Super Someone Book is Launched

December 2, 2009 at 3:01 pm (computer art, Digital Art, graphic design, Ilustrator, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , )

Detail of some art from the book

The Latest Childrens Book

My Super Someone and Sir Perfect Book images are finished and flattenme has launched it on their website http://www.flattenme.com The images are fun and whimsical, it was a lot of fun creating the scenes. There are 2 different versions, one for both children and adults (where customers insert their own faces and names into the books and enter a dedication at the front of the book so that the story becomes completely personalized). Here is a link to one of the versions: Sir Perfect

Teaching Photoshop

I’ve been so busy teaching Photoshop, this term I teach two classess back to back and am preparing for January when I’ll be teaching Illustrator. I’ve come to love it almost as much as Photoshop. It does some very amazing things with mathematical precision.

Next Project

Now I will begin working on a book cover with 3 little dragons. I’m looking forward to this project because it allows me to explore my own natural style of art. I have to do some experimentation, might even use some elements from Illustrator to create the scales and repeated patterns on the dragons skin and tail.

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Illustrator versus Photoshop

August 21, 2009 at 8:30 pm (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , )

I’m still working on illustrations for another children’s book using Photoshop. In my spare time I’m trying to master Illustrator. After working with beautiful organic pixels in Photoshop for so long, that do anything I ask, easily adding illusions such lighting and 3-dimension with the Dodge and Burn Tools or the use of Blending Modes. Illustrator on the other hand has blending modes, but when vectors are blended there is not the same subtle realism, so a lot of extra time is spent adding fake shadows and highlights. I find this a bit cumbersome, especially when the file becomes large and Illustrator’s screen redraw begins to choke. Whereas Photoshop CS4’s instantaneous Open GL is beyond amazing, it is worth every penny of the upgrade.

At the moment I’m experimenting, trying to become comfortable with the tools and effects. I love the way you can reflect and rotate while copying which makes creating repetitive shapes a breeze, and selecting and coloring multiple objects at the same time. I was able to create this mandala in minutes using these techniques. I afterwards saved it as a Symbol so that I can use it over again. It can be recolored in seconds using Illustrator’s recolor feature.

Vectors are amazing. I’ve repeated the mandala inside the mandala several times. Illustrator allows you to zoom in to 6000% !! which means I can keep repeating the mandala perfectly inside its center over and over again until I can’t zoom any further. If you look closely into the center, you will see the pattern repeat again and again. I also placed some typed messages that are so tiny it can’t be viewed until you zoom into about 1200% And it is completely crisp with perfect edges.

It can be a full time job learning software, especially since there are so many that I want to conquer: Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, After Effects, and then there’s keeping up with multi-platforms, XP, Vista, Tiger, Leopard … oh for the days of my youth when I actually had weekends to relax and romp …

Learning to draw in Illustrator has taught me a lot about the way my brain functions. Although I have no trouble with the pen tool, I can use it with ease, but I’ve discovered that if I “carve” out the shape using a combo of the Blob Brush Tool and Eraser, I can draw with more accuracy … like a sculptor who thinks in terms of contours and the surface, rather than “outlines”. ie: in the image below I drew thick blobby lines for the head and limbs, then carved out the contours of the body using the Eraser tool. I then went back afterwards and removed unwanted points and tweaked the body shape using the white arrow tool and the Simplify Paths function. Surprisingly easy (blob brush is new to Illustrator CS4). This image is still a work in progress. I’m not finished adding shadows and highlights to the body. Gradient mesh will not work on complex shapes with too many vector points so I have to experiment with a work around.

red_dress

If you look closely you’ll see that I’ve superimposed the mandala from the first image over the bodice of the dress in this image. I’ve masked away the exterior using a “Clipping Mask” and blended it into the dress using “Overlay Blending Mode” which works exactly the same as in Photoshop. The floor was created by drawing with Pen Tool over a checkerboard shape that I created in Photoshop … for me it was easier to use Photoshop’s perspective transform tool, then simply place the image into Illustrator and trace over it, then delete the original. The clouds and door background is an imported jpeg.

Here is some fruit I created using the pen tool and Gradient Mesh to color them, created from scratch in Illustrator:

gradient_mesh_fruit

When it comes down to paths or pixels, for me pixels and Photoshop win hands down. But I now find myself jumping over to Illustrator to create bits and pieces that I import back to Photoshop to create various effects. Together they are dynamite!

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OpenGL A Total Joy

April 1, 2009 at 11:19 pm (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , )

just_one_wish_revised_wordpress

Just One Wish

Loving New Features in CS4

Now that I have sorted out my video card driver, the OpenGL is working wonderfully. I could never go back to CS3, after experiencing the ease and time saving features. The new features in CS4 aren’t merely bells and whistles. I am using them all the time. I love the new brush shortcut that allows me to simply press Alt (Opt on the Mac) and drag the mouse to resize brushes on the fly. I use brushes constantly in my digital art so saves me a lot of time and I can see a rubylith mask outline of the brush shape, including the amount of feathering. Because my NVIDIA Quadro NVS 285 is an older video card, there are still a few glitches with brush outlines displaying with larger size brushes. But I’m becoming used to it and it’s a fair trade off for all the other features.

The new tabbed interface is a real time saver because I usually have many files open simultaneously. It’s a snap to switch between the old window set up and the new tabbed one, with just a click of a button.

Dodge and burn have been completely revamped. I loved them before and use them constantly to create , shadows and highlights in my art, but the newer method preserves color tones and is far less destructive. But what’s even better is that by clicking a checkbox dodge and burn will revert to the previous algorithym, which is great because for some uses, the older method seems to do the trick. It’s so nice to have a wider range of choices. There is now a new Masking Panel that makes it possible to refine the mask’s edges after creating it. Edges can be feathered, even shape layers. The upgrade is so worth it.

Just One Wish

The art above is an old one that I made a few years ago, but last night I was working on a new version of my website and was sizing images for the gallery. I came across this piece and at first thought that I’d leave it out because I hadn’t really mastered digital art techniques back then. But I still liked the mood so I thought I’d try reworking it. Usually I never go back to old art to fix them, even if I find problems with them. I usually just resolve to better in the new art I create. But I broke my own rule and decided to revise this one. Still not perfect because I’d have to start again from scratch to get it right, but I think it was worth salvaging.

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Lucille – A Modern Day FairyTale

February 22, 2009 at 1:50 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , , )

lucille

Lucille

Enjoying Photoshop CS4

This art piece began as an experiment, just playing around in newly installed CS4. I wasn’t sure if it would shape into anything substantial, so when it got late, around 3 a.m., I saved the file and abandoned it for several days, thinking that it was probably just junk.

A week or two later, I was cleaning my desktop and saw this PSB file that I had completely forgotten about. I opened it up to decide whether or not to delete it. It was still very much in the rough phase and looked quite terrible. I wasn’t sure if it could be salvaged, but I luckily happened to be in ‘the zone’ for working, so I began playing with it.

Originally I had shaped the girl into a sort of ‘elf’, with pointed ears and was going to take it into a more extreme fantasy direction. But I wasn’t satisfied with the ears, kept adding new ones, from exotic monkeys and other animals. I was going to give her a half-human, half-animal appearance. But none seemed believable (or as believable as pointed ears can be, ha ha! … actually, this brings up an important point. Even within fantasy, a measure of believability has to be maintained, otherwise the effect just looks tacky).

I began adding a halo of hair instead, until the girl took on a very soft ethereal quality which changed the entire direction of the piece.

Allow The Art To Shape Itself

When I’m creating art for myself, unlike when I’m working for a client, I allow the art to morph into any direction it wants. This is the most enjoyable part. I love the suspense of not knowing how it will turn out, what story it will tell. For example, when the elf ears weren’t working and the halo of soft hair added a different personality to the girl, I abandoned the elf idea and began adding elements that enhanced the soft, intense features. Every new element has to match the aspects that are working.

Be Prepared to Abandon Elements That Aren’t Working

Even if I spend an hour or more extracting an element or animal, color matching it, adding lights and shadows, if the element isn’t working within the scene I don’t hesitate for a moment to delete it. I never get attached to something just because I’ve spent hours working on it. I chalk it up to ‘practice time’. For example, I tried many different backgrounds and tree trunks beneath the owl. I spent hours, tweaking, recoloring, dodging, burning, distorting, but afterwards deleted many of them … until I found one that seemed to enhance the main character’s mood and personality.

Tip – Beware of CS4’s New Layer Delete

Beware, if you have a layer selected in the Layer Palette (now renamed Panel by Adobe), if you click Delete, you won’t get a message “Are you sure you want to delete this layer?” … it will automatically delete without asking you. Advanced users of Photoshop will like this time-saving feature, but Newbies have to be careful. Several times when I was working on this piece, I accidentally hit “delete” when I was actually reaching for another shortcut key. Luckily I noticed and hit “Ctrl / Z ” (Cmd / Z on the Mac) to bring back the layer.

I also still have to sort out the issue of the OpenGL features not working, whether it’s my video card, or my operating system. Also in Photoshop’s 3D, the 3D axis is not displaying, even when I’ve selected it from the view menu. The 3D axis control is faster and simpler than using the indivual 3D tools from the Toolbox. I’m not sure if this issue is connected to the Open GL issue or whether it is a separate problem. If anybody knows the answer, please let me know. My operating system is Window XP Professional and my video card on this computer is NVIDIA Quadro NVS 285, 128 MB, version 5.44.02.63.04

Postscript — Happy Update

Miraculously, The OpenGL features have begun working, along with the 3D Axis tool. I’m not certain what caused this because I did a number of different things while trying to troubleshoot the problem. I went to the NVIDIA website to update my Video card driver. You can choose an option to have the website automatically detect your video card and download the appropriate driver. However, after I installed the new driver, I noticed that the version number was lower than my prior version. This worried me, so I then went to my PC’s Windows Update by right clicking my Desktop, choosing Properties / Settings / Advanced / Adaptor / Properties / Driver / Update Driver. Although I had done this before and received a message that my driver was up to date, this time it actually updated the driver. I think this is what corrected the problem.

I can now do neat functions like Rotate Canvas which comes in handy for painting with a Wacom tablet. And Image Toss, which might sound like some mere gimmick, but believe me, when you have an enormuos document and are zoomed in to some detail and you need to pan to another area of the image, the pan glides as effortlessly as an Olympic skater and there is no blocky redraw lag time, Yipeeeeee !!!

There is also a new handy shortcut in CS4, if you Hold down your mouse while pressing the “H” Key while you are on any other tool. While still holding down both, you can slide around to any area of the image, then when you release the mouse it zooms into that area of the image. Very quick and wonderful way to get around a large, zoomed in image.

I also finally see the 3D Axis Tool, which is the most efficient way to manipulate the X, Y, and Z movements and rotations. I was so happy and relieved when these features began working that I felt tears come to my eyes. I never realized how important they were to me until I saw my reaction when they magically appeared. I am one very happy Photoshopper today !!!

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Photoshop Crashed Again

November 24, 2008 at 7:09 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , )

lily_wordpress

This one took 4 days to create

Photoshop Crashed Again

I took a breather durng the card project to work on one for myself. It is so relaxing to begin working without any idea of what the theme would be. I start by just playing with background, piecing bits and pieces, then blending, manipulating until a mood and idea begins to emerge. I had no idea in the beginning that I would make a woman with a bird. Whereas, when I’m working for a client, with a specific theme, it’s much different. When I do art for myself, I just let my hand lead me, instead of forcing the art to comply with a specific idea. It is very relaxing … until …

At 3 a.m. after working for about 6 hours without saving, Photoshop crashed when I tried to distort an object that had a Mask applied plus was linked to several other layers with Masks on them. The Photoshop file was already more than 6 gigs! with about 70 layers, so the calculations for this distortion exceeded the available RAM, so down she went. I remember emitting a loud “NO !” (I hope I didn’t wake my neighbors) ­čÖé There was nothing to do but to redo all that work. I had to redo most of the dress that I had painstakingly worked on for hours, had to redo the bird, the flowers and the woman’s chest and collarbone, which you might think is easy, but the small portion just below her neck alone had taken me more than an hour to complete.

You think I would have learned my lesson by now. Once I lost an entire day’s work when Photoshop crashed and since then I’ve gotten into the habit of saving more frequently. But when the files are 6 gigs unflattened, (169 MB as a flattened Tif), it actually takes 17 minutes for the file to save (I timed it). That’s the reason why when I’m in the ‘zone’, I hate to have to sit and twiddle my thumbs while the file saves. But I sure paid for it, I had to redo 6 hours of work. I was up until 9 a.m. finishing it up (and had worked day and night for 3 days before). This image took me 4 days and nights to complete.

The woman is made from too many pieces to count, ie: the eyelashes from one, irises from another, eyebrows from another, nose from another, hair from several, shoulders from another, and so on. I love this kind of challenge, creating things from bits and pieces. I made the dress in Photoshop, using tiny bits and pieces. I tried so many hand poses, and different birds, eventually settling on this little sparrow, comprised of 3 different images.

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Another Valentines Card

November 4, 2008 at 6:06 pm (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , )

valentine2

Another In The Valentines Series

Valentines Card Project Continues

This is the second Valentines card, there will be one more in the series … at the moment it’s still a glimmer in my imagination. I will likely begin working on it today. Cards have been commissioned by Flattenme and will soon be available on their website http://www.flattenme.com, which is currently being revamped. Their personalized children’s books will soon be available in 7 different languages.

The cards are personalized and customers can upload a photo of their child’s face which will be inseerted into the card. A personalized message will be placed inside. Very sweet.

This one took several days to complete. I do both boy and girl versions of each card, plus design the inside. At first I submitted the version below, but a revision of the background was requested because the client thought it looked like “a slick West Palm Beach” and not warm hearted enough ­čÖé Up here in Canada where I live, I guess I didn’t realize it would be interpreted this way. A good learning experience … after all, perception is everything. The client was also concerned that the face was at an angle which might confuse customers because the images of their child that they submit would usually be a straight on shot. It was interesting to compare both versions. Any comments welcome ­čÖé

valentine2_earlier_version

Earlier Version – Revised Version Above

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Valentines Card

October 27, 2008 at 3:30 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

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Dinosaur Card

September 26, 2008 at 8:33 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , )

Dinosaur Card – Girl Version

The card project is almost complete, just one more card in this series to finish. Creating the dinosaur took about 3 days. The background took a lot of experimentation before a prehistoric fantasy atmosphere began to emerge. It was a lot of fun making this one.

Although the dinosaur is purely fantasy, I still spent time researching dinosaurs to get some idea of how the various sub-species bodies, feet, necks varied. There were were so many varieties, meat eaters, docile vegetarians. Some were huge and others were smaller, about the size of a cow, some even smaller. Although many bones have been discovered, there aren’t many preserved samples of skin textures and colors. Many of the reconstructed drawings are mere guesses. I used this to my advantage and decided to use lizard like scales and feet and give it a docile personality. I combined several bits and pieces of digital lizard and snakes skin to create the skin.

This card, like the others will soon be available from http://www.flattenme.com and are persnoalized for customers, where their children’s faces will be inserted into the card. There will also be a boy version, that I am still working on.

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Princess And The Dragon Card

September 15, 2008 at 6:00 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Final Version

Dragon Lays Its Head In The Lap Of Princess Child

Here’s another card in the series, commissioned by FlattenMe. It went through numerous changes before arriving at this final version in the forest with castle in the background.

I created the first version inside the castle, in the bedroom, but amendments were requested. Here is the earlier version:

Earlier Version With Different Background

This card will be used as a birthday invitation for girls. After finishing the exterior image I created the inside, which will be personalized.

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Making Hanukkah Cards

September 7, 2008 at 10:33 am (computer art, Digital Art, Photoshop tips and tricks) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Hanukkah Card Final Version

This Is The Version That Flattenme.com Has Chosen For Their Card Series Series

Several Different Versions

This card took four days to complete and went through a number of changes before arriving at the final version. I am very curious to hear which one you prefer, regarding visual elements, colors or any other aspect.

I wanted to keep true to traditions so I first did some research on the internet to find out how the menorah is lit and to learn other facts about Hanukkah. I searched Google to see what other Hanukkah cards were available. I was surprised to find very few, mostly┬áclip art images of menorahs and the Star Of David.┬á I wasn’t able to find many ideas so I chose to focus on the menorah.

I was reluctant to add whimsical elements as I had done with the Christmas cards, where I weave an assortment of mice, birds and animals into the scenes. Hanukkah seems more traditional and I thought it was unlikely that mice prancing through the scene would be appropriate, so the challenge was to find a way to sweeten the image in subtle ways.

First Version

This Version Was Too “Christmasy”?

Second Version

This Version’s Colors Weren’t Meshing

And here is the boy version of the same card. People who order the card will send a photo of their own child’s face which will be inserted into the card to personalize it, so most cards include boy and girl versions.

Boy Version of Hanukkah Card

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