Skip to main content

Three Image Overlay Apps. Do More with Your Reference Images While You Work

PureRef's image overlay in action with Cartoon Animator 4.
PureRef's image overlay in action
with Cartoon Animator 4.
One thing Cartoon Animator 4 still does not have in stage mode is the ability to onion skin previous and next frames. 

For those complete animation newbies among you, onion skinning is the ability to see through the current frame to your previous and/or next keyframes so you can see the progression of your character or object's movement as you create and adjust each keyframe. Usually the previous and next frames appear lighter so your current frame remains the key focus.

This prompted me to look for a tool that could overlay an image over my work to use as a reference while still allowing me to work on the app underneath the overlay. I had seen, and even used such apps in the past but it had been some time so I decided to see what was out there, preferably free and/or open source, with versions for Mac and Windows.

Overlay 2

There are actually a number of apps that do nothing more than overlay an image but the only one I could find that has both Windows and Mac versions is Overlay 2.

You can trial Overlay 2 for free but it will constantly display a nag screen every 3-5 minutes asking you to enter or obtain an activation serial number. To purchase a license it'll set you back US$25.00 - worth it? Let's see.

Overlay 2 with Cartoon Animator 4.
Overlay 2 with Cartoon Animator 4.

Overlay 2 does exactly what you expect. It allows you to overlay an image on your screen, at any percentage opacity you require. You can then set the image to 'float' which means you can work on any app underneath as if the overlay image wasn't there.

Additional controls allow you to scale, rotate, or move the image vertically and horizontally, as well as turn the overlay on or off.

I can't really fault the app. It does exactly what it says it does and works well. I just don't feel it's enough to justify $25.00 for a license.

One feature it could use is the ability to switch through a sequence of images stored in the same folder at the push of a button the way most photo viewer apps do. This would allow you to easily change to a different reference image without having to manually load in each image every time.

If all you need is the ability to overlay one image, that you can work through as if it wasn't there, on any app, not just Cartoon Animator 4, this will do the job.

Kuadro

Kuadro is completely free, with Mac and Windows versions, is more than just a reference image overlay tool. It's also something of a visualization board for your monitor allowing multiple images on screen, all in their own windows. You can save the layout of those images to reload later. You can also automatically add images saved to the clipboard (which means I can screenshot my previous keyframes to the clipboard and use it immediately as an overlay reference for my next keyframe).

Kuadro allows you to zoom and pan around images within their windows, set their opacity, and whether they always remain on top or not when you switch back to your other apps. Locking images so they can be worked through as an overlay can only be done for all images at once. So once locked you can't move any images around until you unlock them.

Kuadro with Cartoon Animator 4.
Kuadro with Cartoon Animator 4.


Kuadro does allow you to flick through a sequence of images in the same folder just by pressing the left and right arrow keys when an image is active (though I did encounter a bug where my images got progressively smaller each time I flicked through them). 

If you're considering this app, it definitely fits better into your workflow if you take the time to learn the keyboard shortcuts. Otherwise you'll constantly be selecting things through the app's menus. Adjusting opacity is definitely easier using the short cuts as there is no slider or numeric setting within the menus to fine tune how opaque you want to go.

One important thing to note is that Kuadro doesn't actually install to your system (on a Windows system it won't make a shortcut in the start menu or on the desktop). You'll have to make your own shortcut to wherever you downloaded the Kuadro executable file.

PureRef

PureRef - is like Kuadro but with even more features. Again it's totally free and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

It can do pretty much everything Kuadro does, though you can't flick through images in a folder. Work spaces are organised into canvases in which you can store multiple images on a single canvas (which is basically a window). A canvas can be overlayed and/or locked.

A nice feature is the ability to attach text notes to images.

PureRef with Cartoon Animator 4
PureRef with Cartoon Animator 4.

As near as I can tell PureRef has a few extra features over Kuadro and is, perhaps, a little more finished and professional. I certainly didn't encounter any bugs. Some how Kuadro managed to feel a little more light weight and less intrusive on my screen though.

Both do the job of organising visual references on your screen while you work in another app really well. Since both apps are free it really comes down to which you prefer and whether attaching notes to your reference images is something you really need.

Either makes the US$25.00 license for Overlay 2 redundant since both surpass that app in features for no cost at all.

---o ---o--- o---

For my purposes of just overlaying reference images I think Kuadro is more than enough. If they fixed the issue I had with flicking through a folder of images it would be perfect. Since both apps work better if you familiarize yourself with their shortcut keys, Kuadro has fewer of these to learn.

Overall I think PureRef is the better app feature for feature with the concept of canvases giving the edge in terms of feeling more organised but you really can't go wrong with either. Give Overlay 2 a miss unless it becomes freeware or someone decides Kuadro and PureRef should be paid apps.


Comments

  1. What a very good website it is. I really enjoy your post. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  2. i tried pureref as you mentioned, but recently i found Eagle app better. supports many 3d files preview, good for 3d sculpting, collect reference, etc

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

This blog is monitored by a real human. Generic or unrelated spam comments with links to sites of dubious relativity may be DELETED.

I welcome, read, and respond to genuine comments relating to each post. If your comment isn't that save me some time by not posting it.

Popular posts from this blog

Inochi2D - Free Open Source 2D VTuber Avatar Rigging and Puppeteering Software (Part 1)

Inochi2D Creator - Free Open Source VTuber Software. If you've been looking for a way to live perform as a 2D cartoon avatar on camera, whether it be for a live stream or for pre-recorded content like educational videos, then VTuber software is a low cost (or even no cost) option worth looking into. In my previous post, How to Become a VTuber - 2D and 3D Software for Creating and Controlling Your Avatar , I took a brief look at the relatively new but completely free and open source Inochi2D  which I thought showed great potential for my own needs of creating a live performance character rig for my own TET Avatar that I use for all my promotional materials. While it is possible to live perform my character using Cartoon Animator itself, Reallusion's MotionLive2D capture system isn't great - with lip sync in particular. More importantly though, I can't exactly teach people how to use Cartoon Animator if I'm using Cartoon Animator to control my Avatar. What is Inochi2D

Wonder Unit Storyboarder - Free Storyboarding Software for People Who Can (or Can't) Draw

Wonder Unit Storyboarder.  As an independent and solo animator I'm always tempted to try and skip storyboarding my animated shorts because they're usually only single scene sketch comedy type jokes. As a result I have many unfinished projects that kind of petered out due to having no clear finishing line. Storyboarding your productions, no matter how small, gives you a step by step guide of every shot that needs to be completed (no planning shots as you animate). It also allows you to create an animatic that gives you a rough preview of the finished production. In short, you shouldn't skip storyboards as they, generally, increase the chance of the project being completed. Disclaimer - I'm Not a Fan of Storyboarder Upfront, Wonder Unit's Storyboarder  is not my preferred storyboarding software. However it's completely free, has a number of very compelling featu

Daz 3D Launches Daz AI Studio - AI Art Generation Made Easy?

Daz AI Studio uses 3D content to influence 2D text to image generations. B etter known for their completely free, 3D animation studio, Daz 3D have launched their own browser based, AI text to image generator, Daz AI Studio . All you need is a Daz 3D account to get started for free. Upgrade to a Premium plan for a small monthly fee for additional features.  At the time of writing Daz AI Studio is still in Beta so there are some features, yet to be released, that are standard on other dedicated AI image generator sites. While Daz AI Studio only produces 2D images, what makes it unique is that it has been trained on 3D content that helps guide the output. In particular you can select actual 3D character models as part of your settings and get fairly consistent images of that character every time. The About page suggests you'll also be able to select 3D environments and lighting settings to further influence your generations but these options were currently not available, as shown in t

Dollars Mocap: Full Body Webcam Motion Capture (Including Hands and Fingers) For iClone and Cartoon Animator

Even though I should be further away from the camera Dollars Mocap MONO still does a good job of  tracking my arms, hands and fingers. Ever since I wrote my series on becoming a VTuber , discovering it was possible to do full body motion capture, including hands and fingers, with just software and a webcam, I've been on the look out for any motion capture software that can bring that functionality to Cartoon Animator. Dollars Mocap is a low cost motion capture application with a free trial that I learned about through the YouTube Channel Digital Puppets  and their test video . It can record full body, upper body, arms and hands, and facial mocap from a live video source or pre-recorded video. Investigating further, I discovered not only does Dollars Mocap have a free iClone7, iClone8 character profile file download (look for it at the bottom of the main program download page), so you can use the saved motions with iClone8, they've also got a demo video for how to convert your

Prome AI Sketch Render Tool - Your Tradigital Clean Up and Colorist Artist for Character and Background Design

Random character head, Biro sketches drawn by TET (left). Render by PromeAI (right) using Prome's Sketch Render tool set to 'Comon:Cartoon, Render Mode: Outline'. W hile I don't do New Year Resolutions, one of my plans for the year ahead is to do more of my own art. Specifically character design drawn in an actual, physical sketchbook.  To that end, I have been spending the last half hour of most days drawing a page or two of random biro sketches in my sketchbook and posting the pages to my Instagram account  (this link will take you to one of my posts). These sketches are mostly practicing my skills because I don't really draw regularly anymore. Here is a tip, if you do this kind of sketching, and push yourself to keep doing it, you will see many drawings that could be taken further, even if you don't have anything they're suited for just at the moment. Which is where my second favorite AI Image Tool (after Leonardo.ai )  PromeAI comes into play. PromeAI

Moho 14 Released - Still the Best 2D Animation Software for Indy Animators on a Budget

Moho 14 Released. Regular readers know I am a Reallusion, Cartoon Animator advocate through and through. Hands down I would recommend Cartoon Animator 5 first over Lost Marble's Moho 14 to anyone who is just starting in 2D animation, is a team of one, or just needs to animate as quickly as possible. However, feature for feature, Moho is, arguably, the best 2D animation software for the rest of us who can't justify a Toon Boom Harmony , or Adobe Creative Cloud subscription (and even with their applications Moho is very competitive on features). You can get started with Moho Debut for just USD$59.99 which is a cut down version of Moho Pro but it still has the most essential features needed for 2D animation. While Moho Pro is a whopping USD$399.99 (Cartoon Animator, which only has one version, is just USD$149.00) upgrades to new version numbers come down to a quarter of the price at USD$99.00. Even though Reallusion just released features like Motion Pilot Puppet Animation and

Featured Artist: Zack Buchman, Furry Puppet Studio - Bringing Awesome Back to Puppetry

Straight Outta Oregon: Old Man Puppet Design. P uppetry is, perhaps, one of the original forms of character animation. In many ways we've come full circle with both 2D and 3D computer based animation making use of digital 'puppet rigs' in order to animate characters more efficiently and allowing computers to do more of the grunt work of 'tweening'. In this feature interview I take a look over the fence into modern, real world, puppet design and creation with Zack Buchman, the Creative Director and founder of Furry Puppet Studio , based in SoHo, New York. The studio, specializes in designing and fabricating custom puppets for the entertainment industry. TET: Hi Zack, tell me a little bit about Furry Puppet Studio? What does the studio do?  Zack Buchman. Creative Director and Founder Furry Puppet Studio. We design and produce custom puppets primarily for clients across various industries like television, advertising, and the music industry.  Alongside conceptualizing