Tactile digital

Trying to teach tasteful touch to computers


Do you know about Procreate? It’s an accessible and powerful drawing tool for iPad – it’s very popular. One of its main attractions is how it emulates many traditional media with good enough accuracy. Budding illustrators get good results with it. Seasoned pros can put out work that’s pretty much indistinguishable from the real thing.

Photoshop is also pretty (in)famous for having “artistic” filters, that imitate traditional media. These may or may not be the what your uncle picked to jazz up his profile picture lately.

On the specialist side, AI researchers have been making leaps in what’s called style transfer, transposing any picture into the style of a given artist (the results from these networks are very impressive but also very WIP from up close).

And I really get where the interest for digital-but-like-the-real-thing comes from. Our senses are receptive to texture, to natural rhythms and proportions.

My own work uses what I call unimaginatively my fake plotter library (I’m open to name ideas). It draws shapes like a pen might do on uneven paper. I feel this need to mimick the real, too.

Tyler Hobbs has a great talk about deconstructing the properties of ink or watercolor on paper, and reproducing these qualities digitally. It’s a great watch, and nothing too scary for the less tech-oriented:

There’s the whole Art imitates life idea, which I don’t want to lean on too much, but we do have a sort of innate receptivity to certain visual structures and styles.

With the innate, we often conflate the fact that it is instinctive, with the idea that it can’t be explained, analyzed or deconstructed. I think that’s a false conclusion. Like with music, sometimes we’re deeply receptive to a quality before we learn the language that describes it.

But learning to describe and build the quality is such a trip.

Have a great week!

❤ Loved lately

Needing no explanation, the Andy article No More Boring Apps.

Lots of gratitude to Neil Sardesai for making Battery Buddy. It’s like the standard MacOS battery indicator, but cheery!

If you haven’t yet come across Bartosz Ciechanowski’s Lights and Shadows article, do not miss it. Get to it when you have some time, too, it’s a deep read. It’s basically an explanation of how light works on surfaces, with fantastic interactive visuals.