Layers are a late addition to Grafx2, so don’t be surprised if the functions seem a bit separate from the rest of the program.
The concept of layers in Grafx2 is exactly the same as in Gimp, Photoshop etc. Here is a tentative introduction:
An image is made of several images of same dimensions, placed on top of each others (the "layers"). The transparent parts in a layer allow you to see the layer directly below, and the complete image is what you see when looking down from the top.
As you can edit each layer separately, designing your image as layers will allow you to modify/displace an element in the foreground without having to redraw the background, since the background is memorized in its own unchanged layer.
For more beginner explanations, try searching online tutorials on “using layers”.
An understanding of the concept of layers is assumed for the following sub-chapters.
System of transparency
Grafx2 handles layer transparency by marking a single color as transparent, for example color 0. All pixels drawn with this color are considered fully transparent; all other colors are considered fully opaque. No values in-between are possible, so no alpha channel is used. The result is like a 1-bit alpha channel, but it reserves a color from the palette, so you can only draw in 255 colors when using layers – except in the bottom layer, where this color is shown anyway in Grafx2.There is no eraser tool, because anything that paints with the transparent color will actually erase : you can erase with a monochrome brush of any size, with a filled circle, or with a polygon !
The GIF format allows you to mark a color as transparent, so the background shows through when it is displayed in a web page for example. PNG format has a similar feature, though it is less known. To use it in Grafx2 you can check the option \"Transparent background\", in Layer menu. This option controls if the \"transparent color\" of the layer system is also transparent in the GIF or PNG file. (This can be used even with images which consists of only one layer.)
The layer-specific tools are located in an optional toolbar that can be shown or hidden.
To open the layer toolbar, left-click the button on the status bar.
In the layer toolbar, you can see:
- how many layers you have : the numbered buttons
- which one is the active layer where you draw : white button
- which layers are temporarily hidden : black buttons.
Only GIF supports layers at this moment. If you use any other format to save your layered image, the layer data will be lost and only the flattened image will be saved. (Grafx2 reminds you when you do).
Customize the menu palette
The little palette on the bottom right of the menu displays 64 colors by default. If you’re working on 16-color graphics, ¾ of the space is wasted. So, Grafx2 allows you to set the number of colors in this palette : less colors will mean bigger buttons, which are more comfortable to use.
To edit this setting, open the ‘Secondary palette menu’, by right-clicking the ‘Pal’ icon.
You can set the number of rows, the number of columns, and if the colors are ordered from left to right, or from top to bottom.
Less than 256 values in RGB components
By default, Grafx2 allows you to set RGB values of palette with 256 levels of precision, but if you are drawing graphics for older technologies (or inspired by them), you may want a rougher scale: the relevant setting is “RGB scale”.
To edit this setting, open the ‘Secondary palette menu’, by right-clicking the ‘Pal’ icon.
Example values that you can use are 64 (VGA) 16 (classic Commodore Amiga, 4096 combinations), or even 3 (Amstrad CPC)
A smaller scale means that the RGB sliders in the palette are more blocky, they move by bigger units, and they show numbers from zero to "scale" minus 1.
In HSV mode, the palette sliders are not affected, however the program will really search the closest-match RGB by taking the setting into account.
LCD displays look very bad when using something else than their native resolutions, and low resolutions are very rarely supported or proposed.
If you find yourself squinting at your screen because pixels are too small and too close, Grafx2 can scale its own display to x2, x3 and x4, thus giving larger pixel units. This works as well in full screen mode than in a window. The whole display area of Grafx2 gets zoomed in: mouse cursor, menus, fonts. Since Grafx2 was designed in the era of MCGA, the minimum resolution for GUI windows is 320x200, so if you're running in 1024x768 you can scale to x3, You need at least 1280x800 to scale x4.
The scaling is done in software, so you won't get any blurring (linear interpolation).
In addition, Grafx2 can propose some non-square modes where it zooms differently on each axis: Wide modes and Tall modes.
Don’t hesitate to change the keyboard shortcuts to ones that are easy to use and remember for you. The default configuration is a lot like Deluxe Paint, but not many people are used to it.
Some general program settings are available in the Settings screen. A few other, less-used ones can be defined in the file gfx2.ini, that you can check and modify with a text editor. This file is located in %appdata%\\Grafx2 (Windows) or ~/.grafx2 (Linux), and self-documented with comments.
This file, as well as gfx2.cfg which contains for example the keyboard shortcuts, are defined for each user of your computer and automatically re-created with default values when they are missing.
(Windows) You can carry Grafx2 on a flash drive and use it on any computer by simply copying the program’s directory on your flash drive, and adding the two files gfx2.cfg and gfx2.ini with the executable. In this case, Grafx2 will not read or write configuration files on the computer’s hard disk when running, leaving no trace.
The file selector windows have little icons with stars in them. They are used as bookmarks, to quickly change to a directory. This is useful to memorize the usual places where you need to read and write images.
Left-click a bookmark to use it, Right-click (and hold) a bookmark to open a dropdown menu to set it (store the current directory).
Several sets of icons are available, and you can make your own (or only modify the icon or mouse cursor that you find annoying). The skins and the fonts are stored in the program’s directory under “skins”. They are plain image files, so you can edit them…in Grafx2 for example. (You can reload the skin without leaving Grafx2)
There are many graphical constraints, such as using only 4 colors for GUI elements; but don’t worry, Grafx2 will check everything before loading, and if there’s something it doesn’t like, it will cancel the loading and display a very verbose message, telling you exactly what pixel is the problem.
There are extensive help screens for all drawing tools and all windows. By default, the associated key is F1. If a specific window was open, it will show the explanations about this window. When no window is open, and your mouse cursor is positioned over one of the buttons of the toolbar, it will show the help for this tool (and/or the related options window)
The help screens also show the current keyboard shortcuts, and allow you to change them immediately.
There are more than a hundred actions which can have a shortcut key. As soon as you have found the functions you use a lot, it’s recommended to check the associated shortcut key, this can save you a lot of back-and-forth between the toolbar and the drawing area. If the default key combination doesn't suit you, redefine it.
To view a shortcut, open the relevant page of contextual help: the highlighted key names are the actual shortcuts with your current configuration. Click the name to edit the shortcut.
Some shortcuts which are often useful:
The keys SHIFT, ALT, CONTROL, and META (on Mac) can be used to make more combinations – so you can’t associate anything to “just Shift”.
- Scroll picture : cursor arrows
- Magnifier : M
- Zoom in/out when magnified : + and -
- Grab brush : B
- Choose single-pixel brush : DEL
- Color picker : ~
- Swap pages : TAB
With a wheel mouse, you can also associate shortcuts to the third button (“Mouse3”), and to WheelUp and WheelDown. Again, Control, Shift etc. can be used to make more combinations. You can set at most 2 key combinations for the same shortcut, so for example you can associate both ~ and Mouse3 to the Colorpicker tool.
Use the spare page to store parts you will need later
The spare page is very handy to store pieces of your main image. For example you can pick a part of your image with the rectangular brush tool, paste it somewhere in the spare over a solid color background, clean out the background (still on the spare) until it has just the contour you need, then grab it again, and switch back to the original Main page: you will have a clean brush with no leftover pixels, that you can paste anywhere.
Use the color picker
There is a color picker tool (also called pipette) to pick a color from the picture. By default the shortcut is the easy-to-reach ~ key. Using it can spare a lot of time, especially when your palette has more colors than can be displayed in the toolbar’s palette.
While the tool is active, you have a specific mouse cursor, and the status bar displays both the color you’re currently highlighting and its RGB values. Click with left mouse button to pick
A magnifier is available to zoom in on your picture. It’s very useful to draw on detailed parts of picture, without needing extreme mouse precision, and easier on your eyes.
Activate it or disable by clicking the magnifying glass icon.
While active, your editing area is split in two, with the normal view on the left and the zoomed-in part on the right. You can drag the separator bar to adjust the proportions.
You can draw in either areas, both update in real time.
If the mouse cursor is over the picture when you use the keyboard shortcut of the magnifier (default: M), Grafx2 instantly zooms and centers the zoomed part on the place where your mouse cursor was.
By default, the cursor arrows are used to scroll the zoomed area around.
I made a mistake: Undo / Redo
Your drawing actions are memorized, so you can easily Undo any number of drawing steps, and Redo them if you go too far in history. A single step is generally all the changes you do from the moment you click on the picture, to the moment you release the mouse button.
To Undo or Redo, click the “Oops” with the left mouse button and the right mouse button, respectively.
The maximum number of steps that can be recorded is in the settings, you can go up to 99.
The system uses a circular buffer, so it behaves a bit different from usual: When you Undo until you reach the oldest step and then Undo once more, you’re back on the more recent step.