this northern boy

Illustrations for an imaginary age

Category: space

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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Cloud Mining

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, I’ve been pretty busy balancing freelance design work with illustration, so haven’t had a lot of time for the blog.

I’ll try and post a little more regularly throughout the summer.

I drew this cloud mining station (think the dirty underside of Bespin Cloud City) a while ago, and it proved pretty popular on instagram, so I decided to add a little colour.

I wanted to keep the colour palette pretty muted, so just stuck to oranges and some grey tones.

Hope you like it!

IMG_5940IMG_8049

 

Drawn in a Moleskine sketchbook, with Copic SP Multiliners and Copic Ciao markers.

You can also find prints of my work here

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Sketchbook Spaceships

If you’ve been following my blog for a while (or following me elsewhere on social media), you’ll know I love to draw spaceships. I always have enjoyed drawing everything to do with space, ever since I was a little kid, but in the last couple of years I’ve begun to build a little fleet of ships to inhabit my Asteroid Belt Blues universe.

I’ve managed to fill a few sketchbook pages with ships in the last few days, and I dare say there will be a lot more to come in the next days, weeks, and months.

Pretty much all of them are drawn with Copic Sp Multiliners in a Moleskine sketchbook. Colour, as always, is added with Copic Ciao Markers.

If you like them you can buy them as postcards or posters over at my store.

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

A new fleet of Spaceships

Recently I’ve been filling pages and pages of my Moleskine sketchbook with lots of tiny spaceships. I’ve drawn them, mostly, on my lunch hours while working in Shoreditch. Often just scribbling away with a Copic Multiliner pen, and then using markers to add some colour later. I spent a couple of hours scanning two dozen of the pages and cleaning up the sketches for a new poster and a set of postcards that you can buy over at Ellipress

You can find more of my work online…
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Deep-Space-Fleet-Mock-Up

PRINT SALE!!!

My prints are on sale until midnight tonight! Head over to Ellipress and get 25% off using the code EP25 at checkout. Valid until midnight tonight (Sunday 12th November).

Inktober 2017

If you don’t know what Inktober is, read this. Got it? OK.

For this year’s Inktober initiative I’ve decided to create a comic in 31 panels – one a day for the month of October. The comic is a shortened, abridged, version of a story I’ve had in my head for a while. I’ve never done a comic before, or even tried to tell much of a story through illustration – so this is all new to me.

Once finished I’m planning to put the panels together (along with some additional art) in a book. I’ll also sell all the original artwork from the comic.

I’m up to panel eight so far (running a couple of days behind).

Inktober-1Inktober-2Inktober-3Inktober-4Inktober-5Inktober-6Inktober-7Inktober-8

Updates…

It’s been a while since I blogged – work and holidays have both combined to keep me from doing so.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been working on getting some artwork ready to sell online as prints – should be ready to go in April – which is very exciting. I’ll be launching with five or six different illustrations, most of which will be available to buy at a couple of different sizes. When everything is confirmed I’ll post here about it.

I’ve also completed a couple of commissions and worked on some concept art for a couple of clients – I can’t share any of that just yet though.

For now, here are some of the sketches I’ve done over the past couple of months.

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Best of the Year?

Instagram is full of #2016bestnine posts right now. Everyone uploading a little three by three image of their most popular images of the year – you can do the same by going to https://2016bestnine.com

Mine are mostly from October, or Inktober. That’s fine, it was a month where my follower count went bonkers and I got lots of lovely feedback about the isometric drawings. Not sure any of these would be my favourite illustration of the year though. (This might be, although I can’t post the full image for another week or so.)

Do you have a favourite image I’ve posted in 2016?

New Year’s Eve sets like an appropriate time to thank you all for continuing to support my blog, to comment and like here and on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I can’t really work in a vacuum, so your feedback and encouragement is incredibly important, and I am very grateful. Thank you all, I hope to create some great stuff in 2017 and I hope you’ll be with me all the way.

Spaceships for Sale

 

UPDATE: SOLD – thanks Padi.

My A4 illustration – A Gigantic Fleet of Tint Orange Spaceships – is now for sale.

It’s drawn in pen on good quality, heavyweight, cartridge paper, and coloured with Copic Ciao Marker. There are 150 tiny spaceships – and it seemed to take forever to fill the page.

The price is £100 including UK postage (worldwide will be extra). Payment by PayPal. Email, Tweet, or message me here on the blog or on Instagram.

Orange-Fleet-Clean

The finished fleet. 150 strong.