Hello! This is my second in a series of Hexels mini-tutorials that look at some of the finer points of that strange-but-wonderful little art program. For this post, I’ll be discussing the three different ways you can move your hexels around on the canvas. In particular, I’ll be discussing when you should use which tool and how they work behind the scenes. My hope is that you’ll understand each tool better and have an idea of why it acts the way it does.
If you’re just looking for the short summary, I’ll get to that first:
Click-and-Drag Transform: Easy, operates on your selection, doesn’t animate, rotate, or scale.
Free Transform: More difficult to use. Doesn’t animate, but can rotate or scale your selection to certain angles and sizes without messing up your shapes.
Layer Transform: Can only modify the entire layer because it moves the grid itself. Can do any translation, rotation, or scale, and can be animated. Also, motion blur!
Now for the details. Or as kids (and I, when trying to annoy my wife) call them, the deetz.
Click-and-Drag: This one has been around since Hexels 1.0. Make a selection with one of the selection tools, then mouse over the selection and click and drag it, or use the arrow keys to move your selection. This tool simply takes each Hexel and moves it to a different spot on the grid. Or if you hold down ctrl/cmd, it just moves the selection outline and doesn’t modify what’s on the canvas. The exact way each Hexel moves is determined by the shape mode you’re in, but we do our best to keep the shape together and move it in a way that makes sense given the user input. With this type of transform, you’ll always up with the same number of Hexels and outlines as you started with. Click-and-Drag movement will also respect a tiled (wrapped) layer, so moving a selection off one edge of the canvas will cause it to appear on the other side. This transform type affects only the selected area of an individual Cel, so its effects can be used to make an animation Cel-by-Cel, but the transform itself is not animatable.
Free Transform [ctrl/cmd-T]: The Free Transform tool in Hexels was designed because a number of our users wanted a way to rotate and scale their selection. This sort of thing is relatively easy in a pixel-based tool like Photoshop, because you generally don’t need to preserve the exact alignment of each pixel to keep the image looking nice. (Unless you’re specifically making pixel art). But in Hexels, we needed a way to preserve the shape and alignment of each Hexel, otherwise the image quickly turns to gibberish.
The solution we can up with is what we call a “visual cast”. The visual cast reinterprets the selection by moving, rotating, and stretching it and then checking to see what shapes in the underlying grid now match up with the transformed image. This means that you may get a different number of Hexels than you started with. It also means that your selection will get jumbled with transforms that don’t map fairly closely to the grid. Don’t worry though, as Hexels will snap to valid points if you’re close to them. Here’s a GIF showing how how visual cast works.
Notice the grey dots. These represent the center of each Hexel on the grid. When the original shape (overlaid in red) covers the dot, that Hexel is filled in with the corresponding color. As you can see, only a small portion of the possible positions can properly be re-mapped to the grid. It gets even more complex with rotation and scaling, but we handle most of that for you.
Similar to the Click-and-Drag transform, Free Transform can’t be animated. You would need to create multiple Key Cels and individually position each one. But it’s the only way you can rotate or scale a selected section of a layer.
Layer Transform [T]: The final transform method in Hexels is the Layer Transform tool. This one differs from the others in that it actually modifies the underlying grid that the selected layer is drawn on. Because it transforms the entire grid, it doesn’t need to do any funny business to make the Hexels fit on the grid. This means you can do any offset, angle, or scale and all your shapes will look just fine. I made a GIF that shows the Layer Transform tool in action (although I cheated a bit in making it–you can’t actually rotate and translate in a single mouse click.)
Notice how the entire red grid is changing. The blue cube is on a lower layer, which is set to draw with an exported grid as reference.
Aside from keeping the image coherent as it moves, the Layer Transform tool has the advantage of being animated. This means you can specify keyframes for the transform in different frames, and Hexels will fill in the intermediate frames with the proper transform. You can even apply different types of tween curves by right clicking on the different key frames, so you can have your layer speed up and slow down smoothly. Just make sure the Key icon next to the Transform track is highlighted, like in the image below.
Finally, there are a couple nice extra things with about layer transforms. For one, you can add the Motion Blur effect to layers with animated transforms. Here’s what that looks like on the animation above:
The other cool thing about layer transforms is you can apply them to groups and even to the document itself (click on Document Properties). This equates to animating your camera! How else would we be able to watch the Trixelmobile as it makes its epic journey down the driveway?