Happy New Year


My Tweeted Cinema 4D 2011 Sci-Fi Modelling Hints & Tips

Here are my 2011 Cinema 4D sci fi modelling & tips:
  • Asteroid belt: Rob Hitzer’s rockgen plugin, retexture with asteroid tex, duplicate along spine http://t.co/PCblwGz
  • Use Michael’s excellent plug-ins for realistic planets an better starfields http://www.welter-4d.de/fplugs/freeplugins_en.html
  • Model a light saber at cineversity part 1 http://www.cineversity.com/tutorials/lesson.asp?tid=822 part 2 http://www.cineversity.com/tutorials/lesson.asp?tid=823
  • Ember in the Rain has a nice free planet generator plugin http://emberintherain.com/community/index.php?/store/product/5-pxg-planet/
  • Extremely detailed tutorial for creating a Transformer Triple Changer at Cinema4D Net http://www.cinema4dtutorial.net/?p=701
  • How to add city lights to a planet render. Tutorial: http://planetpixelemporium.com/tutorialpages/earthlight.html
  • For space scenes where the lightsource would be the nearest star or planet set AO to 0.0%, and GI strength to 7-10%. This kind of lighting is probably the most accurate simulation of lighting in space, where the main lightsource would be the nearest star, and there would be no other light source.
  • Adam Bentons workshop on creating a Chris Foss-style spaceship http://www.imaginefx.com/02287754333349729529/retro-spacecraft.html
  • Create a futuristic airship scene in C4D http://cg.tutsplus.com/tutorials/maxon-cinema-4d/create-a-futuristic-airship-scene-in-c4d-day-1/
  • 3DWorld mega project shows how to model and texture a spaceship and landing pad, create an animation as it blasts off. http://www.3dworldmag.com/2011/09/16/complete-sci-fi-project-in-3d-world-148/
  • Tutorial/walkthrough on the creation of a robot-powered junk yard http://www.3dluvr.com/content/article/39
  • Create greebles in C4D without any plugs whatsoever http://virus07.deviantart.com/art/C4d-greeble-effect-8350806
  • Nice for C4d beginners - a simple UFO http://e-s-d.deviantart.com/art/Simple-UFO-Tutorial-26043587

My Tweeted Photoshop Space Art 2011 Hints & Tips

Here are my 2011 Photoshop space art hints & tips:
  • Still the best Photoshop starfield tutorial there is - by Greg Martin http://t.co/L9A71Tu
  • Create planets in Photoshop without using textures or satellite images: http://www.solarvoyager.com/images/tutorials/splanet.jpg
  • Create scifi textures using your 3d package and PS - great tutorial from PhilipK http://www.philipk.net/tutorials/materials/metalmatte/metalmatte.html
  • Create a supernova for your space scenes in 6 steps http://keepwalking07.deviantart.com/gallery/?catpath=/resources/tutorials/digiart/dpadigi/photoshop/#/d1p6bfo
  • Create beautiful planets with just brushes using Greg Norton's excellent tutorial http://gallery.artofgregmartin.com/tuts_arts/making_a_planet.html
  • Tutorial on creating Nebulas with cloud stock and brushing: http://cchomikk.deviantart.com/art/Nebula-Tutorial-133832795
  • How to create gas giant planets in Photoshop http://www.solarvoyager.com/images/tutorials/gasgiant.jpg
  • How to create spaceship hull textures in Photoshop http://www.psionic3d.co.uk/tutorials/shiphull.html
  • How to create an impact shockwave in Photoshop http://browse.deviantart.com/?qh=§ion=&q=shockwave+tutorial#/d39vtw
  • How to paint an asteroid in Photoshop http://scifisrc.deviantart.com/art/Asteroid-Tut-By-Coldflame1987-5645137
  • Video walkthrough/tutorial of the creation of a piece of space art in Photoshop http://superiorgamer.deviantart.com/#/d2y49i4
  • Complete PS planet creation tutorial/walkthrough in Flash http://browse.deviantart.com/?qh=§ion=&global=1&q=grand+planet#/d1m32nq
  • Nebular creation walkthrough http://archang3lzz.deviantart.com/art/Pyres-Of-Atonement-Walkthrough-156045241

My Tweeted Cinema 4D 2011 Hints & Tips

Here are my 2011 Cinema 4D 101 hints & tips:
  • Use the space bar to toggle between Selection and your last chosen tool
  • To add thickness to an object or selection of polys, simply use the Extrude Tool with ‘create end caps’ selected. Adjust ‘Max Angle’ to cope with corners.
  • Need to segment a polygon? Don’t reach for the Segment Tool, instead use Edge Cut - far more flexible.
  • Mocca owners can use the Bone Mirror tool to mirror almost anything, including lights, generator objects, etc. The standard Symmetry object only mirrors editable mesh.
  • How to improve how text is bevelled in C4D : http://planetpixelemporium.com/tutorialpages/bevel.html
  • Axis indicator arrows getting in the way? Press Alt+D to hide/unhide in the viewport.
  • Use Material Manager Select Texture Tags/Objects command to replace one or more materials in the Attributes Manager with another
  • Use Material>Illumination settings to optimise speed eg turn off "Receive GI" in glass-type materials
  • If you want to move a object without moving its associated children, hold down the Ctrl key
  • Shift Alt Click on an object icon in the Object Palette creates a new object as a child of the currently active object
  • Tips and tricks for texturing in C4D http://greyscalegorilla.com/blog/2011/08/cinema-4d-texture-tips-and-tricks/
  • 22 minutes of Cinema 4D Tips and Shortcuts http://greyscalegorilla.com/blog/2011/10/chris-schmidts-cinema-4d-tips-and-shortcuts/

My Tweeted Photoshop 2011 Hints & Tips

Here are my 2011 Photoshop 101 hints & tips:

  • Use the Option key to toggle between the Blur and Sharpen tools as well as the Dodge and Burn tools
  • Sharpen 101 Duplicate flattened image, select High Pass Filter. Default ok. Set blend to Overlay. Tweak sharpness with Opacity.
  • With any painting tool selected, right-mouse-button-click to see the Brushes menu wherever you click. After selecting a brush size, press Enter to make the palette disappear.
  • Quickly cycle through screen modes using the ‘F’ key.
  • Using Adjustment Layers is a great way to make non-destructively adjustments to layers at once without permanently altering the individual layers themselves.http://www.photoshopessentials.com/photo-editing/adjustment-layers/
  • To crop to an aspect ratio use Marquee tool and Fixed Ratio from the menu in the Options bar - this lets you type values in the Height and Width fields.
  • When using the eyedropper tool on a very high-resolution image, switch to 5 by 5 Average to avoid picking up noisy pixels
  • Press X to swap foreground and background colours. Press D to reset foreground and background colours to black and white
  • Use the arrow keys plus Move tool without pixels selected to move the entire layer by 1 pixel. Add the Shift key to move by 10 pixels instead.
  • With the Marquee tool use the shift key to constrain selection shapes to equal proportions and the spacebar to move your selection.
  • With the Marquee tool use the shift key to grow selections by dragging additional marquees across it and Alt key to subtract from the original selection.
  • With the Marquee tool use the Alt key to subtract from the original selection by dragging additional marquees across it
  • Use Ctrl + Alt + Shift + K to display the help dialog for keyboard shortcuts.

January 2012 Wallpapers & Calendars Are Available

All ready for the New Year!

Absolutely the final freebie of 2011, I have opted for a the cold-toned image, “Red Dwarf”...

Red Dwarf-Thumb
As usual, you will find English and French calendar versions, as well as a plain wallpaper pack that also includes an iPads/tablets size (works for most smartphones too). All the packs contain a choice of 3 widescreen monitor sizes.

As ever, you can find them in the downloads section. Enjoy!

L'hiver and Frimas NNW Styles Available

I have some final freebies available for 2011... First up, some new styles for Netnewswire: L’hiver and Frimas (French for Winter and “Wintry Winter” respectively)

l'hiver screen

frimas screen

The styles use Zapfino for the article header and Cochin for the article body text. As ever, you’ll find them in the downloads section. ENjoy!

Merry Christmas


December Wallpapers & Calendars Now Available!

Emerald Thumb
I can’t believe how quickly this year has flown by! December already! OMG! I have just uploaded the December calendars - thinking of traditionalChristmas colours, I have opted for a green-themed image, “Emerald”... You will find English and French versions, the packs for each language contain a choice of widescreen sizes as well as one for iPads/tablets

As ever, you’ll find them on the ‘Downloads & Links’ page... Enjoy!

Couple Of Additional Pieces In The Gallery

I have added some additional faux covers to the ‘Spacecraft’ and “Other Worlds’ galleries...

Do let me know - via Facebook - what you think!

Daric Books Release "The Adventures Of Drachir'

Hey all,
As you know, I have been working on a couple of covers for Daric Books. The books central character - the eponymous Drachir - is a loveable rogue who wanders the universe in his ship, The Nevis. You can see the cover and buy the book at this link: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-adventures-of-drachir-volume-i/18170510

To celebrate the release of the book I have created a wallpaper pack featuring Drachir’s ship in all its glory

The Nevis-Thumb
You can download the pack from the Downloads and Links section. Enjoy!

November Wallpapers & Calendars Now Available!

Flyer Binary Image-merged
I have just uploaded the November wallpaper and calendars (I can’t believe how quickly time goes by!)... This month it’s a composite Cinema 4D render, with Photoshop backdrop. A classic SF image; spacecraft approaching a planet that is partly in darkness. I have named it ‘Binary’, as I have binary suns as well as two ships. As usual, you will find English and French versions, the packs for each language contain a choice of widescreen sizes too. The iPad wallpaper looks great in Photoshop - I have it looks as good on your iPad/tablet device.

As ever, you’ll find them on the ‘Downloads & Links’ page... Enjoy!

Evolution of Ship Design For Daric Books: Pt 3 - Nurnies and detailing

Hey all,
I mentioned in the post on designing and creating the engines that I spent some time watching 2001 and Alien to get some ideas to work from. Watching 2001, I was struck (once again) by how massively inspirational the design work in that film has been over subsequent decades. I was looking at the detailing on Discovery, in particular the panelling behind the crew section - you can see it here in this still from the Kubrick’s set:

There are so many things that are marvellous about this - not least that it was really the first visualisation of a realistic, buildable futuristic spaceship.

As I wanted the cabin section of the spaceship for the Daric book cover to look like it could separate from the rest of the ship (I decided that the cabin section could act like a lifeboat if the main section was damaged) I wanted a coupling joint. The type of panelling used on Discovery would, I thought, look great around the joint.

To make the panels I first used Inner Extrude to give me a band of the desired width. I then used Loop Select in Edge mode to select the edges of this band. Then, with the Edge Cut tool, I segmented the band into similar sized polys. Once I had the individual polygons I sunk these into the mesh with the Extrude tool, inner extruded slightly, then pulled them back out of the mesh with extrude once again. This gave me a fine space around each of the polygons - I wasn’t going for the exact Discovery look... I was inspired by it, not trying to reproduce it slavishly!

So, this is was I ended up with around the cabin:
Screen shot 2011-10-21 at 13.11.14

I liked it so much, that I repeated the panelling around the engine bay - it has become a motif, in fact. You can see the panelling here, along with the engines described in my last blog entry:
Screen shot 2011-10-21 at 13.47.18

Evolution of Ship Design For Daric Books: Pt 2 - Engines

Following on from my post about the design and building of the ship for the covers I’m doing for Daric Books, I’ll talk now about the engines. From the brief given by Daric, I knew the ship to be an ex-military dropship, capable of hyperspace travel. Being ex-military, I wanted the engines to look powerful. I tend toward clusters of engines, preferably different sizes - a hang over, I think, from the works of Chris Foss and Peter Elson.

Anyway, one evening, my wife was meeting-up with friends to celebrate a birthday, so I decided to catch-up with 2001: A Space Odyssey (whilst liking many sci-fi films, my wife hates 2001), as well as Alien. I paid attention to the engine designs of the ships in both and noticed a number of similarities specifically:
• Overall design mixes angular and rounded forms
• Large nozzles that tended to flare outward
• within the main engine, some sort of internal arraignment of smaller nozzles or grills

Screen shot 2011-09-26 at 16.38.04

The next day I started with a basic cube primitive and didn’t get anywhere... Then, I decided to use C4D’s n-sided spline, which I then extruded. That gave me an interesting shape. Once I had this, it was then simplicity itself to create the nozzle: on one end of the body, I used Inner Extrude tool, Loop select to select the new polygons and the Outer Extrude Tool to extend the bevel polygons, and the Size tool to shrink these in to the nozzle form.

Following the designs seen in 2001 and Alien, I wanted to populate the interior of the main nozzle with lots of smaller ones... I nearly used the same shape as the overall body, but eventually decided to use cylinders. With these, I again used the extrude tools, this time to create an inner circle where I would put my engine glow. As I created the recess in the cylinder I save the new polygons as a texture tag, so that I could just drop the texture in later.

As I already had an idea what the engine bay would look like, I was fairly sure that not too much of the engine beyond the nozzles would be seen. However, I still decided to add fuel and cooling pipes to dress the (very basic) design up a little. To save time, I used some from a greeble and nurnie pack that I downloaded some time ago. I just made some minor changes to them, so that they would disappear into the bulkhead behind the engine.
Screen shot 2011-10-18 at 11.32.24

For the engine glow, I created a material as follows. Obviously the idea is to create a bright, hot looking core with the material

• Colour - bright, around 250%, I used a pale blue 220, 220, 255
• Luminance - a darker blue, around 100, 100, 255
• Glow - I chose a blue in between those for Colour and Luminance, setting the Inner strength around 250%, outer strength around 350%. The Radius will depend very much on object/polygons you’re wrapping it around.
• Random around 19%
• Frequency around 3%

As you can see, that gives a bright whit glow with a blue hue - very Star Wars!

Screen shot 2011-10-18 at 11.31.44

For the ship, I will be duplicating the engine 5 times, in three sizes, to give the sense of power that I want.

October Wallpaper and Calendar Packs Now Available

Hey all,
I have just uploaded the October wallpapers and calendars... You will find English and French versions of the calendars, the packs for each language contain a choice of widescreen sizes up to 2560*1440. Having left it out from the September pack, the iPad (or other tablet) portrait wallpaper makes a welcome return to the plain wallpaper pack .

As ever, you’ll find them on the ‘Downloads & Links’ page... Enjoy!

Automne Netnewswire Theme for Autumn!

Another free Netnewswire theme, this time with an autumnal theme (which seems bizarre, as temperatures exceeded 27 degrees today here in Paris!).

Anyway, it’s available in the Downloads and Links section - enjoy!

Evolution of Ship Design For Daric Books: Pt 1 - Cockpit/Bridge

Hey all,
As I mentioned on Facebook recently, I have accepted a 2-book commission from the guys at Daric Books. If you don’t already know them, they are a specialist science fiction publishers based in Wales. Check out their Amazon ebook range here: http://amzn.to/p5wlrl

The two books feature the same lead character and spaceship. As there would be two books from the get-go I decided to spend quite a lot of time on the ship, especially with the possibility of additional books to the series later on. Further, as regulars here will know, I like to give away wallpapers and thought that Daric might like some wallpaper downloads to go with the books launch.

With permission from the guys at Daric I’m going to talk a bit about the development of the hero’s ship - without giving too much away!! From the author I received the following summary of the hero’s ship:
• Its overall design is wedge-shaped
• It is an ex-military long range drop ship which at one time carried a crew of ten with capability to transport a platoon of soldiers; having dropped a platoon into the combat zone, the ship was capable of supporting them with fighter/bomber capabilities.
• The nose/bridge area is plexi-glass with seating for five; two in the front (bomb aimer and navigator) and three above and to the rear (pilot, captain and first officer.)
• It is labyrinthian, having undergone a slow, random conversion of its rooms, cabins and holds - there are many secret hidey-holes throughout the vessel.
• Its forward thrusters are located at the rear above the main hyper-drive.
• The hold is below that and has an entry ramp.

For the nose and cockpit area, I looked at a number of existing military vehicles - in particular the Apache attack helicopter.

I also looked at the old British V-bombers, especially the Victor as I felt these had the layout and scale that I needed (and frankly I love their design).
Finally, I cribbed a bit of Syd Meed!

Bringing influences these together I arrived at the following with a bit of trial and error: Following the authors nots, the cockpit/bridge is spread over two floors, with the larger section above and further back.

Screen shot 2011-09-20 at 13.47.00

...and again, with some basic textures added, so that you can see the design more clearly:

Screen shot 2011-09-20 at 13.48.17
I’m fairly happy with this, with one misgiving: it’s very hard to determine scale from this... I am refining and cleaning the design up, and of course much will depend on how it looks as the rest of the ship falls into place. However, conveying the right scale is obviously important. Definitely something I need to keep an eye on.

New Netnewswire Styles


In my continued search for the perferect RSS style sheet, i have made two more themes for the excellent Netnewswire RSS Reader. Made with CSSEdit and Textmate, Finder Blue uses Gill Sans to display text, whilst Papyrus uses Century Gothic. As with my previous styles, both are intended to be easy on the eye and also provide ad-blocking.

You can download the themes in the Downloads & Links section.


September Wallpapers & Calendars Now Available!


Little bit late with these; the render took bl**dy ages!! I have just uploaded the September wallpaper and calendars... This month it’s a Cinema 4D render, with Photoshop post work. A classic SF scene, the space hanger!! As usual, you will find English and French versions, the packs for each language contain a choice of widescreen sizes too. No iPad version this time, though, as I just couldn’t get the image to work on that size/ratio screen.

As ever, you’ll find them on the ‘Downloads & Links’ page... Enjoy!

Spacecraft Concepts


I have just started a new Album over on my Facebook site for ‘beauty shots’ of the various spacecraft I develop for my illustrations. The ships often end up small in the overall image, I think it’s nice to give them their 15 minutes of fame! I’ll add to this Album over time, so do check it out regularly.

New Image - Planetary Orbit

Orbit Front Cover Single Page
I have been working on several images recently, the most advanced of which is shown above... I have wanted to do a scene with astroids for ages - and now I’m working on two! If truth be told, I have wasted a huge amount of time finding the best way to create a realistic asteroid field. I recently tweeted my advice, but I’ll repeat it here in more detail.

By far and way the easiest way is to create several asteroids using Rob Hitzer’s excellent C4D ‘Rockgen’ plugin, which you can download from here. Use the settings to generate asteroids of varying sizes. Once you have your base asteroids, retexture with your favourite asteroid textures. Then duplicate each of your base asteroids along a (wiggly!!) spine, varying (greatly) the settings for position, size and rotation for each asteroid/spine combination. Experiment with this and you’ll find that you can quickly generate a realistic-looking (well, atmospheric) asteroid field.

The other image I’m working on that includes an asteroid field includes an asteroid close-up. This is proving particularly tough, especially the lighting. I’ll post more when I’m closer to a finished image!

August Wallpapers & Calendars - for those not sat on a beach!


Hey all,
I have just uploaded the August wallpapers and calendars... You will find English and French versions of the calendars, the packs for each language contain a choice of widescreen sizes up to 2560*1440. The plain wallpaper pack also includes an iPad (or other tablet) portrait wallpaper.

As ever, you’ll find them on the ‘Downloads & Links’ page... Enjoy!

More Netnewswire themes!

Another treat for Mac users... i have made some more themes for the excellent Netnewswire RSS Reader. Made with CSSEdit and Textmate, they are clean styles that use Helvetica and Helvetica neue as well as using ad-blocking. You can download the themes in the Downloads & Links section.


July Wallpapers & calendars posted with less than 40 minutes to spare!


Doesn’t time fly when you’re busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger? I have just uploaded the July calendars... You will find English and French versions, the packs for each language contain a choice of widescreen sizes too. Following further feedback I have added a 2560*1440 size for all those that are buying the 27” iMac!! (like me!)

As ever, you’ll find them on the ‘Downloads & Links’ page... Enjoy!

June Wallpapers & Calendars are up....


I have uploaded the June calendars... You will find English and French versions, the packs for each language contain a choice of widescreen sizes too. Following your feedback I have also uploaded a plain wallpaper pack - that zip contains an iPad wallpaper size as well.


More Photoshop Nebulas

Flame Nebula BookCover

More Photoshop nebulas: this one is named after the Flame Nebula

Netnewswire Theme

Special treat for Mac users... If you use the excellent Netnewsire RSS Reader you can download a Nemean-style theme in the Downloads & Links section.

May Wallpapers & Calendars Available

The May calendars are available for download in the ‘Goodies’ section. English and French language versions, as well as a choice of widescreen sizes.

More Photoshop Space Art

I have been working on some dramatic new space art pics in Photoshop... Above is an example called “Nova”. You can find a larger version in the Illustrations section.

Space Station


New Cinema 4D wrk - a space station... Somehow, the end result reminds me of ‘Thunderbirds’ - despite the fact that it’s not remotely similar to any of the Thunderbird vehicles... I think it’s the bold numbering on the hull.