• Andrew Jonhardt

Why I'm prototyping with GraphicsGale

This week has been very busy for me, and I was originally planning to talk about it all. Unfortunately, time has gotten away from me. So, this week, I'm detailing why I've made the switch to the free pixel art program GraphicsGale for prototyping Masks of Undying.

Originally, I was using Godot's built-in color-cube node to differentiate between various objects in a scene. It didn't take long for me to realize that too many cubes starts to get confusing.

At the same time, I heard of GraphicsGale through Twitter. So, I decided to compare GraphicsGale with my main art programs of choice: Krit and GIMP.

Before I get down to the comparison, let me preface my complaints by pointing out that I don't want to be a game artist. Prototype art is art that I can make quickly, easily, and with only the smallest effort in terms of learning how a program works and customization of it. This separates me from a professional artist in that a professional should know how to, or should be willing to learn how to, customize all aspects of their favorite art program. OK, on to the comparison.

First, GIMP. GIMP was out of the running almost immediately. By default (might be possible to change it), GIMP's maximum zoom is only 800x. The majority of my assets in Masks of Undying are 32x32, which means I won't get as much precision as I'd like in GIMP.

So much empty space!

Second, Krita. Krita actually has over 2000x zoom, so that's not the issue. The issue is how the various square (yes, Krita actually has square brushes available by default!) brushes work.

In the above image, I've tried out a number of Pencil brushes with Opacity set to 100%. I've got to be missing a setting somewhere though because, as you can probably tell, sections of every line I make have varying Opacity (some spots in each line are darker than others). It's a hassle for easy creation, and I haven't found the time or the interest to determine a workaround or worry about making my own brushes.

So, that brings us to GraphicsGale. First off, let me say that I wouldn't recommend GraphicsGale for much beyond prototyping. I sincerely believe that the creation of an image of the same quality as what can be made in Krita or GIMP would require twice the effort in GraphicsGale. I blame most of this wasted effort on the interface.

Example of the GraphicsGale interface

You can re-size the various toolbars (which I've done alot of) by dragging each individual toolbar out of its place. You cannot re-size toolbars while they are docked together. This combination alone is frustrating, as the various tools will try to automatically adjust themselves to any re-sized tool you try to re-dock. So, you can easily screw up your whole interface through the process of trying to make it comfortable.

My other issues are down to how layers and alpha channels work. If there's a shortcut for adding layers, it doesn't match the shortcuts in GIMP/Photoshop or Krita. The layers don't automatically receive alpha channels, even if you've selected the color depth (32-bit) that should allow for it. GraphicsGale doesn't have a true alpha channel; the color white is treated as alpha by default, and you can manually set other colors if you need to use white. And, worst of all, any alpha channel you add to an image must be re-added before you try to export the image or the alpha will not take account of any changes you made.

There may be ways to compensate for all of the above issues but, if I were a professional artist, I wouldn't even go looking for those solutions. I'd just throw the whole program out.

So, why am I using GraphicsGale for prototyping? Well, despite the occasionally frustrating interface, I've managed to churn out prototype art that fits my standards for clarity in the time it would've taken me to force Krita or GIMP to fit.

Short and sweet. I'll be covering some of the things I didn't have time to cover next week. A part of me wants to slow down, but I can't. I'm getting laser eye surgery later this month, and I'm simultaneously thrilled and terrified. If the procedure gets botched, my livelihood and all of my plans are completely fucked.

Here's to keeping busy.

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