Picroma Plasma in Blender 2.8
4 min read

Picroma Plasma in Blender 2.8

How to use Blender to create 2D content differently than you would in standard vector editing tools
Picroma Plasma in Blender 2.8

Last week I found a very interesting thread on HackerNews where someone reverse engineered and successfully bypassed the security mechanisms of a very old vector editing tool called Picroma Plasma. The tool was initially developped and released a decade ago as a preview by a company called Picroma better known for developing the game Cube World.

The security mechanism was essentially (to simplify) requesting credentials from a server and since the server was down the whole time (10 years), the tool Picroma Plasma was unusable.

So after a lengthy and in depth disassembling ultimate ninja skill display, this one person managed to really bamboozle the software and make it work again. Ultimately he bought the domain where the software was pointing for it's licensing and made it work out of the box without anything being done to the installer.

Naturally I was curious and tried to find out if there is this installer laying around somewhere, without avail. I could trace it though to the dev and another person on reddit which seemed pretty outspoken about how sad it is that the software is not available because of it's advanced features. This person did not delete the installer this whole time and seemingly has it working again. I decided not to reach out to ask for a copy of the software and not to link the threads here. What I found is in an entry in the Wayback Machine about Picroma Plasma that lists it's features.

I don't agree with the whole idea behind it which is to hack it to oblivion considering it abandonware but if I know one thing from gaming is that everyone can think they are right, even me. Ultimately if this lands in a German court it won't matter what I think or what you think except the law and judge - the main Picroma Plasma dev is German I believe. I am still impressed though by the engineering feat and the sheer amount of skill all the involved person have.

Without stressing it more I started thinking about this nice software and why it is considered so ground breaking and different from something like Illustrator or Gimp or whatever Vector editing software is out there?

The main presentation video of Picroma Plasma is on Youtube:

Initially, a circle is drawn and at 0:11 you can see a "Refine" option being applied to the shape. What this is in 3D terms is a "Subdivision", which is an "iterative process of subdividing each polygonal face into smaller faces that better approximate the smooth surface." - Wikipedia.

Then more vertices are added to the shape and paint is applied. At 0:51, the shape is extended by adding new vertices which creates the legs. This is similar to an extrusion of the shape: you push the shape into one direction and the "Refine" option is still applied to the whole shape.

From these two datapoints and further analysis of the drawing process one can quickly identify that these are all standard 3D operations applied to a 2D vector space. I'm pretty sure another functionality of the tool would be to kind of "liquify" several vertices by pushing them in any direction. Which is then similar to sculpting or proportionally editing vertices in 2D space.

This made me wonder if something similar could be done with open source tools and since Corona and my unhealthy obsession with 3D printing made me learn Blender I immediately tried it out.

Here is a cylinder with a subdivision surface in Blender 2.8:

And now the basic shape with the legs extruded:

and now some painted highlights (although I'm pretty sure this can be simulated with a light source in Blender to make it look real)

And the process for the eyes which is exactly the same as in the video, we can bend the whole eye using proportional editing:

Shaping an eye with proportional editing

and so far how it looks after ten minutes when fixing the meshes a bit:

PicroPlasma workflow done in Blender

The flame and the floor are left to the reader as exercise (always wanted to say that lol)

With floor - Transparency shader 

and one with the flame:

a little improvement of the design above

I am planning to make a video in real time of the drawing/sketching process (my first attempt at Youtube). I'm pretty sure it can be done faster with a little more experience in Blender.

Bottom line being that Blender is an amazing tool, it can be used for 3D and 2D editing. This merely scratches the surface of what is possible and the funny takeway is that sometimes solving a problem in n dimensions is easier with (n+1) dimensions tools. Try it out, I'm pretty sure it would be easier than to dwelve into IDA ;D and consider donating to the Blender project.

Similarly, the other aspects and functionalities of Picroma Plasma as shown in the other Youtube videos can be done in Blender.

PS: Of course this picture can even be done in Paint but my point is about the approach using 3D tools like in Picroma Plasma to create simple vector like images. The workflow is what is different and this has been done all in a non destructive way, besides the painting.

Next in: Vim in Blender