Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Digital Art: Painting with Pixels by Ron Miller

Digital Art: Painting with Pixels by Ron Miller

Do you enjoy drawing cartoons? Do you ever wonder how special effects in movies are created? Have you ever thought of becoming a digital artist for a hobby or career? If so, Ron Miller’s book, Digital Art: Painting with Pixels, is worth taking a look at.

In some ways this book makes digital art seem within anyone’s grasp. I like that the author introduces digital graphics concepts in a clear manner, much more clear than other books I’ve read on graphic arts. I like the depth of coverage on the topic as well. I was impressed that there was a chapter concerning fractals. Fractals reveal the hidden dimension in nature that can be represented mathematically. The idea of “self-similarity” is used to explain fractals. For example: if you look at a branch from a tree that has fallen off from a windstorm you’ll notice that the branch looks similar in shape and design to the whole tree. If you take a leaf off a fern plant, the leaf’s pattern or structure looks similar to the whole fern plant. This idea of repetition, or self-similarity, revealed in nature can be represented mathematically. So what? Well, computer generated imagery (CGI) you see in your favorite video games is generated on the principle of fractals. A game designer can use an equation involving fractals to design a natural looking environment in a computer game. The graphics look real because they are created by the same patterns found in nature.

I did find one error on page 42 (see if you can find it), but otherwise the book is a great way to get up to speed on concepts that game designers, special effects wizards, and graphic artists use every day. As I read I came up with a few ideas that our tech. club or anyone interested in digital art could start with immediately.

The author reveals how to take simple cartoons drawn with pen or pencil and shows how they are colorized and shaded on the computer by the professionals-yet any of us could use the same method as well. The book inspired me to think about this idea in a different way-how to take someone’s picture and change them into a cartoon:

Here’s one method (not found in the book, though). You have to know a little Photoshop to accomplish this. See what you come up with:

1. Take someone’s picture.
2. Import it into Photoshop.
3. Duplicate the layer.
4. Change the blend mode to color dodge.
5. Invert the image.
6. Apply the Gaussian Blur filter (choose a low number).
7. Create a new adjustment layer.
8. Choose Threshold.
9. Create a new layer.
10. Change the blend mode to multiply.
11. Select a color and a brush and start painting.
12. Finally, apply the half-tone filter.

I’d like to also recommend some of the author’s suggested websites listed below.

Related Websites:

Ron Miller's Site
How 3D Graphics Work
The Golden Ratio
Cool Math Fractals
PBS Nova: The Hidden Dimension (Fractals)
Make an online Spirograph
Full Sail (College that specializes in digital art and special effects)
Museum of Digital Art
Planet Photoshop (how to do digital art using Photoshop)
Difference between vector and raster graphics

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