Sketches from chaos

Below, are three videos I created showing the process of sketching digitally with the free drawing program Alchemy. The speed on each of these videos has been doubled.

Check out more about alchemy at al.chemy.org

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My favorites of the Mac app store

On Friday, (January 7) Apple released the new Mac app store. This allows you to be able to purchase and install applications with the same ease of iOS apps for the iPhone and iPod touch. This has become a big hit in the Mac community with a million apps downloaded on the first day! Some of the highlights included,

  • Twitter’s official mac app version 2.0,
  • the incredibly popular iPhone app Angry Birds now released as a mac app
  • iLife 2011 with each program being available individually.
  • and Apple’s Aperture.

Most programs available on the app store are less than getting them elsewhere. This is Apple’s way of slowly moving people away from traditional program installation, to a more iOS-like installation and purchasing environment. The advantages of the mac app store are ease, simplicity, and speed. It is incredibly easy to buy and install apps and the store is designed for efficiency and elegance. Another advantage is that updating apps is a whole lot easier. Because all your apps are coming from one place, all your updates will come from one place. The few disadvantages I see are that Apple has more control over what you do with your mac, as well as getting profit for every app you install. Also, the ease of buying apps can be a curse if you don’t pay attention to your budget. It’s much harder to spend $200 on a computer program when you have to order it online, and give all your information and wait for shipping, opposed to simply clicking a button and downloading it. $500 dollars later…you’re broke. Despite these disadvantages, the app store is an exciting development and I’m looking forward to what will come from it.

Now, I’ll give you a list of a few of my favorite apps from the app store.

Twitter for Mac

From Itunes

Twitter for Mac is Twitter’s official app for mac. This free app allows you to send and receive tweets from all accounts that you have subscribed to in an elegant dark interface. The beauty of the program is that there is not a whole lot to say about it! Everything is where you want it, and there is nothing unnecessary or cluttering. It does have limitations compared to other twitter apps and it seems to be not very well thought out for the broad range of twitter users. But for those like me who only use it occasionally, it is a great app.

Clarity

From Itunes

Clarity is a Facebook app with a similar looking interface to what would be found on a iPhone. Once again, it’s simple. I have found however it needs work. It seems to not run as smoothly as other apps. Hopefully, developers will be working to make this program better though updates. The reason I still think it’s worth the $6 is that you have Facebook always open and refreshing without needing to have your browser open. It also can give you notifications through the dock as well as growl.

Sketchbook Express/Pro

From Wikipedia

Sketchbook is a drawing and painting program designed by Autodesk. Autodesk is one of the best known makers of digital 3D design programs. These include AutoCAD for engineering, 3DS Max and Maya for computer animation and games. As well as several various digital painting and sculpting programs, including Sketchbook, and Mudbox. Sketchbook was released on the app store for a discounted price of $29.99 for the pro version, and the express version being free. Sketchbook is one of the best digital painting programs I’ve seen with a sleek, fast interface that allows you to focus on drawing and painting rather than tweaking with settings.

Pixelmator

From Pixelmator

Pixelmator is a pixel-based graphics application for Mac. It can be compared to Photoshop essentials, or Paint Shop Pro. The advantage to Pixelmator over Photoshop is that it is designed specifically for Macs. It takes advantage of the graphics card’s processing unit which makes the performance silky smooth. It is very similar to Photoshop in layout, but much better looking. It has a gorgeous black interface, attractive icons, and subtle animations throughout. If you are looking to purchase a photo editing program like Photoshop or Aperture, I would consider Pixelmator. Photoshop is the beast of image editing programs, allowing you to do practically anything. However, Photoshop is also extremely complicated for the average user and extremely expensive. Apple’s Aperture is a good program for the average consumer who just wants to touch up their pictures a bit, and work seamlessly with iPhoto. The price tag on Aperture is about $80. Pixelmator however, takes some of the core functions of Photoshop, and mixes the slick interface of Aperture into one program. Pixelmator is normally around $59 but for a limited time, you can get it on the app store for $29.99. To summarize, Pixelmator is an excellent program if you are looking to do photo editing or light graphic design work. It is not a replacement for Photoshop. I repeat, IT IS NOT a replacement for Photoshop! But, it is an excellent replacement to Aperture or Photoshop elements.

Compositing in Photoshop

Compositing in Photoshop (or in any other graphics program), is like creating a sandwich. Each piece of the image is layered on top of one another in such a way that it looks seamless and uniform.

I created an image in Photoshop using some stock photography and Photoshop brushes. I’ll show you some of the steps I took, and the process of compositing.

First, I started out with this image from CG Textures

Next, I added some adjustments that change the atmospheric feel of the image. Adding orange and yellow make the landscape look warm and inviting. Photoshop does this through adjustment layers. these are special layers that are nondestructive, which means that they don’t change the image. You can always undo or delete the adjustments without wrecking the image. Adjustment layers can change coloring, and brightness of certain parts of the image. I grouped these layers together and put them at the top so that they would affect all the layers of the image.

The atmosphere looks pretty good, but the water doesn’t reflect the yellowish tint of the sky. To fix this, I first painted a yellow-brown color on the water, and then used a special blend mode called overlay. This will make the water appear more yellow while still looking like water. I also added an adjustment layer that subtracted some of the saturated green and made it a more dull color. Finally, I used the clone tool to remove some waves that were created on the water because the picture was taken from a boat.

Now, I wanted to add a waterfall. I got the waterfall from another picture from CG textures and selected and cut the area highlighted in red.

I pasted the area I had selected in the other image and erased the edges of the waterfall so that it looks soft and uniform against the cliff.

I also added mist by selecting a small portion from the waterfall image and cloning it until I liked its shape.

I decided to add in some other ambient objects in the background and foreground to fill the image a little more.

I created sunlight coming through from behind the cliff by adding a blank layer and making a circle with a white brush that gradually fades.

I made another blank layer and used a special brush to create light rays to draw more attention to the waterfall. I also added a very subtle haze around the waterfall.

Lastly, I added a small watchtower to the top of the one rock overlooking the horizon.

With the compositing all done, I cropped the final image and exported it as a jpg file and edited it with Camera Raw to create dark areas around the edges, (called vignetting) and some other final touches.