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Grease Pencil in Blender 2.8 - Introduction [ENG]

In this tutorial for Blender 2.8 in english we will see how this tool has changed in the passage of Blender from version 2.79 to 2.8. The Grease Pencil at the beginning was only a tool to draw small notes in the 3D View, to provide explanations about the project that was being realized, but later it was enriched with new features, concerning both the drawing and the animation, which transformed it in a real 2D drawing tool within a 3D modeling software.
In Blender 2.8, in the current release, the Grease Pencil tool has been divided into two parts, from a logical point of view, a simpler one for making annotations only and a more "rich" one that allows you to create real cartoons.
We therefore try to describe the main tools available.

 

The Grease Pencil as a tool for creating annotations:

In the instrument panel on the left, which can be recalled by pressing the T key, you can select some basic tools, including the "Annotate" tool

We will then be able to use

  1. The simple annotation, which allows you to draw or write freehand texts,
  2. The line tool, also useful for tracking reference lines
  3. The polygon tool, to more easily create figures or polylines
  4. The eraser function will be used to cancel and correct what is written.

After using the Grease Pencil for the first time, in the panel with the properties of the "Tool" on the right, which can be recalled by pressing the N key, by clicking on "Note" a drop-down menu will appear to manage the layers, color and thickness of the pen stroke.

Sometimes you feel the need to write annotations on the entire page, as if it were a sheet of paper, sometimes directly on the object, for this Blender provides the "Placement" option (which you can also find in the panel on the right in the "Tool" tab)

  1. The Placement View allows you to create annotations that will be positioned orthogonally to the view, all on the same plane.

  2. Surface enables drawing directly on the faces of the object, useful for better explaining certain operations

  3. 3D Cursor is similar to View, but it gives the possibility to position the plane perpendicular to the view in the position defined by the 3D Cursor

 

The Grease Pencil object:

Most of the new features of the Grease Pencil, including those inherited from previous versions of Blender, can be found in the new grease pencil objects, which can be recalled by clicking on "Add" in Object Mode, or using the SHIFT + A shortcut

Stroke allows you to create a predefined pen stroke, Monkey draws the usual Suzanne but in drawing format, blank instead creates an empty object, similar to empty, into which the actual drawing can be inserted.
With the Grease Pencil object we will be able to perform all the operations that could be achieved with the Annotate tool, but with the added possibility of having additional tools necessary for drawing and 2D animation with Blender.
To access all the Grease Pencil tools you can select the "2D Animation" workspace ("2D Full Canvas" is similar to 2D animation, with less clutter of menus and panels)

or by creating a new "2D Animation" file

Which will provide the user with a real 2D drawing and animation suite

 

The 2D Animation suite:

From the beginning, the suite opens in draw mode that allows us to immediately draw on the screen.
A tool panel will appear on the left

in which, in addition to the function to position the 3D Cursor, there are:

  1. Draw, which allows you to draw freehand

  2. Fill, the bucket tool that allows you to fill closed areas with color.

  3. Erase, which allows you to erase lines previously drawn in a hard, soft way with a rubber, the single points of which the curve is composed or a complete line
  4. Cutter, the cutter tool that allows you to delete areas of a drawing by selecting
  5. Line, which draws a straight line. Click on the starting point and drag the mouse (by pressing also the E key for the extrusion a broken line is created) by clicking on the Enter key it is confirmed
  6. Arc, draw an editable arc. Click on the starting point and drag the mouse to the second anchor point, drag the curve to adapt it to your needs, press the enter button to confirm. Extruding with the E key, before confirming, you can continue to draw.
  7. Curve, draw a "double arc" and you can drag the first piece of arc in one direction, the second in another, to better adapt them to your needs
  8. Box, draw a rectangle, holding down the shift key creates a square
  9. Circle, draw an ellipsoid, holding down the shift key creates a circle

 

The top header menu:

If we try to draw with the freehand instrument, we immediately notice that the color is not black, but gray because by default the strength (with which the virtual pencil was pressed) has no value 1 but 0.6.

By changing this value to 1, drawing later we will get a pure black.

As we can see, in the menu it is also possible to modify the dimensions of the stroke (radius), the material (by default set to Black), and the type of brush (by default set to Draw Pencil, that is similar to a pencil).
The Grease Pencil drawing tool already contains predefined brushes

  1. Draw Block, similar to a highlighter
  2. Draw Ink, similar to a fountain pen
  3. Draw Marker, similar to a felt-tip pen
  4. Draw Noise, similar to a quill
  5. Draw Pen, similar to a ballpoint pen
  6. Draw Pencil, similar to a pencil

However, we can modify the stroke of our drawing either using the Options panel, whose parameters allow you to modify the curves that interpolate the set of points that form the curve of the drawn lines, for example by applying more smooth, thus rounding up a sketch made with a hand maybe not very firm

or you can use the Curves panel, which allows you to change the sensitivity of the stroke, useful for those who use a tablet and want to get special effects.

In the Display panel you set the brush icons, the Origin panel instead, as already explained for the annotations, allows you to specify where the lines will be placed ("Stroke" indicates that they will be inserted in the same plane of a drawing already drawn). "Front X-Z" indicates which view we are in

Very useful are the Guides, which can be activated by pressing on the button representing a grid, as they help in drawing by guiding the artist's hand (like a ruler, or the small nail and a string, or the elastic, used by the illustrators), but also allow you to create "suggestions" to keep on an underlying layer, using as a reference the 3D Cursor (cursor option), a point defined by the coordinates (custom) or an object

  • Circular allows you to create circles around a point

  • Radial of the lines starting from a point

  • Parallel, draw parallel lines

  • Grid, draw lines like a grill

By placing the results on multiple layers, we can combine them together to use them as a basis for creating, for example, a network or the interior of a space colony

or drawings in perspective

 

The properties:

If we watch the Properties Window, we notice that it is divided into two parts: a top panel that specifically concerns the Grease Pencil tool and the common property panel.
The upper panel contains all the management of the layers, which allow you to organize and keep all the parts of a drawing separate, and show how they are related to each other.

There is also the management of the Onion Skinning, which helps in the animations as it displays the drawings of the previous and following frames, of the Vertex Groups as in the 3D models, of the Strokes visualization, whose thickness can be improved if they are close or far away.
Even the usual property panel is customized based on the specific characteristics of the Grease Pencil, with interesting differences in the following tabs:

  • Active Tool, contains all the display properties of the pen with which we are drawing

  • Material, allows you to set the border and fill colors for the drawing we are creating. The stroke (optional) can be continuous, in dots or squares, made from a line or a texture, the filling (optional) instead can be uniform, a gradient, a checkerboard pattern, or made with a texture

  • Modifiers, modifiers are also present to help develop projects with Grease Pencil:

    Array, to duplicate drawings, Build, to create drawing animations in progression, Mirror, to create mirror drawings, Simplify, similar to Decimate for 3D models to reduce the number of vertices of the curve, Subdivide is similar to the function for models 3D. Furthermore there are deformation and animation modifiers, associating together vertexes or complete drawings to armor, hooks or lattice grids, and finally modifiers to manage the hue, the saturation, the opacity

 

Visual effects (Object visual effects):

In addition to the other functions, similar to those applicable for 3D models, the drawings made with the Grease Pencil can be associated with visual effects, which can help both in the drawing and in the animations. Many of their effects are viewed in render mode.

Let's see the list of visual effects in Grease Pencil and some examples:

  1. Blur, more or less blurs the drawing

  2. Colorize, redefines the colors of the drawing, giving them an effect of gray scale (Gray Scale), sepia (Sepia), bicolor (Duotone), making it more or less transparent or overlapping a color

  3. Flip, mirrors the drawing compared to the 3D cursor, moving it both vertically and horizontally

  4. Glow, generates an inner and outer glow

  5. Light, if we assign an empty to "object", we can use it to light up the drawing

  6. Pixelate, modifies the drawing as if it were low resolution, like old electronic games

  7. Rim, with which it is possible to create internal shadows

  8. Shadow, which allows you to create external shadows

  9. Swirl, create a vortex around an empty assigned in "object"

  10. Wave Distorsion distorts according to a certain amplitude, period and phase

 

Sculpting tools:

As for the 3D models, also the Grease Pencil has its sculpting tools, in Sculpting mode, very useful both to improve the drawings and to position the various elements of an object during an animation

  1. Smooth, rounds the stroke and eliminates roughness

  2. Thickness, thickens or reduces the thickness of the stroke (depending on whether the + or - button has been pressed)

  3. Strength, increases or decreases the strength of the stroke (depending on whether the + or - button was pressed), useful for creating light or shadow effects in the drawing, but without erasing the stroke, as an eraser would do

  4. Randomize, makes a line flickering (useful for creating tree branches, lightning, wavy hair etc.)

  5. Grab, stretch the drawing, to be used when you want to improve the shapes of a drawing already made, or change the position of the elements of a subject during an animation

  6. Push, similar to the grab when we are considering a single line, but different when acting on several elements, since the grab favors the dragging of the first focused stretch, while the push acts more on the other adjacent elements

  7. Twist, twist the selected elements

  8. Pinch, like a pinch, brings together the elements present within the instrument's range of action

  9. Clone, in edit mode we select a part of the drawing, then we return to sculpt mode and where we click will be copied the piece of the memorized line

 

Edit Mode:

When we select the Blender Edit Mode display mode for the Grease Pencil tool, by pressing the A key we discover that the drawing we have created is nothing but a set of vertices and curves that interpolate the drawn line. Also in this case there are tools that can help us in the work;

 

in fact, in addition to the usual selection, displacement, rotation and scale tools, there are:

  1. Extrude, which helps extrude selected vertices through an interesting handle marked "+"

  2. Radius, which expands and contracts the radius of the selected vertices

  3. Bend, which distorts the selected object, rotating it around the 3D cursor

  4. Shear that distorts the object along the axis

    Together with Shear, To Sphere is present, which rounds off the selected drawing

 

Weight Paint mode:

To realize animations, it is possible to associate the armature to the drawings, it is therefore also present for the Grease Pencil a weight paint function, with its paint tool that colors the vertices of a drawing stroke from blue to red, to manifest the influence that the bones must have on the element

It concludes here this little introduction to the Grease Pencil in Blender 2.8 in english, in which we have tried to illustrate some of the most important tools available. Many features have been omitted and will probably be explained in the next tutorials on this topic.

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