It’s a common need for image editing program users to be able to import any image and draw on top of it, and this is already possible in Pro Motion NG.
I’m like you guys - I just want good tools I can use to create the pixel art style graphics I’m after, but some of the ideas put forth here so far seem like feature bloat, in my opinion, because if it’s ref tracing we’re after you we can already do it.
Ways to do it:
Open any RGB image and quantize using the optimized palette option. Leave a few indices for tracing colors if you want:
^ Above you can see I’ve opened the cat image in PMNG, quantized it with a 254 color palette, altered the remaining two colors to be high contrast tracing colors, made a new layer and started tracing immediately.
If all you need is pixel perfect line art, this may be all you need.
When creating pixel art, the scale at which we draw is paramount - if after a smaller final size then we would scale down the reference first, THEN trace it.
Once the line art tracing is finished, ditch the ref and move onto the next stage, be it shading, compositing the new lines into something else, etc.
But if you want your reference image to be part of an existing project, then try the Display other Project layer effect.
^ With cat image loaded and prepared for tracing, save it as its own Pro Motion project file. Don’t worry about the palette, it’s irrelevant.
First - load your ref image and quantize colors. You might optionally paste a few differently sized copies here and there if helpful. (Although at this point, you should already know the final size of the desired end result.)
Then, inside your existing project with your desired palette, make a new image layer and set up the Display other Project layer effect:
Make a new layer and start tracing.
No, it’s not as convenient as Photoshop smart object layers, but still easily viable right now inside Pro Motion with the existing features.
As for keeping a copy of your ref visible at all times if you don’t have or want to use a second monitor, I HIGHLY recommend an extremely adept, light-weight program called Pureref. It features a ‘stay on top’ mode to keep it above PMNG at all times, and even a transparent mode so ONLY your ref images can float freely around your monitor with no title bar or ui visible whatsoever:
Complex software like PMNG is hard to develop for and we users will always have differing ideas and preferences as to what it should or shouldn’t do, features it should or shouldn’t have, but I feel like the goal of being able to draw on top of a reference image is already reasonably doable using PMNG’s existing tools.
I didn’t address the “external” bit, but I don’t think the general idea here is that the reference image needs to be an external non PMNG project file.
Let me know what you think.