Did I mention my new book?

Lampstack-SoftcoverOver the last few weeks I’ve written a book. It’s about how to run web applications in the comfort of your own home.

Yesterday it went live on Amazon! I have an author page and everything!

Turns out that writing was the easy part: formatting it so that it looks good on Kindle devices was a bit tougher. It’s a tech book after all, which means there are several screenshots and code snippets which need to be formatted to stand out from the rest of the text.

Before I call myself “best selling author”, let me describe how this book came to be.


Continue reading Did I mention my new book?

No more Tweet Counts

Twitter have recently announced that they will stop supporting the API endpoint that allows developers to show how many times an article has been tweeted. Services such as Jetpack, Shareaholic or even the old fashioned Twitter Button can no longer display a number next to them.

Although announced a while ago, on the 20th of November 2015, Twitter have flicked that switch – and all those tweet counts have magically disappeared from the internet. That’s tough for those who have been relying upon those numbers to see how popular they appear to be.

Because logic dictates, the higher your share counts, the better a person you are: Those with less shares are quite clearly rubbish, while those with more are obviously the gods of the internet.

I always found that logic to be flawed: who cares how many times an article has been SHARED, if no one takes the time to read it? How many times have people retweeted or refacebooked something without ever clicking the link they’re sharing – just because the headline seemed meaningful?

It’s different for cat-pictures and one-liner gags of course, because whoever shares them will have most likely read the content in its entirety. But those creators with 500+ words per article, or those creating audiovisual content have seriously nothing to worry about. Share counts are not a realistic metric of how popular any writer, person or service is.

What is far more interesting is how many times an article has been read by a human, and how much user interaction a piece gets.

Take this site for example: it’s a seemingly random collection of informational tidbits I’ve written for myself, just so I won’t forget. There really is no cohesive subject here. You could argue I’ve been primarily writing about 3D and graphics for the last year, yet one of the most popular articles is about the difference between HDCAM and HDCAM SR I wrote in 2010. It’s been viewed over 12.000 times, so it’s clearly interesting to some humans.

But since its publication, it only ever had a single Twitter and Facebook Share.

I see a similar trend on my other websites too: something I’ve written years ago, almost in passing, full of spelling mistakes and seemingly without focus keeps people coming back – while other more carefully worded articles do not garner much interest, even though they may have been retweeted several dozen times. Some of my iOS Articles for example have been viewed close to 50.000 times, have dozens of user comments, but they’ve seen less than a handful of social shares.

So there you have it, my two cents on this hotly debated issue. Stats and comments are interesting, while Tweet Counts and Facebook Shares aren’t important. They don’t relate to what people actually read. If anything, they confuse your audience as to how popular an article is.

Let me leave you with one final thought here about stats in general. Stats can be interesting, but they’re nothing to live and die by: if the steady flow of visitors or social followers would disappear overnight, it wouldn’t stop me from writing. I think some content creators forget who they’re creating content for. But I guess that’s “to each his own”. I personally do it for me and my future self, rather than an audience of anonymous users whom I will likely never see again.

How to bring back pressure sensitivity for Pogo Connect in Procreate 3


Procreate 3 has been released last week. Several new features have been added, and it includes support for iPad Pro and Apple Pencil.

Sadly, as with many app updates (and to my great annoyance), things that were working perfectly fine may occasionally stop working suddenly. And we users have no way to bring back an older version of our favourite apps. Pressure sensitivity for my Pogo Connect is a good example: it was working perfectly fine before the update, but in Procreate 3 (Build 70704bb) there’s an issue.

But fret not, the team are aware of it and they’re working on a fix as we speak.

After extensive testing and community input, I found a workaround that makes the Pogo Connect play nice again with Procreate 3. I’ve posted this solution in the Procreate Forums, but I thought I’d add it here too.

Here’s what worked for me step by step. I’m using an iPad 3 with iOS 9.1, with two Pogo Connects (version 1 and version 2).

Continue reading How to bring back pressure sensitivity for Pogo Connect in Procreate 3

How to use Reference Layers in Manga Studio 5

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Manga Studio has a nice feature that make colouring areas on another layer a breeze: Reference Layers. The idea is that you draw your line art on one layer, but fill in your colours on another layer.

The concept is the same as the Colour Drop feature in Procreate, but Manga Studio has a few more options up it’s sleeve.

Here’s how to do it:

  • draw out your line art on Layer 1
  • select this layer and click on the little lighthouse icon
  • create another layer for your colours

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  • select the Fill Bucket tool and pick a nice colour
  • make sure the bucket’s Tool Settings are set to acknowledge the Reference Layer (tick Multiple Referencing, then select the lighthouse icon)
  • fill in those closed spaces

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Bucket Tool Settings

If the bucket tool keeps filling your entire layer, make sure those gaps are closed properly – or play with the Close Gap value in the bucket’s Tool Settings. A higher value is more forgiving, a lower value is more strict when looking at those gaps.

Another interesting feature in these settings is the Area Scaling option. When enabled, a value of 0 means the fill stops at the border of the reference layer’s line. A negative value will make the filled area smaller by n pixels (see below), while positive value will fill in n pixels more.

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How to fix Brush Lag in Manga Studio 5

I’ve been very happy with the performance of Manga Studio 5 on my Surface Pro (1st generation). Today I’ve discovered that there was an upgrade to to Manga Studio 5.0.6 available and installed it. All is working fine on Windows 10!

So I thought, perhaps I’ll try it out on my Mac too. Admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve used it on my desktop, simply because it’s just not as enjoyable to draw on my  Wacom Intuos than it is to draw directly on the screen of my Surface Pro. But with a bit of practice I’m sure I’ll soon get back into it. Besides, Manga Studio is an awesome weapon to have on your graphic arsenal.

To my shock and surprise though, I’ve discovered that Manga Studio (before AND after the update to 5.0.6) had a huge brush lag problem out of a sudden! Where did that come from? Last time I checked, my hardware was working perfectly fine with Manga Studio!

By brush lag I mean, “make a stroke on the tablet, and see a line appear 1-2 seconds later on the screen”. Yes, it was that bad. Unusable is the word I’m looking for.

So what changed if it wasn’t my hardware?

I tell you what’s changed: El Capitan has been released, and being the avid geek that I am, I’ve updated my quad core Mac Mini to the latest and greatest OS X. El Capitan has been very good so far… until I’ve tested Manga Studio today! Yikes! I certainly had no such issues when I upgraded my Surface from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. There had to be a way to get rid of that brush lag on my Mac too – and I think I’ve figured it out.

Continue reading How to fix Brush Lag in Manga Studio 5

How to enable the Magnifying Glass in ZBrush

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On some systems it can be hard to read the plethora of menu items that ZBrush presents. It’s hard enough to find the one you need, but it’s even harder to do so without straining your eyes.

ZBrush has a lovely solution that can help us, both for modelling and viewing menus: The Magnify Glass option.

To enable it, head over to Preferences – Magnify Glass. You’ll have all kinds of options to tweak the look and feel of the loupe it brings up, a circle in which everything on your screen is enlarged by however many percent you want.

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Try it out and see if it works for you. It’s a little weird to get used to, but can be a great help for fine tuning those tricky details on your models.

How to create seamless texture tiles in ZBrush using the elusive Tilde Key

There is a convenient way to create seamless texture tiles in ZBrush using the oft neglected 2.5D functionality. Like many things in ZBrush, it’s extremely easy – if you know how to do it. The principle is just like the Photoshop Offset filter.

Before we start, it’s probably a good idea to resize the current document to something square, from its default 4:3 aspect ratio. To do that, head over to Document, de-select Pro (which would otherwise constrain the proportions of the document) and type in a size of your liking. 1024×1024 for example. Now hit Resize.

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If there’s anything on the current canvas, select Document – New or hit CMD+N to clear it. Now start drawing what you need with 3D tools, leaving a bit of space around the edges. Perhaps something artistic like this:

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To offset the image and draw more assets across the seams of our tile, hold down the Tilde Key on your keyboard while dragging the canvas. You’ll see the image loop in on itself when you do.

Note that the Tilde Key can be elusive on anything other than a US keyboard; it’s the little wavy line we never use for anything (~). Here is its location on a US Mac Keyboard:


On a UK Mac keyboard, it’s in the same position as above, but it’s labelled with a plus/minus and paragraph icon (±§). On international keyboards it’s in a totally different position (see Dimitri’s link at the bottom of this article).

Now fill in the blank areas with other assets and save out your image via Document – Export. You can use your creations as alphas, textures, surface noise tiles and anything your heart desires.

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Further Reading

How to remove polygons from your model in ZBrush


In Hexagon you can simply select a face (polygon) and hit the delete key, but things are slightly more complicated in ZBrush. Here’s how to remove one or several faces of your 3D object in ZBrush.

First, select the desired polygons. In my example above it’s the flat side of a cylinder, so I’m rotating the object while holding SHIFT to make to snap to the exact side view. Then I drag a mask with CTRL+SHIFT, which will select only those faces and hide the rest of the model.

I’m using rectangular selection for this, but depending on your model you may need something else. Hold down CTRL and choose the appropriate selection method on the right hand side of ZBrush.

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Next I’ll invert my selection. This is done by CTRL-SHIFT dragging on an empty part of the screen, showing the previously unselected part of the model and in my case hiding the bottom faces.

To remove all hidden parts of the model, head over to Tool – Geometry – Modify Topology and choose Delete Hidden (or Del Hidden as the button reads).

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If you’ve accidentally (and inadvertently) hidden parts you didn’t meant to, you can make them visible again using the Visibility menu (also under Tool). Select ShowPt to bring hidden sections back.

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Say hello to Victoria 7


Victoria 7 is here! According to the marketing hype she’s “totally amazing”, but we don’t know much about her yet. Feeling finally better, I thought I’d give the new girl a spin and see how DAZ have improved upon the previous generation of Genesis 2 (which – let’s face it – wasn’t shabby at all).

New figures are fun to play with, and I’m sure over the next two years we’ll find out more about Genesis 3 than we will in the first few days. Here’s what I’ve found so far.


Resolution Comparison

The first thing I checked was how many points the new figure was made of. To put this into perspective, let’s compare her to the other Victorias of recent years:

  • Victoria 4 (late 2006): 69759 vertices
  • Victoria 5 (Genesis 1, late 2011): 79059 vertices
  • Victoria 6 (Genesis 2, June 2013): 87805 vertices
  • Victoria 7 (Genesis 3, June 2015): 71202 vertices

How interesting indeed: we find that the new model actually has less geometry than Victoria 5, yet it promises to be “even more life like than ever before”. How is that possible?

Well probably much like the HD version of Victoria 6 could produce HD morphs without adding geometry: by some proprietary subdivision magic that DAZ Studio applies under the hood (see this thread for details: http://www.daz3d.com/forums/viewthread/31158/).

Don’t take my word for it though, I’m only guessing here.


Material Presets

Victoria 7 comes with a full body material preset, 7 make-up options, 6 different eye colours and three presets for eye lashes. All of these come as 3Delight and Iray versions (Iray being the default, which looks as shocking in the preview as Victoria 5 does).

There’s also an option to switch on (and off) Normal Maps, three subsurface scattering options for the skin and one for the mouth (discussed below). There’s also a medium and high translucency setting for the body.

And finally, there’s a material preset for Victoria’s geografted genitals too.

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The resolution for Victoria 7’s torso maps is still 4096×4096, but the UVs are different than those of her predecessors. This was also the case between V4, V5 and V6.

However, unlike with Victoria 7, up until now we could select which UV Set a map belonged to. This meant we could use a V4 or V5 skin on V6 (under Surfaces – UV Set). While this option is still there, Victoria 7 only lets us select “Victoria 7” and “Base Female” and not other generations.

It therefore appears that older skins can no longer be used with Genesis 3. This may of course change with future updates, but for now it means you can no longer use existing skin maps with Genesis 3.



What is the Mouth SSS Option?

If you’ve ever wondered what the Mouth SSS / No SSS option was, let me show you. SSS means SubSurface Scattering and it tells the rendering engine that light refracts underneath the surface of an object. Think of a glass of wine in front of a candle: the wine isn’t just dark red, you’ll see the light from the candle dimmed through the wine, illuminating it.

Human skin behaves the same way, and for the body we have three different levels of SSS as presets. A problem arises when you place a light source behind your model, opposite the camera, for example a rim light. With the Mouth SSS on, it will shine through the head and teeth and make Victoria’s mouth look a wee bit scary (left). For such eventualities, simply switch the Mouth SSS off and she’ll look a lot healthier (right).



Victoria 7 comes with Pseudo HD

Note that the current version of Victoria 7 does not appear to have HD built-in. There are several sliders for HD attributes, such as Mouth Realism, Cheeks Dimple and Brow Compression, but there’s no “head and body HD” slider like there is for the Genesis 2 HD figures. It therefore stands to reason that we may soon encounter a Victoria 7 HD product.

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In the meantime though, there is a material preset for Normal Maps (both for 3Delight and Iray). Normal Maps are not loaded by default, but when we double-click this option, Victoria’s abdominal area shows a lot more detail.

Here are two close-ups: on the left, Normal Maps are off. On the right, Normal Maps are on. The effect is much less pronounced than a real HD morph, but it adds more realism to our lady with very little rendering overhead out of the box (click to enlarge).




Compatibility with Poser and Carrara

At the time of writing (July 2015), Victoria 7 and Genesis 3 are ONLY compatible with DAZ Studio 4.8 and presumably later. I could also load and work with the figure in DAZ Studio 4.7 without adverse effects (just in case you like an Iray-free work environment).

The sad news though is that Victoria 7 is NOT compatible with either Poser: there’s no DSON Importer like there is with Genesis 1 and 2. From what I understand, Poser currently doesn’t have the technology to make Genesis 3 “tick”, so allegedly even an importer script wouldn’t work. If this will change with a future Poser release, or if DAZ are no longer concerned with Poser compatibility is currently unclear.

You can export the figure from DAZ Studio (posed and clothed) as Collada, OBJ or FBX and then render it in pretty much any application that supports those formats though, including Carrara – which by the way is also not compatible with Genesis 3 (as of version 8.5.1 at least).


Using Genesis 2 Poses with Genesis 3

With previous generations of Victoria, any pose applied to any generation would kind of work, even if a few minor tweaks were required. Things have changed with Victoria 7 though: Genesis 2 poses don’t work on Genesis 3 anymore. Major tweaks are required to make them fit.

The good news is that you can convert your Genesis 2 poses with a choice of two third-party products: one by Zev0 and DraagenStorm, and another by 3DUniverse. I haven’t decided which product I’ll buy, so I can’t tell you much about the differences between them.

It’s not often you see an almost identical product on the DAZ Store 😉


Using existing V4/V5/V6 aniBlock animations

While Genesis 3 can of course be used with aniBlock animations, existing V4/V5/V6 aniBlocks do not yield usable results. Within reason most aniBlocks were up until now working with any generation of any figure and could be used interchangeably with promising results. So an aniBlock made for Genesis 1 still looked OK with Genesis 2 and even V4.

Sadly that’s no longer the case. Lucky for us, DraagonStorm has come up with another killer script that will convert an existing animation from Genesis 2 to Genesis 3.


Auto Fit

You’ll be pleased to hear that – in theory – Genesis 3 can auto-fit clothing made for Genesis 2 out of the box. While I thought this worked rather well for Genesis clothing on the Genesis 2 generation, I’m less convinced it works well with Genesis 3.

Many had long held a grudge against the results that auto-fit could provide. I’ve only seen this phenomenon with bottoms and the Genesis 3 crotch area. Tops seem to work OK, although they seem to be clinging to the body a little too much for my taste (something that was criticised with auto-fit for a long time, it’s called the “breast hugging” phenomenon).

Auto Fit Fail

In this example, notice the left side of her bikini bottoms (her left, not yours): it’s as if they’re shredded, and the outside of the fabric is stuck to the inside of her legs. Granted, perhaps this pose is exaggerated, but you’ll see it nonetheless with standard poses too. It’s annoying. Watch out for such effects!


Expressions and Accessories

A separate product are the Expressions for Genesis 3. I really like the subtlety they provide, and there’s a lot more here than with Genesis 1 and 2. Note that these are slider-based values (like angry, happy, disgusted, etc), so you can mix and match until you come up with that particular expression you like.

I must admit that I’m not a big fan of the “900 expression set” where all you can do is dial in a single particular face. This product isn’t like that, and I highly recommend it as an addition to your Victoria 7 purchase.

You have several other accessories too, such as the Head and Body Morphs that work by the same principle, but with the plethora of forthcoming characters, I wonder if these are actually necessary (unless you want to dial-in your dream girl tonight and can’t wait).



While it’s difficult to draw a conclusion at all, Victoria 7 feels a little bit different than the other Victoria updates I’ve seen since 2006. She’s a departure, a new beginning, something that looks like it doesn’t want to be part of the current ecosystem anymore.

The term “backward compatibility” hasn’t just taken a back seat, it’s literally non existent. This was something DAZ had previously implemented with every new figure update. Victoria 7 only works in DAZ Studio, and I get the message that “we should not be using any other software with this figure”.

The Poser audience has been left behind, unless there will be a DSON Importer for Genesis 3 at some point in the future. But will there be? Where does that leave Poser users?  Certainly not on the DAZ website purchasing content, that’s for sure.

Speaking of content: while it was previously a major selling point to say “you can use existing V4 content with Genesis, or Genesis Content with Genesis 2”, it is obvious that this is not in everyone’s best interest. The only way to sell new content is to make sure old content can’t be used anymore. PA’s can now go ahead and re-release everything they’ve made over the last 5 years for Genesis 3, and we’ll be the ones paying for it. Again.

But then, that is the price of a free DAZ Studio, whose development needs to be funded.

PA’s creating new products will find themselves in a slight pickle too: if you make an item of clothing, which figure to you make it for? The still popular and widely used Victoria 4, the very popular Genesis 2 figure, or will you make it for Genesis 3? Or should you release three separate products? Or perhaps 4, including one version for Dawn?

The truth is, I can’t really say “Victoria 7 is really soon much better than Victoria 6”, because I don’t see any major differences. She may bend a little differently, and of course she looks different than the other Victorias, but I have yet to discover an advantage over the Genesis 2 figures. If it’s there, I seriously can’t find it.

Yes I like her, but I can’t say I prefer her over the previous figures. It’s just a base figure at the end of the day. And right now I have no content to use her with.

The base figure though is never the end product for 3D artists: if you create a 3D render, you’re telling a story. Who cares which figure you use for that, as long as the message comes across. As long as you have usable accessories in your library.

And as long as she works in the software package you use most.

The one thing I do like are the wide range of expressions, and I’m sure I’ll discover a lot of other niceties – it always takes time to do this. If it sounds like I’m having a downer on Victoria 7, let me assure you that’s not the case! She just represents a very scary big shift into a yet unknown direction, and I’m not sure how I feel about such a shake-up.

Another great thing about new figure releases is that the previous generation will have huge sales very (if history can be trusted), which means you can stock up your Genesis 2 library for pennies!

How to preview HD Morphs in DAZ Studio


In the above picture we have a render of Michael 6, the standard version on the left and the HD version on the right. Zooming in closer we can see that his abs and knees for example have a lot more detail – as we’d expect from an HD version of a model.

Comparing the two Michaels in our viewport instead of the render however, we can barely make out a difference. Both figures look nearly identical (except for the belly button indentation perhaps).


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So why is that, and how can we preview those HD details before we render them?

The secret lies in our viewport’s subdivision levels.

Continue reading How to preview HD Morphs in DAZ Studio

Where is Save For Web in Photoshop CC 2015

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 18.12.38The swanky new slash screen isn’t the only thing that’s changed in Photoshop CC 2015. One of those functions that I use probably THE MOST in Photoshop is File – Save For Web. It’s been around for ages and means that you can quickly create a flattened JPG or PNG of your otherwise well-stacked and complicated image.

The geniuses at Adobe recognized that the term “save for web” probably doesn’t describe accurately what we’re doing anymore, so they’ve moved this function to File – Export – Save For Web (Legacy). Thankfully they did not take it away!

You’ll be pleased to hear that the keyboard shortcut CMD+SHIFT+OPT+S (the worst ever keyboard combination ever – which is why I’ve mapped it to one of my Intuos buttons – WAAAAAAY easier to remember).

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While this comes as a bit of a shock to long-term users, Adobe has added a new version of the Save For Web dialogue, accessible from File – Export – Export As. This will let you do pretty much what Save For Web did, without the gazillions of options we never really used.

An even easier implementation (without any default keyboard shortcut mind you) is File – Export – Quick Export as PNG. Without any options or settings, this will simply save your current well-stacked file as PNG in the same resolution as the original. You can’t resize the image with this option, but you can with Export As – just like we could with Save For Web.

One thing I did notice is that these new export options come with a bit of a performance penalty: my system about two seconds to bring up this new Export As dialogue. Safe For Web (Legacy) on the other hand opens instantaneously.

Let’s just remember that “newer” isn’t always synonymous with “better”.

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