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Since 2001, the Mental Health Foundation has run Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK with the aim of raising awareness of mental health issues and promoting the message of good mental health for all. 

The creative industries have their fair share of mental health problems, and this year – as in many others – artists have taken to Twitter and Instagram to share artwork that captures their experiences of mental illness or acts as a support to others suffering. We spoke to five of the artists who have used their artwork to capture their experience of mental health issues.

Click the icon in the top-right corner of each image to see the full-size version.

01. Cat Finnie

Finnie’s image explores the idea that depression can feel like being under your own personal raincloud

Cat Finnie is an illustrator based in London, UK. She likes to create concept-driven digital art, often bringing in elements of the surreal. Finnie created the above illustration especially for Mental Health Awareness Week.

"This image is based on the idea of opening up about mental health," she explains. "I wanted to capture the idea that depression can feel like being under your own personal cloud. I hope people can relate to my image and know that they're not alone."

02. Shawn Coss

Coss’ work explores themes of mental illness and depression

Shawn Coss is an artist from Akron, Ohio, who creates work with a focus on mental Illness. The drawing above – entitled The Glass – was created on a flight to a comic convention last year. 

"I had been toying with the idea for a few months but wasn’t sure how to execute it. Apparently the turbulence and humming of a jet engine was enough to start pumping my creative energy, and I went to work," explains Coss. "That year was a wonderful year in terms of self-discovery. Learning to embrace my own battles with depression was liberating but terrifying. The overwhelming response, though, has made it easier to open up. In the end, we’re all humans, and we’re all looking to connect with one another."

03. Holly Chisolm

Chisolm uses comics as a form of journalling

Holly Chisolm is a designer and illustrator who started making comics  as a form of journaling after she was diagnosed with depression in December 2016. For this year's Mental Health Awareness Week she decided to post a new comic each day. 

"Weirdly enough, this was a tough week for me emotionally, and I found myself grateful that I had decided to do daily comics, because they keep me grounded and help me process through things," she says. 

Chisolm notes that many people don't realise that mental illness can actually affect your physical health, rather than being a purely emotional issue. "My happiest moments are when people message me asking questions, because there is a lot of fear and confusion about mental illness," she continues. "I hope my comics can help people question their assumptions about what it means to be depressed, and perhaps even spur those who need help to get it."

04. Sanda

Sanda works under the alias Broken Isn’t Bad 

Sanda is an artist based in Croatia who shares her work under the artist name Broken Isn't Bad. Her black-and-white, line-based, minimalist drawings.

"My art has always been a salvation for me personally," she explains. "Through it I want to inspire and encourage others to pursue their dreams and live their life passionately, to find that invincible power which connects them with their inner self, to accept all their beautiful imperfections and create a positive relationship with themselves."

05. Toby Allen

Allen’s Real Monsters put a face to invisible or misrepresented illnesses

Toby Allen is a freelance illustrator working on games and children's books. His Real Monsters project aims to spread awareness about lesser-known or misrepresented mental illnesses, and help reduce the stigma surrounding them. 

"The Anxiety monster is based on my own experiences with the illness," he says. "It helps to put a face to something very invisible to the outside world."

06. Stefanie 

This sketch explores the idea of confronting your demons

Stefanie is a designer and illustrator based in Graz, Austria. Sharing her drawings on Instagram has helped connect her with others struggling with their own mental health issues around the world. 

This sketch represents the depths you have to delve to in order to confront your demons and improve your mental health, perhaps in a therapy setting. "Putting up a fight with your own monsters is incredibly hard, but it is so worth it," she comments. "That is why people struggling with mental health issues might be among the toughest you'll ever meet."

Read more:

  • How to cope with burnout
  • 20 illustrators to follow on Instagram
  • How art can be a healing technique


Professional artists share how 3D software can take your digital art to the next level in ImagineFX 162 – on sale now!

Acting as a medium in itself or as a framework for other tools, 3D software have a range of creative possibilities. With concept and games artists possibly best suited to benefiting from 3D software, we talk to 5518 Studios to hear how they incorporated the tools into their workflow. Meanwhile in our in depth workshop we learn from Adam Dewhirst how to quickly work up a 3D concpet using ZBrush and Photoshop.

Buy issue 162 of ImagineFX here

Elsewhere in issue 162 we hear from Ara Kermanikian how to model a sci-fi composition model ready to be painted over. It's not all 3D fun though, as there are plenty of traditional art workshops to enjoy, including Nicolas Delort's pen tutorial which explores how to draw an iconic fantasy encounter. Topped off with all the latest news, reviews and reader art in our FXPose, you won't want to miss ImagineFX issue 162.

Check out what's in store by taking a look over the lead features, below.

Never miss an issue: Subscribe to ImagineFX here

Add a new dimension

Learn why you need to add 3D to your skill set

Is 3D software the shortcut to a creative career? Or does it depend on which route you decide to take your art? We talk to artists who use 3D software in a variety of ways to find out how artists can benefit by adding technical wizardry to their artistic tool belt.

Artist portfolio: Pablo Carpio

Pablo Carpio went from having no job to working for Disney

When it comes to carving out a career as an artist, there can be moments when you have to take a leap into the unknown. That's just what happened to Pablo Carpio as he found himself with no job, no leads, but a lot of ambition. We talk to the artist to hear how he made it and ended up working on AAA games.

Find your motivation

Get out of your creative slump with these tips

An artistic funk can strike anyone at any level of their career. To help you out of your creative doldrums, Mel Milton is on hand to share his tried and tested motivational tips. Tackling everything from goals and challenges to dreaming big, this advice is sure to give your creativity a kick start.

VR sculpting workshop

Technology has finally caught up with VR

Artists with their finger on the pulse will be all too aware that the industry seems to be going through something of a VR renaissance. Thanks to easier access to powerful computers, more and more artists now have the chance to harness the possibilities of the VR medium. Glen Southern shows you how to sculpt a character for VR with this workshop.

Master watercolour basics

Tame the tricky medium with these tips

Thanks to its habit of running away with itself, watercolours have a bit of a reputation with artists. Kelly McKernan argues that this protean nature is something to be celebrated as she walks us through the basics of watercolour in this new core skills series.

ImagineFX is the world's best-selling magazine for digital artists – packed with workshops and interviews with fantasy and sci-fi artists, plus must-have kit reviews.

Related articles:

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  • New Illustrator plugin lets 2D designers easily work in 3D
  • Bring 3D tools into your 2D art


If you've bought anything from Amazon in the past few years, you'll have probably noticed a surprising number of adult colouring books topping the best-seller lists.  

Once a niche, colouring books for adults are now big business, with users extolling their calming virtues. But why? How effective is art as a therapeutic technique? And does this mean artists are the best-adjusted people on the planet? 

  • How to draw animals, people and landscapes

Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford, whose colouring books for grown-ups have sold over 16 million copies worldwide, attributes their popularity to two aspects: accessibility, and a nostalgic craving for non-digital activities. 

"I get so many emails from people in all walks of life to say the books have helped them through a tough patch," says Basford. "From stressed-out 911 call operators in the US, to teens recuperating at eating disorder centres, elderly folks struggling with Alzheimer's or new mums with post-natal depression." 

An illustration from Johanna Basford’s adult colouring book, Lost Ocean

The therapeutic benefits of art – whether it's basic sketching, more intricate pencil drawing or painting – have long been documented. And while psychotherapists point out that colouring isn't an automatic ticket to mindfulness, they do agree that the process of art-making can be a health-enhancing practice, which positively impacts the quality of life. 

Cathy Malchiodi is an international expert, writer and educator in the fields of art therapy and art in healthcare. She believes that while there are times when we need professional support – be that from a therapist, doctor, mentor, friend or community as a whole – art exists as a natural remedy for many of life's challenges; loss and trauma in particular. 

"There isn't any one particular way that this occurs," Malchiodi says. "But many artists have used their creative process to cope with their depression or other issues. Each person has his or her own path to reparation and recovery." 

A quick look at the rich heritage of famous artists who have explored intense psychological themes in their work proves Malchiodi right: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Edvard Munch, Vincent van Gogh… the list goes on. Whether the process is a vent, time out or something more complex altogether, it's clear that people have long sought therapeutic participation in art.

One strategy among many

Darren Yeow viewed torment as almost a superpower for characters like Wolverine

For concept artist Darren Yeow, it's proven useful as one of myriad mental healthcare strategies he's undertaken over the years. However, he points out that art couldn't 'fix' some serious mental health issues he was facing, which needed the guidance of a professional counsellor.

Yeow was sexually abused when he was young and says that he struggled with the fallout for many years. As a child, he drew monsters and "angry, scary-looking things". He explains: "That's probably why I liked to draw Venom, Wolverine and Batman: torment was almost a superpower for those guys. When I drew them, I felt like I channelled some of that hurt out on to the paper. It was just an unconscious act of self-soothing."

In his teens, Yeow turned to martial arts as a way of regulating feelings of shame and hurt, to prevent them morphing into physical violence. Everything was fine, until a few years ago when a period of significant business and personal stress brought up a torrent of latent anger. 

"I found that I hadn't really tackled the underlying issues," Yeow admits. "When a particularly stressful incident occurred and I couldn't recall that I had punched a hole in the wall as a result, I felt it was time I needed to seek out professional help in dealing with my emotions, before things spiralled out of control."

Incarnations of Immortality, by Rebecca Yanovskaya, is based on the series by Piers Anthony

There's another angle, too. As every artist knows, the process of making art isn't always relaxing. For freelancers it can be lonely stuck at home in front of a screen all day, and for all creatives it can be frustrating – as Toronto-based illustrator Rebecca Yanovskaya knows only too well. "As much as I love art-making, it brings me a certain amount of anxiety as well," she says, "because of the need to create great pieces and live up to my expectations."

So what about professional art therapy? Do artists have anything to gain in a professional forum? Yanovskaya has visited an art therapist before. She remains unconvinced as to how effective art can be as a therapeutic technique for working artists. "We're immersed in art in a money-making capacity," she argues. "Therapy for us might work better if it's something far removed from what we do every day."

Non-artists can still benefit

Johanna’s customers find solace in her adult colouring books – in the simple pleasure of putting pen to paper

However, Malchiodi thinks there can be as much value for artists as for non-artists, as long as participants are committed to the process. "If one wants another perspective, and to experience art-making in a different way, then art therapy might be helpful," she says, "especially since one of its goals is to guide the individual toward new insights and experiences that support a sense of well-being through art."   

For anyone thinking about getting involved, there are plenty of options. "Online art-making communities offer art-making experiences for self-exploration and self-care, rather than therapy per se," she says. "Artists who are new to the idea of making art as self-care or as self-exploration may find this approach uncomfortable at first, but give it a shot; it sometimes even provides a new direction for your own artistic style and intentions."

Just remember to leave your ego well out of it, warns Yanovskaya – and Yeow agrees: "Don't turn it into a study session or illustration assignment," the artist advises. "There's no need to impress other people. Just let the stylus flow."

This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 137; buy it here!

Related articles:

  • How to draw animals, people and landscapes
  • 6 top mindfulness tools for creatives
  • Can pro artists achieve mindfulness through art?


Learning how to draw with mixed media is not easy. However, experimenting and combining various materials for original mixed media art can be hugely rewarding (not to mention fun). In this tutorial I'll be creating a piece inspired by The NeverEnding Story, with the spirit of the Golden Age. You can see the final artwork below. I'll mostly be using graphite, so you'll learn some key pencil drawing techniques, but I'll also show you how to apply gold leaf to add a special touch to your work. 

Click the icon in the top right to see the full-size artwork

The illustrators of the Golden Age, the Symbolist painters and the Pre-Raphaelites have all influenced my art. There's a wide palette of emotions in these images tinted with lyricism and sprinkled with symbolism.

I've been working with graphite and gold leaf for many years now, creating bright ornamentations or golden backgrounds. This approach enables me to create the illusion of depth, despite the two dimensional canvas. I like to add a natural touch, symbolised by the petals that I fasten on paper.

01. Start sketching

How to draw with mixed media: start sketching

Producing rough sketches enables me to visualise on paper the image I've mentally built up. It's an interesting step that highlights the limits of my materials. In contrast, there are no limits in my mind: I can change the shape, colour and proportions of objects. It's now time to choose an idea and confirm that my intuition is correct.

02. Consider the composition

How to draw mixed media: a word on composition

Composition is an art unto itself, a domain where you can play with shapes and guide the viewer. Everything must serve the idea. You have to give the illusion of life on a two-dimensional canvas. To check that the composition is working, I use gold paint to indicate where the gold leaf will eventually be placed. This saves time – and money – later on.

03. Prepare the paper

How to draw mixed media: prepare the paper

Because I plan to use a graphite wash technique, I need to stretch my sheet of paper to prevent it from crinkling. I soak the back of the paper, then flip it over and fasten it with strips of kraft. As it dries, the paper will shrink and take its final dimensions.

04. Generate a detailed drawing

How to draw mixed media: generate a detailed drawing

My art process always involves developing an initial sketch, which will be loose, enabling me to develop the composition as I see fit without any limitations. I organise the primary elements, and this gives an impulse, a movement, to the scene. I use pencils ranging from 3H to H.

05. Establish an atmosphere

How to draw with mixed media: establish an atmosphere

I create an atmosphere using a graphite wash. This stage has two functions: it helps to get me into the topic, and it defines the lighter areas of the illustration. I prefer to retain the white of the paper in my art, in a similar manner to painting with watercolours, and so I use a special type of watercolour graphite.

06. Get into the subject

How to draw with mixed media: get into the subject

I always start the detailing stage by tackling my main subject first, which I shape slowly. I want Falkor to evolve throughout the painting process; I have the idea that he’s living as I paint, growing stronger with each step. I work with pencils, graphite wash and some white gouache, which gives the graphite a light blue tone.

07. Develop the second background

How to draw with mixed media: develop the second background

Based on the appearance of Falkor, I work out the shades of grey I’ll need to create the different background planes in my image. I decide that I need a second dark background to bring out Falkor. It also gives me a larger palette of nuances to help develop the final background. I work on this with my graphite wash.

08. Add the third background

How to draw with mixed media: the third background

I move on through the planes in my image. The final one is a little odd because it shows the Ivory Tower. I have to create the illusion of a massive construction that’s far off in the distance. I use several dry pencils, ranging from 5H to 2H, and a graphite wash.

09. Create light

How to draw with mixed media: create light

For this step I use oxidised silver leaf, which has a beautiful water-green tone. I use it to give the illusion of reverse lightning. I define two little green moons, which helps me to add depth. These simple geometric shapes enhance my composition.

10. Prepare the ornamentation

How to draw with mixed media: prepare the ornamentation

I draw in the details of the ornamental figures that surround my central medallion. I’m keen to accompany the movement to create a style on its own that also matches the main subject. I like my illustrations to suit the spirit of the Golden Age of Illustration.

11. Apply gilding and glue

How to draw with mixed media: gliding and gluing

Now that my Arabesque decorative motifs are in place, I apply gold mixtion to one bit of the pattern at a time. There are many different kind of mixtion available, with various drying times. I mostly use the illumination mixtion manufactured by Kölner. I also use the three- and 24-hour mixtions, depending on the pattern I'm working up.

12. Apply the gold leaf

When the mixtion is finally ready to receive the gold leaf, I cut it meticulously and apply it with a brush. The gold leaf is fragile, and needs to be handled with care. I use a filbert sable brush to place the gold leaf on to the glue. This brush also enables me to remove any excess gold leaf.

13. Make precision cuts

How to draw with mixed media: making precision cuts

Using a scalpel, I define the gold leaf’s outlines. This stage is all about removing the last bits of excess gold leaf and refining the contours of the motif. I use a range of different sized scalpel blades, depending on where I am in the creative process. A good, sharp tool is needed, especially on this step where precision and a light touch is all you can rely on.

14. Enhance the medallion

How to draw with mixed media: enhance the medallion

Very slowly, I gild my pattern, going around my medallion. I maintain a balance in the final pattern by rubbing some parts with an agate, which creates gradations within the gold. I gild some parts of my image early in the process, so that I'm able to create these gradations. Indeed, using the graphite wash obscures my first gilding efforts.

15. Adjust contrast

How to draw with mixed media: where contrasts are settled

In this final step, I rely on my gilding work to adjust any visual nuances in the piece. Some parts of my image need to be darkened, while others should be enhanced. In this case, I decide I have to bring out more of Falkor. So I apply white gouache to him using an airbrush. Because the light from the gold leaf is so strong, it needs to be balanced by other areas in the image. Then I step back from the artwork and call my take on The Neverending Story finished.

This article originally appeared in ImagineFX How to Paint & Draw bookazine.

Related articles:

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  • The best pencils for designers and artists
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It's hard to imagine a world without Lego. From its ubiquitous bricks, to its theme parks, to the host of media tie-ins, via video games, movies, comics and more – Lego is the biggest toy brand on the planet.

In this post we've celebrated the Lego legacy (or should we say Legocy, ahem) by presenting you with some of the greatest models ever built. So sit back and enjoy, as we showcase the very best in Lego art, from both certified Lego professionals and some amateurs whose love for Lego knows no bounds. 

01. Mystic Currency

Dante Dentoni’s work reveals colourful goings-on beneath the surfaces of ordinary walls

"I like making art in difficult places," says Miami-based visual artist Dante Dentoni, who specialises in site-specific sculptural installations that mix Lego, cement and wood, along with ready made toys, to reveal a harmonic interconnectivity between physical and emotional environments.

Mystic Currency is a perfect example of his work; it takes the form of a corner of a wall where the plaster has been hacked away to reveal a Lego substrate beneath, and if you peer into the gaps you'll discover playful tableaux made up of Lego figures.

02. Afternoon of a Faun

David Hughes tries to push the limits of what Lego can do in his sculptures

David Hughes describes himself as a designer and artist who uses Lego bricks to create contemporary art. As well as flat Lego recreations of famous artworks, he also makes three-dimensional sculptures such as Afternoon of a Faun that are available to buy through his site, although be warned that they're built to order and don't come cheap. And if you're after your own special work of Lego art, David is happy to accept commissions.

03. New Money

Can you crack the code and win some Bitcoin?

Los Angeles-based Andy Bauch enjoys using bright and cheerful Lego bricks to explore darker, more complex subjects, and he employs computer algorithms and software assistance to create intricate mosaics that have a lot more to them than meets the eye.

His most recent exhibition, New Money, used 100,000 Lego bricks and $10,000 in cryptocurrencies to comment on the simultaneous freedom and volatility of rapidly developing digital currencies, and came with an irresistible twist: if you can decode Bauch's patterns you'll reveal the private keys to their wallets, and the money's yours to grab.

04. Batman Batarang

This brilliant Batman Batarang is made up of 35,000 Lego bricks

This brilliant Batman Batarang crash landed in London to mark the release of the Lego Batman movie. Made from 35,000 lego bricks, the creation took the team at Bright Bricks 225 hours to build, with broken pavement, smoke and lights (all non-Lego based) completing the scene of destruction. 

05. JME – Integrity

We love this Lego replica of JME’s Integrity album cover

Lego Albums is a project by Harry Heaton, an artist who recreates iconic album covers using the little bricks. The finished products resemble low-resolution pixelated versions of album art, but are nonetheless brilliant. This replica of JME's Integrity album is definitely one of our favourites. Check out Heaton's collection to find yours. 

06. The Simpsons town of Springfield

Lego art: Simpsons

You only get The Simpsons’ house in the official set, so Matt De Lanoy built the whole town

Everyone loves the Simpsons, but veteran Lego artist Matt De Lanoy clearly loves them more than most. Just a few months after the release of the official Simpsons Lego set, he's recreated the entire town of Springfield in coloured bricks, including the Kwik-E-Mart, Moe's, Krusty Burger, the nuclear power plant and more. This image only shows one corner of his creation – see more on his Flickr page.

07. Warren Elsmore

lego art: Warren Elsmore

Warren Elsmore attracted the most visitors ever to Paisley Museum and Art Galleries

Professional Lego artist Warren Elsmore broke records in March, with an exhibition of 72 Lego models. Attracting over 50,000 visitors, with 2,000 on the busiest day, the likes of the Olympic Park and St Pancras Station in London and the Forth Bridge were on show. His Las Vegas strip also proved hugely popular.

08. Jin Kei

lego art

A Lego steampunk creation from Lego artist Jin Kei

Korean Lego artist Jin Kei has given life to one of the giant four-legged mammals from Salvador Dali’s painting The Elephants. The artist added his own steampunk twist with mechanical accessories, and at 32 inches, this makes for a seriously impressive piece of Lego art.

09. Back to the Future train

Lego art: Back to the Future

Great Scott! Back to the Future Lego is, at last, a thing!

We were extremely excited to learn that Back to the Future Lego was a thing. Our excitement then prompted us to search for BTTF Lego fan art, which is when we came across this 19th century train by G Russo.

Russo is keen to get his design developed into an actual Lego set. And he's gone all out to try and ensure that happens, adding fine details including two side panels that fold open to reveal an overhead door, some foldout steps, and various controls, levers, pipes, and wheels for controlling the train.

10. Pixel Kiss

Lego art: PIxel Kiss

This custom mosaic was based on the Pop Art style of Roy Lichtenstein

The talented team at Brickworkz create the most amazing custom Lego art work. One such example is this piece, modelled based on the Pop Art style of Roy Lichtenstein's Kiss V 1969.

Composed of over 20,000 Lego bricks, the cool mosaic currently resides at legal office of William Ellyson in Richmond, Virginia.

11. Lego aircraft carrier

Lego art: aircraft carrier

This epic Lego sculpture is composed of 200,000 bricks, stands at 4.5m long and weighs over 350 pounds

This Lego aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman has got to be one of the most impressive creations on our list, in terms of size and detail. The 200,000 brick, 4.5m long, 350-pound aircraft carrier comes complete with electrical lights as well as moving elevators and radar dishes.

The epic sculpture, built by German Lego fan Malle Hawking, also includes a half submarine and a mini gunboat on the side.

12. Lego framed rainbow

Lego art: frames rainbow

This gorgeous Lego rainbow took designer Simon C. Page six hours to piece together

After discovering the Lego Factory and latest Lego Digital Designer software, artist Simon C Page became hooked on Lego art design. And this Lego framed rainbow is his first creation.

Created out of 3,029 bricks, there are over 200 1×1 pieces of each of the 16 colours used throughout. "It has took me over six hours to put together and wasn't easy – stacking nearly 50 1 x 1 piece end to end nearly 50 times across, all the time keeping to a strict colouring pattern," he said on his website.

13. A futuristic Japan

Lego art: Build up Japan

School children in Japan created this amazing futuristic Japan using 1.8 million bricks

Project Build Up Japan was sponsored and curated by the legendary toy brick makers and encouraged school children to build imaginary structures of a Japan that they wanted to see.

With a little help from their parents and a few Lego officials, children across Japan were able to create their country the way they wanted it. The total number of Lego bricks used was a jaw-dropping 1.8 million.

14. Lifesize Lego forest

Lego art: Lego forest

This lifesize LEGO forest is made up of 15 pine trees and 15 flower sets, all 66 times bigger than their design toy counterparts

How cool is this? This isn’t a child-sized toy set: it’s actually a lifesize Lego forest in the Australian Outback. It’s made up of 15 pine trees, and 15 flower sets, all 66 times bigger than their design toy counterparts – making the trees a whopping 4m high.

The iconic toy brick company built this amazing creation in Living Desert State Park, a 2400ha reserve more than 700 miles west of Sydney, as part of its 50-year anniversary celebration.

15. Lego advent

Lego art: advent calendar

The calendar was made out of an astonishing 600,000 Lego bricks

Last year, the UK's only certified Lego technician Duncan Titchmarsh built this huge advent calendar sculpture. Made up of approximately 600,000 bricks, the installation was unveiled in central London's Covent Garden shopping area.

Each door was opened at 4pm every day in the lead up to Xmas day. The presents behind each were also cool Lego creations. What an awesome way to celebrate the festive season.

16. Sea Monster

Lego art: sea monster

Brickley is made up of 170,000 Lego bricks and stretches a whopping 30 feet

Take a trip to Disney World in Florida and you'll find this awesome Lego sea monster, Brickley. The cool character is made out of 170,000 Lego bricks, stretches a whopping 30 feet and weighs half a ton!

The brilliant sculpture is one of many found in Downtown Disney at the Lego Imagination centre. Other models include a Transformer, giant models of Woody and Buzz Lightyear and the Seven Dwarves.

17. Poseidon

Lego Art: Poseidon

Poseidon was built for Vancouver Lego Club‘s Mythology exhibit

Paul Hetherington – known in the Lego world as BrickBaron – had already given a sneak peek to this incredible creation, by showing off the lower structure full of mermaids, oceans and ships. Little did we know that it would actually play as part of a much larger sculpture featuring the God of the sea.

Poseidon was built for the Vancouver Lego Club's Mythology exhibit at the Surrey Museum; taking place from July until September 15th. The attention to detail is astonishing: we don't know if we'd have the patience to build something as impressive as this. You can see more photos of Poseidon, as well as Paul's other work on his Flickr page.

18. Woman

Lego Art: Bram Lambrecht

This stunning piece was created using LSculpt

This stunning sculpture was created by Bram Lambrecht using LSculpt – a program which converts a triangle mesh into an LDraw file. Like the sphere generator, the generated model consists of a surface of 1×1 plates oriented in whichever direction provides the best detail.

We love that Bram has taken the time to create not only the body and branch but the shadow too. It's these details that make certain Lego sculptures stand out from the rest. You can see more of Bram's work on his official website.

19. Biggest ever Mario

Although created in 2009, this huge Mario sculpture still deserves a mention. Brick layer Dirk Van Haesbroeck took just over two weeks to finalise the plumber. Mario is comprised of 30,000 Lego bricks with the pedestal containing another 12,000. This video showcases the 160 hours of work in just over a minute.

Once the sculpture was finished, it was auctioned off on eBay in aid of Ronald McDonald, a Dutch organisation that arranges proper housing for relatives of hospitalised children in the vicinity of clinics. It sold for an impressive $5100. You can see more of Dirk's Lego art on his Facebook page.

20. Serenity

Lego Art: Adrian Drake

This Serenity sculpture is a must-see for any Firefly fan

Despite its short run on television almost ten years ago, fans of Firefly and film Serenity still express an intense love and passion for the Joss Whedon series. One such fan decided to build the ultimate homage to the sci-fi show with a replica of the ship Serenity.

Adrian Drake used around 70,000 Lego pieces and the project took 475 hours over the course of 21 months. The ship itself weighs an incredible 135 pounds due to the intricate details Adrian has included. You can more of Adrian's stunning Lego art on his website.

Next page: 20 more brilliant examples of Lego art

21. Pop-up book Lego art

Lego Art: Nathan Sawaya

Nathan Sawaya’s pop-up book

What can we say about Nathan? Well, first off he's one of the, if not the biggest Lego artist around. Counting himself as one of the world's certified Lego professionals, when he's not jetting off around the world showcasing his artwork in prestigious galleries, he's at his studio creating the next array of Lego art masterpieces.

Here, the pop-up book is a celebration of Waldo H. Hunt – ''the king of pop-up.'' It's created entirely out of Lego (which is handy for this list) and is based around a poem Nathan wrote himself. You can see the said poem across the pages of the book, which we think is a lovely touch.

See more of Nathan's incredible work at his personal website. Or see below…

22. Crowd

Lego Art: Nathan Sawaya

Nathan Sawaya’s Crowd

We could compile this entire list with Nathan's creations but we'll treat you to just two. Crowd has been trawling the United States for quite some time thanks to Nathan's popular exhibitions so you may have seen it before.

Inspired by the throngs of people walking the streets of New York, Crowd also gives us a sense of George Orwell's 1984 with its watchful eye. The blending of the Lego colours is a perfect example of how talented Nathan is; combining art and toys has never looked so good.

Both Pop-up book and Crowd are currently on tour as part of Nathan's The Art of the Brick exhibition. Schedule information can be found on his website.

23. Cool robots

Anyone who can call themselves a 'professional kid' and can make money from building robots (and other such things) out of Lego, definitely deserves a mention. Sean Kenney is another certified Lego art professional and does just that and has been making waves on the sculpture scene for quite some time.

In this video, the short tutorial coincides with the release of his book Cool Robots. He shows you how you too can become a Lego artist (who wouldn't want that?!) with the Lego pieces that you already own. Check out the rest of his work on his website.

24. The Love Boat Lego art

Lego Art: Ryan McNaught

Ryan McNaught’s Lego Love Boat

Australian designer Ryan McNaught is another artist who can claim to be a Certified Lego Professional on his CV – pretty cool huh? The Love Boat is just one of his incredible works and this photo is merely the middle interior. You can see the rest of the pictures, along with his other work on his Flickr stream.

McNaught specialises in interactive models and has even made a Qantas Airbus A380 incorporating Lego Mindstorms technology in the past. It's no wonder he has a stash of awards. You can contact Ryan via his website.

25. Movie Dudes

Lego Art: Angus Maclane

Angus Maclane’s Ghostbusters

Angus Maclane is one of Pixar's many talented staff members. He has the distinction of working on almost every feature after joining the company in 1997 including Up, Wall-E and Toy Story 3.

If that doesn't make him talented enough, he is an avid Lego builder in his spare time. Take a look at his Flickr stream and you'll see that Angus has managed to create the likes of Gizmo, Indiana Jones, and Dennis Quad using only Lego pieces. 

26. Star Wars star destroyer

We couldn't compile a list about Lego art without a mention of Star Wars, right? Lego's master builder Erik Varszegi compiled this amazing rendition of Star Wars' Venator class star destroyer using only Lego pieces. Just look at the size of it!

This 8-foot Star Wars Republic Attack Cruiser LEGO model is one of many creations made from Erik's hands. You can see more images for this Star Wars replica via this Flickr stream.

27. Obama's Inauguration

Lego Master Model builder Gary McIntire doesn't do things by halves. When Obama's inauguration took place on 20 January, 2009, he felt there was no other way to celebrate than with Lego.

Take a look at his amazing reconstruction of that monumental day, with hundreds of tiny Lego characters and a Lego White House so close to the real thing. Who knew Lego could make politics fun?!

28. Creatures of habitat at Philadelphia Zoo

Lego Art: Sean Kenney

Sean Kenney’s penguins for ‘Creatures of habitat’

We just had to feature another of Sean's Lego sculptures. This collection entitled Creatures of Habitat was created for Philadelphia Zoo to raise awareness of endangered species. And what could be more engaging than Lego animals?

Children flocked to see the sculptures which included a polar bear, penguins and monkeys on display during 2010. Sadly, the sculptures have now been safely locked away but you can still continue to support endangered animals – just not Lego ones.

29. Allianz Stadium

This Allianz Arena Lego replica was built following the original plans from Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron. It took an incredible 4,209 hours of work and over a million Lego pieces to create.

Inside, there are a staggering 30,000 miniature Lego figures to make up the audience. The stadium even contains interior LED lighting to glow red, white and blue to match that of the actual stadium. Special translucent bricks were commissioned for the project.

30. The Burn

Lego Art: Cole Blaq

Cole Blaq’s The Burn

Cole Blaq is an artist hailing from Germany. He's created some awesome Lego designs including his graffiti series. Here, Cole has managed to create an almost true-to-life burning fire using only Lego bricks.

The mixture of light to dark colours is what really makes this piece work. Although Cole isn't actually endorsed by Lego, we think they should be stopping by his website pronto!

31. Hummingbird

Lego Art: Sean Kenney

Sean Kenney’s Hummingbird

Okay, okay, we know we should stop featuring his work but it's just so good! This giant Ruby-Throated Hummingbird magically hovers eight feet about the ground while getting its grub from a giant flower.

This piece took Sean and his team over four weeks to design and five weeks to build with 31,565 Lego pieces. We're still baffled about how Sean managed to keep the bird hovering in the air. It's currently on show at the Reiman Gardens in Iowa as part of Sean's travelling exhibition Nature Connects.

32. Working harpsichord

Lego Art: Henry Lim

Henry Lim’s Harpsichord

Henry Lim has a habit involving Lego which sometimes results in some incredible sculptures. With the exception of the wire strings, this instrument is entirely constructed out of Lego parts. And it is playable.

It took him two years of designing, theorising, collecting parts, building, testing and then building again. You can take a tour of the harpsichord or indulge in its history via his website. Lego art at it's very best.

33. Brooklyn

Lego Art: Jonathan Lopes

Jonathan Lopes’ Brooklyn

Brooklyn based artist Jonathan Lopes has started working with Lego, recreating his beloved Brooklyn landscape. Although small in scale (it has to fit in his living room) the urban creation is breathtaking.

The buildings are real spots he walks past everyday and the finished product took him over two years to complete. The city has since been broken up into sections to be displayed around his beloved home city. You can see the rest of his work over on his website.

34. St Pancras Christmas Tree

We know it's a little early (or late?) to be mentioning Christmas but we couldn't help ourselves once we laid eyes upon this incredible Christmas tree that was placed in London's St. Pancras in 2011.

Commissioned by the UK's only certified Lego professional Duncan Titchmarsh and his team at Bright Bricks, the tree consisted of approximately 400,000 Lego bricks and remains as the biggest Lego tree in history. Who can beat them this year?

35. Life-sized Lego SUV

Back in September 2011, a Connecticut-based team of 22 master builders created a life-sized Lego SUV to mark the release Ford's 2012 production range. Sadly, the car doesn't actually drive or work in any way shape or form but it sure looks cool!

The team spent a gruelling 2,500 hours creating the car, using 380,000 bricks (that's around $40,000 dollars to you and me.) In its entirety, the car weighs over 2,600 pounds. 

36. Predator

Lego Art: Shawn Snyder

Shawn Snyder’s Predator

Shawn Snyder has got some serious Lego skills and one of our favourites is this Predator creation. We've had a bit of a love affair with Predator lately (thanks to our sci-fi addiction) and this just seals the deal.

Snyder has created a range of different predators on his website as well as Star Wars characters and superheroes. It's a truly impressive collection from a guy that counts Lego art as a hobby.

37. Princess Mononoke

Lego Art: Eric Harshbarger

Eric recreated the character from the popular Studio Gibli anime

Professional Lego artist Eric Hashburger says that qualities for a project must use bright, primary colours and be something that is part of pop culture – something that is easily recognised by most people, whether constructed from Lego bricks or not.

Here, he realised that characters from Japanese anime were prime subjects. This model of San from Princess Mononoke is just over 5ft tall and weighs around 80 pounds. Adrian is also quick to add that the sculpture is completey glue free. To see more of Hasburger's work, visit his Lego art website.

38. London Olympic Stadium

We've already mentioned Warren Elsmore, but his gold-standard creation deserves another mention. To celebrate the Olympics, Warren decided to build a homage to the stadium in Lego art.

The extraordinary work consists of approximately 250,000 standard Lego bricks and took Warren and his wife over 300 hours to construct. 

39. Batman to Joker mosaic

Arthur has already created a number of impressive mosaics, including the Afghan Girl and Anakin morphing into Darth Vadar. However, we were most impressed by this incredible Batman and Joker creation. From one angle the picture is Batman and then from the other angle it slowly turns into the Joker.

Arthur believes that this is the fourth lenticular mosaic, with the first being Chris Doyle's mosaic Dorian Bley. You can see more of Arthur Gugick's incredible Lego art on his website.

40. Lost Worlds Dinosaur

Lego Art: Brick DesignWorks

Brickville DesignWorks builds sculptures for promotional purposes

Brickville DesignWorks is a commercial venture, with the goal of using Lego bricks and products to produce sculptures for events, displays and exhibits. The team is headed by Robin Sather, Canada's only certified Lego art professional.

This dinosaur sculpture was created for the Telus World of Science and is one of the company's largest creations. You can see more of Brickville DesignWork's Lego art on here.

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It's been 10 years since Upfest – The Urban Paint Festival was set up by co-founder Stephen Hayles and a small team of like-minded people with a passion for street art. Since then, Upfest has grown to become the largest free event of its kind in Europe, but it needs your help to make the tenth anniversary edition a stand-out event.

Located in south Bristol, a city famous in graffiti circles for its Banksy murals, Upfest 2018 is planned for 28-30 July and is expected to host 400 artists from across the globe, as well as an estimated 50,000 visitors. The event is an inclusive space for artists to come together, paint, and show off their talents with a spray can.

But with running costs ticking over into hundreds of thousands of pounds, the Upfest organisers are once again turning to crowd funding to help cover costs. With a target of £20,000 to help cover materials, management fees and marketing, the Upfest Fundsurfer pledge only has four days left to reach its goal. 

Car park mural of a motorbike driving into a stunning scenic ravine

Xenz & Will Barras on the Masonic at Upfest 2017: Photo Credit Paul Box

If you're able to dig deep and pledge as little as a fiver towards this amazing event, you'll be thanked for your generosity with a plethora of rewards ranging from a simple smile to a chair shaped like a tin of beans. Everyone who pledges will also be entered into a free prize draw, where you could win a festival weekend stay at the Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel.

There's just four days to go on this campaign so you'll have to be quick if you want to back this project. Having already raised more than three quarters of the money needed, the end is in sight for Upfest, so our fingers are crossed it'll find the rest of the support it needs soon. We hope to see you there!

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Poser software is greatly underrated. With version 11, its PBR Superfly engine enables it to create tremendous realism across a wide range of areas of 3D art, rendering directly in-program without the need to rely on exporting, third-party plugins, or integrating into high-end programs for materials and lighting that obey physically correct laws. 

As with any tool, with great power often comes a bewildering range of options, parameters and tweaks that can quickly overwhelm even experienced users. That's why we've compiled this list of 19 tips for using Poser that will help take your renders to the next level.

01. Tweak settings for better reflections

This bathroom artwork, complete with reflections, is by Jura11

Noise in the light or shadows or on reflective surfaces may simply be the result of insufficiently high pixel samples in your Superfly render settings, but it may also mean that certain render settings need to be selectively increased. 

Sometimes tweaking these can save overall render time whilst producing the improvements you seek. In the image above, you can increase the Glossy bounces setting to account for the reflective floor and mirror without cranking up the overall pixel samples beyond 50. If you felt it necessary to add realism to the bath water, you could increment the Volume parameter, and even activate Caustics, although these three can greatly increase render times.

02. Check indirect lighting

This beautifully lit scene was created by erogenesis

If you are still using a version of Poser older than 11, be sure to check the Indirect illumination option for richer shadow detail when creating Firefly renders. Be aware however, that trans-mapped hair or other transparent/reflective surfaces can reduce your renders to a snail’s pace that takes many hours, even days for a single HD scene.

In general, using less shadow blur works well with bright sunlight and objects close to the surface they are casting on, whereas grey days, interior lighting or objects further from the shadows they are casting all produce softer shadows.

03. Use optimal render settings

Choose the Superfly rendering engine and select GPU rendering. Rendering with Branched Path Tracing turned off (for additional render stability), and a setting of just 5 Pixel Samples is enough to assess colour, lighting and general form of even 4K images in just a few minutes. Then you can ramp up the settings as needed. 

I find that a setting of 40 overall gives great results, and sometimes you can get away with as little as 30 or even 20.

04. Speed up transparency renders

Rendering transparency can bring Poser’s Firefly or Superfly rendering engines to a grinding halt, increasing rendering times from minutes to hours. Nowhere is this more apparent than when using multi-layered transparency effects such as DAZ’s more recent hair creations (yes Genesis 3 can be converted to fit your earlier figures).

For Superfly test renders, you’ll want to either hide these hair figures or set the max transparency in the render settings down to just 1 or 2. When you come to final render, you’ll want to bump the minimum up to 8 or even 16 in order to ensure that transparency looks good.

05. Increase bucket size

You can significantly improve rendering speed by increasing the bucket size on the Superfly render tab if you are using your GPU to render. The bucket speed determines the number of pixels that the program will render simultaneously, and the number of cores on your graphics card will determine the bucket size your card can manage. Try 128 and increase in increments until performance starts to degrade.

06. Send to the queue

In addition to its network rendering, you can instead send multiple renders to the render queue (Render>Send to). This is a great way to set up renders before you go to bed, however, it is somewhat twitchy about being paused if you require your processor for other tasks. 

I find that the best workflow is to only send jobs to the queue when you do not require your computer for anything else that night. Then it’s simply a matter of loading jobs to Poser, choosing camera angles, clicking the Send to Queue button, and going to bed.

07. Consider scene interaction

This example of how to draw figures is by Ladonna

The tiny details make all the difference. By all means start with off-the shelf poses, but then take the time to adjust them precisely to your scene. Off-the-shelf poses tend to work well when the figures are not interacting with anything other than the ground. 

However, you’ll want to carefully adjust the bends and angles of hands, fingers, feet, toes and any other body parts that interact with objects. Nothing spoils the illusion of reality quicker than stock hands that don’t interact properly, or feet floating off the ground. Ten minutes of extra work makes a world of difference.

08. Remove or add clutter

Keeping the near distance uncluttered can focus the viewer’s attention and avoid confusing figure profiles and distracting shadows, especially when background scenery is naturally busy (flora, textured walls or complex landscape topography). 

When it comes to scenes without distant backgrounds, adding clutter can create intimacy, and provide subtle additional threads to the narrative of your image, encouraging the viewer to explore beyond the central tableau. Carefully arranged clutter can lead your viewer’s eye around your image, creating a living narrative that has the central figures as the focal point.   

09. Focus on the eyes

 These stunning eyes were created by Ghostship

Aim to create a connection with the character’s eyes. The focal point for eyes can tell a story in its own right. Sometimes eyes that don’t meet another person’s, or that don’t look straight at the camera, can speak volumes. At other times, a direct gaze bespeaks honesty, openness or confidence. 

Convert your characters to Superfly-ready materials with Snarly Gribbly’s superb EZSkin script. Once you’ve run this, you can then replace the eye material nodes with Ghostship’s eyes, which creates much better realism. You can always swap your previous irises back into the material nodes if you need specific colours.

10. Vary skin tones

Create skin types for different ethnicities (or levels of tan) by altering the base colour or the subsurface colour. In an ideal world, you’d digitise real people and use those photos to create skin of the precise colour you need, but that takes a huge amount of work and time to accomplish. 

I created a pale skin base, and can create a range of different tones, from red-head white, rosy pink to darker skin, by changing the base colour. You’ll sometimes need to give an extra tweak to mouth, lips and nipple bases to create a consistent appearance.

Next page: More tips on Poser, including how to use lighting and materials

11. Consider body weight

Most off-the-shelf models come with morphs for shape and muscularity, but none have settings for interaction with other objects (the ground, couches and chairs, etc). Sinking a character’s feet slightly into the ground or their buttocks into a chair will avoid that floaty look caused by simply dropping to the ground or resting on a surface. Use the Morph tool or magnets to deform the skin or couch surface to give the illusion of weight.

12. Make use of area lights

When it comes to lighting, sometimes less is more. A single overhead or frontal area light will often provide sufficient soft lighting with no other lights needed. The more lights in a scene, the more the rendering engine has to calculate and the greater the likelihood of unwanted noise artefacts. The softness of an area light’s shadows are proportional to its scale.

In the past, you’d mess about with infinite lights, having to make building parts invisible to simulate internal overhead light arrays. Now you can simply insert a single area into the room at a scale of say 1,000%, and a brightness of 300% is a great size for lighting a large room or hall.

13. Check out EZDome

When it comes to lighting outdoor scenes, Snarly Gribbly’s free EZDome program is a versatile replacement for the old Firefly IBL system. It uses smart image-based lighting (sIBL) images which include the sun’s location. You can convert standard HDRI images to sIBL using sIBL Edit – which is also free. 

EZDome will add an sIBL or HDRI to a full or half sky dome, and can then be set to automatically add a shadow-casting light that will be applied at the correct point in the scene. This is a great and easy way to add realistic 360-degree lighting to a scene.

14. Don't be constrained by realism

Even though you may be using Poser’s powerful Cycles-based renderer, if your scene is better served by highlighting and accenting with lights that could not exist in the real world (such as spot whose origin is inside the visible scene yet has no visible source to the viewer), then don’t be such a slave to realism that you sacrifice the effect you are seeking.

One subtle effect for creating drama is a low-level, upwards-facing spot attached to the figure’s head (think of the old campfire horror-story trick with a flashlight). Turned bright, the effect is stark, but turned very low, it’s a great way to add some subtle fill-in colour to a dark scene.

15. Utilise gobos for shadows

Use gobos or billboards to cast shadows rather than depending upon expensive geometry. The old Firefly way of simply plugging an image directly into the light’s colour channel no longer works. In Superfly, the easiest way is simply to create a semi-transparent plane and attach it in front of the spot that you want to affect (much as a photographer would use a gel).

However, using this slightly more sophisticated setup (thanks to piersyf for the original), you can extend the effect to create stained glass and projector effects. You can use a mix of greyscale or coloured imagery to add interest and realism.

16. Apply displacement

Superfly uses a different displacement engine to Firefly (vertex displacement rather than micro polygon). With Superfly, the more polygons, the greater the displacement resolution. Before you can even apply displacement, you’ll have to open the object’s properties tab and increase subdivision to 3 or even 5. 

There is an option with a multipart model, such as a human figure, to subdivide only the parts that you need extra resolution on (the face for instance). This avoids creating unwieldy numbers of polygons that will needlessly degrade your system performance. Subdivision is also a great way to smooth jagged bends on older figures.

17. Set up Cycles

Don’t feel the need to create Cycles node rigs just because they are part of the Superfly PBR engine. These can be complicated to set up, and there are still imperfections and unpredictabilities  

in Poser’s implementation of certain features, such as transparency and displacement. The Poser surface root node does an excellent job of approximating many Cycles features for a fraction of the effort, complexity and rendering time. That said, notwithstanding the occasional feature that was not ported over, you can copy  Cycles materials from Blender across to Poser if you find any that you like.

18. Create hair gloss

If you are repurposing hair materials intended for the default renderer for use in Superfly (almost all off-the-shelf products), you’ll usually need to reduce the glossiness, reflection or specularity. These will usually be plugged into the ALTERNATE specularity channel. 

Lips and fingernails will also commonly need reworking. Expand Anisotropic nodes and look for values labelled ‘Glossiness’ or ‘K’s’. These can usually be reduced to 0.1 or less. The easiest solution is simply to delete anything plugged into the alternate diffuse or specularity channels. You’ll probably want to reduce any primary specularity or reflection values too.

19. Create grass

Importing polygon grass is expensive on your memory budget, and using the hair room to grow it is even more costly on your processing, especially during render.

If you are using the Firefly renderer, there’s thankfully an easy technique you can use to effectively create ‘fur’ grass or carpet. Simply attach a noise node to the displacement input. If you use a Clouds node in the Diffuse input, or a carpet pattern, this is a great way to transform bland polygons. For carpet combine the noise with a greyscale bump map using the Blender node if you want to give it deep pile sculpting.

This article originally published in 3D World, the world's best-selling magazine for CG artists. Buy issue 233 now or subscribe.

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If you're tired of waiting around for hours for renders of your 3D art, you should check out ZBrushCore and its rendering process, Best Preview Render, or BPR. Using it is as simple as pressing the BPR button at the top right of the interface. This produces a high-quality image you can then export. 

ZBrushCore tends to simplify all of its processes, which is why there aren’t many settings you can tweak in the Render palette. However, since the rendering stage is all about producing a good-looking image of your model with decent image resolution, we need to consider other aspects that affect the render such as the Material type, lighting and shadows.

There are two types of materials in ZBrushCore: MatCaps and Standard Materials. The main difference is that the Standard Materials react to the position of the light source, whereas the MatCaps (Material Capture) have the lighting and colour information already baked in.

The process of adding or positioning a light is very simple and there’s even a dedicated palette for it. If you choose to use a MatCap, then the effect of the light won’t be visible until you create the render.

01. Camera setup

Higher values will produce an exaggerated perspective in the image

Before you hit that Render button, you need to choose a camera angle that works for your model. The size of the canvas is the size for the render. With that in mind, go ahead and rotate the model to find a view that you like. Open the Draw palette and use the Angle of View. This is essentially like tweaking a camera lens to change the perspective and how much of the ‘scene’ is captured by the lens.

02. Lighting options

The Intensity slider (circled left) makes it possible to alter the strength of each light. You can reduce the Ambient light slider (circled right) to zero, to make the light and shadow effect stronger

To start tweaking the light sources, dock the Light palette to the right tray and click the BPR button for a quick render test. Each switch with a lightbulb represents a light, and by default there’s only one enabled. Click the thumbnail with the sphere to move the yellow dot around: this represents the position of the light. Do another quick BPR test so you can see the difference.

03. Shadow properties

If the shadow on the floor looks cut off, try increasing the size of the floor grid from the Draw palette

The PBR Shadows slider will determine how sharp or soft the cast shadows will be. A higher value will create smoother shadows, but you might need to increase the number of Rays to avoid artefact. You will only see the effect of changing the Shadows slider after running a quick BPR test. Turning the Floor off before rendering enables you to render without casting shadows on to the floor.

04. Material options

To remove an assigned material, assign the Flat Color material first. You can also click the Brush icon from the Subtool list to turn the assigned polypaint and material on or off

To select a different material, choose it from the Material palette or the Material thumbnail at the left of the UI. If you have multiple subtools and you want different materials between subtools, you need to assign the materials. Turn on the M switch at the top of the interface and make sure the RGB one is off. Then go to the Color Palette, and click the FillObject button. Now if you select a different material, you’ll see that the object you just ‘filled’ stays with the previous material.

05. Render and export

You can change the background colour before rendering from the ‘back’ swatch in the Document palette. Increasing the value of the SPix slider in the render Palette will create smoother edges 

Finally, once you’ve chosen your camera angle, tested your light position, tweaked shadow properties and assigned your materials, it’s time to render your image. Fortunately, we’ve done all the heavy lifting and the rendering process just involves pressing the BPR button and waiting while ZBrushCore does its thing. If you’re happy with the result, go to the Document palette, click the Export button and save your render as a PSD file.

This article was originally published in issue 158 of ImagineFX, the world's best-selling magazine for digital artists. Subscribe to ImagineFX here.

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Pixel art is a type of digital art where artists specify the location of individual pixels, which are built up to create intricate scenes, game backgrounds, character designs and 3D art – all with a limited colour palette. Think those 8-bit graphics first seen with the release of gaming consoles in the early '80s.

Developing this artwork doesn't require expensive photo editing software and lots of fancy equipment, just a lot of time. Here are 30 top examples of pixel art from some seriously talented, not to mention patient, artists…

01. JaeBum Joo

Street Fashion Fighter mixes celeb couture with arcade man-punching

South Korean designer JaeBum Joo caught our attention with a splendid take on classic arcade game, Street Fighter 2, in which he kitted out the game's characters in the achingly hip threads of modern celebrities; check out Street Fashion Fighter to see the full results.

However it's his contribution to a Korean campaign for Nike that really got our pulses racing; a six-second animated segment depicting an imaginary arcade basketball game; we'd love to play it for real.

02. Nevan Doyle

Nevan Doyle provides a glitchy, psychedelic twist on pixel art

Nevan Doyle is a videographer, graphic designer and photographer from Portland, Oregon, who specialises in eye-catching abstract designs with the occasional touch of glitch cool. And it's this extra bit of glitch that drew us to Doyle's Intro to Pixel Art; while it lacks the painstaking intricacy of much pixel imagery, his project mixes up pixel techniques with glitches, grunge and visual feedback to create some stunning artwork.

03. Diego Sanches

The world’s greatest ever minds get handy in Science Kombat

Diego Sanches is a Brazilian illustrator based in São Paulo, who has a great sideline in pixel art. We particularly love the animations he created for Science Kombat, a browser-based beat-em-up game for Superinteressante magazine. 

It features eight playable scientists, including Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Marie Curie and Sir Isaac Newton, each with their own basic and special attacks, plus a final boss: The Divinity, able to take the form of various gods.

04. Pixel Jeff

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Based in Taipei, Taiwan, Pixel Jeff has been making pixel art since 2013, usually creating work inspired by movies, video games and animation. His Tumblr page is a treasure trove of animated pixel joy; we were drawn there by his reinterpretation of Disney's Moana as a video game, but it's his take on Star Wars: Rogue One that really grabbed our attention.

05. Ivan Dixon

pixel art

Can you spot your favourite Bowie look in this pixel art tribute?

Following the news of David Bowie's death, illustrator and gif-extraordinaire Ivan Dixon paid tribute in the only way he knew how. Featuring a range of Bowie's iconic styles, the homage is a wonderful pixel art look at why he was so influential.

06. Gustavo Viselner

pixel art

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope gets a pixel art makeover

Star Wars fever is ever rife among fans and graphic designers and illustrators galore have been inspired by the films, with some harking back to the old favourites – like this pixel art tribute by Gustavo Viselner. The artist has also created pixel art for Back to the Future, Aliens, Lord of the Rings and more.

07. Ben Porter

pixel art

One of Porter’s most recent pixel art creations

Ben Porter loves pixel art so much that a few years ago, he embarked on a 365 day challenge, producing pixel art every day for a year. He also launched Pixel Dailies, a twitter account which shares daily pixel art inspiration and new creations by the man himself.

08. Marty Guerero

pixel art

A look into Guerero’s latest game design

A game developer and pixel artist, Marty Guerero produces some really incredible pieces. This pixel art is a snapshot into one of Guerero's game designs; the artist also produces homages to Mario and a range of Studio Ghibli characters.

09. Tom Schreiter

Tom Schreiter created a pixel art interpretation of The Blues Brothers

We can't help but love this pixel art interpretation of the American musical classic The Blues Brothers by Tom Schreiter. Pixelling since 1995, and doing so on a daily basis ever since, he's got a ton of brilliant pixel artwork under his belt – but this is definitely one of our favourites.

10. Aled Lewis

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost star as 16-bit game sprites in this brilliant piece by Aled Lewis

Hot Fuzz meets Japanese arcade game Final Fight in this epic pixel artwork by designer and illustrator Aled Lewis. This piece forms part of an awe-inspiring portfolio, most of which has been influenced and inspired by his main passions in life: games, comics, film and television.

Next: 10 more amazing pieces of pixel art

11. Pixellent

We love this unique Polaroid by Pixellent

You don't often see pixel art go vintage, which is one of the main reasons we like this Don't forget to fix your Polaroids piece so much. Created by the artist known as Pixellent, this piece has been executed beautifully, with the design featuring gorgeous, detailed pixel art, framed and styled to look like an old Polaroid shot.

12. José Eduardo Contreras Moral

‘I am your father’ – pixel-art style

We’ve seen many artistic tributes to Darth Vader over the years here on CB, but we particularly like this cool pixel art version by illustrator and pixel artist José Eduardo Contreras Moral. Despite being stripped back to basics, Moral’s design of the dark lord still looks incredibly menacing.

13. Nasc

“Make pixel, not war,” says Nasc

This brilliant Make pixel, not war piece was developed by the artist known as Nasc. A developer specialising in Flash development, Nasc creates pixel art in his spare time. This piece is minimal, yet expressive and powerful.

14. Wanella

Wanella produces incredible pixel-based visual landscapes

Wanella produces these wonderful pixel based visual landscapes with fantasy possibilities. Her love for pixels is evident and her moving pixel worlds are a great example of how a combination of colour, squares and movement can be combined to create original and dynamic worlds.

15. Pixel Pour

Goeller’s piece shows how the digital world can work in a different context

Visual artist Kello Goeller, who is based in Portland, took the concept of the pixel and worked around it a real-life concept. Her water-flowing pixels were installed around the city, offering citizens a playful visual and imaginary context to bring both worlds together.

16. Fine Pixel Art

John O'Hearn is another visual artist who works with tiny elements to create impressive and life-size scale works by exploiting the potential of colour, elements and illusion. 

17. Metin Seven

Seven’s work combines pixel art with 3D elements

The work of Metin Seven combines design and pixel art with 3D elements, with dynamic and detailed results. Along with this Steve Jobs reinterpretation, he has produced a series of characters based on square elements combined.

18. Cristian Zuzunaga

Cristian Zuzunaga plays with pixels in innovative ways

Cristian Zuzunaga provides an original take on pixels, combining them with fashion, textile design and furniture. His beautiful use of colour and pattern with squares inspires great creative possibilities and explores new areas of pixel art.

19. Talk to me

MoMA bridges the gap between design and communication using pixel art

Back in 2011, MoMA used simple square combinations to create a vivid and interesting pattern mural based on objects from its exhibition, Talk To Me. The use of simple black and white strips it down further, creating an interesting and dynamic overall feel.

20. Ben Fino-Radin

Ben Fino-Radin shows how pixels can inspire and drive various areas of design

This is a great example of the way pixels can inspire and drive various areas of design to create original and innovative pieces of work. This life-size hand-embroidered piece of design is part of a collection that explores ideas of size and shape to create these life-size mouse icons.

Next: 10 more pieces of stunning pixel art

21. Mario Sifuentes

Mario Sifuentes uses pixel art to create his own interpretation of a pre-hispanic God

Mexican designer Mario Sifuentes created this interesting and beautiful interpretation of a pre-hispanic God. The piece was inspired by the style of '90s visual video games and is based on the combination of pixels and simple colour.

22. Eboy

Pixel art

Introducing the godfather of pixel art: Eboy

Some of the most well-known creators of pixel art are Kai Vermehr, Steffen Sauerteig and Svend Smital, aka Eboy. Eboy creates reusable pixel objects and uses them to build complex artwork. Famous for illustration, web design, fonts, and toys, Eboy has created work for many leading brands, including Adidas, Nike, Pespi and Renault.

23. Paul Robertson

Pixel art

Paul Robertson is a pixel art master

Australian artist Paul Robertson is a pixel art master. His intricate illustrations include everything from family friendly pieces to some which are really NSFW. Even if you're not familiar with the name, you might recognise his work; he was the lead artist on the 2010 Scott Pilgrim videogame and worked on the American animated TV series Gravity Falls.

24. Army of Trolls

Pixel art

Gary Lucken’s pixel art is inspired by videogames and more

Army of Trolls is the portfolio of London-born videogame enthusiast and artist Gary J Lucken. Based in Bournemouth, UK, Lucken works from home, surrounded by Japanese toys and piles of old 2D videogames to inspire him. The artwork this talented artist is directly influenced by his love of videogames, toys and pop culture.

25. Rod Hunt

Pixel art

Rod Hunt creates highly detailed pixel art landscapes

Award-winning London-based artist Rod Hunt has built a reputation for detailed character-filled landscapes for everything from book covers and advertising campaigns to iPhone apps and art installations. Hunt is also the illustrator behind the bestselling Where’s Stig? books, created for the BBC’s TV show Top Gear.

26. Sven Ruthner

Pixel art

Sven Ruthner is a top pixel artist to be inspired by

Freelance pixel artist Sven Ruthner has received international appreciation for his pixel artwork. Based in Germany, Ruthner uses limited colour palettes when developing his work, similar to the offerings of early home computers, such the ZX Spectrum. This particular piece, titled CGA Faces, was created using just 16 colours.

27. Fool

Pixel art

Fool’s artwork is highly intricate

The pixel artist known as Fool in the community was originally born in Moscow and is currently residing in Ohio. A self-taught artist, Fool is known for his highly intricate pixel art creations. 

28. Tim Wesoly

Pixel art

Tim Wesoly’s pixel art Robinson Nerdo character

Tim Wesoly is the lead developer of 3D pixel art modeller Qubicle. When not working on his software, he spends time using it to create awesome pixel art, such as this cool Robinson Nerdo character. The illustration is deceptively complex – you'll find yourself noticing new things each time you look at this piece.

29. Denise Wilton

Pixel art

Pixel artist Denise Wilton has attracted many clients with her detailed style

Currently vice president of brand and creative at Workable, artist Denise Wilton has many skills, one of them being the creation of pixel art. Her talent has attracted the attention of many big clients during her career, including The Financial Times, the BBC, Lynx and Nokia.

30. Simon Anderson

Pixel art

Simon Anderson is known for his pixel art-style work

Simon Anderson, aka Snake, is a Norwegian game developer and artist by trade. The co-founder of D-Pad Studio, Anderson's fascination with tiny squares began at a young age, when he began drawing pictures and figures using his mum's cross stitch and knitting grid pattern designs.

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