Ponies, begone!

Since my last post about how to block users in DeviantArt search results, I’ve since switched to the Opera browser and can thus use the excellent DeviantArt Filter.

Really nice filter, and mature in version 5.0. It just adds a cross on the top left of visual search results. Really easy to block and unblock wanted DA posters of ponies, mega-boobs and Five Nights At Freddy’s stuff.


10 Photoshop panels for Photoshop CC 2017

Since SketchBook Pro can read-write Photoshop .PSD files, the software makes a natural first-step before you finish up the sketch in Photoshop. Here are ten Photoshop panel add-ons which can help get the job done in everyone’s favorite uber-software, once you’ve finished up in Sketchbook.

1. Free. The very first thing the new user of Photoshop panels need is ZXPInstaller. It quickly and automatically installs all your Extension Panels direct from their .zpx installation file. Installing manually is not advisable. You used to be able to do this with something similar from Adobe, but they squished it with CC 2015. However ZPXInstaller is an open source continuation, and it uses the same Adobe engine to make it work.

ZPXInstaller doesn’t uninstall, a process which is a total nightmare (because it needs to be done manually, and often the Panel has scattered its files into several obscure bits of Windows) — but if you need to make a start on uninstalling then you’re likely to find your installed panels and bits-of-panels in folders at:

C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Adobe\CEP\extensions\..
C:\Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\CEP\extensions\..

The intrepid Photoshop panel-hunter on the Web probably also needs to know that in 2017 it’s wise to avoid older Panels that require Adobe Flash to work, especially if they auto-update. Newer ones are made in the much-safer combination of JavaScript and HTML.

2. $. Coolorus Colour Wheel 2.5 gives you a Photoshop colour picker modelled after the best, namely the one which is found in Corel Painter.

3. $. Brusherator 1.3. A beautiful little panel on which you can store a custom arrangement of Brushes. 1.2 also added the ability to have Actions on your panel as tiny buttons, which makes it even more useful.

After install, it’s not the easiest of tools to figure out. In fact, let’s be frank: it’s a bastard. It uses odd metaphors like ‘shelves’ and suchlike, has no tool-tips on its control buttons, and has a manual that needs a clearer re-write. Swop brush sets in Photoshop Brushes, and suddenly it “can’t find” the brush you placed on its Panel. The other main problem, common to all Panels it seems, is that its dialog windows don’t respect dual monitor use (they show up on the other monitor, for instance). But Brusherator is however unique and vital, once you discover how to fully use it and get it set up. Which may take a day of your time, frankly. The first step to Brusherator sanity seems to be to make sure that you always have all your Photoshop Brush sets loaded at once, in the Photoshop brushes library — or Brusherator will “loose” brushes as you swop out brush sets. The second is for those on a pen monitor to understand how vital it is to use your main monitor + mouse (with the vital right-click) to set this up on the main monitor first, because trying to set it up with a pen + second monitor is very frustrating,

4. $. Lazy Nezumi Pro provides a real-time brush-smoothing engine for Photoshop, like you have in Sketchbook Pro and Manga Studio and other software. It’s robust and quite simple, though the developer over-explains it on the landing page and makes it look scary due to all the settings and sliders. It’s actually mostly controlled by a handful of drop-down presets.

It’s very light on your PC system resources, too. Not all brushes play nicely with it. If you beloved inking brush (Kyle’s ‘Mister Natural’ springs to mind, though it’s nearly impossible to find after install — turns out it isn’t under Brushes at all, but over on the Tool Presets panel) isn’t doing the business, just remember that you probably need to turn off Lazy Nezumi for a moment.

5. $. AD Brutus Symmetry. Yes, you already have excellent Symmetry tools in SketchBook Pro. But how cool and useful would it be to also have them in Photoshop? Simple and robust, Brutus does the job well and with a neat-o retro comic-book style.

6. $ Font Hero, a font previewer and organiser inside Photoshop. Oh yes…

Of course, font bookmarking was officially introduced by Adobe in CC 2015, but this is arguably more useful.

7. $$! Corel ParticleShop for Photoshop. This is a full-blown Photoshop plugin from the same Corel Corp. which makes Painter. If you have SketchBook Pro you may not consider that you need it. But, when used with some of the expensive add-on Painter-like brush packs, this is very impressive. Not all the brushes make me go “wow!”, and nor does the price. But the Fur brush set is especially nice, and the brushes are fast even with Lazy Nezumi enabled.

More Brushes? I’ve tried a lot, and Pixelstains 6 Charcoal Brushes are very wonderful — especially when used in combination with Lazy Nezumi Pro.

8. Donation-ware. RadialMenu, a standalone Windows version of the Wacom radial menu. You can store anything you want on it, shortcuts, even macros!

9. $. SVG Layers for Photoshop. Import a layered SVG vector file (from Corel Draw, Inkscape, Adobe Illustrator etc), and keep the editable vector layers. Export, too.

10. $. And lastly, the fun 3D Map Generator GEO. Everything you need, including graphic tiles and elements, to quickly assemble an isometric bird’s-eye view of a place and a route through it. The maker also has a free Isometric Icon Plugin to assist with making your own tiles, for instance for a RPG game. Not something you’d use every day, but nice to have installed for the moment when you need it.

Types of thumbnail sketches for concept art mattes: towards a taxonomy

I’ve been trying to get to grips with the best way to make concept thumbnails for sci-fi mattes. Meaning, the method that I might like to develop for myself. As a step toward that I’ve done a quick survey of the various types of thumbnailing for concept art. If I’ve missed out your favorite method, please comment and tell me what it is!

* Outline line design. Detailed line-drawing based on shapes, and perhaps on 3D wireframe renders. This has the advantage that you work out a lot of the design and massing elements beforehand, meaning the later painting may be both a lot quicker and more fun.



* Perspective. Predominantly perspective lines. Everything in the picture develops from where the perspective lines run…


* Scribbles in shapes. Scribbled silhouettes and tones, based on rapid tonal scribbling inside rough outline shapes. Most strokes are vertical…


* Theatre stage. Old-school ‘theatre stage design’ done in three layers — front silhouette / grey middle ground / hazy background shapes. Varying levels of speed and detail…





* Shadow puppet. A more stark variation on the above: working out the arrangement of a scene using shadow-puppet like pre-made cutouts, on layers…




* Feeling foggy. A foggy variation on the above, mono toned value studies…


* Angular dabbles. Abstract tonal dabbles with shape brushes, quite angular when toward the foreground…


* Bash it. Bashing together cut-out 3d shapes, cut-outs from previous drawings, grabbed photoreference selections, silhouettes of people for scale…


* Photobash overpaint. Photobash, then a quick over-sketch and overpaint on opacity layers…


* Single squiggle. “Just take a squiggly line for a walk!”. You may have to have been to art school for this one to work…


* Colourist. Straight to strong colourist semi-abstract experiments…



* Uncle Pooter’s Magic Wheeze. Find an old public-domain Victorian-era engraving with good contrast. Photoshop Field Blur | Boost Contrast, Brightness | Flip | If needed, overlay very heavily feathered sections, tilt, scale them. Then start painting in lighter values, or overlay sections with photobashing selections while experimenting with blend modes and opacity. It’s gonna get messy, and you’ll probably struggle to pull it back into shape…



Lovecraft sketches

I love the idea of sketches visualising H.P. Lovecraft‘s brief ideas for unwritten stories (which he left behind after his death). Sadly there are not many such sketches online. These are some of the best I found…


“As dinosaurs were once surpassed by mammals, so will man-mammal [humans] be surpassed by insect or bird — fall of man before the new race.”

Rick Sardinha


“Ancient and unknown ruins — strange and immortal bird who SPEAKS in a language horrifying and revelatory to the explorers.”



“Life and Death: Death— its desolation and horror— bleak spaces— sea-bottom—dead cities. But Life— the greater horror! Vast unheard-of reptiles and leviathans— hideous beasts of prehistoric jungle— rank slimy vegetation— evil instincts of primal man— Life is more horrible than death.”

Mockman | Jason Thompson