Three by Three (3×3) Illustration Annual No.5

I have in front of me the latest 3×3 Annual No. 5, published January 2009, it’s not even on their own website yet! The cover, as you can see is a splendid illustration of Björk.

3x3 Illustration Annual Number 5

3x3 Illustration Annual Number 5

Inside the book starts with an interview of Henning Wagenbreth, Artists/Educator of the year, who appears to be sitting in his back garden on a deck chair wearing a beach towel. I haven’t read it because I got the book for the pictures! The book has section of illustration in the following categories; advertising, animation, books, editorial, institutional, self promotion, sequential, 3D and unpublished. Finally there is a section of student submissions.

It’s all great stuff, nicely printed on decent paper and inspirational, sometimes. There is such a massive range of techniques and styles on show in the book and it’s all quite new so it’s a good indicator of up and coming or current fashionable illustration types. Next time I find myself with a blank document and a blank mind I’ll be dipping into this book for some kind of inspiration. I bought this at ‘Borders’ but you can probably get it lots of places; UK people can get it at Central Books. If you know where to get it on-line feel free to post a link!

Design Reviews T-shirt, Obama edition

To commemorate the inauguration of the new president, Design Reviews has produced a special edition T-shirt with the bloke’s face on it. We probably should have done this a few months ago when people were making loads of money from Obamamania, but we clearly aren’t entrepreneurs here, we are designers & reviewers.

Design Reviews T-shirt Obama edition

Design Reviews T-shirt Obama edition

The quality of the design is only matched by the quality of the material! The shirt is made of 100% certified combed organic cotton, with twin needle stitching at the neck, sleeves and hem. AND it’s not produced in a sweat shop in a third world country either.

The design was lovingly created with a paid for commercial full copy of Adobe Illustrator, thereby keeping workers in the USA in employment. The fetching background Obama was realised with the help of the wonderful little program I have reviewed previously, Raster.

These shirts are a limited edition with no more than 500 being produced. One shirt costs 25UKP or 35USD, go to our merchandise page and order lots NOW!

Tunisian door arches

I recently took a vacation in Tunisia, over Christmas actually. There were many beautiful sights to see, most of them belonging to mother nature. What caught me eye though, wandering around the town of Hammamet, in contrast to the bright white walls in the illuminating sun were the brightly coloured arched doors. By far, blue doors were the favourite of the people it seems.

Twelve Tunisian doors

What an inspirational image on which to base some pop art or arches based illustration using your favourite graphics package. I’m working on some imagery based upon the above, but I’m not sure if it’s best to concentrate on just one door, they’re all so interesting!

Gort wallpaper – klaatu barada nikto!

The Day the Earth Stood Still, 19512008. What a great film with 1951 version was (is), and what a great soundtrack. I’ve not got around to seeing the 2008 version, will probably wait until it’s on TV. Big problem – it’s got Kanue in it, but the front page review on imdb says his wooden acting ‘style’ suits the alien persona of Klaatu. Also the trailer is uninspiring.

What has that got to do with Design Reviews? Well the huge robot Gort is a very cool robot design and I was sidetracked last night while designing a logo to do a version of Gort in Adobe Illustrator. I think it’s pretty nice and you can see it below.


Also out of huge generosity and Christmas spirit I have uploaded some ‘Gort wallpaper’ for your desktop. It’s available in lots of sizes to match your screen 1024×768, 1280×800, 1280×960, 1280×1024 and a big one at 1365×1024. Also even more incredibly I’ve uploaded the Adobe Illustrator (v8 for compatibility) file for you to download, to see how it’s drawn or so you can modify it, such as move the ‘klaatu barada nikto’ text around to suit your own desktop. Please if you do anything like that write a little comment on my page, or DIGG it or something!

Lightscribe – line printing and grayscale test

My previous article about Lightscribe has proved very popular, so here is an update with more information about the real practical use of Lightscribe labeling technology. In this test I’ve looked at the printing of fine detail (lines) at various angles (star shapes) and printed a grayscale test using swatches of gray from 10% to 100% in 10% increments. What more do you need? Let’s get a picture onto the stage and have a look at what results we have…

'Melody' brand gold Lightscribe disc

There you can see the result of the test. As it says, these are 96dpi images that should be on your screen at approximately life size for most people, except perhaps netbook users. If you are very interested in the quality and want a close up look of the print source file (300dpi TIF) and a scan of the disc done at 300dpi, then click the obvious links in this sentence!

What does it all mean? Looking at the picture above gives you a thousand words of meaning! But I must tell you how I created the source image and Lightscribed it so you know that it is a valid and useful test. I created the lines and shades test in Adobe Illustrator, obviously as vector/postscript data. The lines weights are measured in ‘points’ rather than something more commonplace like millimetres, just out of tradition, just as many programs use ‘points’ for type size nearly everyone is familiar with. The file set up as a 12cm square and I exported a greyscale TIF at 300dpi. This TIF was placed in the Lightscribe labelling program with no scaling/stretching applied, set to just crop off any bits that went over the edges. The disc image was burned using ‘Best’ mode.

The greyscale (or grayscale) test is very useful for getting images ready for print to Lightscribe. It maps the colours you see on screen, and would expect on paper if you printed to a decent postscript printer using the source greyscale or CMYK file in Illustrator, to what you get on the disc. I’d say the dynamic range from 0% to 100% in your graphics program is compressed to approximately 25% to 75%. The 0.5pt lines are printed very well but the 0.25pt lines show a bit of break up so I would use a minimum line width of 0.4pt on future Lightscribe disc projects. Also I’m quite pleased that although the tonal range is quite compressed the shades are quite distinct between every 10%, especially at the lighter end of the scale.

What do you think? Be my guest and post a comment.

Cheers, Mark

Serif DrawPlus – vector illustrate for free

Do you use Adobe Illustrator for all your vector artwork? I must say that I do, but I don’t always start by using Adobe Illustrator, nor Adobe anything at all.

Have you ever heard of or tried Serif Drawplus? Don’t worry, you can get a couple of earlier than current versions for FREE. But why would you look at it if you Adobe Illustrator on your machine? There are a number of reasons but the biggest reason for me is in roughing out an idea, putting your first ideas onto the screen. DrawPlus can do this very very quickly because of the number of basic shapes in it’s fly-out menu, and then also because these basic ‘primitives’ are intuitively customisable using the ‘node’ editing method. These aren’t like regular vector nodes at all (though you can edit in that way too). Just check out the screen cam video below to see how shapes are created and modified. Many of these shapes would take many many stages to make in Illustrator using the transform and pathfinder tools…

Now you can get these versions of Drawplus for FREE v4. and v6. v4 is free on the website and v6 is very frequently included on Magazine cover CDs here in the UK.

Other advantages of Serif DrawPlus; font selection/preview, colour schemes, gradient types & presets, interactive fill, transparency & perspective tools.

Then why choose Illustrator at all? For me, compared to these free versions of DrawPlus, Illustrator has;

  1. Dependable/predictable output files. I’ve worked in the printing industry for years and no-glitch postscript output is a must, Illustrator has always proved to be most compliant/reliable.
  2. Pantone colours. And correctly producing one or two colour and spot colour artwork.
  3. Accuracy. (and the smart guides)
  4. I like the pen tool better (long-term experience).
  5. Other tools not available in DrawPlus; scatter brushes, symbol sprayer, plugin filters

Looking at things another way; For me Illustrator is the best but that doesn’t mean other tools are not useful. A new art program can provide a little bit of inspiration in itself. In music it’s the same: So I have a selection of guitars!  Specifically I have two electrics and two acoustics. All of them are great in their own way. (Les Paul, Strat, Acoustic & Spanish style). Picking up one or another gets your fingers working in a different way and, with the electric, using the amplifier in a different way.

If I can get my hands on a newer or the newest version I will be updating this blog with a review. The newest version at the time of writing is Serif DrawPlus X2. DrawPlus X2 from Serif, the vector-drawing and graphics software that puts the power of a professional design studio on your PC

Have you tried DrawPlus, what do you think? Leave a comment or two.

CD cover for The Ebbs (UK) – Russian Skidoo

The song ‘Russian Skidoo’ has been recorded since summer 2005, now I’ve only just got around to making the CD cover for it. I drew all the trees and snow textures on a background layer in Illustrator. Also in separate layers I drew the guy and the skidoo. That look a while, balancing the amount of detail to be sketched with what I wanted the finished article to be like.

Illustrating the shapes of the skidoo was no problem but it took three revisions to draw the helmet! The picture I was looking at had a guy with lots and lots of stickers on the helmet and I got too involved working close up and made something far too detailed, twice. This picture is of a guy speeding through the night in a snow storm so it’s not necessary at all to have that detail. Then when I finished I fired up Photoshop and used a combination of the motion blur and the wind tools. The snow wasn’t so tricky, inserting a new layer in Photoshop using the noise filter and distort filters to make it wavy, then altering the opacity of that layer.

The Ebbs (UK) - Russian Skidoo

The Ebbs (UK) - Russian Skidoo

I’m quite happy with the result, from the ingredients I started with. If I were to do it again I would focus on a detail of the skidoo, coming almost straight towards the viewer, perhaps looking like it’s about to run into the camera. Could do that for the back cover though… If it’s better it can be swapped with the front image! Sound clip here; The Ebbs (UK) – Russian Skidoo.

Cheers, Mark