Happy New Year 2016


Explorers Of The New Frontier

So… Full retro scifi mode here! I’m attempting full-on 1970’s - 80’s book cover, so including every trope I can:

• Futuristic spaceship/vehicle, centre stage - check!
• Yellow, orange or red sky - check!
• Lots of planets, one of which is a gas giant - check!
• Wispy atmosphere - check!

Explorers of the new frontier-thumb

The inspiration for this one is principally artist Peter Jones excellent cover for Heinlein’s ‘Orphans of the Sky’, but mixed with a big dose of Peter Elson (variously this one, this one, and this one)

The basis of the ship mesh comes from (I’m fairly certain) an unfinished project available on Kenny Mitchell’s (now defunct) website. I really liked the cockpit on that, but stripped away the wings and engines rebuilt the bottom, top and sides. 70’s, scifi was definitely about ducts and vents!

I added new wings (gull-wings, which I’m so proud of I will find another excuse to show this ship) and engines (which are from the ship I built here)

The alien language used in all the ship icons and logos is Marain, from Iain M Banks ‘Culture” books, care of the MarainScript font by Daniel Solis.

The ‘hexagon flower’ logo is a little tribute/nod to Peter Elson - he used it in this brilliant image.

Lighting was a Dosch HDR sky (I bought the pack over a decade ago and use them all the time, well worth the money). No 43 in the pack is a lovely golden cloud-filled sky, which provided a nicely tinted light for this image. I augmented the HDR with a fill light to create shadows at the angle I needed. The background I built in Photoshop, using a cloud stock image and planets I created years ago and have used many times in images you’ll see here in my gallery.

Texturing I kept very simple - the main texture is just a really pale grey in the colour channel with dirt in the diff layer. I did try a sort of Jonathan Ive look first - glossy and clean - but that did’t work.

My only niggle with this is image is the pilot(s) figure; my own astronauts aren’t ready - still rigging them - and so I dropped in a low-poly pilot figure by Christopher Schell. I really, really need to find time to sort the rigging on my figures!

Another Site Refresh!

So, as you can see, another refresh of the site!

I have decided to ditch the 'faux book cover' galleries, largely as I think the latin placeholder text confused many people. The down side of this is that there are a lot of links in past blog entries that point in the old gallery direction. Oh well!

I think the new layout does what most visitors want in that it immediately serves-up images.

Space Elevator, Kepler-22

Finished off another abandoned project - this one I originally started (so the Finder tells me) in July 2014.

As I have discussed elsewhere here and on dA, I grew up on the works of Arthur C Clarke, and so first encountered Space Elevators in The Fountains of Paradise (still have my copy!). Of course the concept was not even remotely new when ACC wrote about it; Konstantin Tsiolkovsky had beaten him to it by over 80 years. Space Elevators have become a common plot device - Iain M Banks ‘Feersum Endjinn’ is set in a crumbling, enormous State-sized city structure that includes a space elevator (referred to as the Tower or Fass(t) Tower). Ken Macleod’s ‘The Night Sessions’ has climactic scenes that take place on a space elevator (trying to avoid plot spoilers!).
Space Elevator-thumb
At the end of Banks’ Feersum Edjinn there are descriptions of the top of space elevator - it features hotels, museums, sports facilities just like a modern airport… And that was the picture I had in my mind when I came design the space elevator. In particular, how like today’s airports, do you manage thousands of travellers? So, here are hotels, parks and so on. My design has an internal dock for small (inter-system?) ships, but larger interstellar ships dock at one of the four arms at the top of the elevator.

My space elevator - like Bank’s - is a compression structure; that is, a structure but from the ground up (as opposed to the cables-plus-counterweight structure generally now proposed). Why did I put it on Kepler-22? Kepler-22 is larger than Earth and therefore a greater gravitational mass, requiring a greater escape velocity (and therefore fuel) to get in to space. Using space elevators therefore makes sense.

The mesh is a bit of a kit-bash; the central components are the base mesh I used in Cities in The Sky and Colony Station. The “environmental supply & control systems” on some the arms were also used in Colony Station.

The living quarters - the discs around the central column - are a little in-joke… They started off looking a lot more like one of the famous 1950 UFO pictures that you find around the Internet… .

I borrowed quite a lot from other people for this too: the large circular frame is from “Low Earth Depot S1” by Ignus Fast, available at Foundation3D. The girdered arms and also “power generators” (the rectangular boxes) are from a sort of spaceship building kit called “Truss Pack” which is (I think) by Kenny Mitchell.

…and, of course, everything is greebled to death!

Texturing is extremely simple, being basically the hull and the girder textures, which are both mine - the hull colour is available in my resources gallery here on dA. The textures used in the hanger entrance at the top of the space elevator are by Dosch. FYI, the texture under the dome at the top of the space elevator is actually the architects impression of the recently cancelled Japanese Olympic Stadium ☺

The planet - Kepler-22 - was created using Michael Welters Atmosphere plug-in for C4D. It uses my own “Water World” texture (I know, there is a big continent there - in fact the texture has 3 Australia sized continents and lots of island chains). I used this mask from my DeviantArt Resources gallery here to create it.

The Gold Rush, circa 2050

OK.. Firstly, I promise this is the last image with the giant glarey sun-thing going in…

The image I wanted to make here had shadows fanning out from each of the objects in the scene. I tried every type of light object, CSTools Fog, you name it… No cool shadows; if anyone has any idea how I would do that in C4D, I would definitely like to know!
asteroid mining ship-thumb

So… Asteroid Mining; regular watchers will know I have touched on this subject before, here. It’s a subject I’m interested in and it’s in the news - we’re burning through the Earth’s resources at an accelerating rate and based on known reserves, key elements such as phosphorus, antimony, zinc, tin, lead, indium, silver, gold and copper will be exhausted in 50–60 years.

The mining of asteroids for these elements has been suggested as our ‘Get Out Of Jail’ card. The idea is that platinum, cobalt and other valuable elements are mined from asteroids and sent back to Earth. That’s despite that fact that we have yet to design a spacesuit glove that doesn’t tear astronauts finger nails out, have no method to protect against the effects of long terms weightlessness, nor exposure to solar radiation. Hacking back on NASA’s budget for the last 40 years might not have been such a good idea after all.

The ship in the image: the core of it - the containers and frame - I stole from someone else’s model… I’m fairly sure it was by avalon3d. I added detail to the frame (and I’m slightly annoyed with myself for putting the ship in shadow, having lovingly textured each of the containers… Oh well!). I stole the front-end of one of my own ships and (imaginatively) gave it a long skinny fuselage, ending in a Discovery-like propulsion unit.

The (really lovely) main asteroid with the tiny astronauts on top is by Starbase1 and can be downloaded from the resources at Foundation3d.com I retextured it to give a slightly dustier look, based on photographs of asteroids on various sites.

I have made my scene as busy with asteroids as it usual for scifi visualisations of our solar systems asteroid belt; in reality, of course, the average distance between any two asteroids is around a million kilometres and given their generally small size, you simply wouldn’t be able to see another asteroid whilst you busy mining one! This is why we have been able to happily send our probes out to investigate the outer planets without fear of them being trashed during their passage through the asteroid belt.

The scene was modelled and rendered in Cinema 4D. I’m going to skip my usual run through of the textures used as you can’t really see them anyway!

Post production - actually not as much as you might think, mostly blume and sharpening - was done in Photoshop. Most of the colour in the image came form using light objects coloured to match the background.

Pulp Horror Magazine Cover PSD Template

A couple of years ago I released a Photoshop template for creating faux1930’s-style pulp sci-fi magazine covers (available in my Resources gallery here: ). At the time, someone asked if I would do a horror version, so quietly, and very sloowwwwly I have been chipping away at one on the background! So, finally, here it is; my Do-It-Yourself 1930’s Pulp Horror Magazine Cover Creator ☺ Download link on DeviantArt, see the ilnk below.


The point of the template is a simple means for you to create your own pulp horror covers in the style of the classic 1930-40’s pulp magazines. The template provides (editable) magazine titles, story headings and lots of hyperbole! I also include various style FX for adding dirt (like an old, used magazine) and colour layers to give your cover mood and atmosphere. There are also some villains, creatures and monsters - but really these are just to get you started, as are the backdrops.

Horror is not really my thing - I enjoy the old Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney movies, the Hammer horrors and so on, but I quit watching horror films with the rise of slasher movies in the 80’s. I don’t have a natural feel for this, therefore, so did plenty of research - this site was especially helpful: pulpcovers.com/tag/horror/ All the same, I found getting the ‘look and feel’ right quite difficult.

From my research, a couple of things…
• The pulp horror magazines were not as sophisticated in their design and layout as the pulp scifi magazines. If you’re going for accuracy, you will probably want to make a number of changes to the layout options my template.
• Few of the pulp horror magazines lasted more than a handful of editions
• We think of torture porn as a recent invention - don’t believe a word of it! These magazines are chock-full of torture porn stories. In fact, I willing to bet that much of Hostel was lifted from these magazines.
• …and what is with with bad guys wearing cowls?

There is lots more information, as well as a download link, here on DeviantArt

A Meeting With Medusa

Something of a quicky, this one… Author Alastair Reynolds mentioned on his blog that he and Stephen Baxter have co-authored a follow-up to Arthur C Clarke’s “A Meeting With Medusa”.

ACC’s original “A Meeting With Medusa” is one of my all-time favourite stories; as I have discussed elsewhere on dA, I first read the story serialised in a magazine around 1973, accompanied by excellent quality artwork. The same magazine also printed (in other editions) “Summertime on Icarus” and “Into the Comet” - all with fabulous accompanying artwork. A year or so later, I had moved to Secondary school and the school library ran a book shop - I found there two collections of ACC’s short stories, which between them had all of these stories - I was hooked!

Kon Tiki Portrait-thumb

So, I enjoy both Alastair Reynolds and Stephen Baxter’s work and the prospect of them continuing the original story inspired me to do a piece of art based squarely in the general plot. I have imagined a ‘Kon-Tiki 2’, a larger balloon than the 1-man vehicle of the original - though it has all the features of the original, including a pulsed laser for heating the envelope gases and a nuclear-powered engine for escaping Jupiter at the close of the mission.

The image you see here is a crop; the original has both the creatures that feature in Arthur’s story - the mile long dirigible jellyfish-like creature (Medusa of the title) and the 100m-wide manta Ray-like creatures that feed on them. If you look closely, you can still see a flight of Manta Ray’s in the background. I have exorcised the Medusa because, frankly, it is crap. I followed the original story closely, but mine just doesn’t look believable. I’m going to go back to it, and you may still see a wide-screen version complete with Medusa, but don’t hold your breath!

The Kon-Tiki 2 and Manta’s were modelled and rendered in C4D. The Kon-Tiki’s envelope is supposed to be like the original Montgolfier balloon, but with its little peplum replaced with photo-electric cells. I have modelled almost the entire interior, so I may do something with that too. I put in quite a lot of research on the colour of ambient light in the Jovian atmosphere, including this article jek2004.com/new_page_18.htm In the end, I gave in to what looked about right Happy

The background is a quick and nasty Photoshop job on a montage of clouds; you don’t have to look too hard to see how rough it is… Does the job though!

Starship - in the style of Peter Elson

Another image ‘in the style of…’ and another Peter Elson… If you took a look at his site and the images I linked to for ‘Science Vessel’, you won’t have any trouble recognising the inspiration for this one.

Images drawn looking toward the back of spaceships are common in Elson’s work, but you’ll see clear inspiration for my image here, Galactic Cluster here, Sunburst and here The Best of Isaac Asimov 1954 - 1972
Multi-Engined Frigate-rear view-thumb

The ship used here you have seen before - it’s the ship in The Tannhauser Gate I have made a few mods - but not many - and retextured a la Elson ☺ The fins that I added to the back are a sort of tribute/reference to the Anime film of EE ‘doc’ Smith’s ‘Lensmen’. The ships in the shuttle bay are from this image and the engines I have used before too - here . The engine exhaust trails are created with light objects. The principle textures are available in my Resources gallery here on DeviantArt :Generic - Hull Plate 3 (used with a blocky plates texture in the diff channel) and Red Worn Metal Plate Texture.

I did a version of this image with the ship coming toward the camera, but it looked so much like a screen grab from ‘Homeworld’ that I felt I couldn’t use it.

Created, textured and rendered in C4D as usual - I do love that software! The lighting is a bit of a cheat; given the apparent light source, the ship was pretty much a silhouette, so there is another (warm, weak) light source behind the camera for some infill.

Post-production in Photoshop as usual, too; principally colour adjustment, adding blume and sharpening. I also (surprise!) exaggerated the glow over the engines.

I’m tempted to one now in the style of another artist who did some great covers in the same time period, including images in the Terran Trade Authority books - Colin Hay Though, it will need a lot of texture development!

Science Vessel - in the style of Peter Elson

So: my bachelor students have finished the term, taken their exams and I have marked their papers… The project I have been doing some marketing work on has pretty much drawn to a close with the start of the Paris Air Show… Hooray, some free time!

After the Chris Foss style image, I thought I would do images in the style of some other of my favourite artists. That has actually proven more difficult than I expected!

science vessel-thumb
‘Science Vessel’ is an attempt at capturing Peter Elson’s style. If you take a look at the site his sister maintains as a memorial to his work, you can pretty much see which images I have used as input - ‘A Sense of Wonder’, ‘Oceans of Venus’ and ‘Welcome to Mars’ influenced the spacecraft, and ‘Pebble in the Sky’, ‘Galactic Cluster’ and ‘Sunburst’ determined the colours and perspective. Take a look here

What else can I say about the image: well, the back story is a future ESA science mission to examine the nova ejecta nebulae of a dying star.

The ship is one I started about 4 years ago - it’s a companion to the ship that appears in Asteroid Base: Final Approach : I gave them exactly the same cabin/bridge design - particularly the windows. I was imagining a sort of common design criteria for various spaceships.

I used a lot of other people’s greebles on the back of the ship - especially from Jedilaw’s greeble pack. Also, the things on the side of the ship with the bluey-purple glow are by 3D-CG, available at Foundation3D (here, they're supposed to be heat dissipators for the engines)

The 3 main textures used on the ship are all available in my DeviantArt resources - riveted hull plates, generic hull plate 1 and blue worn metal plate. The patterned ‘sensor array’ texture is from Total Textures Scifi pack. The side window textures are mine - one day I will post them - and the main bridge is all modelled. There is even a little figure at the helm. The glowy things at the front came from someone’s Star Trek model - if they’re yours let me know and I’ll credit you.

Modelled in C4D, rendered using C4D’s Physical renderer, post work in Photoshop. Recently I have moved from using hard to Area shadows and throwing in AO. I don’t think it’s as realistic, but it’s definitely more cinematic!

Chris Foss Style Starship

I actually found myself with 5-6 hours time - enough for a quick render… The first time I have been able to create an image since October 2014!

It certainly wasn’t enough time to do any modelling, so I looked in my unfinished projects folder and found an old tutorial I did in 2007 - you can see here at this blog entry.

The ship is based on a tutorial by Adam Benton, creating a Chris Foss-style spaceship with some basic box-modelling and C4D’s hypernurbs.

I created a new background in Photoshop - I wanted colour in the traditional Chris Foss style. The ship textures were mostly mine; the hull texture is from my “riveted hull textures” you can find in my Deviantart resources.

Hypernurbs generally create some issues when texturing, though you can reduce these by clicking on the hybernurbs object and selecting ‘Current State To object’. This creates a new object with the shape of the hypernurbs object, but which behaves like a normal, editable object. I would normally clean up the mesh at this point, but didn’t have time - perhaps for a V2 at some point.

chris foss style ship-thumb

Anyway, some quick texturing, render and away.

Post-render touch-ups were in Photoshop.

The mesh defiantly could have done with a clean-up - but I think the image captures the spirit of Chris Foss! Happy

New Spaceship Texture PSD Templates

More clearing and cleaning out space on my hard drive… Here are two Photoshop templates I use for creating spaceship hull textures (that can be tiled) for my C4D materials. I have cleaned them up a little for public consumption. This means the layers are grouped and coloured to make sense of the template, and the detail layers are gone, because they were a bit crap, really!

The new spaceship texture templates and can be found in my DeviantArt Resources Gallery
panels_and plates_2-rusty

Size: 1024 x 1024 px
For those of you working in 3D apps, I have included the Normal and Specular layers.

hull panels-merged

So, what you get are the following grouped layers:
Dirt - choice of 7 dirt layers
Scratches - choice of 6 scratches
Grunge - 2 grunge layers
Hull Lines - 3 layers that include the lines that create the hull panels. This includes one rasterised layer and the original, unaltered lines so that you can modify it as necessary
Rust Texture Overlays - 2 rust overlays for creating the classic ‘battered freighter’ look
Panels - 4 layers containing various shapes to create paneling effects
Base Hull Textures - 3 choices of base hull texture/colour
Normal & Specular Layers - 1 each Normal and Specular layer for those creating materials in 3d applications

Besides these groups and layers, I have included a few ‘demo’ samples to show what can be done with the template.

Use : other than claiming that these textures are your work, knock yourself out with them - I hope you find the textures useful and It would be great to see how you use them in your art.

Multicolour Scifi Warning Signs - Multiple Shapes, PSD's

It seems ages since I have worked on one of my own projects - and anything scifi or 3d. All of the projects I’m involved in at the moment a bit on the dull side - but at least they pay! I’m clearing lots of stuff from my hard drive as one of the projects I’m working on involves creating lots of content including video. Thankfully, I’m able to push stuff out to cloud storage (thanks, Microsoft for 100GB of free OneDrive!)

Sifting through I found a coloured version of my Warning Signs template - no idea what I did it for and have no recollection of ever using it… It looked pretty cool though, so I spent an hour or two applying the styles to the other Warning Sign templates.  I suspect these will be more popular than the original, as these colours blend into more environments than my originals, which have a very strong identity of their own.

The new colourful templates - 6 in total - as well as the originals, can be found in my DeviantArt Resources Gallery

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 12.38.39

Base colours always
Orange: d48639/R212-G134-B57
Green: 727e62/R114-G126-B98
Blue: 3e4e98/R62-G78-B152

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 14.35.50

Groups & Layers
I have updated all of the layers and colour-coded them. To minimise the file sizes, wherever possible I have removed most of the rasterised layers and left the original PS Shape layer - this also allows you to easily change the colours. However, occasionally you will find the original shape layer missing - this is where I forgot to duplicate the Shape layer before rasterising or merging the layer.

The available Layers are:
Warning Sign  - pill
Warning Oval Sign Base Shapes
ID Holders Only
No Access
Scratches Dirt
Masks (alpha masks for clean and damaged)

A word about fonts
I have adjusted these templates so that the text layers use Arial Black, as both Windows and Mac machines should have this font as standard. The signs look more effective with any of the following fonts available from

Jacinto Sans
SF Automaton

The PS Brushes used to create the Dirt and Scratches layers include, but are not limited to:
Scratches by Katrina Rempel
Grunge Notion by Blazter
GrungeBrushes3 by KeReN-R

For the Biohazard sign I used Hazard Brushes 1 by AscendedArts

Personal Use
Have a ball - do whatever you want with it!

Commercial Use
No restrictions beyond checking those of the font you use.

Whatever you do with the template, I would love to see it - I had loads of fun making images with it and I hope you do to!