I have discovered that a lot of people not familiar with Computer Graphics (CG) think that you can only create an image using a photo, clip art, or a program where one click of a button changes the style of an image. They don't realize that it is not that simple and it can be just as creative as using a hand held brush or pastel. After I introduce them to some of the galleries on the web, they were interested and suggested that I write an article describing some of the processes I use to get my final results. So I thought I would describe in general terms what I am doing at present.

I have a concept for a final image and first create the "basic" image. Sometimes I use a photograph that I have taken with an end result in mind;

or I use many different photographs as small parts of an image and I meld them together. This technique I have been using for years. If you click on the word movie, you will see a short movie explaining the technique. If Adobe Shockwave is not installed on your computer, it is safe to install it if requested once you click on movie. (It will not automatically install. Uncheck the Google toolbar if you don't want it.)

A few years ago I started creating my initial image in a 3D program by E-on Software called Vue. I now use Vue 9 Infinite. Initially, the image is not a "polished image" because I have chosen to create it with later modifications in mind. This means that sometimes I purposely have a sky darker than I would if this image were not to be reworked. For these modifications I use many different programs. My first step once this image is created in Vue and rendered is to do postwork in Photoshop so that I can use it as a basic image from which to create other images. The way this "basic" image is finalized will depend on how I want to stylize it later on. Often I create more than one "basic" image in Photoshop.

For those not familiar with a 3D program, let me explain very simplistically what 3D is and what it involves. One creates objects that are 3 dimensional, gives them skins, and lights them. Normally most users of 3D purchase models created by others because creating good models is an art in itself. Often a material or skin covers the model, but that can be changed and models can be modified in 3D programs. What constitutes a model? Simplistically they are made up of polygons linked together. A simple cube is made up of 6 polygons and 8 vertices (where the lines come together.) The hand in wireframe mode is made up of many more polygons. The more polygons, the more detailed the image can be.

Since these are 3 dimensional, they can rotate in space. Below, the clothes are separate models. All the skins or materials can be modified or changed. Lighting a model or a scene with models plays a very important role in determining how the model will look just as it does when you create a scene using traditional media such as oil paints. (The models are from a program called Poser.)

What are the tools the digital artist has at their disposal and how can they be used? In this case I am referring to the term tools to mean software programs - not hardware. The tools are as many as the multiple ways they can be used. What I am demonstrating are just a few methods for creating computer graphics or CG.

As I stated, I start out with a concept for a landscape or a feeling. I, then, create it in E-on Software's Vue. (Vue 9 Infinite)

Everything that is an object can be rotated, moved, sized, i.e.: house, individual vegetation, fence, clouds, sun, etc. Lights can be placed and and their properties determined.

It is important to stress that I am not producing an image that I expect to stand on its own. I am producing an image that I will use as a base image and change it measurably in multiple ways. Many users of Vue and other similar programs use it to create a finished image and do very little postwork on it. Postwork is done after the image is rendered. Rendering means that the software is turning the image from a 3D image to a 2D image. This can take a lot of time. The computer just keeps plugging away until it is done. I am not going to go into what effects the speed of a render. When I render, I use a setting called Multi-pass because in Vue that can put each separate object on a layer and as a channel in one Photoshop file.

After a render, I can save images using various options. I very often work with a darker image than a lighter one.

Here is how the channels appeared when I opened my PSD (native Photoshop file extension) file in Photoshop CS5. This means that I can isolate and independently work on every object in my image. Each channel can be turned into a selection and placed on its own layer.

Since I am using this image as a base image, my goal is to create one that has good detail but "without" any special feeling or mood. the latter I will do later.

Below is how what I call my "base image" looks. Now making use of layers and channels, I will change the image to express an emotion or a particular style. I will use a number of different programs to do this.

Once again, using channels is critical because changes should not be done uniformly over the entire image. You need the control of working with pieces of the image. Channels are useful to create selections as well as layer masks.

Below is an example of a final image.

There are many excellent programs available to make "stylized" changes to your image. I will just name a few and am sure I have left some out: Alien Skin's Snap Art 2, Filter Forge 2, PostworkShop Pro (review to follow for version 2), Corel Painter 11....................In addition, there are excellent third party filters to add qualities of light to your image such as Auto FX Software's Mystical Suite 2. As I stated, I know I have left some out. You can see my reviews for other plugins as well.

The reason for this article is to dispel a few myths.

  1. The computer does not create art; the artist does.
  2. One doesn't compose and create an image by just pressing a button.
  3. The computer is not simply used for photo-editing.
  4. One can create an image in many ways and develope it infinitely.
  5. The blending of 3D and 2D has tremendous possibilities.
  6. Art generated by using a computer is not meant to mirror or copy "traditional" methods such as oil painting, watercolor......
  7. Everyone's art is unique.

A new and interesting website has just arrived on the scene. There are two excellent articles by Clint and Lillian Hawkins dealing with "Traditional" and "Computer Art." One deals with why they have started their website - yurdigital.com and the other explores art forms. I highly recommend both articles. While you are there, check out their textures and models - some are free.