AuthorTopic: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!  (Read 53665 times)

Offline Helm

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #10 on: December 20, 2013, 01:16:38 am
Tomorrow we wrap up on a game at work and I get time off for a couple of weeks. I'll try to push a personal image out of me (hard to do pixel art after pixel art, heh) to illustrate my point.

As to the main question:

"I agree with that. The ultimative question is however what we gain from using it, where it's more powerful and where it just sucks in terms of efficiency. I am interested in finding that out."

The main thing it would help beginning pixel artists with is to STOP them before they put down a single pixel. Make them consider it a brush stroke instead. A brush stroke has a direction.

Time and time again I arrive to some pixel-specific technique that turns out to be well-known in the larger theory of fine art. Not to say that the latter is a consonant space, there's various different schools of thought that are not compatible. But at least the concept exists somewhere there in the wider world of art that before you gesture at a canvas, you are considering the direction, weight and nuance of the gesture (of course the subconsciousness plays the larger part, but that's a nonfactor for what we're discussing here).

This is what this excercise is meant to illustrate. Pixel artists hold at their hand two amazing tools that other artists not often have, and almost never both of them at the same time:

1. minimization of physicality in drawing. You are not directed or constrained (or in the flipside, startled by) the subconscious drives of the body, as expressed through your moving hand on the canvas. So many people that are terrible with pencil and paper go on to become good pixel artists because they can plot down pixel after pixel, they do not rely on smooth movement from point A to point B

2. completely opaque, completely predetermined atom-level control of the picture. We sacrifice fidelity and in trade we get big, fat pixels that we can visualize before we even put down the first one. We can't visualize the whole image (difficult skill to train, real artists do train it) but we can certainly visualize a cluster, and with practice, a collection of touching clusters.

There are specific limitations and benefits to having these two elements in our art. Nearly all great pixel art shows telltale signs of how it was created (and that's another reason it's so trivial for a trained eye to spot reproductions/copies/photoshop jobs masquerading as pixel art). 

But beginning artists get lost in the art, they immediately begin SCRIBBLING. And then they salvage their scribbled thing with antialias.

This excercise is meant to stop people from scribbling. It's meant to teach them traditional art skills they'd get from proper tutoring that are specifically applicable to our discipline. A different path arriving to the same destination (which is, control, intentionality, visualization before action). Trad artists would go from general to specific. I struggled for years trying to apply general to specific in an organic way in pixel art and never could. I'd put down something vague, then zoom in and work on a corner of the image. Get my palette from that, and go systematically through everything using that invented palette.

It might have been alright and some of the art thus produced might be good in the eyes of others (or myself, sometimes) but that doesn't mean there wasn't a step missing.

Cluster theory was something I worked on to find a way to structure the middle part of creating a pixel art drawing. Not the heavy aa-finish, not the initial rough sketch, but the part where you're building the volumes and conveying the shapes. That's where clusters became a solution.

The excercise I'm suggesting here is a mental one. It's trying to help fix a step before clusters even occur. When the clusters are just in the mind. Ideally, one would consider the shape before they lay it down. But even if you go in and fix an older image after the fact, the mental training is there.


re: efficiency. The end result is less bad moves. Less pixels you have to fix. Less aa to take out later. Less blurriness introduced you then have to take out. Working with what pixel art has: sharpness, clarity of color, confluence of edges. Not working with what it hasn't: softness, transparency, vague shapes, smooth gradients.

I appreciate the capacity of an artist like Cyangmou that can put in pixels a blurry field of view effect. I do not say it has no place in pixel art (what does that even mean?) I am saying that for people that have gaps in the beginner and middle steps of creating something with pixels, they should consider not just bigger clusters, but their smallest ones. A single pixel is not a cluster.


As to what is gained from applying this technique: yes, the image will have harsher shifts, and will appear more blocky. Compromises will be made. But I think what is gained is a stronger gestalt, where the form and the content of the image are better aligned. A piece of craftsmanship that is declaring what it is, not playfully hiding what is is by showing it can emulate what it isn't too. To take a picture that has unpleasant blockiness but a promise of gestalt into a picture that retains the gestalt but has a pleasant blockiness is a matter of experience within that mindset. I am too, working on this.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2013, 01:38:14 am by Helm »

Offline Helm

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #11 on: December 20, 2013, 01:36:05 am
I realize that we won't be getting started on this until I produce some results and damn it, I'm burning. I'm close to 30 years old, I've been pixelling for 20, seriously for over 15 and I am burning.


Do you see it?



If when you zoom in at a piece 'solved' in this way and it doesn't look like someone's playing tetris and losing, then it's not burning, not yet.

Offline Helm

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #12 on: December 20, 2013, 01:46:09 am


And here it is without any single pixel at all (so not even a single 45 degree connection). Perhaps even stronger, IMO. Bolder, smarter solutions with less pixel detail, more readable.

Offline r4c7

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #13 on: December 20, 2013, 03:36:18 am
While you were working on yours, I redid mine.
Original:

New:

Still have 45 degree single pixels, but removed all others. I also fixed the forced perspective and did some tweaks to the foliage and colors. (I actually got the color count down to 8 from 10) Still not happy with the colors, but I love the rest, even with all its quirks. Don't think I could fix some of the problems without adding more colors, so I'm leaving it. Really fun to work on.

Offline Ai

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #14 on: December 20, 2013, 10:03:47 am
This is an interesting exercise, so I took about half an hour and wrote a GraFX2 script to check it.

Here's a link to the script. Syntax-highlighted source code here

Installation:
* Paste the content linked above into a new lua file (mine is named 'clusteringcheck.lua')
* Save it somewhere that you'll be able to access easily from GrafX2's file browser.

Usage:
* Rightclick on the 'Brush effects/Factory' tool button (to the immediate left of the 'text' button)
* In the dialog that comes up, navigate to where you saved the script and select it.
* Click 'Run'. A dialog will appear with a single checkbox.
* Click the checkbox next to '8 way neighbourhood' to turn off 8-way neighbourhood if you want (Meaning that only 90-degree adjacencies will be considered; pixels with only 45-degree adjacency will be considered errors.)
* The script will set color 255 to bright red (RGB 255, 0, 0), and mark every 'bad pixel' with color 255.
* After it's done this, it will also popup a report on how many pixels were bad out of how many total.

Here's some example output:

Initial image:



4way check (45-degrees not allowed):



8way check (both 90-degrees and 45-degrees allowed):




I've also tried it on other, larger images, like Fruits.

Here's Vagrant's 'new' image:


The result of checking it with 4-way adjacency (7% of pixels were erroneous)


The result of checking it with 8-way adjacency (1% of pixels were erroneous)


Those of you who are GraFX2 users, enjoy!
« Last Edit: December 20, 2013, 11:00:43 am by Ai »
If you insist on being pessimistic about your own abilities, consider also being pessimistic about the accuracy of that pessimistic judgement.

Offline Helm

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #15 on: December 20, 2013, 10:09:12 am
[sneaky_elm_at_work] Ai, thank you for this, it's going to be very handy![/]

Offline Ai

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #16 on: December 20, 2013, 10:48:30 am
No worries, glad to see someone will get some use out of it.

Here's my first try at this exercise (from scratch):



Not sure about bandiness of bottom part, but I'm happy that it is completely solved (no error pixels)

That reminds me to mention: if no error-pixels were found, no report is generated. Perhaps I should change that, what would you prefer?

EDIT: I've updated the script to make a report in all cases.new script here.

EDIT2: Here's another try.
This one is a fix of an existing icon.

Original:


Fixed:


I find it a struggle not to mutilate the planes when I'm trying to fix clusters.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2013, 11:17:45 am by Ai »
If you insist on being pessimistic about your own abilities, consider also being pessimistic about the accuracy of that pessimistic judgement.

Offline ErekT

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #17 on: December 20, 2013, 02:56:25 pm
Great exercise :) It felt very counter-intuitive to not be able to use any single pixels in the beginning, but it forced some new shading solutions superior to how I've approached shading before I think.

I used a portrait I drew a while ago and wasn't happy with at all, back when I thought that dithering in human faces was a good thing to do :P Still not happy with it, but improved in terms of pixel-tech at least.



->

Tried to get rid of all the single pixels but there's probably still a few on the loose here and there that I missed. Also I kept the single-pixel eyeglint on purpose. Couldn't get the eyes to work without it.

Offline Vagrant

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #18 on: December 20, 2013, 08:19:29 pm


And here it is without any single pixel at all (so not even a single 45 degree connection). Perhaps even stronger, IMO. Bolder, smarter solutions with less pixel detail, more readable.

Oh, I see it now. Definitely.  :y:

Quote
As to what is gained from applying this technique: yes, the image will have harsher shifts, and will appear more blocky. Compromises will be made. But I think what is gained is a stronger gestalt, where the form and the content of the image are better aligned. A piece of craftsmanship that is declaring what it is, not playfully hiding what is is by showing it can emulate what it isn't too. To take a picture that has unpleasant blockiness but a promise of gestalt into a picture that retains the gestalt but has a pleasant blockiness is a matter of experience within that mindset. I am too, working on this.

Yeah. But.. Stronger gestalt?

This is entirely subjective, and what I would call a pixel 'style'. I can't see this applying to any other forms of pixel styles (Like my piece before) without radically changing it into 'sexy cluster style', that overwrites the original. Using only clusters can limit you incredibly in portraying certain aspects, especially if they are small.

For the purposes of the exercise, it's great. But again, it's limiting everything to this clustery 'flavor'.



Here's a newer one that's true to sex cluster style. You can't get any more cluster-y than this.

« Last Edit: December 20, 2013, 08:24:42 pm by Vagrant »

Offline Ai

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Re: NEW CLUSTER STUDY THREAD!

Reply #19 on: December 20, 2013, 08:40:08 pm
^ That's a great example of what I mean by feeling forced to mangle planes. Normally certain depth information is conveyed by overlapping forms, which would tend to create occasional pixel-islands, and these rules really punish creasing -- the tighter the less doable.
If you insist on being pessimistic about your own abilities, consider also being pessimistic about the accuracy of that pessimistic judgement.