Posts Tagged ‘illustration’

Serif Drawplus – updates and new FREE version

Since I last wrote about Serif Drawplus on the blog there have been some major changes by the software company. First of all, Drawplus has been updated from X2, through X3 and now stands at version X4! Also and probably of more impact to the freebie loving computer users the downloadable free version has completely changed. Instead of making available an old version for free, Serif have decided to release a new up-to-date little brother kind of version call DrawPlus Starter Edition. I’ve seen and heard of quite a few other companies doing this recently, it seems to be a new trend for software developers.

This is bad and good news as you have probably guessed. The best things about the new Starter Edition in my opinion are;

  1. The new interface. It’s a lot less clunky and Windows 95 looking than the previous free version! The docked tabs seem more sensible in their layout. They are very very much like Adobe’s tabbed palettes. Some have more options and flexibility than Adobe’s, others less. The balance is good though.
  2. DrawPlus’s fills, transparency and brushes. All seem to have better, more accessible and immediate use than in Illustrator. Immediate because there’s so many more useful presets and when you drag the mouse you see the fill or transparency transform in real time. In Illustrator and older versions of Drawplus you could only see the reault after you let go of the mouse, so it was a guessing game with any kind of gradient.
  3. Effects. They work really nicely, like Adobe’s Styles but I like having material thickness and fathering right there on the palette itself. The Starter Edition has just a few of a massive range of materials and textures that is included in the full X4 version. Enough to test, quite a crafty ploy to make you feel like buying the full version!
  4. Tablet support. The brushes are highly configurable, and look great. I didn’t use a tablet in my test though, just the mouse.
Brush editing dialogue

Brush editing dialogue

The not so good things are of course the things that are unavailable to Starter Edition users. As well as having less fills, brushes etc available, some portions of the program are ghosted out so the options/facilities are unavailable. Notably these are;

  • Export/publishing options
  • Envelopes
  • 3D projections and planes
  • Blends
  • Colour palette designer
  • Flash animation

There are still lots of things available to make the program fully functional in many ways, it might be all you need! If you’ve never tried Drawplus yet love working with vector graphics it’s definately worth trying this new Starter Edition. I am really quite tempted to upgrade it to the full X4 version because other than the interface there are lots of other things in this new version of the program I would like to try out. I only own full version 6, which came out in 2001 according to Wikipedia! Also for work, it has CMYK and Pantone fill palettes now available. Mostly I’d like to try the 3D planes feature which could help create some great isometric designs and logos.

I’ll update you with my findings if I buy the X4 upgrade.

Illustrator designed CD covers

A couple of years ago I designed some CD covers to match up with some music I recorded and had on old tapes in boxes in the garage! I recorded a lot with a couple of friends in about 1990 or so. Recently with the increased power offered by the average computer and the availability of cheap or even free software to record and multitrack I got interested in making music again. Using just my old Strat, computer and a wah wah pedal I have made quite a few new recordings. The original lineup of friends now live quite a long way away and we haven’t met for years but I have replaced them with synthesised and computer generated versions! And they don’t argue with me!

Here are the four album/CD covers I designed, one includes a sound clip to go with it, recorded about 3 years ago.

We control the horizontal

We control the horizontal, click to play clip!

Ebbs; We control the horizontal (Clip)

The following don’t have sound clips attached at the moment. Quagmire was mixed down at half speed for the first few seconds by accident, but I liked it so kept that in :)

Quagmire (unsightly return)

Quagmire (unsightly return)

A BBC theme inspired piece of music follows, made on a Yamaha keyboard in 1992

Sherlock foams

Sherlock foams

Finally back to some distorted “space rock”;

Space Sponge

Space Sponge

inspired by Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, which I had just got for Christmas a year or two before in the late 1980s!

If I get some comments about this I might put up more samples other than just for “We control the horizontal”, the other three CD covers are associated with tracks from around 1990. All the CD covers are designed and illustrated in Adobe Illustrator. I used photoshop a little on the Space Sponge CD above for inserting the sponge into the helmet and making the moon into a green sponge!

You might notice the first of the 4 CD covers has a different logo, this new logo is for new stuff since 2006, just things recorded by myself. Also I’ve found out there’s some band in the US of A called “The Ebbs” so the name’s gone already. I wonder if the name was gone in 1990 when we made the first recordings…

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!

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!

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

Design for the music industry

If I’ve got the time and inclination/inspiration I like to design CD covers for the space-rock band “The Ebbs (UK)”. If you go to the main Ebbs Studio site, then go to the music section there are 3 CD covers there with an accompanying MP3; a sample from the CD. I’ve designed several Ebbs CDs but not got music samples prepared for the webpage so they aren’t uploaded yet. On the other hand there are a few Ebbs songs without any CD cover yet. The music section is a bit bare so it needs updating, but so does everything, all the time in this digital age…

The Ebbs music CD covers currently available

The Ebbs music CD covers currently available

If you are interested in CD and LP covers there is a great resource on the web which you might not know about – This is a great site with some of the most bizarre LP covers you have ever seen.