Photoshop is the single most powerful and most used computer application in the world for art and photography. Most people who have spent any time doing digital art or photography have used it. However, as you may be new to digital art, I’m going to introduce it as if you’ve never heard of it.
Photoshop is a digital image manipulation program, that is, it’s an image editor. You can do all sorts of things to an image as a whole with it, such as adjusting brightness, contrast, etc.; moreover, you can use it to apply various filters to image, for instance, giving an image a sepia tone. You can also edit parts of the image, such as painting on it with virtual brushes. In fact, you can create an entire digital painting with it. And, it works particularly well with tablets and styluses (I personally use it with a Wacom Bamboo).
Until I got into 3D rendering, Photoshop was all I needed for doing digital art. For several years, I needed nothing else. There is so much that you can do with Photoshop. There are so many books on how to use it that they could fill a library, classes you can take, and thousands upon thousands of Youtube videos on how to use it.
How to get it
For a long time, Photoshop was a rather expensive application that you had to buy at a place like Best Buy off the shelf. Later on, you could buy it online and download it, but even then, it cost hundreds of dollars. Now however, Adobe (the company that produces Photoshop) has made it available through a subscription model. That makes it way more comfortable to try out. As I write this, you can get a monthly subscription as low as 10 bucks a month.
Rendering, also called “digital rendering” or “3-D rendering” is a relatively new form of art made possible by the existence of computers. Essentially, it is the creation of two-dimensional artwork using a computer to generate an image. The artist describes the scene in a way that the computer can understand. The computer then uses that description to simulate a 3D reality from which it takes a virtual snapshot. That snapshot can then be left in digital format or be printed out by the artist.
The first step in creating render art is the creation of a virtual model. This is analogous to sculpting a model from clay in the real world. The artist begins with a virtual lump of clay, often a sphere or cube, then molds model by stretching it, twisting it, and adding on to it. The process can get rather elaborate. Model making software can cost thousands of dollars, but there are some free applications, such as Blender 3D (which I use) that are quite capable of producing high end models. A few such applications are:
A virtual model really only defines a shape. Generally, modeling software will let you define how the surface of that model appears (color, texture, reflectivity, etc.) but, more complex models call for skinning. Skinning is the process of creating of what is known as a UV Map. A UV Map is a special picture file that can be wrapped around a model to give it a surface. It’s sort of flattened version of the model analogous to the pattern one uses to cut material for clothing. Modeling software will help to create the UV Map, but I use image editing software, such as Photoshop or GIMP, to actually color in the UV Map.
Certain complex models might call for something known as rigging. Rigging allows the artist to reposition certain parts of a model rather than having to remold a whole new one. For instance, if I create a model of a human form, I may want to be able to reuse that model in different poses. Rather than shaping a new model for every pose, I can rig a single model virtual skeleton. I assign groups of polygons to certain “bones” and then define how those bones can move in relation to one another. I use Blender3D for this. But other applications include Poser and Daz Studio.
The layout stage of rendering is where the artist defines the spatial relationships between objects in a scene. The objects are models created in the prior steps. This step also includes defining the light sources for the scene as well as atmospheric aspects of the image such a haze and fog.
This is the step that is handled by the computer (or network of computers – called a render farm). The computer uses advanced mathematical algorithms to simulate the effects of the light and atmosphere upon the objects set up during the layout phase. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to many days depending upon the complexity of the screen. The final product is a CGI, computer generated image, usually in the form of a bitmap or JPEG file.
This is the part that would be more familiar to traditional artists. In the post production phase the image is loaded into image editing software such as Photoshop, Corel Painter, or GIMP. The artist then makes adjustments to the image ranging from simple color changes to painting new parts.
The final step in the rendering process is the production of the physical work of art. This is done by using any number of computer printers. They can be a simple standard inkjet printer printing on photo paper or monstrous wide format printer printing on canvas. I prefer the latter. High quality prints on canvas are often called giclées, though now, most places just call them canvas prints.
If you’d like to see a high speed demonstration, here is an hour long session condensed into two minutes:
It’s a complex way to create art, involving skills of multiple artistic disciplines, but the results can be quite spectacular. It’s a form of creation that is new to the art world.
Digital Art in general is received much like photography was over a century ago when it was a young art form. There’s no reason that digital art won’t achieve similar recognition in the coming years. Imagine if you had the opportunity go back to New York in the early Twentieth Century and pickup a work from Alfred Stieglitz when they were brand new…
This being my first blog post. I’m going to tell you a bit about who I am.
My name is Daniel Eskridge, and I’m an artist…at least I am some of the time. I have a day job as a software engineer. But in my spare time, I create art.
I grew up in north Georgia in the metro Atlanta area, and I live there now, north of the city a bit. I’m in my mid-forties, married, and have three kids.
I’m a classically trained artist in such formats as drawing, painting, scupture and photography and have degrees in both art and computer science from the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!).
For many years, I primarily did oil and acrylic paintings. However, being a software engineer by day, I’ve always been around computers and have was experimenting with digital as far back as the mid 1980’s. When my youngest son was born though, I decided to get the hazardous chemicals out of the house (which included all my oil paints), and I went all digital.
I first started to like art when I was a kid. I read lots of science fiction and fantasy novels and was always fascinated by the cover illustrations. I first learned to make art by copying such artists as Larry Elmore, Kieth Parkinson, Michael Whelan, Boris Vallejo and Frank Frazetta.
Naturally, my first genre of choice was fantasy, but over the years, I’ve branched into the paleoart, wildlife, and Western genres. I’ve also produced several non-genre realist works.
I spend a great deal of time outdoors, so nature and organic forms play a large role in my art. Particularly the place where I grew up (and still live), northern Georgia and the foothills of the southern Appalachians, inspires a lot of my work.
Sometime around 2010, I discovered something called print-on-demand websites. These are websites that allow artists to sell their works directly to customers in the form of custom-specified, on-demand, ink jet prints. I tried uploading a few of my works to various sites and found that they sold!
Not only did my art start to sell, but I also started getting illustration contracts and setting up licensing agreements.
Nowadays, I don’t have much time for contract work with a rather intense day job and a baby daughter in the house, but I do take the occasional commission if it fits. Plus, I still manage to create at least one new artwork per week — and if you want to hear about all of my latest works as well a see some of my favorites, subscribe to my email list.