Painters are not cameras. But if what you're striving for is realism, what is so different between an illustrator an a camera? This video discusses the painter's ability to manipulate reality for the sake of composition.

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AuthorMatt Kohr
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There's a difference between technique and design, and most images can be improved by making last-minute design decisions. Just like with a written essay, this is "editing". In this video I'll walk you through the last minute changes I made to a recent illustration, and why they made a crucial difference. It's easy forget that improving your artwork is more than simply improving your technical abilities. Just as important is the ability to make smart design and composition choices. If this is a subject you're interested in, you should check out the latest premium series "Design Basics" available in the Ctrl+Paint store.

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AuthorMatt Kohr
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design_basics_preview

design_basics_preview

Since Ctrl+Paint began, I've been asked to make a series about creating concept art.  Well, this is it!  Earlier drafts took different forms, but finally I decided to make this series as versatile as possible and explore the rules of visual language.  As a result, the ideas in this series can be applied to any subject-matter you like.

[UPDATE] This is now available in the store!

Concept art is all about visual design.  After all, how do we know if we're looking at a hero or a villain? It's easy to forget that concept artists do more than just draw cool stuff.  Their real task is to communicate with a viewer through shapes and colors - to make it absolutely clear who is the hero, and who is the villain.  Design Basics, coming to the store on Wed. October 17th, examines this silent language: the language of design.

Whether you're designing props, characters, environments, or even your personal website - the rules are all the same.  The videos in this series explain how to gather and utilize visual reference, plan your characters, and infuse them with the principles of good design.  Unlike the other store offerings, this series is completely lecture-based and you won't see me drawing on screen.  Instead it covers the process and iteration that lead to the final robot design; focusing on the idea process and not the tools themselves.

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AuthorMatt Kohr
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What should I draw today?  This is possibly the most common question to any artist - beginner or pro.  Unless you're given an assignment by your client/boss, this question has a tendency to paralyze. Since I work much more fluidly from an assignment with narrow guidelines, I've begun 'generating' fake assignments for my personal art. This is a fun way to have spontaneous ideas and get yourself out of a drawing rut. As I mention in the video, here are some links to fantasy and sci-fi generators to get your ideas flowing: From donjon: Sci-fi character, Sci-Fi Spaceship, Fantasy Character, Fantasy Castle, Weather

From Chaotic Shiny: Flag, Musical Instrument, Fighting arena, Magical familiar

Special Bonus:  I spoke with the creator of Chaotic Shiny and she asked for generator ideas!  She liked the idea of these being used for artwork, and is willing to field ideas for custom generators.  If you have any ideas for random generators, please put them in the comments!  I'll make sure to pass along the results.  

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AuthorMatt Kohr
CategoriesComposition
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Have you ever worked on a painting for so long that you fooled yourself into thinking it was good? You were in "The Monkey House". It's a common affliction for artists, and hopefully this video will allow you to learn from my mistakes. Many of the videos on this site explain technique or concepts -- this video it different: it's a painting story. A story that ends with me wasting the better part of a day. And just think, it all could have gone differently if I remembered to make thumbnail sketches!

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AuthorMatt Kohr
CategoriesComposition
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We've talked about starting small and working bigger - but this time we're going to start tiny. Color is challenging to work with, and much of the instruction on Ctrl+Paint is done in grayscale. If you want to start working directly in color I recommend the 'tiny study' exercise. When you're looking at a photo filled with rich details it's tempting to re-create each pebble and tree. This exercise forces you to simplify what you're seeing, skip the details, and only paint the colors. Even though the end result won't impress your friends, it helps hone your eye for color and builds a foundation for landscape painting.

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AuthorMatt Kohr
TagsColor
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Some composition guidelines are abstract and vague. Tangents, on the other hand, are very straightforward.  As the video shows, they're a quick way to add visual confusion and flatten the depth out of an image. Once you know what to look for they're easy to avoid - and then you can be tangent-free for good!

And if you like this video, please remember to click the “Like” button at the bottom of the post! The only advertising for Ctrl+Paint is word of mouth, so I’m counting on you guys to spread the word. Thanks!

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AuthorMatt Kohr
CategoriesComposition
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It's easy to think of an object as the subject, but what about the shadow it casts?  Shadows have a huge impact on compositions and should be used intentionally.   In terms of graphic shapes, cast shadows are often just as bold as the objects that cast them, though you might not be considering their potential.  Especially for moody images filled with atmosphere and drama, shadows help your illustration tell a story.  This exercise has you experiment with shadows at their most basic: with a simple still life.  If you can make these shadows look interesting, just think what you could do with a space marine or dragon! And if you like this video, please remember to click the "Like" button at the bottom of the post!  The only advertising for Ctrl+Paint is word of mouth, so I'm counting on you guys to spread the word.  Thanks!

Assignment: Create interesting shadow shape compositions with mundane objects.

Things to consider: Viewing angle, composition motion and emphasis

Worksheet Downloads:Sketchup Still Life (sketchup file - requires free Sketchup software to use)

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AuthorMatt Kohr
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Critique is the way that artists help one another improve, yet it's a subject that many never properly learn. You've probably been subjected to a harsh critique at some point - maybe someone said "That's bad" or "I don't really like that".  The idea of a useful critique, however, is to help the artist - not insult them.  This video explains how to deliver a useful critique - either to yourself or to another artist - by considering the "principles of design".  

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AuthorMatt Kohr
CategoriesComposition
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In this episode of film studies, we'll dissect action movies in search of exciting poses. Just like in previous episodes, the way to get the most out of any given film still is to erase the context.  As soon as you can distill the image down to a single, core, component it becomes far more versatile as reference and idea generation.
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AuthorMatt Kohr
CategoriesComposition
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This final entry in the Principles of Design series is all about "Unity", which is the state of balance in your image.   Think of your illustration as a sauce -- you don't want any individual ingredient to stand out too strongly.   Likewise,  no single principle of design should stand out above another, they should all combine into a pleasant mixture.  This is called "unity".  If you missed any of the previous entries in this series, make sure to check out the Principles of Design Series!

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AuthorMatt Kohr
CategoriesComposition
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In this episode of film studies, we'll take a look at three core parts of a composition: foreground, middle-ground, and background. Beginning with stills from movies and then abstracting them down into these three graphic shapes can be an eye-opener for your sense of composition. Additionally, once you've stripped the context out of a scene it becomes more versatile personal reference for your future illustrations.

And make sure to check out the rest of the Film Studies series.

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AuthorMatt Kohr
CategoriesComposition
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I love watching movies.  Sometimes, though, they can offer more than just entertainment.  This is the first entry in the "Film Studies" series, in which we'll dissect film stills to learn useful composition skills for illustration.  So go grab a movie, and let's chop it up!

And make sure to check out the rest of the Film Studies series.

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AuthorMatt Kohr
CategoriesComposition
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Controlling the viewer's eyes in your illustration is important - and some simple framing elements will often help in this effort. "Framing element" simply means a large object in the foreground that surrounds the subject, like a frame around a picture.

If you like learning about composition, you should also check out the "Principles of Design" series.

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AuthorMatt Kohr
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This episode of the Principles of Design is all about dynamic compositions. The path your viewers' eyes follow though a painting is no accident, so make sure you're using it to your advantage! In truth, each Principle of Design is intended to help guide the viewer's eye, but "motion" is especially effective at this goal. Additionally, if you've been following the series I'm sad to report that the orcs are sitting this one out.

And make sure not to miss the other videos in the Principles of Design Series!

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AuthorMatt Kohr
CategoriesComposition
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