this northern boy

Illustrations for an imaginary age

Computer Graphics for Free

 

This is the first of my guest blog posts, and my first guest author is Nick Stevens.

Nick is an Artist Member of the International Association of Astronomical Artists, and was on the board of the IAAA for several years. He specialises in realistic 3D rendered depictions of unflown space missions, and the space program of the Soviet Union.

You can find more of his work on his web site, and Nick is pretty prolific on Twitter too, where you can find him at @runnymonkey.

Now, over to Nick…

 

Computer Graphics for free.

There’s a general perception that computer based graphics is a highly expensive business.  And while it is true that the professionals use software with annual licence fees in the thousands of pounds, and high end graphics workstations, you can get very good results using cheap, or even free software. All you really need is a computer, (it does not have to be the latest and greatest), and time to invest in learning it. The second part is important! There’s a lot to learn, and whatever software you use, you won’t find a handy one click button, helpfully labelled “Instant Great Art”.

Types of software.

There are, broadly, several types of software, and I’ll cover those first.

The biggest division is between 2D, (like painting on paper), and 3D software, (making things you can view from any angle). 2D software can be divided into pixel based, (like your screen, essentially a mosaic with lots of tiny tiles), and vector software, where shapes are defined that can be scaled smoothly to the required size.

A good example of a pixel based image would be an icon. And a good example of a vector would be a typeface or font. (As with fonts, vector images are generally converted to pixel images at some point).

With 3D, I’d say the biggest divisions are between general software, (things like Maya, Lightwave 3D, 3D Studio Max) that try to cover all aspects of 3D graphics, and specialist systems that make it easy to do one thing very well, such as Daz Studio, (for characters), or Vue, (Terrains and landscapes). 

Whatever you go for you will find that your physical media art skills give you a head start, as you probably already have a good grasp of form and colour.

2D Vector Software – Inkscape

Inkscape is very highly regarded, 100% free, open source, and runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

inkscape.jpg

It does the same kind of thing as the (expensive) applications, Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, and Freehand – and it supports industry standard formats like .SVG, .PDF, .PNG, and .EPS.

2D Pixel Software – GIMP and Affinity Photo

Gimp stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, again, it’s 100% free

gimp.jpg

Again it runs on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Its user interface can take a bit of getting used to, but it does have its strengths. It is perhaps the best at loading obscure and scientific image formats, for example, and is handy to have for those kinds of conversions. Also it now supports higher bit depth colour channels. (Don’t worry if you don’t understand that bit).

Lots of help and tutorials out there too, so Google is your friend!

If you do need something more capable, (and this is the only bit of commercial software I am going to recommend), take a look at Affinity Photo.  It’s insanely powerful, yet costs less than the “Lite” versions of the likes of Photoshop. It will even run on an iPad, and gives acceptable performance on my old iPad Air 2. Though I wouldn’t want to stitch together large panoramas with it.

affinity-1.jpg

2D Paint software, Krita

Krita, also available for Mac, Windows and Linux is painting software, and is 100% free and open source.

krita.jpg

This means that unlike image processing software, (Photoshop, GIMP), it focuses on emulating traditional tools, with the advantages of digital such as undo, and layers.  So it will let you work with the digital equivalent of a marker pen, watercolours, or oil paints, reacting to existing elements in a similar way. It works well with Wacom tablets.

General 3D Software: Blender 3D

Blender is a powerful general purpose 3D program, 100% free and again available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It has some advanced features like a hair and fur system, and fluid simulation. Like any 3D software, it is complex and will take some learning, but it has perhaps the most actively supportive community of any software. So support is second to none while you are learning.

blender.jpgThere are entire short films where you can download all the assets, (files, images, models and scenes), to examine. This includes the Pixar style “Big Buck Bunny”, which you can watch here.

If hard science is more your thing, NASA provide plenty of 3D models in Blender 3D format, ready for you to use. You can download them here.

Sculpting software – Sculptris

From the makers of ZBrush, Sculptris is free sculpting software, (Windows and Mac, not Linux).

sculptris.jpgIt’s important to note it is no longer being developed, but even so, pretty good for free. Most 3D software is based on placing points and polygons; sculpting software emulates sculpting with materials, in much the same way that painting programs emulate brushes and paints.

Everything at once!

If you have a somewhat old laptop or desktop, you might want to consider turning it into a Linux system. This will take a bit of getting used to if you normally work on Windows or Mac, but it is very efficient, and will perform much better than it would under Windows or Mac. Every time I boot into Linux it feels like I’ve just had a hardware upgrade.

I’m recommending a particular flavour of Linux, called UBUNTU STUDIO.

ubuntu.jpg

It’s a special version of the popular Ubuntu Linux, aimed at creatives. And after installing it on your computer you will find that it comes with a whole mass of graphical tools already installed and configured. And audio tools, video tools, photography tools, and publishing tools. These include Blender, GIMP, and Inkscape.

You can also install it alongside your existing operating system, but that’s outside the scope of this blog post.

While not all the tools included are best in class, (or anything like it), there’s a solid core of extremely useful and powerful software here. And as I said, it will run well even on older hardware.

You can also try before you install, setting up Ubuntu Studio to boot from a USB stick. Instructions are here.

Conclusion:

Time, dedication, and talent are much more important than money if you want to get into computer based art. Software will not magically make you an artist, but it will give you the tools you need to become one, even if all you have is an old desktop PC and monitor gathering dust.

leonov-on-moon

For more stuff from me, please visit: www.nick-stevens.com

Thank You! 

Nick

 


Huge thanks to Nick for taking the time to put together this very handy blog post, which I’m sure will be useful for a lot of people wanting to get in to computer arts. Do check out Nick’s website – there really is a huge amount of wonderful work there, and give him a follow on Twitter.

I’ll have another guest blog post coming up soon.

Fifty years since one small step

Apollo_Two Up

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I’m a bit of a space nut. I’ve always been fascinated by space, astronomy, astrophysics… and to be honest I’d still like to be an astronaut.

2019 marks fifty years since the first moon landing, when Eagle the lunar lander of Apollo 11 touched down. To commemorate that historic moment, and because I just love everything about the Apollo missions, I’ve created a couple of posters.

The first, Twelve Human Hearts, celebrates the humans to have stepped on the surface of the moon. It’s a huge shame that nobody has been back since Apollo 17.

The second poster, F-1, marks the power and brilliance of the Rocketdyne F-1 engine that powered the Saturn V rocket.

Both posters are available from Ellipress. You can also get them as postcards.

 

You can also support me over on Patreon

And you can find more of my work online…
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Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Charity Raffle for the Alzheimer’s Society

YS_3_RAFFALL

My good friend Gareth Hammond is doing something amazing in aid of The Alzheimer’s Society. He’s cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats – 980 miles in just nine days. To help him raise some money I did this little tribute to The Beatles Yellow Submarine (Gareth’s a big Beatles fan) to be raffled off.

You can buy a ticket for the raffle here.

Guest posts

Hi all. Over the next few months I’m going to publish some guest posts here on the blog. I’ve asked a bunch of people over on Twitter and the response has been great. There’ll be posts from established illustrators, 3D modellers, comic artists, video game concept artists, book cover illustrators… It should be lots of fun and a bit of a change from my usual posts. If there’s a type of creative person you’d like me to feature on the blog just let me know in the comments.

You can find prints of my work here

And you can find more of my work online…

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Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Patronage

First-Five

I’ve started a Patreon page. If you don’t know of Patreon –

For creators, Patreon is a way to get paid for creating the things you’re already creating (webcomics, videos, songs, whatevs). Fans pay a few dollars per month OR per post you release, and then you get paid every month, or every time you release something new.

Currently I make a living dividing my time between being a freelance graphic designer, and being an illustrator. My income from illustration breaks down in to Commercial work – like book illustration or video game concept art, Private commissions – selling original art to order, or by selling prints and postcards of my work. These are all great outlets for my work, but it’s hard to predict how busy I’ll be with commissions at any one time, or if I’ll receive any commercial work.

Starting a Patreon page should give me a small, but regular monthly income from my art. It may be enough to buy some art materials, it might be enough to pay some bills. I’ve really no idea yet, but every little helps.

Here’s how it works.

My Patreon page will feature only my work on Weird Field World – that’s all the strange knobbly spaceships I draw.

If you want to become a Patron, and to support my work you can choose from three tiers of membership.

$2 per months gets you access to –

  • Regular posts including illustrations, background, and fiction.
  • Access to sketches and process videos as I work on the project.
  • Early opportunity to buy original illustrations.
  • Digital exclusives – like desktop or phone wallpapers.

$4 per month gets you all of the above plus – 

  • One original Weird Field World sketch per year.
  • A set of three postcards featuring WF spaceships.

$6 per months gets you all of the above plus – 

  • Choose the name of a Weird Field World spaceship (which will become canon in the universe) and receive a colour sketch of that ship.

Regular content for all subscribers will be sketches and final illustrations, background writing on the universe including a timeline and history of the story, maps and charts, technical drawings of spaceships, and I will also be writing some fiction to accompany the drawings.

If you’re interested in supporting me in this way, head over to my Patreon page for a look. Patronage starts at just $2 per month.

 

You can also find prints of my work here

And you can find more of my work online…
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Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Machineries of Joy

gubbins-i-colour

I started a little sketch lately. Nothing more than a doodle really. Started off as nothing on a sheet of copy paper. Wasn’t sure what it was going to be, if anything. But after a few minutes I had a bit of machinery. So I thought I’d carry on. Definitely channeling a little of Geof Darrow’s work on The Matrix, and Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, I decided that I’d try and fill the whole page with machinery and cables and wires.

It took a while. But I got there in the end. Here are a few process shots…

Once I’d finished the pencils, I decided I’d scan the illustration, blow it up and print it out, and then drop it on the lightbox for inking. I wanted to go a little larger when I inked it just so I could get a little more detail in, and to make sure the quality was good enough for a print for my store.

The final inked illustration looks like this…

Final-Inks

At the top of the page you can see the colour version I’m working on to be produced as a print.

If you’re interested in the materials I used in this piece…

Pentel GraphGear 1000 mechanical pencil
Daler Rowney Heavyweight cartridge paper
Copic SP Multiliner pens
A3 Minisun lightbox

You can also find prints of my work here

Become a Patron!

And you can find more of my work online…
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Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

NEW PRINT AVAILABLE

Deep Space Fleet II

I have a new print available over at Ellipress. It’s a follow up to my Deep Space Fleet work of last year. Deep Space Fleet II features fifty brand new spaceships, in (for me) a surprising variety of colours! Printed on 308gsm 100% cotton artist’s paper, using archival inks the new poster can be bought in A4, A3, and A2 sizes.

I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. It might be my favourite print yet.

Head over to here if you’d like to purchase one.

 

You can also find prints of my work here

I also have a Patreon page

And you can find more of my work online…
Twitter
Instagram
Facebook
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Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

 

A Frosty Walk

Winter seems to have finally arrived in the UK, nothing compared to the polar vortex currently plunging much of the US in to a deep freeze, and I managed to get myself out of bed early and in to my local park for a walk this morning. Bushy Park, one of the Royal Parks of London, is beautiful at any time of year but with a hard frost under clear skies it’s absolutely spectacular. These photos are taken with either my iPhone 8 or Olympus Pen.

 

 

 

You can also find prints of my work here

I also have a Patreon page

And you can find more of my work online…
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Instagram
Facebook
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Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

 

Spaceship Drawing Time-lapse

I’m planning to do a lot more process videos this year. I’ll have to get a proper rig set up above my desk, rather than just using a GorillaPod.

 

You can also find prints of my work here

And you can find more of my work online…
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Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Commissions for 2019

IMG_1857

I’m now happily accepting a new round of illustration commissions for 2019. If you’ve ever wanted to own some original art – and like my work – now’s your chance.

Commissions

If you would like to buy an original drawing, email me at rob [at] thisnorthernboy [dot] co [dot] uk , and let me know what kind of thing you are looking for. While you can ask me to draw absolutely anything, it’s probably best to stick to subjects and themes that you’ve seen me produce already. I’m not saying I’d never draw a portrait of your cats, for instance, but it’s unlikely. Some subjects I love to draw are:

Isometric buildings
Robots
Astronauts
Spaceships
Imaginary places

What you’ll receive will be a black and white pen drawing, on good quality, 220gsm cartridge paper. If you would prefer a colour illustration – let me know and we can have a chat.

You can also request for the illustration to be landscape or portrait in orientation.

Any other requests – type of landscape, style of robot etc. can be made, but there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to take this into account. I know this sounds a little strict, but I only want to accept commissions that I’ll enjoy drawing right now, and in return you get a lovely surprise when you open your finished illustration.

What will this cost?

For an A5 (148 x 210mm) commission I charge £75 + post & packaging.
For an A4 (210 x 297mm) commission I charge £120 + post & packaging.
For an A3 (297 x 420mm) commission I charge £210 + post & packaging.
For an A2 (420 x 594mm) commission I charge £400 + post & packaging.

When you email me to request a commission, if you can include the address you’d like it shipped to, I’ll work out the cost of postage and let you know. If you’re happy with the overall cost I accept payment by PayPal.

When will you get your drawing?

I aim to complete and post all illustrations within one month of receiving payment.

 

PLEASE NOTE: This post is regarding private, personal commissions. If you want to discuss a commercial proposition – illustrations for a book, game, or anything else that you would be selling, then please get in touch directly.

 

You can find prints of my work here

I also have a Patreon page

And you can find more of my work online…
Twitter
Instagram
Facebook
Tumblr

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com