Editing Grease Pencil Strokes Using Curves - Final Report
This summer I got to work on grease pencil in Blender. As a 2D/3D animation-, drawing-, and illustration tool, grease pencil was missing an important feature requested by many in the community: Curves. The main goal of the project was to provide a way to edit strokes using curve handles. All of the main goals in my proposal were achieved.
Differences to the original proposal
In the proposal, I suggested adding an "interactive edit mode tool". As it turns out, there are numerous reasons not to implement curve editing as an interactive tool but rather as a "sub-mode" in edit mode. One of the most important reasons was that an interactive tool like the knife tool consumes all the inputs of the user while being active. This would have meant that every interaction the user makes with the viewport would have to be handled by said tool. For obvious reasons, this was not the best approach. Implementing it as a "mode" not only meant that no inputs would be blocked but also opened up the possibility to reuse existing operators from edit mode in curve editing mode. These changes in the plan don't affect the way the end-user interacts with the feature by much but made it a lot easier to implement.
All of the work was done on the
soc-2020-greasepencil-curve branch on the main blender git repository. In the end, all of the changes were compiled into a single patch and submitted to developer.blender.org for review.
Link to the final patch: https://developer.blender.org/D8660
How does curve edit mode work?
Currently, to use the features explained below, you need to build the
soc-2020-greasepencil-curve branch yourself. Run
git checkout soc-2020-greasepencil-curve before building to switch to the branch.
Start Blender and choose the "2D Animation" template. Draw a stroke and switch to edit mode in the top left corner of the 3D viewport. Select your stroke with a box selection and click the toggle button next to the "Curve Editing" panel in the top bar. Now the stroke will be automatically converted to a curve (you can change the conversion parameters in the "Curve Editing" panel). You can select handles and control points by left-clicking on them. Either press
G to move the select points or press
W until the active tool is the tweak tool and then use click and drag to move. These are the basics on how to use curve edit mode!
Under the hood, curve edit mode acts as an abstraction layer on top of normal edit mode. The idea is that the internal curve data structure will write to the stroke data whenever it changes. One of the benefits of this design is that all the code that draws a stroke in the viewport does not have to be changed. Moreover, animation works right out of the gate since everything gets converted to strokes at the end.
By default, the curve data of a stroke is
NULL. When the user selects a stroke and switches to curve edit mode, a curve will automatically be fitted to the selected stroke(s) and saved to the curve data. Immediately after, the stroke point data gets overwritten by sampled points on the curve. This last step happens every time the curve changes.
The curve data will be saved to file together with the stroke. Every stroke can have at most one curve. This way, users can save their work and not lose the ability to use the curve handles (e.g curve data is not temporary, but persistent). Also, if a stroke has curve data attached to it, it will only be overwritten when the stroke data changes outside of curve edit mode (e.g. by transforming stroke points in sculpt mode). In this case, when the user switches back to curve editing, the curve data is deleted and a new curve is fitted to the changed stroke.
Additionally, a great number of design decisions and technical details can be found in the meeting notes.
What's left to do?
There were plans to have all the operators working, but due to the time restriction, I decided to stabilize existing features instead. Some operators have not been fully implemented yet. They are:
- Copy & Paste
- Snap to Cursor & Cursor to selected
- Simplify & Simplify Fixed
Plans for the future
As I already mentioned in my proposal, there are a lot of possibilities that can be built on top of the groundwork that was implemented during this summer. For example:
- more operators like snapping, beveling, inserting curve points at a specific location between two other curve points, etc.
- more transformation features like curve point slide, bending curve segments, rounded corners, etc.
- drawing tools that allow drawing a curve directly, e.g. a polyline tool with curves.
A big thank you to all the blender developers and a special thanks to Antonio Vazquez (
antonioya), my mentor, who did an excellent job in guiding me!
I would also thank Daniel Martinez Lara, Matias Mendiola, and the community for their helpful feedback.
I look forward to contributing to grease pencil in Blender in the future!