So What is Image Forge?

Discussion in 'General Card Modeling' started by Darwin, Jul 10, 2005.

  1. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    I haven't heard anything back from the administration regarding the pdf file I sent them of the material that will be included in this string. Sheesh, who screwed up and let them have a private life? After a limited amout of soul searching, I decided to go ahead and suck up more memory and present it as a forum string. This has some drawbacks, particularly with respect to the restriction on image file size, but does have the huge advantage of interactivity (assoming anyone out there is actually interested), allowing you guys and gals to ask for clarifications or add your own insights if you happen to have used the software. At such time as it gets finished, the good stuff can always be extracted from the string and put into some kind of final product. I can hear the first question already....why put in effort for an inferior piece of software when Photoshop is available? Two answers come to mind. First, although Image Forge is nowhere near the level of Photoshop as an image processor, I find it to actually be superior to all other programs out there, including Autocad, as a powerful drawing program immediately usable by a novice. Second, there is no one out there than can say Image Forge is outside their budget. This is FREEWARE, people, and it doesn't even make much of a footprint on your hard drive. So....on with the show.


    Simply put….in my opinion, just the best freeware bitmap drawing program yet to be placed on the internet, and arguably the most useful drawing program available at any price. Image Forge is a product of Cursor Arts ( It is available in both freeware and “professional†(read that as “must be paid forâ€) versions. It is not perfect, but its foibles can be lived with, and is nothing that infinite ROM and RAM cannot cure. The purpose of this tutorial is to give a quick overview of the program. As time permits, I intend expanding it to give instruction in how I use it in paper modeling. Don’t panic if you go to the webpage and can find only the professional version….the free version still exists, and has been upgraded to the current professional version (3.6 something). Just do a Google search for Image Forge Freeware, and you will easily get to the download. It is about a 6 Meg file, so will take a bit of time using a modem, but not obnoxiously so considering the average downloadable program nowadays. The version I am using in this tutorial is the professional version, but don’t panic yet. The freeware version has full drawing functionality, and is fully capable of doing everything I will discuss in the tutorial. The main difference of the freebie from the professional version is in the image processing rather than drawing functionality of the program. The pro version has layers (which the freebie version does not), and has considerably expanded clipart and image processing plug-in capabilities. That said, I have not yet played around much with the latest freeware version, so some of what I say regarding it may no longer be strictly accurate….but so far I have not seen any huge differences between the freebie versions 3.32 and 3.6.

    First, the shortcomings of the program. The single biggest pain-in-the-sitdown I have encountered is that the program is an absolute memory hog. It was originally designed and intended to be a tool for making small images. Although its current capability has far exceeded the programmer’s initial vison, it’s memory management is pathetic. My present machine has 256 Meg RAM, and that is marginal for working with file sizes that are in the 10s of Megabytes range. My computer at work has 512 Meg, and that does seem to make a significant improvement, but still nowhere even close to programs like Photoshop, etc. However, considering a purchase price of “less than $30 US,†should one expect it to? If I keep my image resolution to no greater than 300 dpi, it will only infrequently lock up on a full A4 sized parts page….although still is happier if I stick with 150 dpi page scans. Some functions seem to be much more sensitive to image size than others. Curved lines and flood fills, as examples….though there are some workarounds that do help speed things up when those are required. The second biggest pain is the ability (or perhaps I should say non-ability) to save a jpg file without totally futzing up the color values of the pixels. Again, this can be worked around, given infinite hard drive space….just work only with bmp files, and damn the file size.

    Enough chit-chat….time for a screenshot of the program.
  2. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    Pretty straightforward, but a couple of features that deserve to be remarked upon. Upper toolbar….clean, straightforward, and BIG and prominent UNDO button. Immediately available brush controls. To the right, a little magnifier window that shows, with full magnification, the 100 or so pixels in the immediate vicinity of the cursor. (I find this one of the most useful features of the program, and why the big boys haven’t incorporated something like it is beyond me.) And, right underneath it, a slider for image magnification. Not apparent here is, once you go beyond about 3x magnification, the screen automatically converts to a pixel grid….again, something I find really useful once one gets used to it. In the very bottom left of the screen, a little readout telling you exactly where the cursor is in the image (x, y coordinates). In addition, this little goodie expands when a drawing tool is chosen and will tell you the width and height of the line you have drawn, the width and height of the circle or rectangle you are drawing, etc. Very useful feature, and would only be better if it would display actual line length instead of just northings and eastings.

    As an aside….I have only begun learning how to use this program. The more I play with it, the more amazed I am regarding its power. Don’t expect much from this tutorial beyond basic drawing….the image processing portion of the program is still mostly virgin territory for me.

    On the right side of the screen, a nicely compact tool bar. The upper half of the tools are the ones I will cover in this tutorial, since they are all the drawing related functions. As common with many programs, left clicking the icon selects the tool for use. Double clicking will usually bring up a submenu associated with the tool type selected. For example, the line tool has choices of freehand, straight line, curve, etc. Use of the drawing tools is as close to purely intuitive as I’ve yet encountered. Just click and drag. Left click and it draws using the foreground color. Right click and it draws using the background color (a nice touch, since you can undraw all or part of a line just by changing the mouse button you use). More on the tool bar later (like when I get to the detailed portion of the tutorial….this is, after all, just the overview). To give further idea of the capability and depth of this program, I finish this section up with a series of screenshots of the menus (read that as a copout on putting in much more actual text in this chapter).
  3. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    The part I hate with this method of posting....BURMA SHAVE here we come.
  4. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    End of this sessioni. These last couple of menus are presented just for completeness. Why the menus first? I don't know about anyone else, but I've found I can get a fairly good first impression of a program by browsing the menus and seeing what the programmer claims it can do.
  5. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    Your first chance to interact. Should this string be continued or allowed to die a dignified death?

    GEEDUBBYA Active Member

    Howdy Darwin,

    Keep on posting you have my attention lol. Here is you a tip though, if you would like to keep all this info for yourself without using up alot of computer memory like happens when you start doing these type threads, email the photos to yourself, then you can save the email and delete the pics you used to make the thread. You can then open the email and use the pics as needed, make adjustments for other pics using thse photos post them, email them to yourself and then delete the originals again. Email make a great storage place for files.
    I have a special folder in my email of nothing but free downloads, I download them, email them as an attachment to myself and then delete the original download, then I can open them as I need them.

    have a nice day,

  7. wunwinglow

    wunwinglow Active Member

    OK, Darwin, I'm with you so far!

    Tim P
  8. Leif Oh

    Leif Oh Member

    Following this! - Leif
  9. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    :evil: This forum software is the most evil thing inflicted on us. I noticed that I managed to get one of the menus duplicated. I've spent the last 20 minutes trying to edit the last post to replace the file with the correct version. Nothing I've tried works. So, here is another posting with what I thought was going up to begin with.
  10. RyanShort1

    RyanShort1 Member


    It might be easier to do this in the Article format available... At least that's what I found.

  11. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    I've got the next installment ready for is going to require several posts, which I likely don't have enough time to finish before having to get ready to go to the daily grind. I will Burma Shave this, and will make it obvious in the final posting that I have completed the second chapter of this marathon.

    Image Forge Part 2

    After the menus, the tool bar portion of the program is likely the main area of interest. By default, the tool bar appears on the right-hand side of the screen. The options menu allows you to place it on the left side, if that is your preference. The screenshot shows the registered version of the program (Image Forge Pro). There is little difference between the Pro and the freeware versions when it comes to the actual drawing aspects of the program; what the freeware version lacks is many of the image-processing tools (but is not entirely lacking in them). As well as memory serves, I will state the differences between the two versions for each of the program aspects I will discuss. The individual tool buttons are the icons arrayed in two columns down the tool bar. Left to right, starting at the top, these tools are

    Paint Brush Tool
    Color Extractor Tool
    Rectangle Tool
    Circle Tool
    Line Tool
    Fill Tool
    Scissor Tool
    Clone Tool
    Text Tool
    Eraser Tool
    Magnify Tool
    Retouch Tool
    Effects Brush Tool
    Clipart Tool
    Distort Tool
    3D Object Tool
    Light Source Tool
    Selector Tool

    The freeware version has all the tool buttons down to and including the retouch tool, the clipart tool, and the selector tool. It lacks the Effects Brush Tool, Distort Tool, 3D Object tool, and Light Source Tool (yes, the Pro version does have a limited amount of 3D drawing capability, which I have not yet played with but suspect is very rudimentary compared to available freeware programs such as blender, Maya SE, etc.

    As stated earlier, double-clicking the tool button usually brings up a submenu for the tool. The following shows screenshots of those menus and brief descriptions of the available options.
  12. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    Brush Tool . The freeware version has only the ‘normal’ brush option. It is the equivalent of the freehand pen tool in other drawing/image processing packages. The in both versions of the program, the brush shape, size, intensity, etc. can be modified by a brush device in the bar across the top of the Image Forge screen. It is almost impossible to discuss the tools separately from the upper bar, since they often work interactively. I am still basically giving an overview, while I still have some interested readers, so will mention the upper portion of the screen only in passing until I get deeper into the tutorial. Also interactive with the brush tool is a styles device that allows use of textures and gradients in conjunction with the various drawing tools. The styles feature is provided in both versions of the software. As you might expect, the freeware version does not have as many different textures and gradients as in the Pro version. It looks as if additional textures can be added by the user in the form of bmp files (I say appears since I have not really delved much into this aspect of the software….just going on the assumption of similarity in programming with image processing programs that I have played around with), and I would hazard a guess that is true for both software versions. To minimize the length of the tutorial, I mention the brush and styles devices only for this tool, but they work with the other drawing tools as well. As shown in the screenshot, the Pro version allows selection of various “artistic effects†option for the freehand brush. Compared with the expensive image processing packages, the most glaring deficiency of Image Forge is the lack of an airbrush tool….however, it might be possible through the brush aspect settings to come up with a pen brush that will give an airbrush effect. Don’t know…haven’t tried. You use this tool by holding down the mouse button and dragging the pointer. Left mouse button draws in the selected foreground color; right mouse button draws in the selected background color. Handy feature, since you can use the tool to erase simply by changing the mouse button, rather than selecting a different tool.

    Color Extractor Tool – this tool is the same in both programs versions. Two options are available, the straight color extractor and a paper color extractor. What is the difference? Beats me….again, I haven’t had the inclination to play with more than the basic extractor. Place the tools icon over the color in the image you want to select. Left click and it changes the foreground color to the selection; right click, and it changes the background color to the selection.

    Rectangle Tool – This tool also is the same in both versions. The choices are plain rectangle, rectangle with rounded corners, “3D†rectangle (makes a rectangle with outlines that look like a raised button….two sides are foreground color, the other two sides are background color), “fuzzy†rectangle, and border rectangle. This tool (and the circle tool) are modified by buttons in the top bar, which makes the drawn shape “solid†(a solid shape that totally overdraws the pixels it is drawn over) or “hollow†(overdraws only the pixels comprising the outline of the rectangle). I’m not sure what the function of the border rectangle is….if selected, I suspect it might draw a rectangular frame around the border of the canvas, but again, not a tool option that I’ve played with. In default mode, you place the pointer where you want one of the corners of the rectangle, then click and drag until it is the size you want. There is a display in the bottom left corner of the screen that displays the width and height of the object as you draw it. One of the menu options allows you to draw the object from it’s center point, rather than a corner. There is also an option that draws the object starting with the “home†pixel (0,0 coordinate) rather than from the pointer position. I suppose that option is useful for something, but not of too much use in the type of drawing I’ve done with the program.
  13. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    Circle Tool – The only option available in the freeware version is the basic circle (oval, actually). The Pro version has the same options available as for the rectangle tool.

    Line Tool – Both versions have the same options, which are basic straight line, pointer (arrow on one end of the line), and curved line. Same action as most other drawing programs….position the pointer at one end of the desired line, click and drag until the pointer is at the other end of the desired line, and then release. When the curved line is used, after releasing the mouse button, little hollow boxes appear at the line ends and two solid “handle†boxes appear. In essence, this is a Bezier curve. The pointer automatically becomes a “selector†tool and lets you manipulate the curved line. Placing the pointer near the object and clicking allows you drag the shape to a different location. Placing the pointer on the end node allows you to reposition just that node. Placing the pointer on the handle allows you to modify the shape of the curve. Think of it as a digital French curve. With practice, you can get the curve to within a pixel of two of where you wanted it, if not exactly there. Only the curved line allows you to manipulate the line as an object. The other two options, what you have is what you got, once the mouse button is released.

    Fill Tool – Both versions have the same options. Flood fill will replace all contiguous (touching) pixels that have the same color value with the selected color….foreground color if you left click, and background tool if you right click. Useful to fill in an outlined region of your drawing. As stated before, this can be used with the style object to fill with a pattern or gradient instead of a solid color. The “fill to border†tool floods the entire canvas. I suspect this may be most useful for rapidly filling the background with a pattern, and has not been of much use in my use of the program. The “replace color†option will replace every pixel on the canvas with the same color value as that directly under the pointer. Left click replaces with the foreground color, right click with the background color. The replace color option is one I use very frequently. I frequently overdraw images using a foreground color that does not otherwise appear in the image, (for example, purple). When I have my new outlines drawn on the image, I export the image to Photoshop and delete all colors other than that of the overdrawn outlines, then import the image back into Image Forge and change the color of the overdrawn lines to the desired final one (usually black). I will go into this in depth if the string lives that long. I might point out that the same endpoint can be obtained just in Image Forge, but it takes much longer and requires a lot more effort. The unwanted image is removed as much as possible by cutting or erasing, then start doing a pixel-by-pixel color replacement to the background color until the only color value left is that of the outline. I might also mention that in the case of large images, the fill option gets very slow. Regardless of image size, the color replacement happens just about instantaneously.
  14. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    Scissors Tool – this tool is similar to the lasso tool or marquee tool in other drawing programs. The freeware tool allows rectangle, circle, or region selections. The Pro version adds a fourth “select by filling†option….frankly, I haven’t the foggiest idea of what that one does. The circle and rectangle options allow you to select an area of the canvas bounded by (you guessed it) the circle or rectangle you draw. Once an area is selected, the position and size of the selected area can be manipulated by pointing and clicking on nodes in the outline (for the rectangle, at each corner and in the center of each leg of the outlined area). The select by region option allows you to freehand draw a selection outline around the area of interest. As you draw, multitudinous nodes appear in the outline. When the button is released, the marquee end points are automatically joined to make a continuous outline around the selected region. The individual nodes can then be moved around to fine tune the selected area. Additional objects appear in the upper tool bar of the screen that operate in conjunction with the selection tool. These allow the selected area to be cut, copied, relocated on the canvas, etc. This tool also serves as the crop tool. Once you get used to it, this is a very functional selection gadget….however, it desperately needs a “polygonal†selector like most other professional type image processing packages has. The region selector can be used to cut individual parts from a parts page, but it is a real pain-in-the-sitdown compared with using Photoshop for that purpose.

    Clone Tool. This is the same in both program versions, and there are no submenus associated with it. Again, this is mainly an image processing function, not a drafting function, and I haven’t used it. As a guess, it probably works similarly to the clone function in other drawing packages.

    Text Tool. The freeware version has only one option. The Pro version has an outline and a rounded option, neither of which I’ve had opportunity to play with. When the tool is selected, a little gadget appears in the upper toolbar that allows you to select font, type size, etc. The color of the text is the currently-selected foreground color. You position the pointer and click where you want the text to start, and the text get written into an object box, which can be manipulated to determine exact size and shape of the text box and its location on the screen. The text box can be manipulated up to the time you select another tool….at that point, it becomes cast in concrete.

    Erase Tool. This is a standard, freehand eraser tool. The freeware version has two options, the first a standard eraser that replaces the color value under the pointer with the background color, the second a color-to-color replacement (similar to the color replacement option of the fill color, except it operates only within the area of the selected brush. The Pro version has a channel erase feature, which I have not used. Looking at the icon, my guess is that it erases only one channel (red, blue or green) of the color value of the “erased†pixels. Obviously a feature for advance users.
  15. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    Magnify Tool. Pretty well speaks for itself. The same in both versions, and a simple image magnifier. Why it is needed is beyond me when there is a nifty image size slider on the opposide edge of the screen.

    Retouch Tool. An image processing feature. The freeware version has only the splatter and smudge options. This applies the selected filter to the area encompassed by the brush instead of the entire object. Even in the freeware version, it looks as if it will be useful for weathering the model. Use the splatter tool to add the weathering color (for example, very dark gray for soot and oil streaks, brown for mud, etc.), then use the smudge tool to smear it out over the underlaying panel color.
    Effects Brush Tool. An image processing feature that is only in the Pro version. The menu speaks for itself (in short, I’ve never explorered this tool).

    Clipart Tool. The same in both versions of the software. When selected, it brings up a dialog box displaying clipart images. CALLING THIS A CLIPART TOOL IS A MISNOMER. It actually works like the tubes tool in Pain Shop Pro. Instead of using a tube, it uses icon library (icl) files. Any icon library can be used as a paint tube. You can select one or several of the images from the selected library. Point and click, and a single “clipart†image is drawn. Click and drag, and a trail of images is drawn. If multiple images are selected, you can select whether the images are sequentially or randomly drawn. A very fun feature that, to my experience, is unique to Image Forge insofar as using icl’s as the image source. Considering the number of icl files available on the web, you have an almost unlimited supply of images available. The kids will love this feature. Cursor Arts has a companion piece of software called Icon Forge that should allow you to create your own icon libraries. A freeware version of Icon Forge has been available in the past, and still might be obtainable through one of the freeware/shareware sites like TuCows, etc. The joker in the deck is limitation on individual image sizes because of the icon format, but current computer generations can tolerate considerably larger icon size that those of a few years ago. I can visualize, as an example, a library of national insignia and noseart that would considerably speed up the process of coloring our models. Such libraries would have to be created for specific scales and image resolutions, but even with those limitations would be very useful to the modelling community.

    The remaining tools (except the selection tool) are unique to the Pro version. I let the screenshots speak for themselves, since they are recent additions to the program that I have not really played with. Obviously, some 3D drawing functionality has been added, but my guess is it is pretty basic, and not of use to 3D model designers.
  16. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    The remaining tool screenshots
  17. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    This brings us to the color palette tools on the extreme right hand side of the screen. The uppermost box shows the currently selected foreground tool. Left click on it, and it brings up a gradient-type color palette that can be used to select a new foreground color. Right click on it, and the same happens for selecting a new background tool. Under that is a box with an obvious menu drawdown object in it. Click on it, and it displays the last eight colors used during your drawing session. Pointing and clicking on one of the dropdown color boxes loads that color into the foreground or background, depending on which mouse button you used. Beneath that is an iconic mouse display, which shows what color is selected for which mouse button….pretty idiot proof, and handy to have. A little selector tool along side it allows quick exchange of foreground and background colors. Personally, I find that feature of little use, since each of the drawing tools essentially has that feature built into it by which button you use with the tool. Under that Icon is the main color palette tool. Has both a color gradient selector and RGB sliders if you know exactly what color value you want. The gradient selector has several options available for different color ranges, or a large (256 color, I think) color button selector. Under that, a default set of 16 color buttons. I haven’t played with these enough to find out if the colors can be user-defined. I’ve found many of my models came out real close to scale colors (close enough for guvmt work) using just the default color buttons. Handy feature if you like working with gif files or Amiga files.

    This finishes this installment (pant, pant).
  18. Leif Oh

    Leif Oh Member

    With you so far... Leif

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