Its been a very long time since I last updated this blog (I’ve been more active on instagram over the last year) but I’ve been wanting to revive the blog for a while- now that postgrad study is complete, I thought I’d give it another go!
So… the last year has been a pretty busy one (hence no posting). Here’s an update on some of the projects I had the opportunity to work on:
Last year was spent studying hard to get postgrad qualifications in illustration, specifically medical illustration. What an amazing year- it was a huge learning curve, but at the same time, it went super fast. I was lucky enough to work in the Design for Health and Wellbeing Lab (a design for health studio based in Auckland City Hospital) to carry out my illustration honours project. Here is a post about my research project (and in more detail here).
I might do a more in depth post about my research and some of the interesting things that came out of it at some point.
Alongside studying, I was lucky enough to work on a really fun illustration project with entomologist Leilani Walker, illustrating 52 native New Zealand insects (and designing packaging) for the Insects of New Zealand Playing Cards. You can read more about the process for making these illustrations here. It was such an awesome project to be involved in, (probably the biggest and longest lasting illustration collaborations I have worked on) and the support for the cards now they have been released into the wild has been great- in fact, we have just released the second edition last month!
Since I completed my studies I have been transitioning into freelance illustration work. While I had been doing freelance projects for the last couple of years, treating it as a serious full-time business and actually calling myself an ‘illustrator’ has been a big step. Lots more learning and developing processes of working (and administration!), plus a newly designed website, which you can see here, and a sparkly new Etsy store too!
Both still a work in progress. I’ll start posting more about some of the projects I HAVE worked on soon. Next time, back into regular posting with something (hopefully) a bit more interesting 🙂
If there’s anyone out there reading this, thanks if you are still following this blog- I appreciate it!
recently I have been practicing more and more on digital painting techniques, trying to see if I can emulate the look of traditional media in photoshop (which I am finding quite challenging!). I really don’t like the CG look, so its an interesting challenge, which I can tell is going to take a lot of practice to master.
Here is my first entomological digital “painting”, of a NZ chorus cicada (Amphisalta zealandica). As we move into the colder weather here in New Zealand, these guys have been disappearing.
This started off with sketches in real life, scanned in, then added digital paint over the top. The wings were also rendered with highlights, which you can only see on a darker background:
In other news, I was lucky enough to attend Chromaconnect (NZ’s only industry conference for creative fields like illustration, concept art, animation), last Friday. It was amazing, I took lots of notes and will be writing up a post with some stuff I picked up there to go up later this week for anyone who is interested!
It is loosely based on a few stories I read in a book about the cultural history of NZ birds- the New Zealand eagle (which was the largest known bird of prey, with a wingspan of up to 2.4m) was written throughout Maori myth and legend as a dangerous bird that preyed upon humans, and was also seen as a bad omen. In this drawing I tried to imagine children re-enacting the myths of warriors who fought against these giant birds of prey.
Here is the colour palette I used:
hope you are all having a great weekend! Check back mid-week for another installment of NZ natural history artist- this weeks artist is Piers Hayman, an ornithological artist who did some really amazing work. Till next time! emma
I had fun playing with the colour palette on this one. I am trying to map out colour gamut’s (as outlined in James Gurney’s wonderful book ‘Color and Light‘), using a YRMBY colour wheel and then setting up a limited colour palette before I start work on a digitally coloured piece. It certainly will take some more practice but is turning out to be pretty fun to learn about- even if I’m not quite there yet!
I recommend the following tutorials if you are interested in finding out more (short of reading the book!):
This video is the best explanation from James Gurney himself.
hi everyone! blogging has been pretty slow over the last few weeks as I have been busy with a few projects- I’ll share what I can here soon! In the meantime, I recently did Molly Suber Thorpe’s online skillshare class- “Digitizing Calligraphy- from sketch to vector” and thought I’d post a quick review for anyone who might be interested in doing the class or learning more about taking traditional lettering into digital format.
Here are a couple of inktober illustrations that I coloured in photoshop, using the watercolour brush from Kyle T Webster.
I had so much trouble using the watercolour brush because it was lagging so far behind my mouse pointer, but then I figured out that I hadn’t down-sampled the resolution of the B+W image after I tidied it up (I always scan at 1200dpi for B+W)- so if you are a total newbie like me and that happens to you, just place your high res tiff image into a lower resolution PSD file and you shouldn’t have any problems with the brush!! 🙂
If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen a few chalkboard lettering pics I have posted. Next time I’ll be sharing a quick how-to on how I made my chalkboard- so check back at the end of the week if that interests you!
Today I am running this blog’s first giveaway- its for a service I really enjoy using myself and can’t wait to tell you more about it- read to the end to find out more!!
I am quite a fan of skillshare– I’ve referenced it a couple of times on the blog- and have done a few classes through the website. I think its a really useful and affordable way to learn from the pros in various creative areas. Recently I did a new class by Christine Fleming called “Scientific Illustration- conveying information with charm“. I wasn’t entirely sure what the class would be about, but lets just say I was in as soon as I read “scientific illustration”!!
This class teaches you to distill information from scientific fact into fun and educational illustrations. If you check out BuzzHootRoar (which “is a graphics-driven blog that shares and/or explains a scientific concept in 300 words or less”– for which Christine is the resident illustrator) you should get a feel for the sort of style/approach of the class. I found the class really fun and it opened up some options of combining traditional and digital tools that I hadn’t really considered. I also really enjoyed the short lecture on colour theory- which is an area that I really need to learn more about. As part of the class there was a challenge to create an illustration to celebrate National Wildlife Day. I thought it would be cool to illustrate the some of the most endangered species worldwide. I made a selection of ten of the most endangered species- making sure to include at least one NZ species (hint: kakapo!).
I decided to ink the final illustration using my kuretake brush pen, and then colour it digitally in Photoshop.
Though I much prefer the look (and the process of making) art using traditional materials, it has been a goal of mine for a little while now to learn more about digital illustration techniques. Digital techniques are an indispensible skill to have today, and lend themselves quite well to many scientific illustration applications. I also love the idea of combining traditional and digital techniques so that the final work is not 100% digital- as can be seen in one of my first completed Photoshop paintings ‘Journey’ done for IF challenge.
I am very much a beginner but I thought it might be useful to post some of the simple tips and useful tutorials that I have been most helpful in my attempt to teach myself to paint digitally. Hopefully it might be useful to some of you too!
I started off with trying out pure digital painting and then moving on to colouring traditionally drawn/painted stuff that I scanned in. I have discussed ideas for both techniques below.
Pure Digital Painting
Not my favourite mode of using PS but definitely important to know!
Blending the paint: While I’ve played around the photoshop before, the major issue I had trouble getting my head around to start with was how to blend colours in a digital painting?? It seems like this should be really obvious but there wasn’t too much information that I could find- nothing mentioned in any of the digital painting books I have looked at. Some less sophisticated graphics programs the paint blends as if it is wet in real life, however in PS, you have to go about blending in another (more controlled method). I would be lost without the excellent tutorials on this from Ctrl-Paint – especially this one:
Essentially this is all you really need to get started playing with the program! Give it a go and see what you can come up with.
The other essential I think is finding a brush you like. Though I know there are people out there who manage to use the default hard round + airbrush brushes in PS with great success, in my hands they usually end up making my digital illustrations look, well, digital! I’m not a huge fan of the digital polished look (as shown in the above dolphin illustration), so instead have enjoyed using Drew Greens gouache brush and also have just started using Kyle T Websters watercolour brush. This is an area that I’m still discovering and trying to figure out what works best.
Colouring traditional line work+washes
This is now my preferred approach to creating illustrations with (partially) digital methods. Its something that I am definitely experimenting with a lot at the moment. I’ve tried a few methods of colouring traditional work, and this is the best I have come up with so far…
To colour traditional line work and washes…I initially started off using the method of making your line work set as ‘Multiply’ blending mode- so you can then paint in the fill areas on a layer below the lines. To colour the lines themselves, I would apply a clipping mask to the lines layer and set the mode of the clipping mask to ‘Screen’, then paint on my colour to the clipping mask. BUT I found this method gave very patchy results, with ‘screen’ colours not showing up at full vibrance and the painting beneath the line work showing through the lines, making them look messy.
My new approach is one picked up from a couple of tutorials online- most helpful were these two:
Here’s a basic summary (total credit to the tutorials listed above- check them out for a full run-down on how to do this): to colour the line work/wash (also works really well with gradiented pencil or wash work) I remove any colours by desaturating the scanned image (make sure to convert it to RGB or CMYK mode first, if you scan in grayscale like I do, or it won’t work). Then go into channels menu (next to the layers tab) and CTRL+click the icon next to RGB channel. This selects all the white areas in your image. To invert the selection (ie select all your lines/washes etc) click Select–> Invert selection (or key board shortcut).
Next go back to the layers palette, create a new layer and fill it with your selected colour (you can use the quickly fill layers key shortcut described above). At this point you can also use your brush to paint in various colours in this layer. You will only be painting on the area selected by the marching ants.
Once you are done with colouring the linework/wash, you can deselect the linework, create a new layer and paint underneath the linework layer the fill in any white areas.
This is a great method because it produces solid coloured line work that can be manipulated in many ways. The variety of options is endless once you start to realise the things you can achieve by utilising layers as well!!
Some other little tips I have picked up:
If your brush tip disappears it means you have CTRL lock on…oops, no need for a panic attack
When you start making really big files with all your painted layers, don’t be alarmed when PS tells you the file exceeds the 2gb limit to be saved, simply save the file as a .PSB (large document format).
To reduce the size of your document you can merge the layers into each other (but only if you’ve finished working on them), or add a white-filled layer above all the others- which is supposed to reduce the document size considerably. Also if you scan your images in as 1200dpi grayscale tiffs as I do, when you place your grayscale scan into your working document, make sure to reduce the resolution (about 400-600dpi for colour images). This makes them much easier to handle.
Start to think in layers. If you haven’t used PS or Illustrator much before it is really useful to learn more about layers because they allow so much flexibility when you want to work on isolated areas of a painting without potentially ruining the rest of your illustration
Choosing colour palettes in Photoshop: I found this REALLY DIFFICULT until I found this awesome tutorial by Zoe Piel. She says that creating harmonious/limited colour palettes in PS is actually really difficult because you have an infinite number of colours to choose from (as opposed to a number of tubes of watercolour paint). Her tutorial makes total sense and has been so useful to me. She also has an awesome tutorial on making a blender tool in PS.
To quickly fill a layer with a colour use ctrl+backspace to fill with the foreground colour, alt+backspace to fill with the background colour (those are the colours on those two little square swatches in the tool menu [screen shot it]
A really cool tip I picked up from Edible Perspective (awesome vegetarian recipes!!) was that you can change the background colour (that is the colour behind your canvas- I have CS5 and it is automatically grey) by right-clicking on the background and selecting custom colour. This can be useful to know if you need to change the background for editing or colour correction purposes.
I hope you enjoyed this quick run down of the various tutorials and tips I have found useful so far in learning about digital illustration techniques.
If you have any tips that you have found useful I’d love to know- leave a comment below!
Just quickly popping by to post this Dusky Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) illustration I did in Photoshop. I roughly followed this tutorial (main difference being I used different photoshop brushes and I drew the sketch with pencil+scanned it in, rather than drawing it in photoshop). This was one of my things to try out in my september goals (and one of the few I actually did end up completing!!).
Not 100% sure I like it but I think I need to play around with the technique a bit to see if I can get it looking right.