OpenCanvas is a dedicated 2D drawing & paint program by Portal Graphics, which is a subsidary of System Products. The program features a simple tool set that is well suited for quick sketches via a tablet such as those made using a Wacom tablet. Also note that there are multiple versions of this program, and some of the older ones are freely available. Features and tools available in each are listed below. Also note that tools/features that carry over from previous versions do not need to be described in detail.
This is the version that can be found on the public domain. Be careful and make sure that you go to a reputable source if you download this version. There are a few miscreants out there who have used this application as a carrier to spread viruses and trojans. It's a good program, but make sure you get a clean copy that will not ruin your experience. The program has a good set of features including layers, event recording, networked drawing, and simple yet robust drawing tools. Also be aware that the translation to English from Japanese is incomplete for this old unsupported version, so that some notices or errors will not display correctly. Don't let this annoyance keep you from using it though, as it is pretty easy to figure out. Also sometimes this program defaults to Japanese, to get English menus go to the rightmost selection (Help) on the program title bar.
This features a basic set of tools. They will be listed left-to-right from top-to-bottom.
- Drawing mode: Allows you to draw on the canvas. For more details see brush window.
- Move current layer: Allows you to drag the current layer around the canvas. Be cautious with this, as dragging any part of a layer off the canvas erases it.
- Color picker: makes any color from the canvas the current active color. This is the same as right clicking the canvas while in brush mode.
- Draw line: Draw a simple two point line.
- Create solid box: Create a box with current active color.
- Erase solid box: Erases current layer by drawing a box.
- Create filled polygon: Creates a polygon with active color. Double-clicking finishes drawing.
- Erase via polygon: Works like the filled polygon, but erases current layer instead.
- Move around canvas: Allows you to navigate around the canvas. Same as holding the space bar and left-click dragging while in drawing mode.
- Rotate the canvas: This feature allows you to rotate the canvas without actually affecting the image. It is very useful when the artist has to draw long lines as the artist can rotate the canvas so that it is easier to follow his or her natural drawing arch.
- Zoom in: Zooms in further into the picture.
- Zoom out: Zooms out of the picture.
This feature allows you to work on multiple layers. This version has three types of layers: multiply, add, and subtract. The layers window features toggles for visibility, type, and transparency.
- Multiply: This is the default layer mode. The colors of this layer are multiplied with any of those below. It is similar to the CMYK color model.
- Add: This layer mode adds to that below it. In this case lighter colors have more prominence as opposed to multiply. Using black on an add layer is akin to erasing.
- Subtract: This mode subtracts from that below. Note that darker colors have a weaker effect, and lighter colors are subtracted more. Like the add layer, using full black is similar to erasing from this layer.
The window for the color palette has 4 active areas on it, 3 of which can be selected by the user.
- Color preset: (left side) Various boxes for color presets. Left clicking uses the preset. Right clicking stores the current color in the preset.
- Current color: (left bottom corner) This just shows the current color in use.
- Color gradient: (middle) This is a color gradient of all shades and tints for the current hue.
- Hue slider: (right) This is a slider that allows you to chose the hue of the desired color.
The brush window provides a variety of controls that influence the behavior of the brush. It is mainly intended to be used with the drawing tool, but it can also be used to set width when drawing lines. This window features two sets of tabs, one going down the left side for the drawing mode and another set of tabs going across for presets. Note that each drawing mode has its own set of presets.
- Pencil/Pen: This mode makes the brush act like a pencil or pen. Which one it acts like is dependent on how the control settings are set. The default setting is akin to a thin-line pencil.
- Watercolor: This mode makes the brush behave like a "watercolor" brush, this is good for blending colors. This mode has 3 adjustments that control it's blending and color behavior.
- Blur mode: This one allows for blurring. If you click and hold, there's a second blur mode. Both seem to be rather weak in regards to the effect produced.
- Eraser: This is used to erase from the current working layer. It too can be modified by setting the controls.
Presets: The five tabs across the top are used to store presets consisting of various settings for each particular drawing mode. The floppy disk icon in the upper far right of the brush window is used to save presets. When starting out, all presets are set to the program default for each drawing mode. Also note that once set, the presets are stored even after quitting the program.
Controls/adjusters: Each one of these has a particular effect on how the brush behaves for a given drawing mode. They also enhance how a brush responds to a given input via the tablet.
- Brush size indicator: A big square box that shows the brush size relative to a given zoom level.
- Toggles: To the right of the size indicator, and below the save preset button.
- Enable/disable size: controls whether stylus pressure effects size.
- Enable/disable transparency: controls whether stylus pressure effects transparency. Turning this off makes strokes behave like a pen/marker. Turning it on makes it behave like a pencil.
- Enable/disable edge smooth: Available for watercolor & eraser only. Produces a smooth blended transition along the edge of the brushstroke.
- Watercolor adjusters: These are below the toggles. They affect watercolor behavior only. Nor do they store with the other presets.
- Env Effect:
- Minimum size: Sets the minimum size for a given brush. This is a percentage of the brush width.
- Brush width: Sets the size in pixels. This is the with used if size toggle is disabled. Using a large brush width with a small minimum size can be used to create dynamic and expressive strokes.
- Pressure correct: This controls how sensitive a given brush is for a given stylus input. The default is a flat diagonal line, but it can be set to a bias (curve) that alters sensitivity. X (horizontal) is stylus pressure, and Y (vertical) is effect strength.
This window works akin to the navigator window in PhotoShop. It shows the area being viewed in relation to the whole available canvas. You can also drag the selection box inside it around to quickly navigate the entire canvas.
This program by its very nature records the process of every drawing. The normal "session" mode that it saves under (.wps) doesn't show this. However, you can share your drawing technique by exporting an "event" file. This will save as a .wpe. If a .wpe is opened with OpenCanvas, it will replay all the actions used to produce a given drawing/painting. There is also a setting in the show pulldown called "event playint with weight". Weighted playback shows the strokes being made at their normal speed. Default playback gives each stroke the same amount of time, a bit like fast forwarding through a drawing session.
This is a neat feature that lets you share a canvas with up to 3 other people online in real-time (or close to it, depending on connection speed). Thus you can collaborate or "duel" with your artwork. Some folks consider this the greatest feature of this program, but other drawbacks or lack of interest caused it to be removed from later versions. Clicking on the "Show networking window" pulldown actually brings up two windows.
- Chat window: The chat window allows you to communicate with other session participants in real time. For the most part, it works similar to an IRC chat. Note that typing a single character in the chat may close a networking session. (seems to be a bug)
- Networking window: This window has three tabs that configure a networking session.
- Server tab: Set your name, and server password. If you're hosting this is where you go to start. (standby)
- Client tab: You can also set your name here, but now you can direct the computer to what IP you wish to join if someone else is hosting. If they set a password on their server, it's also where you enter it. If you're joining someone who has the port other than default, type it in after the IP like this: xxx.x.x.x:#### (x's are IP, & #'s are port number)
- Network Preference tab: This is where the canvas size and number of available layers is set for a networked session. This also sets the number of users (including the host) from 1-4 for a given session. You can also set the port from here. (The default is 9001)
There is also a nifty Java based network client called Warpaint that makes it possible to host or join a networked session via a server list. It also includes a safe copy of OpenCanvas 1.1. By using Warpaint you can find and join a session by simply using your web browser. Note that it also uses the default port of 9001 unless specified otherwise, if you have problems you may need to change the port used or adjust settings on your router and/or firewall.
- note-as of June 5th, 2006, the Warpaint server has been down due to lack of project development. There are individuals trying to get a server up and running currently, check back often for updates.
- note- on February the 21st, 2007, the Warpaint server list went online again.