#59: SHADOWS & LIGHT (Vue)
(and other apps)


For anyone interested in learning digital art:

1) See what's out there, see what interests you.
This lets you see what can be done, and some of it is jaw-dropping and/or beautiful. Don't worry, you may not be able to do that kind of work today, but you maybe able to do it in the future. Like learning anything else, you don't master it in a day ;) Much of the fun is learning how to do it!

This was my first 3D Image with Bryce, years ago:

wizards tower, old pic (1999?)
It may make me wince, now, lol, but it was FUN and kewl, back then.

This is what I can do today:
illithid eclipse, recent pic (2008)

Over time, you get better ;)

is one of the largest and widest user base amateur forums (lot of pros hang out there too).
Lot of different application (programs/styles of digital art) and art types can be found there.
You may need to register to browse the site though.

IMHO, the Fractal, Bryce, Vue and Mojoworld galleries are very good.
-Poser work tends to verge into erotica or glamour, but some of it is really great work.

Example of great digital art:

One of my fave artists is Callum5:
His work is outstanding.

For more "professional" work, CGTalk has many professional and high-end artists.
Scifi-Meshes.com is home to many sci-fi artists, as you'd expect.

There is no "right way", to do anything in digital work, lots of ways you can learn or discover. Just find what's "fun" :)

2) Digital art takes time to learn, however. But, unlike traditional art, digital art can let you make fun and interesting work almost instantly, like the semi-infamous "Chrome Spheres over water In Bryce" ;)
I did them too, lol!

Digital art also lets you "undo" mistakes, a huge advantage ;)

To be "good" though, it does take time and effort like anything else, but, it does remove some of the hassles of traditional art, and can achieve somethings hard to do otherwise.

3) It's most important to find an application ("app" for short) that's *good for you*.
There is NO such thing as a "best" app. Only what you, personally, enjoy using.
All the bells and whistles, and expense, don't matter. There is a degree of snobbery in some parts of digital art, but most folk with actual knowledge realize it doesn't matter if an image is made with a free app, or a £10,000 one.

Also, most apps have demo (demonstration) versions you can download to try out, to see if you like the app, *very useful* and good, most though only work for a short period, or won't let you save stuff etc (the Rhino3D demo, if I recall correctly, only lets you save 25 times, as an example). Some have "personal learning editions" demos, which are fully functional programs, but have some limitations and usually add a big watermark on their renders, so they are like demos you can use to learn with for as long as you want.

Apps basically fall into 2 types: 2D (flat images), and 3D. Note, the term "render" means "to render out an image", usually reffers to a 3D program making a final 2D Image or animation, you can then use to put in web pages, illustrate books, for films or whatever.

  • My suggested 2D applications:
  • Paint Shop Pro (relatively cheap at £50 or so, this is my personal fave).
  • Photoshop, expensive, £500, it does have some advantages over Paint Shop Pro and GIMP, but not massively so. Good if you are seriously into the subject, or mad-keen digital photographer, or professional.
  • Photoshop Elements, relatively cheap, cut down version of Photoshop, I think Paint Shop Pro is much better for the cost.
  • GIMP, free.
  • You can paint, alter and enhance photos or 3D renders, with all of the above apps.

  • Corel Painter is designed more for literally "painting", than photo and graphic manipulation.
  • CoreDraw I personally don't like it, but some folk love it. Different strokes for different folks! :) It's more for "vector" work, which is a type of image dssign and look, but can do photo manipulation. Vector work is easiest described as like cartoon work, or decals, or labels. Adobe Illustrator is another vector art program, though note that Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro do have some degree of vector art ability.
  • My Suggested Fractal Programs, fractals are very peculiar art form based on mathematics:
  • Apophysis, makes "fractal flames", very beautiful, exotic images.Free. What I used to make my fractal images.
  • Ultrafractal, bit more complex, costs about £40, does more traditional fractals but very powerful.

  • My suggested 3D apps:
  • Bryce, 5.5 version is free, legal, from www.download.com. Full version 6 is £35. This is one of the classic, fun-to-use amateur 3D apps and what I started with :)
    Note that high end profesional apps have very technical, unpleasant interfaces. Bryce, Poser and Vue are liked because they are easy to use and understand.
  • Vue, my favourite, price various from low to high, depending on what version you want. Similar to Bryce, it's capable of extremely realistic landscapes/forests (as well as other scenes, such as almost realistic interiors). Has a "Personal Learning Edition".
  • Poser, £150, this app is for setting up "Posing" people, creatures and scenery. It doesn't do landscapes/backgrounds.
    Many people take items made in Poser, into other apps, and render in Bryce, Vue etc (that's what I do).
  • Daz Studio, this is a free app from www.DAZ3D.com, that lets you take Poser people/items, and pose them, so it's an alternative to Poser.
  • Zbrush, very odd app, it lets you sculpt as you would with clay or a paint brush, so you can sculpt creatures in high detail, as well as other things like paint colour on the objects, and make very peculiar 2D work with a 3D look. That's what Callum5 uses to make the body jewellery and armour in image linked earlier. Zbrush can render images, but is primarily used for making 3d models. £200 or so.
  • Lightwave, the cheapest of the "professional" 3D apps, it's about £500 or so. It renders faster than amateur apps, and is primarily used for animations, but can of course, do still images.
  • Blender, free. Takes getting used to but can do professional quality work, actually. It can also make 3d models.
  • Moment of Inspiration, a free 3d model maker program. It's very similar to my favourite 3d model maker: Rhino (which is expensive). Very easy to pick up method of modelling, IMHO. It can't make scenes or images, just models for other apps to use, so you could make a boat, or spaceship, a house or whatever.
  • Wings3D, only a 3d Model maker, free. uses "polygon" modelling. Takes a bit of getting used to the idea of polygon modelling, bit like playing with clay mixed with Lego.
  • Maya, one of the main professional 3D apps. very powerful and very expensive. However, a free "personal learning version" exists.
There's many, many more out there though!! Silo (model maker), 3DCoat (modelmaker), Modo, 3DMAX, XSI,etc etc.

4) There are TONS of tutorials on the Net on how to use these and many other apps, Renderosity has a pile of them. There are a lot of my own free tutorials on my site, as you may have noticed... ;)
Make use of them, save or print them, so you can reference at need, as they come in really handy.
If you get heavily into a particular app, there are DVD tutorials you can buy from Gnomon, Digital Tutors and others.

Some of my favourite tutorial books, you can buy from Amazon.com, on various subjects:

  • Digital Lighting and Rendering by Jeremy Birn (a must!)
  • How to Cheat In Photoshop CS3, by Steve Caplin
  • Vue 6 Revealed by Richard Schrand
  • Real World Bryce 4 by Susan Kitchens
  • Creating 3D Worlds by Simon Danaher
  • Photoshop Bible by Deke McClelland & Laurie Ulrich Fuller
  • Digital Fantasy Painting Workshop by Martin McKenna
  • Digital Horror Art: Creating Chilling Horror and Macabre Imagery by Martin McKenna

Many digital art forums exist, like Renderosity, and CGTALK, where you can get help and info.

5) Some general tips:

  • Always, ALWAYS make backups of your work, and save different copies, e.g. say you are making "My monutains", save sequential copies as you go along, "My Mountains1", "My mountains2" etc if you have a problem, or accidentally delete one copy, you can revert to another, and not go crazy as you've lost all your work! ;) Saving back ups on DVDs and CDs are good, or onto a second or external hard drive.
  • Graphic tablets are superb things for art, isntead of a mouse, they use a "Pen" to draw, paint etc with, which makes are work far easier, for somethings, like making selections, painting and fine photo manipulation. I like Wacom graphic tablets, but cheaper ones are made by Genius and Trust.
  • Make organized collections of items for your work, such as materials, textures, 3D models etc. So if you've saved things neatly, it's much easier to find them. For example, you save textures (images used mostly for 3d work to make objects surfaces look real, such as pictures of brick walls), if you save them in categories: walls; metals, sky; wood and the like, far easier to find things.
  • Take notes of any serial numbers/codes you get with your programs and jot them down into a specific notebook. Thus, if you ever loose the original box etc, you still have notes. I also back up emails I get from companies with such info. Very annoying to lose the serial from an expensive app! ;)
  • Try to keep the PC you use for art, seperate form oen used for games etc. PCs tend ot get a bit unstable after a while when loads of games etc get loaded onto them, removed, etc etc. So try sticking to having one PC just for art.

I hope you find this of use! :)

All original art, writing on this site, copyright of Steven James, "Silverblade the Enchanter" ©2012