Monday, May 09, 2011

Rawkets Renders

Been a while since my last update, but mostly because I've been pretty busy. I'm working on a spacey commission at the moment, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to post a crop of the image, as well as my sketches and images of the rough 3D model I made in Sketchup to incorporate into the image. Hope you like it!

Friday, March 04, 2011

How to use DPI properly.

This is one of the biggest problems I see other people running into, and I've had to explain it a countless number of times. The bummer is that it's really quite simple, but if you don't know how it works it's easy to get mixed up.

The following is more or less what I'm going to tell you, but in a less comprehensive fashion. So if these 2 main points make enough sense to you, then you can decide if you need more information and explanation:

  • You only need to set DPI when working with actual dimensions like inches or centimeters, etc. So if you're working directly in pixels already, it's useless.
  • Therefore, the only time you really need to set the DPI is when you need to ensure good print quality, and know your real world dimensions but not the exact pixels. The program will set the pixels for you based off the other information.

First and foremost, you REALLY don't need to work in real world dimensions such as inches or centimeters unless you plan on going to print with the work, like with posters or a book. Working directly in pixels is absolutely fine and works for most circumstances, the catch is knowing how much is too much, and how little is too little. More on that later, but let me break down the two main ways of setting up your work.


The main way I set up my documents is directly in pixel dimensions. It's much easier, especially when most of my work is meant for web or screen display, and not print.

Anyway, if you know the dimensions you want your image to be in pixels, or have a certain aspect ratio in mind, just input the numbers. After this is where people trip up and cause themselves the most problems.

They often ask, "What DPI should I set it to now?" Or they say things like, "My image is 3000x4000 pixels at 300 DPI."

The catch is, if you're working in pixels already, then setting the DPI literally changes NOTHING about your document. It doesn't make it higher resolution, doesn't make it look better in any way. Just leave it alone, you could set it to 1 if you wanted and it wouldn't matter.

In fact, try changing the number and you'll see that your document size at the lower right will not change at all. There is, however, a use for setting the DPI properly, which I'll talk about at the end, but it doesn't affect the quality of your document, which is what most people are concerned with.


If you know your work is going to be printed, you need to set up the document with real world dimensions. After you decide the size of the image, you need to set the DPI (actually in Photoshop it's PPI, but the difference doesn't matter and the term is often used interchangeably). It should be under Resolution and has units of "pixels/inch".

When working in print, usually the minimum resolution you want is 300 DPI. That ensures good quality, crisp printing at the intended size. The downfall is that often a 300 DPI image is going to have very large pixel dimensions and may slow your computer. To combat this, you can often get away with 150-200 DPI for print and still be fine.

One big thing you need to know is that when you set your work up in inches, and designate a DPI, it AUTOMATICALLY sets your pixel dimensions for you. It can be very useful for this reason, but it can also result in people working in either too small of a resolution or waaaay too much.


I mentioned earlier about knowing how large to work in pixel dimensions so you know you're at a good resolution to get lots of detail. A solid gauge to go by is to have the smallest dimension on your painting, whether it be width or height, be no less than 3,000-4,000 pixels or so. That might be overkill for some, but it's what years of experience have shown me is a safe zone. You can certainly go higher if you want, but keep in mind that making something super high resolution will often result in people feeling the need to add more detail than necessary, making their job harder and more time consuming.

The main exception to this if you're working for film and doing something like matte painting. In that case, it's standard to work double film resolution (or higher) and set your canvas to 4,096 pixels wide, and just let the height be whatever the aspect ratio dictates, which is okay if it's less than 3,000.

I also mentioned when it can be beneficial to input the DPI even when you're working in pixels. This is for when you might want to know what the real world dimensions of your work are at a specific DPI.

In this example I set a canvas to 900x1200 pixels, then set that to 300 DPI. You can see that by going to Image > Image Size that it tells me that at 3x4 inches, this image would be at 300 DPI, standard print quality, something I wouldn't have known without doing the math myself.

Anyway, I hope this has been helpful in clearing up any confusion and saving people some headaches in the future. Good luck!

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Sweet Discovery Store globe.
A lot of you might know about my personal project Hayling, and might even be following the blog I have set up to log my progress. I announced it in late 2009 and I've been slowly putting it together since then, and it's only recently started to kick into high gear.

Anyway, before I had Hayling, there was another project floating around in my mind about a year prior in 2008, something I titled Cartographer. I had all sorts of ideas floating around for that, but it wasn't until recently that they started to congeal. One night I went to sleep and as I lay there, the pieces simply started to fit together.

I've had an unfinished painting for it sitting on my hard drive for over 2 years now, and although it might be a while before I can pursue the story, it's the only painting I've left incomplete that's actually bothered me. To me it feels like it needs to be completed, it almost has an emotional resonance with me.

Anyway, where Hayling is more of a localized sci-fi thriller, Cartographer is an outer space epic. Two completely different ends of the sci-fi spectrum and I've gotta say it excites me to have two different unique projects like that to work on. If I ever get frustrated or worn out on one, I've got the other.

I want to complete that painting soon, and it might end up getting done before I have even have a painting to show for Hayling. I guess it makes sense, it was here first...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

S.K. Omega Illustrations

Here's a dump of images I've done for Molten Monkey International on their S.K. Omega action figure line over the past 6 months or so. It's nice to illustrate someone else's designs on occasion and just have fun with it. I've released a number of the illustrations on my deviantART, but none of these ones yet. Some of these probably won't make it there, to be honest. 

I'm happy with all of them, but after sitting on them for so long, I do see a lot of things I could have done better. I've revised my process a lot lately and done a lot of practicing and I hope to bring that into the newer images I do for them.

Anyway, enjoy!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Galactic Tour Test

Andree Wallin and I have been discussing the idea that in films, we never get to spend enough time just gawking at planets. The establishing shot lasts a few moments, and then it's gone. We're always left feeling like we should have spent more time up there in orbit.

Anyway, we're kicking around ideas for putting together a sort of galactic tour using matte painting, 3D, and animation techniques. It's a way to put together a journey that shows us what some of the places in our galaxy might look like, both from orbit and down on the surface.

This video is just a small test for the project, recycling some of the Hayling tests into a whole new thing. It really captures the mood and level of 'epicness' I hope to achieve, largely in part to Armand Amar's music. And speaking of music, we hope to get something original composed for it as well.

I've also gotta give credit to nvseal on dA for the title planet, and freelancah on dA for the star stock.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Essential Books for the Artist

Below, I've compiled a list of books that I've collected over the years that I find to be worthwhile, if not essential, additions to the collections of those looking to improve their artistic skills. It's not by any means a be-all, end-all list, but they are resources I personally consider invaluable.

In other words, if you're tired of dealing with books that just aren't quite giving you what you need, or don't have enough information, this list is for you. 


Color and Light by James Gurney 

This book was instantly my new favorite art book when I received it. If you need an amazing, comprehensive book on how to paint and understand color, light, and form in a realistic manner, you'll find no better or easier to understand resource. It's only $16 on Amazon, and I'd have gladly paid $60+.


Basic Perspective Drawing by John Montague

I find that a lot of perspective books attempt to do what this one does, but in a much more complicated, and labor intensive fashion. Basic Perspective Drawing is easy to understand and follow, even to those with no prior perspective training. In other words, if you want to learn to draw in perspective, this is the book to have. 

Perspective Drawing Handbook by Joseph D'Amelio

This book is also quite informative, and it was my first book in college introducing me to perspective. It has a lot of valuable information in it, but it's better suited to someone who's already had some sort of introduction, which should probably be in the form of the book above. 


This was the required textbook for my college anatomy class. It tackles anatomy from an artist's perspective, but includes many technical details you might expect from something like a medical textbook. It's comprehensive, and easy to follow with great drawings, and gives you relatable ways of viewing and drawing anatomy. A must have in my opinion.

Cyclopedia Anatomicae by Gyorgy Feher

This book is nearly impossible to find new, but it's over 500 pages, with 1,500+ illustrations of anatomical reference and explanation for both humans and animals. It really lives up to its title, and even used, it would be worth your money. This, in conjunction with the atlas above, are more than enough to get you drawing and understanding anatomy extremely well.

The boxed set includes 3 books: Bridgman's Life Drawing, The Book of a Hundred Hands, and Heads, Features and Faces. Constructive Anatomy is another book entirely. I only list these ones because they happen to be the only ones I own, but you owe it to yourself to buy a set of George Bridgman's books. He's a master and you absolutely can't go wrong with any of his titles.

This book is amazing at breaking down how not only to draw facial expressions, but explaining how the muscles work, so even when you don't necessarily have the proper reference, you can work things out on your own still. Amazing, well illustrated book, worth every penny. 


Imaginative Realism by James Gurney

This is a book I haven't had much time to delve into yet, but if it's anything like Gurney's other book Color and Light, it's a winner. It details how to paint what doesn't exist, coming up with ideas and ways to make your work convincing, as well as giving all sorts of other input and instruction. 5 solid stars on Amazon out of 64 reviews, I don't think you can go wrong. 


I don't have much of an industrial design or technical background, so I don't have many books on the subject, but I recently found this one, and it's absolutely fantastic. It details how to draw and design products, but you can apply that sense to anything you need to design and draw in perspective. So, for designing and populating an environment with unique objects, this book is awesome.  


Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton

As with industrial design, I don't have a huge background with typography, so sometimes I need a little help when it comes to that aspect in design. This is a book that I find breaks down all the basics in a really great, easy to understand way and has plenty of do's and don'ts. So, if you're like me and need a solid book to help you understand and use type, this is it.

I hope these books are able to bring you as much help as they have for me. I don't know what I'd do without some of them, and I know you'll feel the same way if you decide to get your hands on a few. Good luck!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Landscape Sketches

Been doing a lot of landscape sketches lately too, just to loosen up and test some new brushes. I have a whole slew of them that I might take to finish, probably do some color versions of the sketches first though.

Top one was inspired by the Transformers 3 trailer, which looks awesome. Who knows how the movie itself will turn out, though. Click them to enlarge.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Mass Effect

Here is a small work-in-progress crop of a Mass Effect painting I've been putting time into off and on for probably almost a year now. Just never quite finding the time to finish it, but hopefully soon so I can move onto bigger things.

It initially started out as just a composition for practicing lighting and texture with a couple of familiar characters, but I decided to take it a little further.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Vehicle Sketches

Here is a comp of vehicles sketches I've done recently. Some are pretty rough, or in various forms of completion, but for me, as long as the idea is there, I can see if I like it enough to want to take it further.

I've also included a video of me working on a few of them. Enjoy!

Inaugural Post

I've decided once again to try my hand at blogging. It'll give me the opportunity to share things I normally wouldn't post to my deviantART page, or one of my other portfolios. That includes sketches, works in progress, videos, as well as artistic advice and just general thoughts.

In addition to starting this blog back up (as if it ever really existed as much of anything in the first place), I've started a separate blog meant solely for updates on my personal project HAYLING. So, should you choose to stop by here occasionally, it'd definitely be worth your time to drop by there as well.

Anyway, I plan to start posting soon, so check back! Thanks, and take care!

P.S. If anyone has suggestions, questions, or comments, please feel free to leave a message on any of my posts, or email me using the Gmail icon on the right.