Thank you to Ron Lacey who has graciously donated this tutorial to the PSPUG to be used in our Study Sessions. We have agreed to not modify the contents of his tutorial in any way.
Okay boys and girls, if you're still with me you should have your very own basic shape cat. Of course he's rather a plain character, not an exciting and dynamic (not to mention gorgeous) fellow like moi. Well to be honest with you, I too was once a plain uninteresting 'toon, until I discovered the exciting world of node-editing. Yep, with node editing even dullest of 'toons can become a Spike so lets get started and turn you into a real node warrior.
Open up your basic cat in PSP, select the head and click the node edit button on the tool palette.
You will now have an outline of the head with four little squares, these are the nodes, you might want to zoom in on it now. The nodes are the points you can move around. Click on one and you'll notice a little arrow affair, this is the bezier curve control. Explaining precisely how beziers work would be very wordy and, I suspect, beyond my feline intellect but if you grab either the pointy end of the arrow or the back end and contract/expand or rotate you will be applying different aspects of a bezier curve to the point. Once you get a feel for node-editing applying beziers will become second nature. Even Ron can do it.
Of course having only 4 nodes is a little restricting so we'll have to add a few. You add nodes by simply holding down the ctrl key while placing your cursor over the point you want the new node to be (you'll notice "add" will appear on the cursor), and clicking your mouse. Hmm all this talk of mice is making me hungry.
Let's start with the ears, select the head, activate node-editing and add nodes as in the image below.
In each of the two groups of three grab the middle one and pull it out until you have the ear as you want. The two outside nodes can be moved as well so play around with them and see what you can do. Below I've added a couple of extra nodes on the right ear to get that droopy ear effect.
Let's do the furry cheeks now. As before create a series of new nodes as in the left image, doesn't have to be exact, 'toonin' ain't rocket science just make sure you have 7 or 8 on each side, then grab every other one and pull it out, remember play around with it, have fun. Another tip, by holding down the shift key you can select multiple nodes and while you can't apply beziers to them you can move them in unison.
You can have lots of fun playing around node editing the eyes to get different emotional looks to your toons, below is just one of the possibilities.
You can also do other stuff to the face like my distinctive spiky hair style and you can play around with the snout and mouth. As well, using the draw tool you can add some worry lines around the eyes, inner ears when set to fill, and of course some whiskers would be the cat's meow.
Next the body, more precisely the tail (tip, if you're making a Manx shape cat you can skip the next step).
Sometimes, depending on the colour, it's quite difficult to see the node-edit outline when it's on top of or behind another object. A work around is to select and move the object to a blank area as I did above then return it when finished. Basically I just made three new nodes where the tail starts and pulled out the middle one a bit. Then I made a couple of more nodes where the bend starts and repeated. Same thing at the second bend. Play around with the bezier controls to smooth out the curves. As you can see shape cats are much happier when they have tails.
Finally the hind feet. Here are some images to show the steps....
A little tip to save some time. When editing bilateral objects like feet if you do one you can select it (making sure to select all its elements if more than one object is involved) copy it (ctrl+c) and paste as new vector selection (ctrl+g) then grab either the right center or left center handle and drag it right through itself and you will have a mirror image of the original object. You might have to rearrange the new object either in the layer palette or by right clicking while it's selected and selecting arrange from the drop down to get it in the correct position.
Finally, you've heard of unsightly panty lines well shape cats are prone to unsightly vector lines. It's a simple matter to get rid of these in node editing. Basically what you have to do is break the path which you do by deleting a node. As in the image below create two new nodes at the tow points you want the line to stop. Now, if there isn't already one there create a new node between these two, select it and delete it by hitting the delete key. Voila, no more unsightly vector lines.
After you've finished you can apply all sorts of changes to individual or groups of objects by selecting and resizing or deforming. If you have a cat and select all the objects of its head and face you can give it a bigger head and you now have a kitten. Grabbing the corner handles while holding down the shift or ctrl keys will allow you to apply deformations and of course you can rotate by grabbing the rotate handle to the right of the center handle. As well by right clicking after selecting an object or objects you can select properties from the drop down and change most any aspect of the object, colour, style, line thickness etc.
Well folks that's about it. Of course there are lots of variations you can do with this node stuff, far too many to talk about here but half the fun is discovering for yourself so I suggest you stay at that mouse and keyboard and practice, practice, practice, and most of all have fun 'cause that's what 'toonin' is all about.