Three recommended digital art book resources for Photoshop, 3ds Max and Digital Painting


Photoshop Photo Effects Cookbook

This book really impressed me and keeps me coming back to plumb it for more tricks: that’s Tim Shelbourne’s “Photoshop Photo Effects Cookbook”. I bought the CS2 edition, but I think the CS3 update is the latest.

What’s made this volume stand out for me is the utility of its chosen subjects and the non-obvious sophistication of its “recipes”. So many Photoshop effects tips are simple, like apply a filter and then change the layer blending mode. The effects in this book are far more complex and nuanced, but rewards you with superior results.

One example is this. People often ask “how can I make a photo look like a painting or pencil drawing with Photoshop”, and too many times the simplistic answer lends a finished product that misses the mark and screams “Photoshop filter”! But not in this book. Their recipes for oil painting or pencil drawing simulations aren’t “one-button” solutions, but they’re complex enough to allow the results to not only emulate the mediums but also represent some reflection of the artist’s skill.

Other helpful recipes include techniques for replicating high and low key photo effects, converting a photo to an Art Nouveau image, simulating watercolor painting, creating a randomized starfield, adding flames, simulating rain and water droplets, creating lightning, adding snow to a summer scene, turning a daylight street into a night time scene, faking an IR photo effect, turning a figure image to stone, various border effects, mock pen and ink techniques, and lots more. Each recipe walks you through with an illustrated step-by-step so you can be sure you’re on the right path. That may sound mundane, but some of these recipes are so complex that, halfway through, it’s hard to imagine you’ll be ending up where they promise. And maybe that helps make the finished images even more surprising and rewarding.

I wouldn’t recommend this as book for beginners and most of the techniques will rely on the user having a tablet and stylus, but for those intermediate and advanced Photoshop artists looking to expand their bag of tricks, this book is a great resource to have on the shelf.

“Photoshop Cs3 Photo Effects Cookbook: 53 Easy-To-Follow Recipes for Digital Photographers, Designers, and Artists” by Tim Shelbourne [Paperback ISBN-13: 978-0596515041] $30 USD SRP.

Review by Rob Caswell

Deconstructing the Elements with 3ds Max by Pete Draper

Pete Draper has taught me so much about 3D modeling, and I’ve never even met the guy. And it’s not from his website either; instead I have a copy of his book Deconstructing the Elements with 3ds Max. It teaches you how to create realistic effects featuring fire, earth, water and air; and best of all it does it without using any plugins.

This book goes a long way towards explaining through teaching how many of the tools work. The tutorials are structured to give the reader a deeper understanding of how 3ds Max functions, and once you realize how a technique is done, you can repurpose that technique for something else. The other thing this book is great for, is that once you buy it, you get access to additional tutorials on the book’s website.

This book has helped me immensely in the past, I had a 3D project that was fast approaching a deadline. I didn’t know how to accomplish several things involving particles and I didn’t have money to spend on plugins, but I was able to get the effect I needed using Mr. Draper’s book.

Review by Brian Christensen

Bold Visions: The Digital Painting Bible by Gary Tonge

One of the best digital art resources anywhere I’ve found is the book Bold Visions: The Digital Painting Bible by Gary Tonge. It’s a fantastic guide that’s directed towards digital painting but so many of the lessons can be adapted towards other genres of art with a little thought. He discusses many things that people might have thought about, like searching for reference material, but do not put much time into.

The book includes step by step walk-throughs explaining how to using light, color and textures in your art, as well as practical advice like tools for gaining exposure as an artist. It is not a very thick book, but the information contained in it is excellent. Mr Tonge has put together a wonderful book, which has helped me understand how to create what I see in my head on many occasions. Without it, I don’t think I would be where I am today as an artist.

Review by Brian Christensen


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