Category: Art

New Icons, Iconoclast Pipeline

Over the month of November work has been started to refresh the full-colour icons in Breeze as an extension of the “Blue Ocean” initiative. With literally hundreds of hand-created vector icons in our roster we’ve had to develop new processes and are working on a more robust pipeline so this refresh can be done in a somewhat timely manner.

Preview of the new folders. Subject to change and refinement.

As was the method for Blue Ocean on the desktop widgets and design, the icons will be a gradual rollout over a few releases. We do have a strategy in place to ensure that this won’t be too jarring or inconsistent during the transition. The current plan is to update both all mimetypes and all places in time for the 5.24 release.

Like our current icons the new icons have adaptive capabilities. Beyond that some additional select icons such as the new desktop icon are also adaptive, and there are plans for other icons to also take advantage of this feature where it would not be obnoxious. Compared to existing icons the refreshed content will be softer, more detailed, and less flat. These icons are also prepared with future capabilities in mind, and as enhancements are made to KDE Frameworks these icons may expose new and interesting features.

Finally, we’re expanding the number of sizes the icons come in, so they look ideal at more zoom levels in your file browser. Currently colour places icons are offered in 32, 48, 64, and 96 pixel sizes, and mimetypes are offered in 32 and 64 pixel sizes. Refreshed icons in both places and mimetypes will be offered in 32, 48, 64, 96, 128, and 256 pixel sizes with no missing graphics. We already have all folders in all of the above sizes, and in under a month while also writing our software we have over doubled the number of folder icons in Breeze. We’re estimating we will more than triple in the number of mimetype icons.

To get this work done we’ve built new tools for the express purpose of making mass iconography far easier for even individual artists, so I’m very pleased to state that a new icon and SVG pipeline is underway and despite being unfinished is producing results. This Python-written pipeline is capable of adding guides, rulers, and setting up grids for existing icons, standardizing existing icon colours, assembling entirely new icons from templates and components, and aggressively optimizing icons. With this authors will be able to have a “golden copy” of their icon sets where they can focus purely on design, letting the software take care of cleaning up the documents and assembling the individual pieces. The folders in the above image were assembled by the pipeline, with no hand-tuning.

In terms of optimization some extreme cases have seen unoptimized Oxygen icons drop 75% or their filesize. In less ideal situations a few simple hand-optimized test icons I produced run through the pipeline saw 10-20% reductions in filesize. The new optimizer is not built on any existing tools, and is an entirely new thing. At similar settings the new optimizer is on par or slightly ahead of Inkscape in most tests, but at the same time it’s also more specialized and the output cannot be edited when certain stages are enabled. It’s also targeted towards TinySVG and should not be expected to work on full-fat images (though, accommodations have been made). There is still work to be done too, and in the future more optimization steps are on the table to further reduce output size.

Not only is this pipeline beneficial to KDE artists, but history has proven even the roughest artistic tools we produce are regularly used outside of Plasma development. With this in mind we plan to release our new tooling separate from Breeze as its own package/download after polishing it to a mirror shine. Currently nicknamed “Iconoclast”, we are specifically setting out for this tooling to be useful and ready for the wider community beyond KDE.

Iconoclast will include our new pipeline, a manual, tips and advice, and another entirely new icon set named “Bones”, which is already in progress. The pipeline itself is strongly configurable with ini files, so KDE-isms can be removed and it can be adapted to work for icons sets that may have different flows through configuration. The Bones icon set will be a minimal base which can either be built on top of, or used as a reference, and these icons will released in the public domain. Different projects with different licenses can just take it and use it, and it’s uses generic technologies not tied to KDE. The pipeline itself will be GPL, and I don’t have a specific timeline for when the kit will be released but once it’s solidified I’ll make an announcement; though it’s likely to be after the new year.

Cluster Wallpaper – Community Feedback Update

After posting the Plasma 5.14 “Cluster” wallpaper and asking for feedback there was a huge response, and after a few days of big changes and finer adjustments I hope this will serve as a satisfactory wallpaper. I’d like to thank everyone who offered constructive feedback, pitched in ideas, and even offered examples, you’re amazing!

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Cluster and the source SVG file are now available on OpenDesktop and the KDE Store. For those seeking the Krita source file, please contact me directly and I will ensure it’s available somewhere.

Plasma 5.14 Wallpaper “Cluster”

The time for a new Plasma wallpaper is here, so for 5.14 I’m excited to offer up “Cluster”.

But first, please allow me to gush for a moment. In tandem with Inkscape, this is the first wallpaper for KDE produced using the ever excellent Krita. For graphic design my computer has a bit of beef to it, but when I work with Inkscape or GIMP things always chug just a bit more than I feel they should. Whenever I’ve had the distinct pleasure of opening Krita, even on my lesser powered laptop, it’s always been productive, rewarding, and performant. I’m looking forward to using Krita more in future wallpapers. *claps for Krita*

Now, with pixmaps there’s always a valid concern that higher-resolution monitors will suffer blurring because of low native resolutions. The master file for this slightly larger than 8k, so hopefully this will not be an issue. The only potential problem this causes is the large size of the master files. The Inkscape source will be published when the final wallpaper is released as per usual (just under 50MB), but the Krita-based assets are only going to be available on request. This is because the .kra is 135MB, and I have a feeling a few people might be angry if I load that onto the shared server. Unless they read this and tell me it’s fine. Who knows!

The wallpaper still has a polish pass, so rough edges or things that might feel awkward will be ironed out before it’s committed. If you have feedback you can comment here or over on the Reddit thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/kde/comments/90syno/plasma_514_wallpaper_cluster/

Here it is;

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Click here for 8K image

Modest Wallpaper Tweaks

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After posting the image of the 5.11 wallpaper feedback started coming in and one thing fairly consistently mentioned is how dark/muted it is. Of course, there were mixed opinions on whether it was good to be dark or if it was a little too far, but it was a clear observation, especially compared to the previous wallpapers.

So I took a few minutes to adjust the wallpaper. There were lots of people who liked having something more subtle, so I didn’t stray too far. I adjusted the blues to be more saturated, the browns are lighter towards the bottom to reduce banding, the orange is a bit brighter, and reds on the right were tweaked. I also reduced an “atmosphere” gradient. Lastly, I removed a noise filter used to combat banding.

Overall it’s not that much lighter, but it should be less muddy and washed out. If you didn’t have them side-by-side ideally you may not notice the changes, but hopefully it just feels a bit better.

Here’s the adjusted wallpaper:

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Both versions are available on the KDE Store.

Plasma 5.11 Wallpaper

Well, it’s that time of the year again where I talk about wallpapers!

For those who watched the livestream of the beach wallpaper, you’ll notice this isn’t what I had been working on. Truth be told after the stream I hit a few artistic blocks which brought progress to a grinding halt. I plan to finish that wallpaper, but for this release I created something entirely different while I decide what to do with it. I enjoyed this “wireframe” effect, and will probably experiment with it again.

This wallpaper is named “Opal”, specifically after wood opal resulting from when water carrying mineral deposits will petrify wood it runs across. Wood opal is pretty special stuff, and often it can often look straight out of a fairy tale.

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The Plasma 5.11 wallpaper “Opal” is available on the KDE Store.

Plasma 5.11 Wallpaper Production – Part 1

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocK54NsqN2Q]

Today I streamed the first half of the Plasma 5.11 wallpaper production, and it was an interesting experience. The video above is the abridged version sped up ~20x, heavily edited to the actual creation, and should be a fun watch for the interested.

It looks like there’s another full work-day that needs to go into the wallpaper still, and while I think I’ll also record the second half I don’t think I’ll livestream it; while I’m very appreciative of the viewers I had, it was quite a bit of extra work and quite difficult to carry on a one-man conversation for 8 hours, while working, for at most a few people. Like I said, I will still record the second half of the wallpaper for posterity, I simply don’t think I’ll be streaming it. I do think I’ll keep streaming the odd icon batch, as those are about as long as I want, so they can be kept to a digestible hour.

plasma-5-11-inprogress.png

The wallpaper as it is is based on an image of a reef along with a recent trip to the beach during the Blue Systems sprint. There’s still a long way to go, and I can easily see another 8 hours going into this before it’s completed; there’s water effects, tides, doing the rocks, and taking a second pass at the foam – among other things – especially before I hit the level of KDE polish I’d like meet.

Looking at it, I may also make a reversed image with only the shoreline components for dual-screen aficionados.

Within the next week or so I’ll post the next timelapse after I complete the wallpaper. 😀

Wallpaper Livestream

It’s getting to be that time of the release cycle where I’ll be making a new wallpaper for the next Plasma release. For the 5.11 cycle I’ll be doing things a bit differently owing to a request on Reddit several weeks back; this wallpaper is going to be done over a livestream!

The wallpaper livestream will be on Saturday the 20th, and start ~10:00am Eastern Daylight time, or 2:00pm GMT. I’m going to estimate the stream to last ~8-10 hours, with a couple short breaks somewhere in the middle.

The aim will be to get the majority of the wallpaper done during the stream (they take that long!), with anything done beyond the stream falling into tweaks and correction territory. There’s also the chance you may see a few attempts until I settle, as I have a few designs in mind and there may be some experimentation there along with some spectacular failures along the road.

I’ll keep a chat open, and I’ll field any questions I get, but beyond that I figure it will be the kind of stream people might like as background noise. I also suspect it might be the kind of thing people will want to minimize now and again – I think it will be a passive viewing experience. When the livestream is over I’ll go back and create a sped-up version which I’ll post on YouTube.

Which brings me to an important question I have for everyone who does or is into livestreams; I’ve never streamed before! I know about Twitch and YouTube, even Hangouts, and have heard about OBS; are there any recommendations for which streaming service/software I should broadcast with? Comment here (or on Reddit, I’ll be posting there) with input as to the best way to stream a fairly long art session. Also, I’m considering using a webcam as well – please let me know if that’s of interest, and if there’s software for a total rookie to do it. I’ll post the info on where I’ll be streaming once I figure out where it will be.

Lastly, if the stream is fairly successful at least on a technical level, I’ll look into shorter episodes featuring Aether icon development which would probably see rounds of 3-4 icons being completed in the space of a shorter session.