Friday, September 16, 2016

3D Printer

I recently purchased a M3D Micro 3D Printer.  While there are cheaper 3D printers on the market, it offered what I considered to be the best options for someone who isn't interested in doing a lot of setup and maintenance.  I'd read enough reviews and watched enough YouTube videos to determine that this was going to be a good solution for my 3D printing needs.

A few things I've learned along the way:

3D printing is an inherently slow process.  Small models could take hours to print, even at the lower resolution settings.

Not everything you can download from 3D model sites like Thingiverse will print well.  I've had much more success with models I've designed myself using software like Autodesk's excellent free software called 123D.

3D printing requires quite a bit of "post processing" if you really want something that looks nice because of the way 3D printers create objects.  A nozzle lays down plastic filament that is extruded through a nozzle so any model will have a striated look to it.  This can be either sanded away or painted over to create a smoother looking model.

3D printing has some environmental impact.  You are working with plastic and if you've even smelled melting plastic then you might be turned off by 3D printing.  Thankfully, there are different types of plastic that minimize the "smell" and the environmental impact of plastic waste.

Many 3D printers can print with ABS filament which produces a hard and strong plastic shape.  Unfortunately, it smells like melting plastic and potentially sends contaminants into the air.  Proper ventilation is a good idea with ABS.

PLA plastic is a better alternative when printing items in your own home.  PLA is produced from corn starch so its (supposedly) bio-degradable and even better, it doesn't really smell when extruding from the print head.  Some PLA has an aroma but its more of a "sweet" smell and it's safer to breath.

I'll be posting some things I've made in the near future!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Formation:Moon Alliance book cover

I was able to complete this book cover a few months back for Daniel Dore.  He had a very specific image in mind and while I thought it was a bit too busy, I gave him what he wanted.  I was very pleased with how this turned out.  The models were created in Carrara 8 Pro and all the laser fire, explosions and various elements were composited in Photoshop.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Places I've Never Been 5 - The Seat of Galactic Government, New Earth

Here's another "quickie" image that was started in Curvy 3D, rendered in Carrara 8 Pro and composited in Photoshop.  The people were from a photograph I had taken during a trip to England last year, as was the grass and distant landscape.  Everything else was created in 3D.  The basic render took a few hours during a slow afternoon at work and I've been tweaking it over the past few days, adding and subtracting things until I got something I liked.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Membrane book cover

I was recently asked to create a book cover for an e-book written by Don Densmore.  While the book is quite descriptive, I was given free-reign to design the book cover as I envisioned it.  Don was great to work for and was very happy with the illustration I created.

His book can be found here:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Places I Have Never Been 4: The Stepped City Of Andahar

Another image created in PD Pro Howler.  This one is pretty much a straight render with no post processing.  What's fun about these images is that they tale very little time to create, yet the results are almost always impressive.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Places I Have Never Been 3: The Green Fields of Monrovia

Another landscape made with PDPro Howler.  This one was done like the others but I used special particle brushes to create some vegetation on the foreground hills.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Places I've Never Been 2 - The Wizard Plains

Here's another image made with PD Pro Howler, and the awesome new filter called Puppy Ray that turns any image into a height map and eventually a landscape.  There's lots of control over lighting (including global illumination), camera placement and more.  I did do a lot of color correction and also added the foreground vegetation.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Places I've Never Been 1

I've been using PD Pro Howler for many years now.  It's a fascinating paint and animation program but its lack of opaque layers limits its usefulness when it comes to digital painting.  Even though version 9 doesn't fix the problem, it does add some incredible new features that I'm having a blast playing with.

You can now take any kind of image and use it as an elevation map that can then be raytraced with global illumination to create all sorts of fantastic landscapes.  This image uses a floor plan I found on the internet, that was then distressed using some of Howler's filters.  The resulting image was then combined with a color map to give it a desert feel.  The images were then used by the built-in raytracing filter to create the image you see here.

It's all incredibly fun to play with and hopefully I'll post many more interesting images in the near future.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Samsung Ativ 500t review for the digital artist

While I've long lusted after one of those amazing Wacom Cintiq tablets, the new breed of Windows Pro tablets provide a lot of the same functionality for less money.

I purchased a refurbished Samsung Ativ 500t Windows 8 tablet about a month ago.  It's been a love-hate relationship since I'm trying to unlearn things that I can do on an iPad as well as get used to the dual Windows 8 interface.  The app side works much like an iPad but the Desktop side works just like a regular PC.  Therein lies the problem since many Windows programs aren't designed to work with a touch screen.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I've been playing around with iClone and PDPro Howler lately.  This scene originally started out as a kind of scary and ominous animation created in iClone.  With some animated filters and lots of color correction using PDPro Howler, a lovely winter scene was achieved.  Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

From another point of view

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a piece of concept art showing a ship blasting off from a fortress.  As much as I liked that image, I wanted to try it again but from a closer and more dynamic point of view.  The elements were created in Carrara then brought into Photoshop where I composited everything the way I wanted.  Finally, I used an app on my iPad to give my Photoshop image a more painterly look.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Concept Art

This concept image was done for a friend who's written a really lovely sci-fi, musical along the lines of The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast.  It's full of really ingenious song lyrics and the plot is lots of fun too.

I'm in the process (slow as it is) of creating some conceptual images and character designs for this project.  This image represents a crucial point in the story when the heroine escapes the villain's fortress and flies off to adventures someplace new and exciting.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Korg Experiment.m4a

Having recently acquired some Korg equipment, I thought I would try to create a new piece of music with it all. This piece was recorded to my iPad2 using the Multitrack Recorder app. A Korg Monotribe supplied the initial groove and drone, while most of the other instruments came from a Korg MicroStation. Finally, I used a Korg Monotron Delay synth to add some cool spacey effects into the mix. The whole project took a couple of hours to do!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Samuel Slater Video

Here's a video about Samuel Slater and the American Industrial Revolution that my daughter and I made.  She did a lot of the research and we co-wrote it together.  We shot most of the video during a recent trip to Rhode Island and we filled in the missing pieces from images found on the internet.

The goal was to share with her classmates a personal connection to some piece of American history.  My hometown of Woonsocket, Rhode Island is not too far away from Pawtucket where Slater built his first textile mill.  This allowed us to make this film and share it with her classmates who would probably never have the opportunity to visit this historical area.

Monday, June 4, 2012

PD Pro Lens Flare animation

Lens flares are terribly overused and cliched but I always loved the look and PDPro has some great animated lens flare effects.  This image started out as some random sketches that I did to test out some built in brushes.  I then took that image and manipulated it, then did some simple animations that eventually became this nebulous space effect.

This piece of software continues to amaze me, though I continue to wish that it had opaque layers rather than the clunky default multiply mode.  You can get opaque layers but you've really got to work at it and it really slows down any creative workflow.

Having said this, I still find PDPro to be an incredible bargain and it's paint and animation functions are pretty remarkable.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Desert Ship

Well, it seems like I'm doing a lot of these renders.  Here's yet another image that started as a Curvy3D model.  All the modeling and textures were laid out in Curvy3D.  The textures were then refined in Photoshop and the model was exported as on .OBJ file.  The file was then opened in Carrara 6 Pro, where it was placed onto one of Carrara's standard environments, lit and rendered.  The finished render was manipulated a bit in Photoshop, where I also added the camel for scale.  This was all done in an afternoon's time!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Curvy Car

This car was created with Curvy3D and was originally intended to be a spaceship.  I started out with some jet engine shapes.  Once I had placed the cab on top of the engines, it looked too much like a car.  So, I turned the engines around to make them into wheels.  The shapes, deformation maps and textures were all worked out in Curvy3D, though I eventually reworked the textures in Photoshop to clean them up.

I exported the model from Curvy as an .OBJ file and opened it in Carrara.  The reworked textures were reapplied to the model in Carrara.  The completed model was placed onto one of Carrara's stock landscapes, where I lit it and created the rendered image.

All told, this image took about 4-5 hours over a couple of days to do.

Friday, April 13, 2012


This image was created using Curvy 3D, Carrara and Photoshop.  The basic model and texturing started in Curvy3D.  The basic textures were then reworked in Photoshop.  The Curvy model was exported as an .obj file and brought into Carrara where it was lit, retextured with the Photoshop textures and rendered.  The rendered image was then opened in Photoshop where the levels were tweaked and some effects were added, such as the little pin points of light.

All in all, the image took about 3-4 hours to put together.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Another Howler Landscape

This is another image created with PD Pro Howler 7. I've been experimenting with different brushes and landscapes just seem like a natural subject. A number of post-effects were added after the original painting to accentuate the brush strokes.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Planet Skimming with PD Pro Howler

This animation was done with PD Pro Howler and shows off some of its built-in effects.  Using PD Pro's built in 3D engine, I was able to animate a height map so as to create the illusion of flying over a landscape.   Some stars and a planet were then added using the swap buffer (shades of DPaint on the Amiga), and then some animated lens flares were added on top of that.  Finally, a zoom effect was added to the entire animation to give it more of a sense of forward motion.