of the window. Specific settings adjustments, like brush diameter or color saturation, are often buried in complex palettes or dialogs. This creates a constant battle between simplifying the interface and allowing quick access to desired features. Sketchable’s Speed Dial solves this by giving the nondominant hand control. This allows the traditional UI to melt away. Tasks like adjusting color, brush settings, canvas orientation, and undo or redo, can be achieved without taking your focus from your work. Facilitating a productive, intuitive, and fun experience.

 

milesryanbond

 

One of the guiding design principals for Sketchable was the importance of delivering low latency, high fidelity interactions. With the Surface Dial, this is taken a step farther. Adjustments not only give real time feedback, they can be made while inking. This takes traditionally tedious tasks and brings them into the creative zone. Changing a color’s brightness or saturation to find the perfect shade, can be made in one stroke. Brush settings like diameter, feather, roundness, angle, etc… can be made without picking up the pen. This can be used to create interesting and useful effects or simply streamline the process. Simply put, this tightens that creative loop while enabling a intimate human interaction with your artwork.

Sketchable 4.0

image0

Gainesville, Florida—(October 12th, 2016) – Silicon Benders is releasing Sketchable 4.0, the latest version of the Windows Store App.
This release focuses on Sketchable’s UI to create a more cohesive esthetic while improving usability. To achieve this, Silicon Benders has worked in tandem with the Microsoft Surface Design Team to create a concise and productive user experience. Accompanying this UI overhaul are significant feature additions. These include a floatable stroke preview, real time brush tip cursor, customizable Color Picker, right click color dropper, and streaming tutorials (~150mb app size reduction).

image1

UI Methodology
This release incorporated a combination of icon design, grouping, and scale to reduce the Interface’s visual impact, while continuing to add functionality. This blend of simplicity and functionality we achieved through our collaboration with the Surface Design Team as well as creative feedback received from the passionate artists that use Sketchable.

  • Layout and design
    • Designed in conjunction with Surface team designers
    • Reduced UI palettes from four to two
    • Updated every icon
    • Regrouped icons for a cleaner esthetic
  • Color Picker
    • Moved icons to singular exterior overlay
    • Capable of achieving smaller sizes
    • Added three new custom form factors
      • Circular saturation and brightness picker
      • Dynamic RGB and HSB sliders
    • For economy of motion, users can click and drag the color Dropper from icon to desired color, thus requiring only one click.
    • Toggle button added for “touch can paint” to make it more discoverable.
  • Stroke Preview
    • New modern design
    • Sliders for Size, and tip opacity make the functionality more discoverable.
    • Can be moved and placed
    • Can remain open when painting or adjusting a stoke from an exterior source.
    • Up to 36 presets per tool
    • Added clone, reset, and delete brush presets
    • Provides textural feedback while choosing a preset, or scrubbing tip opacity or size
  • Real Time Brush Tip Cursor
    • Depicts diameter, roundness, angle, feather, etc…
  • Other notable changes
    • Substantial performance improvements
    • Reduced package size by ~150mb
    • Moved Lock Layer Transparency to the Layer Info dialog.
    • Added settings
      • RGB 0-255
      • Right click color picker
      • Link mouse and touch UI Sizes

Price: Free to download + $24.99 for access to the premium features.
Download Link -> https://www.microsoft.com/store/apps/9wzdncrfjcjw

Business Models in the Modern Market Place

Possibly the most controversial topic in App development today is Business Models. It is the most important issue facing software in 2016. The intersection of App sophistication and professional mobile hardware has created a unique moment in the software industry. Consumers feel uncertain what to expect when they download an app. Everything from distribution to software interaction is changing rapidly and it is difficult for consumers to keep up.
The most common consumer sentiment seems to be, “I just want to buy and own my software.” This comes from the good old days, when you could go to the store and buy software in a shrink wrapped box: one flat fee, no DLC, and no additional charge. This model worked for developers as well, because they could charge full price for each version. They were compensated for any additional work after the initial purchase when the consumer upgraded to the newest release. Duplicating this model in the current App Store would be impossible. Imagine the blow back if a developer released a 2.0 as a separate application and charged full price for it. For better or worse, the market has spoken and digital downloads are the future; this is no longer a feasible business model.
Another common misconception is that all digital media is the same. What’s the difference between downloading a song and an app? How can the movie and music industry work with a onetime charge, but software can’t? Simply put, software has a continual maintenance overhead. If you buy a song or movie, it will work indefinitely; however, software requires constant, diligent work. When hardware manufactures release a new device or driver, someone has to bring the app up to speed. This is why maintenance is the most expensive part of software development.
Coupled with the shift from physical to digital software sales, is an interesting yet basic piece of human psychology. Consumers are more willing to spend money on tangible products–and size matters. This psychology works out well for companies that make giant potato chip bags, where two thirds of the bag are air, but not so well for an industry moving from tangible to digital. While this has not been an issue for free or low cost viral applications, it has severely hindered professional productivity application development.
One potential solution for developers is to join the Tech Startup Bubble, where infusions of venture capital allow them to keep costs artificially low. When this happens, it becomes a race to get acquired or reach an ipo. This shifts the focus away from sustainable development onto download count, creating an environment that is impossible in which to build a long term product.
Devices like the iPad Pro and Surface Pro have proven that there is a space for professional mobile devices. The next logical step is for the software to follow suit, but large software companies will vehemently resist. Most are still piggybacking off of the aforementioned good old days, selling their desktop software for similar prices. Why would they work to overcome all of the hurdles of mobile market price perception, just to split 30% of the profits with Apple, Google, or Microsoft. Until now, these companies have treated mobile markets as a place to dump free “lite” versions of their software, to leverage users to convert to their desktop programs. This mindset will not change until forced by market forces and, by then, it will be too late.
The future is wide open. There is an opportunity for startups to invent the next wave of professional software: touch and stylus driven professional applications that creatives use for finished work.
For this to happen, it can’t be free, a dollar, or a onetime purchase. Developers have to be able to monetize their ongoing work. Otherwise, no one could justify updating applications. That leaves two business models, in app purchases and subscription. Consumers are justifiably hesitant to embrace these models, mainly because of past abuse.
With in-app purchases, the key is consumable versus durable. Consumable allows nefarious companies to create software that profits off “addiction,” rather than the joy or utility it provides. However, durable in-app purchases provide developers an avenue to profit off the maintenance and addition of features to an application. This model provides the best of both worlds, the convenience of the digital download, the pride of ownership a purchase should provide, and the sustainability to fund quality development.