Ambiguous Arts offers a wide variety of artistic services and consulting, including: 3D, animation, web design, web hosting and maintenance, print graphics, form design, copy writing and editing, 2d design and layout, game design, as well as a very large and ever-growing repository links to the best resource for these areas.
From Snow White to The Simpsons, the art of cartoons and 3D movies has inspired generation after generation of artists and designers. Now, thanks to channels such as Adult Swim and the availability of free 3D software, more animators and illustrators than ever are able to showcase their talents.
Here, we look at the best animated cartoons to reach our screens in recent years. Let us know if we've missed out any of your favourites in the comments below...
Starting off life as a twisted take on Back to the Future entitled The Real Animated Adventures of Doc and Mharti, Rick and Morty came about when its creator, Justin Roiland, got together with recently-sacked Community showrunner Dan Harmon, and they reworked it for Adult Swim as the dimension-hopping adventures of alcoholic mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his nervous, dim-witted grandson Morty.
It starts dark then really goes for broke around episode five of the first season, and it's never less than blisteringly intelligent and riotously funny. There are two seasons to enjoy so far, with a third planned for this year. Rick and Morty have even made an appearance in The Simpsons, in an extended couch gag that turned out funnier than the episode it prefixed.
Focusing on the empty, meaningless life of the washed-up star of a smash hit 1990s sitcom, what really makes Netflix's BoJack Horseman shine is its brilliant central conceit that it’s set in a world where humans and anthropomorphic animals exist side by side.
And so BoJack is an actual horse; his agent, Princess Caroline, is a cat with an assortment of cat toys on her desk and a song from the musical Cats as her ringtone; and his friend Mr Peanutbutter is a Labrador with a tendency to chase postmen.
The series centres around the bored and dissatisfied BoJack as he tries to shake off his sitcom past and make a new name for itself. It effortlessly skewers the vacuous, vicious and superficial world of celebrity life and takes us to some splendidly troubling places along the way.
Set in the post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo and heavily influenced by the Dungeons & Dragons game, Adventure Time has proven popular with children and adults alike. Created by Pendleton Ward and starring John DiMaggio of Futurama fame, the show portrays the adventures of a boy called Finn and Jake, a dog with magical powers to change shape and grow and shrink at will.
Hilarious, witty and deliciously wicked, Archer takes place at an international spy agency, where its main character regularly screws things up. It's been described by its creator, Adam Reed, as "James Bond meets Arrested Development" – and indeed, the cast includes Arrested Development's Judy Greer and Jessica Walter. Reed was also responsible for the brilliant Sealab 2021.
Created by and starring Christopher McCulloch, action-comedy cartoon The Venture Bros. follows the adventures of pseudo-heroic scientist Dr Rusty Venture, his highly strung bodyguard, and his two over-enthusiastic sons. The show first appeared on our screens 13 years ago but its modern approach and brilliant dialogue mean it remains a firm favourite.
Creator Loren Bouchard had already worked on shows such as Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist and The Ricky Gervais Show before launching Bob's Burgers in 2011. In this brilliantly satirical look at running a burger restaurant the title role is taken by H Jon Benjamin, and who's also the voice behind Archer (number 2 on our list).
An award-winning cartoon sitcom for kids, The Amazing World of Gumball follows the chaotic misadventures of a regular family in an irregular town. Its creator Ben Bocquelet has won plaudits for its inventive use of various animation styles, which are effortlessly pieced together to create a heartwarming and hilarious show.
When asked to do a workshop on creating a fantasy environment, I thought it would be fun to pay homage to one of the most well-known fantasy stories of all time, The Wizard of Oz, and set it in outer space. It's also a bit of a throwback to those amazing sci-fi artworks pieces from the 1970s.
I have our outer space explorers staring off into the horizon, at my version of the Emerald City. Obviously, the story could be anything, but quickly, we've set up a few important conditions – outer space, an alien planet and astronauts – and these parameters will create the most important part of the piece: the narrative. Remember to always tell a story and be mindful that a successful concept piece does just that.
In this tutorial I'll show you how I turned this concept into an effective fantasy world.
01. Create your foreground elements
For my foregound, I selected a photograph that I took of a landscape in Alabama Hills, California. It strikes me as being otherworldly and serves as the inspiration for this piece. Concept art can be a mix of media, so don't be afraid to use photos, free 3D models, sketches, drawings and so on. Rely on your artistic abilities to make these images your own, and to bring these sources together into a single, coherent piece.
02. Put together your background
I chose a photo I took in Hawaii for my sky. I've already done a bit of touch up to the image, adjusting the Curves (cmd+M) to boost the contrast. Feel free to get creative and stitch together multiple sky images to make a more complex backdrop. For now, I'll keep things simple and stick to one sky photo that I'll paint into later on.
03. Remove the unwanted sky
I want to remove the sky in my foreground landscape photo. For this, I'll use Photoshop's Quick Mask mode (press Q). In this mode you can use your paint brush to paint the area you wish to select, then when you exit the mode you'll see that it's converted your painted area into a selection.
Press cmd+Shift+I to invert the selection. Once you have the correct area selected, remove it by hitting Delete.
04. Composite the foreground and background
Now you can combine your source images into one scene. Here, I've taken the original photos and adjusted the Levels (cmd+L) and Curves (cmd+M) to suit the overall painting. I've included additional mountains in the background by duplicating and adjusting my foreground image – this adds depth to the piece by pushing the horizon back. I've also painted in a bit of atmosphere using my Soft Round brush to add haze along the horizon.
05. Apply the rules of proportion
Many people advise using perspective grids when laying out your composition, but it's equally important to maintain proper proportions in your piece and place elements in a harmonious way. So I'm using the Golden Ratio as the foundation for my composition. I've already cropped my foreground photo so the outermost peaks align with my Golden Ratio spiral.
06. Paint into your piece
When working from a photo reference, you'll want to paint into it to add unique elements that will make the piece your own. Here, I'm adding in some alien mountain peaks by painting and erasing away until I develop shapes that I like.
I find that using a Hard Round brush or Chisel brush provide good results. You can also add textures and tones to suit the piece until you achieve the result you want.
07. Build up the composition
I add my mountain elements into my composition, and adjust them using Levels and Curves until they blend with the tones of the rest of piece. I also erase away, or mask out some of the bottom bits so they fade into the horizon atmosphere.
I add water using the same techniques as the alien mountain peaks: First, by painting shapes that define the bodies of water, then by adding water textures and paint strokes until I'm happy with the look of the water.
08. Introduce otherworldly elements
I want to further describe this scene as being that from an alien planet. One simple trick is to introduce planets and moons that immediately differentiate this world from Earth.
Here, I've added three moons into the sky. Using my Golden Ratio template enables me to place them into the scene in a way that's in-keeping with the proportions and layout of the piece.
09. Develop lighting and atmosphere
Atmosphere can be achieved by using a soft Round brush set on a low Opacity. To set the colour of the brush, I sample a lighter colour from the scene. I then build up atmosphere or haze by painting it in on a separate layer, on top of the background layers.
Next I want to add lighting. I create a new Overlay or Color Dodge layer as the top layer, and using a soft Round brush experiment with different colours and opacities and see how this affects the image on the layers below it.
10. Bring in a focal point
From the beginning, I knew I wanted to have an element off to the horizon that directs your eye through the piece. You should always keep in mind what the narrative of the piece is, and prior to jumping into a painting you may want to sketch it first. Having an idea of where you want to direct the viewer's eye is key – in this case I'm using architecture as a point of interest.
11. Add figures as a secondary focal point
I'm going to employ the old trick of dropping in a couple of small characters towards the foreground, in order to create another focal point that complements the background one we just created. This also adds scale to the piece, since we can all relate to the general size of a person.
The viewer's eye will travel between the foreground figures and the object they are looking at: the architecture. I've painted in bits of steam behind the figures, so there's more contrast between them and the background.
12. Adjust colour
I want this piece to feel more like fantasy and less like my original source photographs, so I adjust the colour. This is done by creating a Hue/Saturation layer. Within the Hue/Saturation Properties palette you can tweak the overall saturation as well as the separate colour channels. Experiment with this and have fun – you may find it produces some interesting results.
13. Make further adjustments
I add another Hue/Saturation Layer on top of the previous layer I created. By having multiple Hue/Saturation Layers, you'll find that you can create even more dramatic effects than you could with just one single layer.
I also create a new Curves Layer to adjust the image further. The Curves Property palette will enable you to edit and refine the tones in your image.
14. Final additions… or last-minute experiments?
At this late stage you may want to add a few more elements of lighting or interest to further enhance the piece. Don't be afraid to experiment and don't be too quick to consider your piece done. Step away from it and look at it with fresh eyes.
It's always helpful to have a plan and to design accordingly, but it's also good to keep things organic and allow for happy accidents. Here, I've introduced some lens flares by creating Color Dodge layers that add lighting effects when I paint into them.
Digital design technology is wonderful, but some of the most amazing artwork is still created using traditional painting techniques and methods. Here, pro children's book illustrator Alina Chau shares some of the secrets to successfully illustrating with watercolours.
01. The right tools
In order to achieve a desirable result with watercolour, it’s important to have the right tools. While you don’t have to invest in an expensive set of supplies, you don’t want to use paint or paper that is not suitable for watercolour either.
I’ve put together a list of the basic supplies you’ll need to kick-start your creative journey into watercolour painting:
Brushes: My favourite are artificial sable brushes. They are affordable and perform similarly to real sable. You want to a range of different sizes; I suggest round brushes in 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12, and one or two bigger flat brushes so you have a good range to start with.
Palette: Get a palette that will provide enough room to place your colours as well as plenty of room for mixing them.
Colour: My favourite brand is Winsor & Newton, but there are many good ones out there. If you are on a budget, most manufactures develop colours for students and professionals – Winsor & Newton's Colman series is student grade, while its Artist series is for professionals. Even though the student grade is cheaper, the quality is still very good.
Water jars: I like to have at least two, one for washing dirty brushes and one for mixing colours.
Paper: Choose between cold press or hot press. Hot press has a smoother surface, and colours perform differently on both. I use cold press because I love the rougher texture, which I think it gives the watercolour its unique look.
Gouache white: Watercolour white is usually too transparent to be of any use. I prefer gouache white to do the occasional touchups and highlights.
02. Start with sketches
Regardless of whether you are painting from imagination or life, it’s always a good idea to start with sketches. I love doodling on newsprint with a ballpoint pen. The rough texture of newsprint allows me to let my ideas flow without worrying about making mistakes.
Above are some examples from my children’s book, Pickle: The Little Bird Who Doesn’t Tweet! I start by using a blue pencil to do a very rough sketch. I tend to scribble lines on top of lines, looking for the right form and story moment.
If the lines get too messy to read, I will skip to another clean page. But, when I find the composition I like the most among all the messy blue lines then I use a black ballpoint pen to tidy up the drawing.
03. Colour studies
I like to do colour studies before I work on an actual painting. To ensure colour accuracy it’s better to do these on watercolour paper. Keep them small-scale, 4x6 inches or smaller is a good range.
These colour studies do not need to be a perfect painting. Instead, try to pay attention to how the colours bring focus to your point of interest and how you can make your composition more enchanting with your use of light and shade. The goal is to get a good overall sense of how your final painting will 'feel'.
Even though Pickle is a book app, I wanted it to have the charm of a classic children's picture book such as Peter Rabbit, but with contemporary sensibility and humour.
To achieve a classical illustration feel, I used subtle fine lines and textures in the painting. To make Pickle feel contemporary, besides using modern visual references in the story, I used a palette that’s slightly more vivid and brighter than what’s commonly used in classic illustrations.
04. Preparing paint and paper
A common misunderstanding is that you have to use the same palette that you used for the colour study when creating your final painting. While it’s true that you will recreate the look of the colour sketch, you should always start a new painting with a clean set of tools and a clean palette. This will prevent the colour on your painting from becoming too muddy and hard to control.
Also, be sure to wash your tools regularly whenever they start to get too dirty. This will also help maintain the purity and accuracy of the colour.
While you don’t need to worry about paper getting buckled in a sketchbook, you do need to watch for this in your final painting. To prepare the paper you can either stretch your paper or get a watercolour block, which is pre-stretched.
Light pencil line
After you are all set to go you can start drawing the sketch of your painting on the watercolour paper. Unless you intend to showcase the pencil line, draw very lightly on the surface so it’s easy for the colour to cover up the pencil.
People often ask me whether I use any special techniques to transfer my sketch to the final painting surface. Personally, I redraw the sketch freehand. This is usually when I fine-tune and make last minute adjustments to improve my draft.
05. Understanding watercolour as a medium
A common misunderstanding is that watercolour is about how much water you have on your brush. Many people think that you have to use plenty of water to get the paint to perform as it should.
On the contrary, watercolour is not about how much water is on your brush; it’s about the evaporation speed of the water on your paper surface. This means you need to account for the weather and humidity when you paint.
If you are painting on a sunny day with low humidity, you may need to use more water. On the other hand let’s say you are painting near a waterfall – in this case you will need to be very sparse with the water so that the bleeding doesn’t get out of control. In general you want to apply new layers of colour at the right time, which is when the moisture level on the paper surface is at its optimal dampness.
An interesting characteristic of watercolour is that you can apply the paint with little or no added water to achieve a dry effect or to imitate the look of an oil painting. Watercolour is indeed a medium with lots of personality!
06. What to do first
Many art websites and books offer comprehensive watercolour techniques and lessons. Here is a one with good example of all the various techniques. But what I would most like to share with you is how to approach the painting as a whole.
There are different theories on what is the proper step to start a watercolour painting with. The most common approach is to work from light to dark. However, I don’t think there is any definite rule you must follow – I have seen artists create amazing watercolour pieces working from the darkest colour to the lightest.
When I paint, I like to start from the main point of interest, such as Pickle the bird, then spread out from there to the secondary visual elements. Afterwards, I apply a general background colour layer with a big brush.
I wouldn’t worry too much when colour doesn’t land on the right spot or goes outside of the line. This is part of the fun of using watercolours. It’s a medium that easily creates a fun and spontaneous effect every time you paint.
Usually the surface is quite wet after applying the background, so I like to allow the paint to dry before I approach the details. On the next round, I keep the bleeding of colour under more control.
I tend to skip the decorative elements during all these stages, and keep those areas loose or unattended until the very end. This is because I often use the decorative elements to enhance the composition or frame my point of interest, and I don’t want to accidentally make those areas stand out too much.
With my children’s book, since a lot of the story takes place in natural settings, I often wait until the end to paint the plants, leaves and flowers. Even though these elements are a big part of the overall composition I leave them until last to frame Pickle as well as the key story moments.
07. Getting experimental
There are no rules, only tools! Like any art form, there are many approaches to creating a beautiful watercolour painting. Experiment and explore techniques that are suitable for your art style. It’s okay to use white, it’s okay to scrape the paper surface, and it’s okay to apply the paint generously on the paper surface. Most importantly, have fun!
If you’d like to watch my paint process here’s a time-lapse recording of myself painting the image below from start to finish. The video is three minutes long but the actual painting took about me about seven hours to complete:
In this Illustrator tutorial I’ll show you how to set up a three-point perspective grid in Adobe Illustrator to create a gorgeous 3D gift box. You can either place existing artwork in a perspective plane or draw directly on to the grid. We’ll use both methods in this tutorial, and as a bonus I'll show you an easy way to create a reflection.
First create a new document by going to 'File > New'. It can be of any size; we are using 800px width and 600px height here.
Hit the Perspective Grid tool from the tools panel or press shift+P. A default two-point perspective grid and a plane switching widget will pop up in your document.
You can use the widget to select the active grid plane. If you click the left surface of cube or press 1, its colour will change to blue indicating that left plane is active. And if you click the right surface of cube or press 3, this plane will turn orange to indicate this is now the active plane. Similarly, if you click the bottom surface or press 2, it turns green indicating horizontal plane is your active plane.
In Perspective Grid, an active plane is the plane on which you draw an object to project the observer’s view of that portion of the scene.
There are three types of grids available to choose from: one-point, two-point and three-point. You can select the desired grid by going to 'View > Perspective Grid > One/two/three Point Perspective'. We’ll use three-point grid for this tutorial. Below you can see its basic structure.
The first thing you should know is you have full control of the grid. With the Perspective Grid tool selected, you can click and adjust any handle in the grid as you like.
You can drag the right or left vanishing point horizontally, and the central vanishing point vertically to adjust the size of the respective planes.
If you lock the station point using the 'View > Perspective Grid > Lock Station Point' option, both the vanishing points will move together.
You can also adjust the left, right and horizontal grid planes using the respective grid plane control widgets. Adjust grid cell size using grid cell size widget – if you drag it upwards it increases the cell size, and vice versa.
There is another way to customise your grid. Go to 'View > Perspective grid > Define perspective grid'. I mostly use this option to decrease the opacity of the grid so I can concentrate more on my artwork.
With all the basics in mind let’s start drawing. If you have made any changes to your grid controls while experimenting, just go to 'View > Perspective grid > Three point perspective' to return to the default three-point grid.
The only change we’ll make to this grid is to decrease horizon height by moving the horizon line down, closer to the ground level.
Press shift+cmd+I (shift+ctrl+I) to temporarily hide the perspective grid. Now pick the Rectangle tool (M), click the canvas to view its dialog box and enter 200px for width and 170px for height. You can make this rectangle any colour.
Next, we’ll make two copies of our rectangle. Select it by clicking it using the Selection tool (V), then press cmd+C to copy and cmd+V to paste. Now you have three rectangles, which will form the two side walls and lid of the box.
Press shift+cmd+I to view the grid again, pick the Perspective Selection tool (shift+V), select the right grid by pressing 3 and simply drag one of the rectangles over the grid as shown below. The rectangle will automatically come into perspective.
Next press 1 to select the left grid and drag another rectangle adjoining the previous one.
Press 2 to select horizontal plane and position the third rectangle to form the lid. If it's not in proportion with the walls, you can resize it using the Perspective Selection tool (shift+V).
Now select the right wall of box and apply following gradient on it using the Gradient tool (G). You can save this gradient by hitting the 'New Swatch' icon at the bottom of the Swatches panel.
Now make a copy of the right wall. While the wall is selected press cmd+C to copy, and cmd+F to paste in front. Apply the given gradient to this copy and save the gradient as a new swatch.
Now apply both the gradients over the left wall from the saved swatches. After that, apply following gradient over the lid.
Increase the size of lid a bit using the Perspective Selection tool (shift+V). Press 3 to select the right grid and draw a rectangle using the Rectangle tool (M) as below. Then apply the given gradient.
Hit 1 to select the left grid and create a rectangle on the other side. You can apply the same gradient, but you'll need to change its angle a bit.
Next page: the final steps to creating a gorgeous 3D gift box...
Next, we’ll give the box rounded corners. Select all the shapes from the Layers panel and go to 'Effect > Stylize > Round Corners'. Enter a 2px value for the radius.
Next we’ll create the lid shadow. Press 3 to select the right grid and shift+V to use the Perspective Selection tool, then draw a black rectangle as shown below.
Make a similar rectangle for the left side, and drag both black rectangles below the lid layers. To create the shadow of the box, select the lid's top layer, press cmd+C (ctrl+C) to copy and cmd+B to paste in back.
Select the three shadow layers, change their blending mode to Multiply with 50 per cent opacity in the Transparency panel (shift+ctrl+F10) and go to 'Effect > Blur > Gaussian Blur'. Use 2-4px value here to blur the shadow.
Next, draw a small line in front of the lid using the Pen tool (P). Make its fill colour 'none', change the colour to #F76C41, and the give it a stroke of 3pt. Then round its cap and corners using the Stroke panel at the top.
To create the ribbon press shift+ V the bring up the Perspective Selection tool, then hit 3 to select the right plane and draw a thin vertical rectangle (#FFD274). Hit 1 to draw a similar rectangle (#E8BE6A) over the left plane.
Hit 2 to select the Horizontal plane and draw two rectangles crossing each other, then apply given gradient to both. You'll need to change the angle of the gradient for the final rectangle.
We are done with the grid so far, so press shift+cmd+I (shift+ctrl+I) to hide it. Now draw a shape below the recently created ribbon shapes using Pen tool (P) with #B55B36 fill.
To make its shadow, select the new shape, press cmd+C (ctrl+C) to copy, and cmd+B (ctrl+B) to paste in back. Change its fill colour to #42210B with 50 per cent opacity in the Transparency panel (shift+cmd+F10 or shift+ctrl+F10). Adjust its shape slightly, according to the cuts of the box.
Next, draw the two shapes shown in the image below for shading over the right ribbon. Repeat these steps for the left-side ribbon to get the results similar to mine.
Now we’ll draw the bow using Pen tool (P). Draw the basic parts as shown above, then create the second loop as shown below. Collect these four shapes in a new layer. To do so, select them and click the fly-out menu in the top right corner of Layers panel (F7), then choose 'Collect in New Layer'. Label it as 'Second Loop'.
Create the third loop below the rest using gradients shown. Collect these two shapes in a new layer and label it 'Third Loop'.
Select the 'Second Loop' layer and pick the Duplicate option from the fly-out menu in the top-right corner of Layers panel (F7). Select this duplicated layer and click the canvas to view the Options window, then choose 'Transform > Reflect'. Reflect the loop vertically and hit 'OK'.
Place this duplicated layer above the first large loop as shown above. Then duplicate and reflect the 'Third Loop' layer and reposition it, keeping it below the rest of the loops.
Web design trends are always changing, so there's never a bad time to start learning. Right now may be the best time, though, thanks to the Learn to Web Design 2017 Bundle. It's !
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You can get the Learn To Web Design Bundle 2017 ! Beat the average to unlock everything, get your name on the leaderboard, or just pay what you want. No matter what, you're going to get a great bundle that could launch your next career, so grab it today!
The first major release of Marvelous Designer was back in 2011, and since then, the cloth simulator has come a long way. In that time, Marvelous Designer has grown its reputation as the must-have tool for cloth and clothes simulation for films, games and animations, and Clo3D has settled into an annual release cycle of both sensible and solid releases.
With Marvelous Designer 6 (MD6), Clo3D has again focused on user requests and tailoring garments to users' exact needs. New tools such as Solidify will maintain your garment's folds and wrinkles based on the strength you assign it – handy as it means you don't have to redo said folds and wrinkles, even when resimulating.
Chalk enables you to draw reference lines on your garment; and new feature tweaks like symmetrisation, delete all Curve Points, and align and distribute, offer an all-in-all easier workflow.
Buttons and steam
The main features in this release are without a doubt buttons and steam. This very welcome addidition makes it infinitely easier to generate buttons and buttonholes, which must be a relief to anyone who's spent considerable time creating and editing buttons in earlier versions.
The new Buttons function eliminates most of the Create Internal Circle, Duplicate, Create Circle, Duplicate, Align, Stitch process. Now, you just define a button and buttonhole, link them, align the buttonhole over the button, simulate and boom! Done. Potential hours shaved off right there.
Steam is another handy feature. As the name suggests, Steam's job is to de-wrinkle your digital garment. This means you don't have to spend time tweaking your fabric and drape settings or freeze parts of a garment you want to keep as-is – all you do now is run the Steamer button over the parts of the garment you want smoothed, and it's job done.
While the new features make MD6 a pleasure to work with, I'd have happily lived without a chalk line in favour of better export options, quads and topology, as the output often still needs rework in ZBrush or other applications, detracting from time saved elsewhere.
Also, one month of MD6's one-function program at $60 will get you Steam Modo Indie, the Substance Suite and Photoshop with about $15 change – meaning the pricing is too much for too little, especially for freelancers and small studios.
The world of gaming is fast-paced and hugely exciting, especially with the ongoing developments and projects being created using virtual reality applications. But this can be a daunting environment if you’re thinking of building your own experience. Thankfully, there are a number of tools and resources around to help make your game or app a success. Here are some of the best around to get you started...
Visual Studio, Microsoft’s developer tool suite has been around for 20 years this year, which is a clear indication of just how popular the software is among designers and developers. A fully featured integrated developer environment (IDE) for Android, iOS, Windows, web and cloud, Visual Studio offers productive development tools and powerful services.
A highly efficient and capable project management tool with built-in code repositories, Assembla is quickly becoming the resource of choice for teams to build the latest video games. Boasting a number of incredibly handy features, Assembla allows individual developers and teams to manage every aspect of a project, from ideation to production, coding to communication, all in one place.
And that’s not all. Anyone building games or VR applications will know that Perforce is the go-to tool for it's ability to store large media files and scale on demand. Assembla caters to this need by being the only so you can scale on demand with unlimited files.
Assembla is also the number one SVN provider in the world and features integration with leading communication app Slack, meaning the project team and clients can work together out of one platform helping games launch on time. Assembla provides everything you need to manage all your tasks, team and code in just one place – a must-have tool for any game developer.
This renowned suite of game development tools has been used to create hit games on just about any platform. Made by game developers, for game developers, Unreal Engine 4 provides everything you need to make your next project, whether it be a simple 2D game, console blockbuster or virtual reality app, a success. Designed for mobile, now and in the future, Unreal Engine 4’s features gives you the power to develop your game and seamlessly deploy to iOS and Android devices.
And the best news? Epic Games has made Unreal Engine 4 completely free to download. The only thing they ask for in return is five per cent royalty on any games and applications released, which is amazing considering all the powerful tools and features you’re getting access to.
It may seem obvious to say but every designer and developer needs a place to record even the smallest of ideas and be able to access them anywhere. Evernote, one of the most popular note-taking apps around, allows users to do just that, enabling the capture, nurture, and sharing of ideas across any device.
Like millions of creative professionals around the globe already using it,
Evernote provides a quick and easy way to jot down new ideas for characters, game production timelines and much more, save them all and access them anywhere. A vital tool for designers and developers everywhere.
Blender is an open source 3D content creation suite, available for all major operating systems.Started by Blender Foundationfounder Ton Roosendaal back in 2002, Blender is now the largest open source tool for 3D creation. Its makers are constantly working on its development, but you can pretty much do anything 3D related with this software, including modelling, texturing, animation, rendering and compositing. Brilliant for creating beautiful 3D models for your next game.
Speaking of 3D models, you’re going to need to texture said assets and there’s no better program to start with than Photoshop. The go-to tool for creative professionals, Photoshop provides an extensive and dedicated toolset for the creation and texturing of your game assets.
Like all pros, game developers use the best tool for the job and, while you have to pay a monthly subscription to access Photoshop’s tools, its raster and vector art and overall texturing functions are second to none and worth every penny to create professional-looking assets.
3D painting software Substance also offers a way to paint your 3D assets in a procedural and natural way. A popular tool among 3D and digital artists, Substance features a complete and familiar set of texturing tools: PBR and particle painting, Substance procedural effects, smart materials and smart masks, and fast baking. The software also features full Photoshop Export and full Unreal Engine 4 support with a to allow quick iterations on your textures right in Unreal 4.
In 1948, the Olympic Games was broadcast live on television for the first time. Somehow, in post-war austerity with scarce resources and little money, the BBC broke technological boundaries. Live coverage came from two venues in North London, in what was at the time the largest outside broadcast ever made.
It was a milestone in sports coverage. The beginning of a revolution, you could say, into the limitless sport on TV and online today.
68 years on, we at the BBC continue to push how we can bring the Olympics to the UK and the world. And today, of course, it’s more than TV. A wide range of Olympic content is offered over the BBC’s websites and apps, and it’s phenomenally popular. Over 100 million devices accessed our Rio 2016 site.
Offering a great online service to over 100 million devices is not easy. High levels of web traffic puts huge load on the underlying systems. Fortunately, we were prepared. We knew the summer of 2016 was going to be our biggest ever, and made sure we had a website that could scale to handle it. This article explains how we did it.
01. Caches are your best friend
Let’s start with the basics. A cache is the single most important technology in keeping sites scalable and fast. By storing copies of data and providing them when they're next needed, caches reduce the number of requests that make it to the server. And that allows the server to handle more users.
Everyone knows the cache inside a web browser. It’s perfect for any common content between web pages, such as CSS. As a user moves between pages on your site, the browser’s cache will ensure they don’t repeatedly download the same file. This means there are fewer requests to your web servers, freeing up capacity to handle more users.
Unfortunately, browser caches aren’t shared between users, so they don’t solve the scaling problem on their own. In other words, if a million users are accessing your site, there are a million browser caches to fill. This means the load on web servers can still be significant. That’s why most websites will also have their own cache, which may or may not be part of the web server.
Caches are extremely efficient and can handle user requests quicker, which allows more users to be served. For example, a good web server will usually be able to accept 1,000 requests a second to content that is cached, but may not for content that needs to be generated.
02. Use a CDN
Web server caches are great, but they have their limits. There will always be a point at which the server cannot cope with the load. To efficiently scale to almost any level, use a content delivery network (CDN). CDNs are more ubiquitous than ever thanks to their being part of all major cloud services, on a pay-as-you-go model.
CDNs have the extra advantage that they distribute the content worldwide. This allows your site to be just as fast internationally as it is locally. It’s another reason why – if you can afford it – you may want to use a CDN for your entire site.
03. Add more servers
Caches (including CDNs) are great for content that normally stays the same. But if content changes frequently, or from person to person, a cache is limited in what it can safely do. If a web page includes a user’s sign-in details, for example, a cache cannot share it, or else one user may see another user’s details.
All this means that, even with the best caches and CDNs, web servers still have to pick up much of the work. So you’ll likely need several of them. Having multiple servers allows the work to be shared, and also prevents a server failure from breaking your site. A load balancer then ensures each one takes their share of the work.
If your servers are running on the cloud, take advantage of the fact new virtual machines can be requested on demand, and paid for by the minute or hour. This elastic nature of most cloud providers allows you to have more web servers when traffic is high, and fewer when it’s quiet.
As an example, we at the BBC have hundreds of cloud-based web servers, the exact number continually changing based on traffic levels to different parts of the site. We’ve learned that other systems must be able to scale too. A database or API that the site uses, for example, will also need to handle moments of high traffic.
04. Optimise page generation
For all but the simplest of sites, there is some dynamic generation: code that runs to create the contents of a page. Optimising this process can allow a web page to be created quicker, which enables a server to handle more requests. Consider:
Can the code be changed to be more efficient? Is it handling more data than necessary, or creating more content than is actually shown?
Are there are any database or API calls that can be made faster or removed?
Could any content be prepared ahead of time and stored in a database, file or cache?
05. Split the work
Finally, it enables you to offer the same thing to everyone. If a page has small parts that are unique to a user (e.g. a shopping cart or recommendations), arrange for those parts to be added client-side. This way the base page can be the same for everyone, so it can be cached and the web server won’t have to recreate it for every user.
06. Find your limit
So you’ve made a heap of changes to enable your site handle high load. But how do you know it has worked? There is always a breaking point; you need to know what it is. Load testing – simulating high traffic so you can understand how your site performs – is the only way to be sure. The BBC does a lot of load testing because, even though an educated guess can be made as to how our site will scale, there are always the unknown unknowns.
It’s often the case that the busiest moments are also the most important. The BBC website’s busiest times are during major sporting events or breaking news – moments when failure is not an option. Load testing can give you confidence that you’re ready for when the big day comes.
07. Compromise, but not on speed
In many cases, a site under high load will slow down. Web servers and databases will handle high traffic by doing multiple things at once, causing performance to drop. But this is precisely the time you don’t want poor performance, as you’re probably welcoming new users that you want to impress.
At the BBC we’ve noticed that, for every additional second a page takes to load, 10 per cent of users leave. This is why, if the BBC site is slowing down due to load, certain features will automatically switch off to bring the speed up again. These will be low-importance things – such as a promo box at the bottom of a page – that are expensive on the server and few users will miss.
In short, if compromise is necessary during high traffic moments, pick the right thing to compromise on. Which probably isn’t speed.
These seven techniques have helped the BBC create a site that handles tens of millions of users every day. They’ve been proven to work with the biggest moments the BBC website has ever seen, such as this year’s Olympics, when thousands of pages were requested every second.
Back in 1948, when the Olympics were first televised live, there were only 80,000 TVs to receive it. Today, 80,000 smartphones are sold every half an hour. The internet’s growth continues to be astonishing. With these techniques, your site can be ready for astonishing growth of its own.
Creating any type of 3D art is tricky, but throw typography into the mix too and it can become all kinds of daunting. To get you started, designer Jamie Clarke talks through how he created 3D type family Rig Shaded.
Perfect for eye-popping headlines and logotypes, Rig Shaded is a layered or ‘chromatic’ typeface, which means that you can choose your own style and colour combinations. Its geometric letterforms are picked out with a distinctive halftone shading style and its four weights include a unique ‘zero’ weight.
The process of creating Rig Shaded was as elaborate and unusual as the typeface itself, involving several tools and collaborations. Here Jamie explains how he did it...
01. Inspiration hunt
I can’t get enough of 3D signwriting and tactile lettering. I wanted to capture that magic in a typeface. My previous chromatic typeface, Brim Narrow, was a serif design inspired by antique woodtype from the 1800s, and this time I wanted to design something that was thoroughly modern. I had lots of ideas and sketches, but before I opened my font software there was much to figure out.
First, I made a Pinterest board with dozens of 3D lettering examples. I collected sign painting by Ged Palmer, graffiti by Gary Stranger and bold building signage. I gathered gorgeous digital lettering, including some by Jeff Rogers and Bobby Evans, both of whom I contacted to ask about their processes. Jeff has a very painterly approach to letter shading, while Bobby favours a textured, screen-printed style.
02. Shaping ideas
When I was exploring the other chromatic fonts available, I couldn’t find a geometric sans serif option. Of the sans serif typefaces, many struggled with how the angles of their drop shade, or extrude, were affected by their diagonal shapes.
For example, if you apply a 45º extrude to an X that falls from the bottom right, the result will look very uneven. The stroke of the X running from top left to bottom right will show almost no extrude but the extrude on the opposite stroke will be overly deep. These need to be equalised while tricking the eye so the viewer does not notice.
R. Hunter Middleton’s Umbra typeface does an outstanding job of this, however its proportions are those of Roman capitals rather than geometric. The same goes for the angles at the ends of the characters (the terminals).
I applied a rough, mechanical extrude to a variety existing sans serif fonts, using a simple Adobe Illustrator blend (If you’d like to know more about making 3D lettering I‘d recommend Jeff Rogers’ excellent 3D Skillshare tutorial).
I studied characters like the N, S and X to figure out the best character shapes and what issues to look out for. I began to wonder: what if I designed a typeface that 'allowed the tail to wag the dog’ and adjusted each the letter shapes specifically to suit an extrude style? Could a geometric typeface work in harmony with 3D effects while maintaining its geometric principles and proportions? This question eventually led to Rig’s distinctive design.
To accentuate Rig’s solid appearance I wanted to add some shading to its extrudes, which would also make the letters feel more like custom lettering. I played around with halftones using traditional circles, but the amount of data required to plot thousands of circles across the entire font would result in enormous file sizes and slow software rendering.
A square however, requires a third of the data required to render a circle, so I found a way to make halftones with squares by using Astute Graphics’ Phantasm filter in Adobe Illustrator.
04. The brief
Typefaces take a long time to produce so it’s important to establish a brief for yourself to follow. Months into production, neck-deep in detail, you’ll undoubtedly have a critical decision to make about your design direction; without a firm guide to keep you on track it’s easy to go astray. I also kept a detailed Evernote document recording technical details and decisions in case I wanted to reconsider an option.
There seemed to be room in the market for my idea. So the brief to myself was:
A typeface with geometric shapes, specifically to compliment 3D effects
Well balanced extrudes that have a visual harmony with the letter shapes and/or spacing
All terminals angled to suit the connecting extrudes
Maintain clear, open, legible character
Create shading styles that emphasise the design’s solid, 3D appearance
Keep it modular with interchangeable options so the creativity stays with the end designer
Produce four weights, including include a razor-thin weight (the eventual ‘Zero' weight)
05. The Face design
It was now time to start designing the face of the characters. For this I used Glyphs, a font editing program. Glyphs’ vector drawing tools are second to none, allowing for precise control and accuracy. Working within a dedicated type design tool also encourages you to think about the spacing of your type while you draw it.
I drew my initial A-Z, focusing on the overall shapes and proportions of the letters. I made all terminals end at 90º, with a few exceptions at 45º, to suit the extrude style. I designed the characters a fraction narrower than a strict geometric, which steepens the angles of the diagonals (helping the uniformity of the extrudes) and makes the font more economical with space when it’s used in long headlines.
I designed the A-Z in Bold and Light weights and used Glyphs to create the Medium weight by interpolating from my two extremes. When completed I asked a couple of friends and veteran type designers, Dave Foster of Foster Type and Toshi Omagari of Monotype, for their feedback on my alphabets.
Next page: five more steps to creating your own 3D typeface...
During my experimental stage I’d figured out the rough extrude depths for each weight so I could build visual harmonies between the stem widths and/or spacing in each weight. This aids the uniformity and rhythm of the type, which is important as the shapes become more complex.
To create the extrude styles I used a plugin to do the heavy lifting. This created the extrude shapes mechanically, and I then adjusted or redrew to achieve a consistent weight. I needed to ensure that none of the extrudes clogged up their partner face characters or obscured their details, so I adjusted several of the original face characters to make them more compatible.
07. Zero weight
I wanted to make a razor-thin, ‘zero’ weight style for the font family. For this to work, the extrude style needed to become the main shape of the type. I redrew each glyph with open paths, as if creating a monoline font. This gave me the skeleton of each character so it could be mechanically extruded and then adjusted or redrawn. The 'S' was particularly tricky as its spine produced almost no extrude naturally due to its diagonal direction.
08. Spacing and kerning
I’d spaced my characters throughout the drawing process to ensure they were working well together as words and sentences. However, a shaded font cannot be spaced like a regular black and white typeface. Because the extrude shapes become an integral part of each character, the spacing and kerning needs to be optimised for the overall combined shape. To do this I made both the face and the extrude black, to form one solid block, and spaced and kerned them together.
09. Shading preparation
To guide the halftone shading process, I commissioned a 3D designer to create and light a 3D model of my full character set. This wasn’t meant to produce a realistic shadow but rather a consistent stylistic effect, and show me where the light might fall across more complex shapes.
In the end however, the final shading diverged even further from the 3D model so that the shadows could be distributed evenly across all the glyphs.
After talking with a few designer friends, I decided that it was important to offer two grades of halftone shading to provide greater control at various type sizes. Depending on the colour combinations and sizes chosen, Rig could then produce subtle gradients through to strong graphic effects.
10. Shading marathon
Each separate gradient was made in Adobe Illustrator then brought back into Glyphs to be cleaned up, and often adjusted square by square. There was no way to batch-process the halftone effects and the combined number of glyphs across four weights and two shading styles is approaching 2000. It was a long, gruelling process.
In Illustrator, I made a black and white gradient at the approximate size of the curve or edge that needed shading. Then, with some manipulation, I would run the Phantasm filter on these gradients to create the vector halftone squares. These were then cropped using the shape of the letter’s extrude.
Back in Glyphs, at high magnification I went around all the curved edges to correct any stray points. To reduce the overall file size of the font I also removed any redundant curve handles from squares positioned on the edges of curves.
There were several intricate gradients to build, like in crotches of K and R, but many of the gradients could be shared across multiple shapes, and keyboard shortcuts sped up the process. The last step was to even out the shading to avoid dark areas as much as possible.
I admit that while producing the shading I cursed myself for deciding to make four weights, but the final result was worth it. The unusual approach to Rig’s design eventually led to its unique appearance. The character shapes, extrude depths and spacing have all been devised to compliment each other and produce harmony within each weight. By allowing the tail to wag the dog in this way, Rig’s lively yet assured voice was forged.
Here we’ll convert a bland portrait into a pop art masterpiece. It’s a brilliant way to get creative and enliven your forgettable shots. For this tutorial, we'll be using Photoshop filters, selection tools, Adjustment Layers and Layer Masks, and the Hue/Saturation command.
You may have noticed that our start image isn’t that sharp! This is an added bonus of pop art images: you can use images that would otherwise have been discarded.
01. Make it mono
First open up your portrait in Photoshop. Go to 'Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Threshold', and set Threshold to about 128. To bring out more detail in the eyes and mouth, select the ‘Background’ layer, go to 'Layer > Duplicate Layer'. From 'Filter > Sketch > Stamp', set Light/Dark Balance to 26 and Smoothness to 1. Now use the Lasso tool to draw around the eyes and mouth, holding down Shift to add to your selection each time.
02. Brighten your background
Click Add Layer Mask to create a mask out of your selection. Now to change the background colour from black to green. Highlight the top ‘Threshold 1’ layer and use the Quick Selection tool to select the background either side of the figure. Hold Alt to subtract from your selection in order to tidy it up. Click the half-moon icon on the Layers palette, and select a Solid Colour Adjustment Layer.
03. Clean up edge detail
Choose a green from the Colour palette. To tidy the edges, use the Brush tool (press B) to paint over your Layer Mask to reveal detail beneath. Press D to change the default foreground/background colour to white/black, press X to set foreground colour to black, then paint round the edges of the hair if needed. Click X to toggle between a white/black brush if you need to paint the green background back in.
04. Make the hair stand out
To turn the hair bright yellow, first grab the Magnetic Lasso tool. Start at the bottom-left of the hair and draw carefully around the outside edge. Use your creative judgement when it comes to the inside strands and fringe! Keep drawing until you reach your start point again, and click when two small circles appear to complete the selection. Again create a Solid Colour Adjustment Layer, pick a yellow, and click OK.
05. Blend and brush
Use the drop-down menu in the Layers palette to set the Blending Mode to Multiply, revealing the hair outlines underneath. Reduce Opacity from 100% with the slider to lessen the colour’s impact. Don’t worry if your selection isn’t neat – pop art should look a little uneven! You can tidy it up with a white/black brush over the Layer Mask to add/remove the yellow.
06. Adjust skin tones
Use the Quick Selection tool to select the face, neck and chest. Ensure ‘Sample All Layers’ is ticked. Press Alt to remove areas such as shoulder straps from your selection. Then repeat as before; create a Solid Colour Adjustment Layer, choose a pink, set Blending Mode to Multiply, adjust Opacity if necessary. Use a 30-pixel white/black brush to paint over the Layer Mask and clean up any unwanted white bits.
07. Change eye colour
To turn the eyes blue, zoom right in (ctrl and +) and use the Lasso tool to draw around the iris of each eye. Then repeat the steps above to turn them blue, dropping Opacity down for more realistic look, and again use Brush tool on a Layer Mask to tidy up any spilt ink! Do the same for the shoulder straps; we chose a purply-blue colour here.
08. Increase canvas size
To create more versions, first go to 'Layer > Flatten Image', then 'File > Save As', and rename your file (we've used 'popart2.jpg'). Go to 'Image > Resize > Canvas Size'. To extend the canvas, untick the Relative box, click the top-left arrow to anchor the image, and change to width 49cm and height 73.5cm for a portrait image. Finally, set the Canvas Extension Colour to black.
09. Mix it up
Save this new image with a new version name ('popart3.jpg'). Reopen 'popart2.jpg', and press Ctrl+U to open Hue/Saturation. Simply move the Hue slider left or right to create a different coloured pop art image. Then use the Move tool to drag-and-drop your new pop art picture on to the blank canvas space on 'popart3.psd'.
10. Put it all together
Go back to 'popart2.jpg', open Hue/Saturation and repeat the above process until you have four or six vibrant images on the 'popart3.psd' image. Move the images around on the canvas (highlighting the correct layer) so the images are in the best order and with no similar colours next to each other. Go to 'Layer > Flatten', and save it as a single-layered JPG.