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Book Review – Masters Collection: Volume 1 – Digital Painting Techniques By The 3D Total Team

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Digital Painting Techniques is the first in a series of books that will highlight the digital painting techniques of some of the most talented individuals in world of graphics design and graphics art. The series was born from the realization that missing from the market was the sharing of thought processes and creation techniques behind some of the most innovated graphics imagery being created today.

The layout of the book is 10.9 x 8.5 in size so it provides for good resolution for all of the images in the book. It is 288 pages in length and breaks out into eight chapters and each chapter has three to seven tutorials. All of the tutorials involve the use of Adobe Photoshop with a couple adding the use Corel Painter and one with Cinema 4D and one with Artweaver and Gimp.

While each of the tutorials differs in the techniques that they show, they also differ the type and amount of information that they provide. But in each case they begin with a dialog from the creator on the subject at hand. Then there is an overview of the process of each technique along with screen shots that demonstrate the technique. At the end is a full page display of the final result. Also included are free resources from a supplied website.

Keep in mind that Digital Painting Techniques is a concept book, not a full step-by-step tutorial style. That is you will learn how working artists think, what they go through in creating their designs, and loosely how they work and perhaps to some degree, how their minds work.

You will not go from step 1 to step 2 to step 3 and in many cases, the description is vague. For example, you may be told to use a textured brush, but no additional information other than the resultant screenshots for you to interpret what the artist means.

What you will learn is how the artist works using the particular technique, what kind of thought processes that they use, as well as how they use the technique in their real workflow.

Chapter 1, “Custom Brushes,” looks at the heart of digital painting – the brush. It is the link between the thoughts and ideas of the artist and the artwork that results. In the digital world the freedom to create your own brushes has greatly magnified the creativity available that you are able to bring into your painting. You will learn to create organic custom brushes, brushes from animal textures, how creating brushes can save time, creating brushes for painting skin and creating a brush from scratch.

Chapter 2, “Speed Painting,” is a process that has become common in the digital world as it allows for the exploration of ideas before committing to final piece. It is most common in the realm of computer graphics where ideas have to be communicated before details are evolved. You will see a project of a tornado moving toward a farmhouse, a steam powered mechanical destroyer, alien hot air balloons, a forest fire, a ship hit by a torpedo and more concept pieces.

Chapter 3, “Matte Painting,” was once a traditional art form and has now become a purely digital practice. This discipline allows film makers to create scenes that would be too costly or impossible to build. This chapter examines the blending of photography and painting skills in the creation of artwork. You will examine the creation of five different types of matte painting.

Chapter 4, “Creatures,” are also an art form that requires special skills. These mostly revolve around the knowledge of the anatomy. These abilities are used in a wide range of projects from video games, to T.V. to film. This chapter covers everything from animals to alien creatures. The five tutorials here cover things like concept design, to atmospheric conditions, to painting fur as well as animal eyes.

Chapter 5, “Humans,” and the human form have captivated artists for centuries. This type of art work has been used to study the human condition. This chapter will focus more on the technical issues as opposed to the subjective aspects. You will paint blonde and red hair, luscious lips, portraits, skin, the human face, and the human eye.

Chapter 6, “Environments,” have become a specialized role in the artistic world. This type of work often involves creating a variation of an existing environment such as different weather conditions or showing how a scene can convey a diverse range of moods. Here you will create a sandstorm, a twister, a rainstorm, a snowstorm, and a heat wave all using the same base photo. There is also a tutorial on a rainy day cityscape, and painting water surfaces and waves.

Chapter 7, “Sci-fi & Fantasy,” are two of the most popular themes of the digital artist of today because they allow for an expansive base of creative freedom and exploration. Here you will look at painting armor, planets and star fields, and other techniques.

Chapter 8, “Complete Projects,” examines three artists and the thought process as well as the creative approach into three works of art. The first is “Funfair,” where a little girl licks the frog she is holding in her right hand instead of the ice cream cone she has in her left. The second is the creation of a 2D image from scratch using Photoshop, Painter, Artweaver, and Gimp. The third is “Keep a Sharp Eye,” which is an illustration of three people on a skiff in the bayous of New Orleans. Most of the work was done in Photoshop with a little help from Cinema 4D.

Finally there is an extensive gallery of images from the artists who helped create Digital Painting Techniques (there were more than 40), covering around 30 pages. At the end of the book is a complete list of the artists along with pictures, websites and email addresses.

I found Digital Painting Techniques to be a lot of fun to read. I really like the format and the way the book flows, showing different techniques. It is one of those kinds of books that you can go to when you are looking for inspiration and refreshing viewpoints. If you are an artist especially one who works in the computer-generated realm, then I very highly recommend this book.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.