Breaking: Frederique for iPad in Emanata

Emanata is a great new app to discover indie comics and emerging artists. From today, your ol’ man is among those visual storytellers featured in the app – this, looking at all the others drawings, is a great honor.

Frederique will come every two weeks to Emanata. I have to admit, I’m really excited about working with this new format.

Get the app from the iTunes.

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Drawing a weekly comic with the iPad

The first time I drew Frederique was about ten years ago, and since then, my preferred drawing technique didn’t change much: on paper, with ink or a black rollerball pen. As a disaster, I didn’t have access to a scanner the night the first episode should have been released, therefore I was forced to rethink my options – and I fired up the iPad.

From the first touch to the last: drawing on iPad, correcting vectors and finalizing graphics

There were of course plenty of other options: I could have reused my old drawings, or chose a more familiar digital tool like Photoshop or Illustrator. I wanted to go for something handmade though, and drawing with fingertips is quite similar to using a real pen – just that it has a built-in cheat, the option to correct the lines later. (But yeah, isn’t the eraser made for the same thing?)

This wasn’t the first time I used the iPad to do drawings though. I had a few goes with tons of apps, both raster- and vector-based. Because I wanted to have the comics in color, I went for the vector-based option, using neu.Notes+ (currently for 0.99$). This is a brilliant little app with great drawing tools and with a killer feature: it exports PDF files to Dropbox which can be directly fed into Illustrator from there – so that everything I draw with my fingers can be later edited with a professional tool that I use on a daily basis.

Tools optimized for touchscreens (neu.Notes) and trackpads (Illustrator)

Even with the already known tools, I’ve spent about 8 hours on the first episode: drawing, redrawing, checking on the computer, redrawing and finalizing the vectors on the iPad (unfortunately at this time, the PDF files cannot be transferred back), correcting the vectors in Illustrator, coloring, adding shadows and more details, and exporting the whole lot from Photoshop.

Since then I made ten episodes and some more images, practiced the finger-drawing and optimized the workflow a lot – now I’m down to around 4 hours per episode, which is about pen-and-ink-time. And there’s something even better to this process. Thanks to the vector-based graphics, I have a lot more options open: maybe one day we will see all these characters filled with life – and dancing in a cartoon.

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Magazine view

For keeping track with hundreds of blogs, RSS readers are the best tools; my personal favorite is Google Reader which is free, easy to use and available for all devices. For most of the blogs it’s perfect, but with Flipboard you’ve got something different: a magazine experience.

image from

Google Reader is brilliant to collect blogs and consume information: the followed web pages can be grouped by interests – you know which of those lists to read carefully, and which ones don’t need a very close attention. I usually read all the posts of friends’ blogs, but with the 200-300 incoming posts a day with the label ‘inspirating-graphics’, I could sit at the computer and push the next button for the whole day.

These labels therefore need some special treatment, and that’s where Flipboard has no competition. It’s a great way to read information you don’t really mind missing out: you can scan through all your feeds just as if it was a magazine. Big pictures, headlines with nice typography and page layouts – it really is amazing how all the different kind of blogs and web portals turn into something beautiful and consistent. And it does more than just RSS: Twitter, Facebook posts and all sorts of social networks can be plugged into Flipboard – and become magazines on your device.

For Android users, Flipboard was always something to miss, but now it seems like the app is coming sooner than we think. For those of us who couldn’t wait, there already is a leaked APK on the internet. (And it works like a charm.)

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Hacker shine


Programming used to be a hacker thing: men in black sitting on the floor, bending over a laptop that has some key parts missing (or even wires coming out), and the only source in the dark room at 3 am in the morning is the dim light from the monitor. Nowadays though, programmers get some shine.

Codea is a touch-based programming app for the iPad, that lets developers create games and simulations. Of course, it’s more a toy than a heavy weight development environment (and since the current kit doesn’t support any kind of publishing, the final games will never leave the iPad itselfI was awfully wrong! See below). Not like it’s a big deal, no one will cry over missing out those “amazing things” created with Codea.

So the time is not now, yes, but the damage has been made: as more and more development tools will come out, eventually, programmers will be changing their black bricks into shiny toys – just like journalist did some time ago.


Update: as @TwoLivesLeft said on Twitter, there is a solution to turn apps made with Codea into native iOS apps, and the code for this is already on Github. One example app in the App Store is Cargo Bot, available for free for iPad.

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