Want a New Computer Graphics Challenge?

Try the Unity Game Engine for a new computer graphics challenge

If you like to make digital art (e.g. computer graphics), why not try your hand at a 2D or 3D game?  You may find that creating a game is as much fun as playing it. There’s even a free version of the Unity Game Engine! And it comes with an example game to show you how it’s done.

Game Code?
While it’s true that creating a computer game could be scary for non-programmers, the sample game code available with your download is a good start. And if you’re a mostly visual design worker looking for an opportunity to get into coding, this is a sensible path.

Also check out the free graphics assets available from the Unity website. I downloaded a nice Lunar Lander 2D graphic from NASA for my first game – a simple 2D planetary landing simulator.

There are several videos and other helpful docs on the “Learning” page of the Unity website.

Into Quality 3D Natural Scenes?unity-quality1 Unity supports near photo-real  scenes in both 2D and 3D formats.

Share or Sell
You can also share your games on the Unity website, once you’ve gotten some results from your game creation efforts. And that’s not all. If you create 2D or 3D game graphics, you can sell those.

Go Pro?
When you’re ready for the full-powered pro version, there are several pricing options here. There’s also a load of paid professional tools to assist, as you advance your skills.

Got computer savvy kids?
Treat them to computer game development as a potential hobby – one that’s sure to boost their creativity, in a way that makes learning a blast.

The Creative Process

I was contributing to a forum thread about “creative process” and writing about how I usually come up with image ideas. It occurred to me to post that here.

Some visual workers seem to get their ideas in a series, where one image leads directly to the next.

My images, even those that fit in a series don’t “evolve” like that. So, these workers have a creative process which is emerging from inside their image series to then drive new work to become part of that series. My images are more like an “assignment” or “challenge” I give myself from outside my previous work. Maybe I like to organize my ideas as “projects’ in response to an “assignment” because of my experiences at school and in engineering disciplines.

One way I generate or organize my ideas about science fiction image with figures in them is by a loose science fiction scenario I invented about 2 sisters who are raised on Earth, but end up on a long voyage together to start a homestead on a distant colony world. 

Here’s an example
With me, an art piece starts with both intellectual and visual ideas/urges. I had this idea/urge for an image based on the idea of “Taking your kids to your workplace”. At the same time, I was thinking of that visual/cultural icon or archetype of a visitor and a prisoner at a jail visitor’s room – holding their hands up together on each side of a glass partition in greeting. And I was also entertaining this visual idea/urge about that fresco on the Cistine Chapel ceiling of the hand of God (but with the 2 bodies in a more idealized, flowing “S” shape in my mind). {See, Art History does pay off!}

So I had these 3 ideas/urges swimming around in my head and started applying my “Colony Sisters” organizing principle to them, to see what would pop up in my mind. What I came up with was the idea that one of the sisters would be part of a space station crew and the other sister would be visiting her from Earth. To get the “S” shaped composition of 2 bodies, I imagined that they would be in null gravity and I could therefore arrange their bodies pretty much however I wanted. To get the hands through glass gesture, I imagined that the visit was a surprise and therefore the crew member sister happened to be on EVA (“space walking”) and they would communicate through a porthole.

Those thoughts, and applying the “Colony Sister” framework to them, crystallized the project to a visually composable level, so I made a couple of pencil sketches and started the 3D modeling. Below is the result:


‘Star Seed’ project

I’ve had this image idea for a long time, but only recently brought it to life as a 3D modeled scene. Not a lot to say about it.

The only technical bits were using a single spotlight exclusively on each object, with a rainbow colored gel in front of the main spot and colored spotlights on each seed. And of course one of those exquisite Hubble Space Telescope Institute photos for the background (self-illuminated, of course).

Metablob textures in Vue


Discovered something quite interesting in Vue Infinite 7.5.  When you create a “Metablob”, and apply Vue “materials” (called multi-layer textures or shaders in other apps) to them, those materials are influenced by the blending of the underlying objects of the Metablob and take on fascinating blends of their own.

This is especially graphic when the materials have transparent areas and the blended materials underneath (or the scene background) show through.

Metablobs are Vue primitive 3D objects “welded” or “melted” together, with controls for the amount of force pulling them together and their amount of overlap.

My Metablob above is made by blending 2 intersecting thin toroids, a squashed sphere (the blob with the blue end) and a tiny rectangle (the antenna base). The outermost thin toroid, with the “chain-of-beads” look, and the little toroids it passes through, are all separate from the Metablob, as are the black-and-red rings, antenna, violet bubble, green “shower head” and figure.

If you’re a Vue artist, I highly recommend experimenting with Metablob textures!

Another thing about my image is it shows that you can get good results by just playing and experimenting in a joyous way – without sketches, research and preparation. Sometimes I like lots of preparation, but there’s a lot to learn from art play. 

   _jim coe

Near state-of-the-art 3D figure?

Ever wondered about those human figures you see in 3D modeled images?

Consumer priced 3D models of people still have a ways to go to reach photo-realism. Periodically, I like to try out the latest such model, to improve my skills with them and to check progress in the industry.

I’d like to get your opinions on where this typical 3D model, my work on her and my render need improvement. This version of my scene was touched up in Photoshop.

This is the popular Victoria 4.2 from DAZ 3D, as the ‘Vandra’ character:

DAZ 3D 'Victoria 4.2' by jim coe
DAZ 3D 'Victoria 4.2' - by jim coe

For those interested, some details:
What I used:
Victoria 4.2, Morphs++, the “Vandra” clothing and jewelry, posed and many morph target edits in DAZ|Studio 3, imported to Vue Infinite 7.5, all her materials (textures) edited in Vue, Vue ecosystem as background (1 tree variety, 1 bush variety, 1 underbrush collection), volumetric clouds, single tree (outside frame) to cast shadows on her face, Vue spectral atmosphere, 2 light sources (“sun” and 1 omni fill light), radiosity Global Illumination lighting solution, rendered in Vue. I also used David Burdick’s fine “SkinVue 7.4” (a Vue add-on product) skin shader to improve her skin, lips, fingernails and eyes. I did some postwork in Photoshop to add hair detail, blur lip edges and such.

Most of my DAZ|Studio morph modifications were for the head shape, eyes, nose and mouth.

For those unfamiliar with this type of 3D modeling:
The base model (the latest Victoria version 4.2) can be heavily modified in the “DAZ|Studio” (my fav) or “Poser” software, using the many dozens of “morph targets” in the “Morphs++” DAZ software for DAZ|Studio.

That is, muscle groups, joints and body parts may be moved, re-sized, re-proportioned, etc. (in great detail) to create different poses, body styles (toned, fat, thin, glamour, etc.), expressions, gestures and such. For example, there are probably 20 morph targets for the nose alone – In addition to different pre-built make up, eye color, eye reflections, wigs and the like. Or you can do such details yourself.

SkinVue 7.4, in Vue, allowed me to also adjust skin imperfections, SSS (SubSurfaceScattering), Fresnel effect (differences in reflection at different angles), veins, texture, eyeball details and lighting, and more.

There are a number of problems with this model and render, which I’ll attempt to remedy in the next version – to improve my skills in this domain. How many can you spot?

Your opinions please on consumer priced virtual human state-of-the-art (or as close as I can get to it)?

       _jim coe

Copyright for artists?

In the online art fora (yes, I once learned Latin) I often see questions about selling artwork and what the artist’s rights are. Sometimes this is a case of the blind leading the blind – there is much guess work and misinformation.

Commercial use of your artwork
I’m not an attorney, but did study U.S. copyright law in order to protect my art instruction book Art Head Start. I also needed to license the use of some example pictures for my book from other digital artists.

First, there is nothing unusual about selling artwork or about a buyer asking for certain rights – obviously commercial artists do this every day. As an artist, you can approach this in two ways:
1. You can hire an Intellectual Property (IP) attorney.
2. And/or you can learn to do it yourself.

If you choose to handle you own copyright, my first advice is not to believe any second-hand information about copyright you get in a forum or discussion group. Instead, go straight to the U.S. Copyright Office or the equivalent for your country. For the U.S., use their “Copyright Basics” link.

You can do a Google search to find a downloadable “artist’s contract”, edit it and use that as the basis of your art sales deal. Better yet – there is a company called “Nolo Press” that specializes in do-it-yourself legal books and contracts and they have an outstanding reputation. Check out their home page “Patents, Copyright & Art” > “License art, music or inventions” section.

Such an ‘Artist’s Contract” or ‘Art License” will stipulate that you are selling a “non-exclusive right” to use your art in specific x, y, z ways – you are not selling the copyright or ownership. “Non-exclusive” means you can also sell that right (or other rights) to other buyers.

If your prospect wants exclusive rights, charge a lot more. This is less common, but prospects can have legitimate reasons to want more control of the image. For example, a prospect may want to use your image as their business logo, and want protection against other copies getting into the marketplace and affecting their brand.

So, you don’t normally sell the ownership of your art work for commercial art purposes – you sell a one-time use of your artwork. What you are selling is a limited license to use your art, in the same way that when you buy a copy of the Windows operating system you do not own Windows – you own a limited, non-exclusive license to use Windows, under stipulated circumstances.

Selling Fine Art Originals
This is a different situation, where for example, you are selling all the rights to an original (like an oil painting) to an art collector – who is basically investing in your reputation. Obviously this sale is worth a lot more than a single use license. However, I don’t know much about the legal aspects of this type of sale – so I’ll leave you to the tender mercies of Google Search until I learn more…

Hope this helped…
_Jim coe

Art advice, my 'Art Head Start' ebook and favorite online artists