In the first part of this series, I introduced a list of low-cost and free software that can help you to create professional quality art without breaking the bank.
In this second installment of “Creating On A Limited Budget” I’ll detail the programs from the list that I’m currently using and how they fit into my “creative toolbox”.
So, let’s go!!
Corel PhotoPaint x4: PhotoPaint is part of the CorelDraw Suite sold by Corel Corporation. PhotoPaint is my workhorse program. It allows me to bring each of my visual elements together as layers, adjusting and combining them to create finished artwork. All of the other software programs mentioned in this article work seamlessly with PhotoPaint. I’ve been using the CorelDraw Suite since version 1 and every time I try another graphics program (including Photoshop) I always end up returning to CorelDraw. The latest version of the CorelDraw Suite is version x6 but I’m still using version x4. Why? Because CorelDraw x4 is working fine for me, even under Windows 8 and besides I can’t afford the upgrade to x6 right now. So, just like many other people (creative or otherwise) I work within my budget.
Bryce 7 Pro: Bryce is a 3D landscape generator sold by Daz 3D. Though it was originally intended as a landscape generator, it has capabilities to produce stunning renders of cities (both real and alien), industrial scenes, space scenes and even imports characters from Daz Studio (also by Daz 3D). Bryce features a user friendly interface and a deep texture editor that is my favorite part of the program. Also, there are literally hundreds of quality tutorials online to help you master Bryce quickly and easily. Bryce hasn’t been updated by Daz for sometime but its devoted users keep the program alive and maintain an active presence on the Daz Forums. I’ve used Bryce since version 3 and like CorelDraw, when I try other 3D programs I find myself returning to Bryce. It’s never failed me yet.
There are four plug-in programs that I use, especially for my science fiction and space art renders. Universe Image Creator, Lunar Cell, Glitterato and Solar Cell. All work well with Corel PhotoPaint, Photoshop and other graphics programs with Photoshop plug-in compatibility.
Universe Image Creator Plug-in (Planet Edition): Sold by Diard Software, Universe has a wonderful collection of features that allow you to render realistic star fields, textured stars, planets, nebula, interstellar gas clouds and galaxies. I’ve been using Universe for years and have even found uses for its effects outside of space art.
Lunar Cell, Glitterato and Solar Cell: These three plug-ins are sold by Flaming Pear Plug-ins.
Lunar Cell renders realistic terrestrial planets with oceans, continents, icecaps and cloud cover. It also has a feature to access real satellite images of cloud cover to use in your images.
Glitterato renders realistic star fields and nebula clouds. It has an arsenal of render settings that can produce a nearly infinite combination of effects.
Solar Cell creates star objects. You can select either textured or flat (non-textured) star effects. I don’t use this as much as the other plug-ins but I’m happy it’s there on those occasions when I have a need for its unique effects.
Mandelbulber: This program is very different from all of the software listed above. It is not a graphics program but a 3D fractal generator. I won’t go into an explanation of fractals here but you can google “fractals” or visit the Mandelbulber website to learn more about them. Mandelbulber generates 3D patterned objects that can be explored as if flying through a “solid” object with exterior and interior surfaces. It can produce images that suggest alien worlds or massive industrial landscapes and features mask renders for import into graphics programs with layer support. Mandelbulber has a slight learning curve but once you read the documentation and get used to it, the possibilities are endless.
The images below are a sample of what can be accomplished with the programs mentioned in this article. Click on the thumbnails for a larger view.
In parts 3,4 and 5 of this series, I’ll examine how some of these images were created.
As always, your comments and critiques are encouraged.