Using the SyncSketch Drawing Tools

The latest Review Player features more expressive and sophisticated drawing tools and brush behaviors and a host of new features.

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A major new update to SyncSketch introduces vastly improved sketching controls, better tool layouts, better sketching responsiveness, and many other features.

Basic Sketching Controls

At the top of the main Review Player, the following controls can be found. (Your toolset may vary according to the media type, browser application, size or orientation.)

The leftmost icons are the Ballpoint Pen, the Brush, the Eraser, and the Laser Pointer, all detailed below.  The Gear icon reveals custom brush tip settings for the selected tool, with the exception of the Laser Pointer.  This icon may not appear on space-constrained mobile devices, but tapping the selected brush will have the same effect.

Next is an Opacity control that controls the transparency level for your sketches. Zero is fully transparent and 1 is fully opaque. (The minimum value is 0.1.)  Tap on the control and drag to adjust it.

The Size control can be adjusted by tapping on it and dragging, or by tapping the square brackets ( [ and ] keys), or with more precision by holding down the s key and dragging in the main sketch area.

The Color Swatch control determines the color you're sketching in.  Clicking it reveals a color picker. Clicking its Eyedropper control will allow you to select a color from the frame you are sketching onto. Note: The Eyedropper control is not available on mobile devices.

Color picker with active Eyedropper tool

Two swatches can be set, and you can toggle between them using the double-arrow control next to the Color Swatch control, or by using the x key.

There are six presets in the Color Palette; clicking them sets the color for all brushes.  They are not currently customizable.

The Eyedropper tool works equivalently to the one in the color picker, shown above.

Note: The Eyedropper is not yet available on mobile devices.

The next two controls are Undo and Redo controls that operate as in any other program. Command-Z (Mac) and Control-Z (Windows) will also Undo; Command/Control-Shift-Z will Redo.

The Tools

The drawing tools have become more flexible and sophisticated.  The default drawing tool is the Ballpoint Pen, and there is a new Brush tool. As before, there is an Eraser tool.  Each of these tools responds to stylus pressure, cursor movement speed (or both) in order to vary the line width in a more natural, expressive way.

The Laser Pointer is designed for use in live synced meetings, where one might want to call attention to a certain place in the frame without leaving a mark or creating an annotation.  The drawing appears on the screens of all synced reviewers, then fades away after a moment.  You cannot control its brush tip behaviors the way you can with the other tools, but you can set its opacity and size with the controls beside it.

Tip: The b key will select whichever drawing tool was most recently used to make a sketch. With this, you can alternate between the drawing tool and the eraser without having to explicitly select which drawing tool you want to alternate to.  This is useful when configuring buttons on a drawing tablet or stylus, for example to alternate between drawing and erasing.

Brush Tip Settings

Users on the Enterprise plan have extensive control over each tool's tip and behavior. When tapping or clicking the currently-selected tool, the Brush Tip Settings dialog appears.

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Brush Tip Settings dialog (Enterprise users only)

Ballpoint Pen and Brush are both essentially just brushes with different default characteristics.  The Eraser is also a brush (albeit one that removes ink rather than adding it). The Tip Options dialog for each of these tools looks and behaves similarly.

Brush Tip Shape

The top row contains several preselected brush tips. Everything below modifies the selected drawing tool's tip.

Size and Opacity controls

The Size control represents a range of brush sizes from a minimum to a maximum. This is used to vary the line width for a more natural and expressive line. The Size control in the Upper Toolbar acts as a multiplier against the values in the specified brush setting range.

The Opacity control adjusts the range of transparency levels as you sketch. Dragging on each value adjusts it. A value of 0.5 is semitransparent (translucent), and a value of 1 is fully opaque – no transparency at all. The Opacity control in the Upper Toolbar acts as a multiplier; if the opacity is set to 0.5, the opacity level of the drawn line will be half of the value determined by the range set in the Custom Brush Settings dialog.

For each control, the dropdown to its right determines what will affect the line over the specified range. It's more natural for pressure to affect size and opacity, but when a pressure-sensitive pen or stylus is unavailable (as when using a mouse or trackpad), drawing speed can vary the line width.  SyncSketch can automatically detect the best option available, but the other menu items can be used to customize this behavior.

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Hardness

The Hardness control adjusts the feathering, or the blurriness at the edges of the line. Higher values create a sharper, more defined line edge, and extreme settings may leave noticeably jagged edges.

Spacing

As in most pixel-drawing programs, SyncSketch brushes lay down a trail of overlapping shapes in order to form a line.  This control adjusts how tightly overlapping these shapes are. This control can create expressive effects when used with the Variation controls; the swoosh of fire in the image at the beginning of this document is an example.

Variation

The Variation controls introduce random variations to the characteristics of the brush tip shape as you sketch.  (In many other programs this control is called "jitter".) Dragging in the control adjusts the amount of random variance introduced in that characteristic.

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Size is self-explanatory, as is Opacity. Position scatters brush tip shapes in a random direction away from the line you're drawing; the value determines the maximum distance. Angle rotates the brush tip shapes as you draw to prevent shapes from appearing too repetitive (the "caterpillar effect"), and is particularly useful when controlling the Spacing.

Drawing Tool Defaults

A useful setting can be saved as a drawing tool's new default values by selecting Set as Default. These defaults are specific to the selected drawing tool.

Reset loads the saved default, or the SyncSketch defaults if there is none.  The X in the upper right corner closes the dialog without changing the current settings.

Once a value has changed from the default value, there will be an indicator:

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Tablet Interface

The Review Player's layout has been improved on tablet devices. There are new controls that meet some of the specific needs of tablet users.

iPad Tip:
When using the Apple Pencil on an iPad, the iOS Scribble Feature can interfere with SyncSketch's drawing capabilities. We recommend turning this feature off in the iPad Settings for the best sketching experience.

Thumb Controls

Convenient to hand when holding a tablet are the new Thumb Controls, which are anchored to the left edge of the tablet when the Shot Item List is hidden.

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Tip: For best results with the Thumb Controls, hide the Shot Item List by tapping the rightmost icon in the Upper Toolbar.

Note: This control group will only appear when using a tablet.

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Dragging the Size and Opacity controls vertically offers a convenient and precise control, leaving the pen hand free for drawing.

The Undo button is beneath them.

The Up and Down arrows move the playhead one frame forward or backward.

The Variscrubber control (shown here displaying the current frame number 1) is a unique control designed to help move through the timeline at variable speeds to navigate through the timeline and even preview sketched animations. 

Tapping the control and dragging vertically scrubs through the timeline.  As you drag it to the right it accelerates, allowing you to zip through the timeline more quickly as you drag up and down. Bringing your thumb closer to the edge of the tablet will slow the scrubbing back down for the precision you need to locate a particular frame.

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Tip: If the clip is very short, keep the control close to the left edge of the tablet, or it will loop through the clip very quickly. Turning off looping with the Loop control on the Lower Toolbar will allow it to stop when it reaches either end so that's it's clear what is happening.

At the bottom is the Sketches-Only control.  When this mode is enabled and the clip has frames with sketches, the Variscrubber will only move among those frames.

Other Features

There are some other features that have been introduced into the latest Review Player, detailed below.

Constrain to 90˚

On devices with keyboards, holding down the Shift key will now constrain sketch lines to 90˚ angles, either completely horizontal or completely vertical.

Performance

Despite adding layers of sophisticated functionality, the latest SyncSketch interface is actually faster and more responsive than its predecessor.