Opera: Edit with Photoshop

I’m pleased to find a working “Open with Photoshop” addon for the Web browser Opera, Ray Lothian’s open source Edit with Adobe Photoshop extension for Opera. It does require a Node.js wrapper to work, but that’s a very simple install and no Administrator permission is required.

‘Edit with Adobe Photoshop’ has the advantage that you can specify the launch path in the addon, so you can launch either the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Photoshop, or an older version of Photoshop.

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My new Dell UltraSharp u2412m monitor

I’m pleased to say that I’m once again using a big 24″ monitor. A power-surge had blown-out some vital component on the old one. I heard it go “pop”, and… the monitor was dead.

The new monitor is a Dell UltraSharp u2412m, which is a proper 1920 x 1200px 16:10 widescreen. It cost just £130 new, from Amazon UK as a warehouse deal with free shipping. Compared to £450, eleven years ago in 2007, for an equivalent Dell UltraSharp 16:10 with good colour response. Thank you, capitalism!

DRIVERS AND PROFILES: I installed the latest 2015 drivers from Dell and a Spyder3 Express calibrated colour profile, switched to the monitor’s internal Photoshop-friendly “Multimedia” preset for a slightly better colour/greyscale range, and boosted the brightness up a little to 30. I also re-ran the Microsoft Cleartype calibration to enhance small type display.

STAND AND BUILD: The adjust-ability of the screen angle and orientation is outstanding, compared to my old Dell. It glides up and down on micro-castors and precisely tilts with a slight push/pull. On the downside, there are no side SD-card slots. There’s also a cheaper plasticy 1980s-retro surrounding frame, which seems less sturdy than before. The control buttons look cheaper than my previous monitor, and care will be needed in handling them. Most especially the ON/OFF.

POWER: The new monitor stays very cool at the top-back, where the old monitor was distinctly warm after ten minutes. That’s perhaps because the new one uses less power. Just 18 watts, at my current brightness setting of 30.

eIPS BANDING: There is very very slight banding of fine gradients, seen in one part of the shadows range. This is apparently a drawback of the newer eIPS monitor type. Though it’s hardly perceptible and you wouldn’t spot it if you weren’t looking for it very carefully. Apparently A-FRC is being used to support the monitor’s 6-bit eIPS, and to display 16.7 million colors. I can live with almost-imperceptible banding in the shadows.

GREYSCALE FIDELITY: I find that the PCMag review was wrong about the smushing at bottom end of the greyscale response. Using various online tests, I could see all gradations of grey right down to black, and even in complex tests I could distinguish between the final two gradations of black + very near-black. My guess on this is that…

1). The PCMag test was done in a normally-lit office, rather than a low-lit graphics studio enviroment, and their office-worker eyes just couldn’t adjust enough to see the difference between black and nearest-black on a bright monitor in a bright environment.

2). Dell took note of their review and improved the bottom end of the greyscale response on later production runs.

3). My switching to the calibrated colour profile / the monitor’s internal “Multimedia” preset cured the problem they identified.

So all in all, I’m pleased, especially with the price. I now have a 24″ again alongside my Ugee 1910b pen monitor. In an ideal world (where making art paid) I’d have combined the £130 and £300 from both of these, been able to add another £120 on top and maybe purchased a single £550 pen monitor with less screen real-estate. But for the moment, I can easily switch between them as needed.

Kindle Comic Creator software, and page sizes

Amazon has a Kindle Comic Creator software tool, as well as Kindle Previewer software, both for desktops.

On startup it defaults to expecting input of 800px by 1280px. The software is from 2013 and the PDF suggests that’s the highest it can handle.

But Darcy Patterson’s recent look at How to Format Picture Books for Kindle suggests 1200px by 1800px, but the affordable 2017 Kindle Fire HD 10″ has a great 1920px by 1200px screen (I love it), so I’d try that size when making pages for the Kindle Comic Creator. In which case I’d look around for some of the other Kindle generating software that can handle large page sizes. Amazon’s Kindle Create software, for instance, seems newer than the 2013 Kindle Comic Creator and offers the ability to set up a ‘Guided View’ for the comic for frame-by-frame viewing.

In which case, double that size — 3840px by 2400px — at 300dpi is probably your optimum creation size. Then reduce by half, and output at 120dpi to perhaps 70 JPG compression.

Apparently Amazon’s delivery costs weight heavily on creators of such ebooks, and Darcy Patterson’s guide (above) has details on how to scrunch down the file-size. I’d say his 40 JPG compression may be fine for some sorts of picture-heavy books. But it’s not going to please comics readers, who will not want to be seeing JPG artifacts when then zoom into a panel. At least 70 for comics pages, I’d say.

Inking in Clip Studio

A new showcase tutorial from Brian Haberlin, on inking in Clip Studio (better known as Manga Studio)…

Personally I just got so utterly frustrated with Clip Studio (Manga Studio) that it was completely uninstalled. It’s total overkill in terms of its sheer complexity and screen-clutter, and is deeply unintuitive. I don’t care how good its inking brushes are, I just don’t want to spend a decade learning a badly-translated Photoshop equivalent from Japan. Still, you may feel differently and find the above tutorial useful.

How to convert PDF to CBR with flattened text layers

The Problem:

 

Many modern PDF comics are output from their source production software, and are not scans of paper editions. As such, their PDF’s text is contained in layers inside the PDF, which sits in a layer above the artwork. In my case, this is how my PDF is in a review-copy of a new graphic novel.

 

But I want to read this long graphic-novel on a tablet running the Comic Time Reader APK app.

 

Why the Comic Time Reader? Because that’s the only genuinely free Android app that supports proper ‘panel detection’ (aka frame-by-frame viewing), like Comixology and the Amazon Kindle Viewer have. I can’t use either as they are locked to their own content ecosystems, and don’t support stray downloaded .PDF or .CBR files with panel detection.

 

So the Comic Time Reader is a great alternative, but it can’t run its panel detection on a plain old PDF, because… it can only load .CBR comics. Comic Time Reader runs fine on the new Kindle Fire 10″, when side-loaded, but doesn’t support .PDF files.

 

Hence, you need to convert the .PDF to .CBR format. You could try converting with Comic Rack, but its well-hidden PDF to .CBR export usually looses all text from the resulting file if the PDF has layers. Comic Rack can’t handle the text layers that sit on top of the artwork.

 

The Solution:

 

Adobe appears to make it as difficult as possible to flatten everything in a PDF using Acrobat. After trying many possible solutions I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to really flatten the layers of a PDF is to load the PDF and save each page as a .JPG file. At maximum image resolution and 600dpi. 600dpi may not do much to enhance already compressed artwork, but it won’t harm it. What it will do is help to nicely smooth the speech balloons and mimimise jaggies on the flattened text.

 

If you don’t have the full version of Acrobat (I mean the full editor, not the free reader), then there are various bits of Windows desktop software that can do the job of saving .JPG page images from a .PDF at 2018:

 

1) PDF2raster is no longer working due to its multiple dependences on other bits of command-line software, though you may have more luck with it than I did;

 

2) PDF Wiz is now paid and also rather expensive;

 

3) Comic Book Archive Creator is genuinely free, and works at 2018 on Windows 8. ComicBookArchiveCreator.zip is the file you need to download. It has a GUI and is quite simple to use, taking a .PDF and saving the .JPG page images in a .ZIP file if you don’t change the output type. It offers no control over .DPI or antialiasing, and is also rather slow, but the text and speech balloon output is fine and smooth on a new 10″ Kindle Fire HD. My guess is that it’s extracting and saving at a default 600dpi (higher is better). As I mentioned above, if it saves the pages images into a default .ZIP, then you just need to rename to .CBR in order to load into Comic Time Reader.

 

Then you can enjoy flowing ‘panel detection’ on your graphic novel. Comic Time Reader offers two modes for this, a ‘classic’ (frame-to-frame across the page) and ‘movie’ (just the frames, one after the other with no surrounding page visible).

The Art of Commando Comics

Ever wondered how the classic Commando Comics are put together? They’re the 64-page pocket-sized digests which some may be familiar with, usually with delicious black-and-white artwork. Here’s a 20 minute round-table with the comic’s makers, recorded for the National Army Museum’s retrospective exhibition, “Draw Your Weapons: The Art of Commando Comics” in 2011-2012.

The comics are now available on Amazon, for the Kindle, as digital downloads. An outstanding starter/taster would be Home Guard Hero.