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What is Oekaki?
The word "oekaki" in Japanese means "doodle." Oekaki boards are Java-based online paint programs that people use to draw small scale drawings and to comment on each others' work. It is much like a message board, except topics are drawings, and replies are the comments on the drawings.
Though these boards are, by definition, for doodling, some brilliant artwork can be created with them as well.
The Different Kinds of Oekaki
There are three types of oekaki applets an oekaki board can use.
Oekaki BBS is one of the more complicated versions of the Oekaki applet, and was developed by OekakiBBS.com. Paint BBS and Shi Painter are a little more streamlined, and written by Shi-chan.
All of them have different tools available to them, but there are some basic tools they all have. All applet versions are equipped with a pencil function, watercolor brush, eraser and text functions, as well as 256 color. The pencil and watercolor brush can be altered with the bezier, free hand and rectangle functions. Here's a brief overview of each Oekaki applet. More in-depth information and tutorials on the functions of each tool are covered better in the tutorials linked at the end of this article.
Oekaki BBS is the oldest of the applications. This version supports layers and a lot of tool customization. You can create, move and merge layers. The masking is also quite extensive as you can mask up to 12 individual colors at once. It only allows three variations of the tones tool. Oekaki BBS behaves a lot like MS Paint.
Paint BBS is a later incarnation of Oekaki BBS. It only supports two layers. The tones tool has 12 variations instead of the three available in Oekaki BBS. One might think Oekaki BBS has more functionality at first, but many folks prefer Paint BBS because Paint BBS blends colors differently, whereas Oekaki BBS is somewhat murky and is better for solid or "cel shading" work. Painter BBS behaves more like Photoshop or Painter.
Shi Painter is based heavily Paint BBS, retaining most of the interface and tools of Paint BBS. There are new tools in Shi Painter, and some tools behave differently than they do in Paint BBS. Painter supports more than two layers, layer opacity and layer order. Painter also draws at a higher resolution than the previous boards, such that when you zoom in, you deal with pixels much less.
All the Oekaki types can support animation recording. If you draw with animation, it records your strokes on the canvas area while you draw. Once you save your image, you (or anyone) can watch the creation of your drawing. It's an optional function, and some board administrations will restrict this. You can usually continue on a drawing you've already saved to a board by clicking "retouch," but if you saved your image without recording animation, any layers you used will be merged.
The forum in which you post to the oekaki board can vary as well. Most folks use Oekaki Poteto, which is a robust forum board format for oekaki posting, including user names and passwords. Wacintaki Poteto is derived from Oekaki Poteto, and is CSS based. Wacintaki is more up to date since Oekaki Poteto is no longer supported by its author.
Wakaba is a board script based on Futaba, which have gone out of style somewhat. This does not support password protected users and allows for anonymous posting. Passwords can be image related rather than user-based, so anyone with an image's password can alter that image.
Where to Find Oekaki Boards
I have fallen away from my oekaki hang outs for a long time now due to time constraints, but these are the places I used to go and find folks to draw with. Look at these for some good examples of what can be done with oekaki.
Oekaki Central is large web site with several different oekaki board "rooms." Each room has a theme and a skill level requirement, so there's usually something for everyone!
Neoartist is a nice place. Originally, NeoArtists was a fan community of Neopets, but the site has gone in a different direction. It has evolved into a community that expects maturity while at the same time being a very easy going community. The place is always active, and has a great variety of talent. I still sometimes post here, if rarely.
Tegaki E is a drawing site that is a lot like an oekaki board, except instead of written comments on pictures, the users draw smaller pictures in response to picture posts. The application is inspired by Oekaki BBS and not an actual Oekaki BBS, so the tools and interface are different.
There were other boards I would draw at, but many of them have been taken down or simply abandoned. For a while it was popular for many anime artists to run one on their site, but these usually didn't last for very long. You can look around the artists you know and see if any of them have a board, or have ever run a board. They come and go all the time.
Running Your Own Board
You have to have a few things before you can run your own board.
To run any oekaki board on your site, you'll need MySQL and PHP support on your own server space, as well as access to your server space via FTP.
There are a couple of different versions of Oekaki as outlined above. Each has its own specific instructions for installing and customizing the board.
Here are some links to different kinds of boards you can download for your own installation, and more specific information about how to go about installing.
http://hokuten.net/?page_id=38 - Explanation of what you need and how to install.
http://www.ninechime.com/products/ - Wacintaki Poteto oekaki board.
http://wakaba.c3.cx/s/web/wakaba_kareha.html - Wakaba oekaki board (somewhat old).
http://www.hotscripts.com/listing/oekakipoteto/ - An alternate source for Oekaki Poteto.
Some oekaki boards I have no personal experience with, but seem to have big communities around them:
http://hokuten.net/?page_id=39 - English documentation of Oekaki Shi Painter tranlated by Hokuten.net
http://www.oekakibbs.com/ - Author of Oekaki BBS
http://wondercatstudio.com/ - Author of Note BBS
http://journal.suteki.nu/ - Author of Oekaki Poteto
http://www.cellosoft.com/ - Co-Author of Oekaki Poteto
http://www.2chan.net/script/ - Author of Futaba
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