Blender Master Class – Excellent hands-on guide to modeling, sculpting, materials & rendering – #bookreview

Blender Master Class
A Hands-On Guide to Modeling, Sculpting, Materials, and Rendering
Ben Simonds
(No Starch Press, paperback, Kindle)

This excellent hands-on guide shows “how to create models and environments in 3D, using two pieces of software: Blender, for 3D design and animation, and GIMP, for 2D image editing.” It covers Blender 2.6x.

The author, Ben Simonds, is a professional 3D artist and co-director of a London-based post-production and computer animation company, Gecko Animation Ltd.

Simonds explains and shows “how to approach and finish your own projects in Blender.” He offers detailed how-to explanations for three of his own projects “to provide the narrative and examples of the tasks required.”

Along with demonstrating how to use Blender and GIMP, he shows “how to block out and create models, sculpt and detail them, texture and create materials, use lighting, and render finished images.”

This 266-page, 15-chapter book is beautifully organized, richly illustrated and well-written, with numerous headings, subheadings, step-by-step lists, and chapter reviews. The accompanying DVD “contains all the files for the projects in this book, including separate .blend files for each project (corresponding to each chapter in the book) and each project in its final state at the end of the chapter (where relevant).

“These resources,” Simonds adds, “should allow you to look in-depth at the workings of each project and to examine how each one takes shape. Also included are the textures used for each project, .blend files with some useful brushes for sculpting and MatCap materials, and a GIMP brush that you can use with your own projects.”

Simonds notes that Blender has many more tools than can be covered in his book. So Blender Master Class “attempts to deal only with the aspects of Blender that are needed to create, texture, and render models as still images. It doesn’t cover Blender’s rigging and animation tools, simulation tools, or the game engine.” For more information, he refers readers to a Blender website.

Blender is a powerful software package, and even experienced artists and designers can struggle while using it to create finished pieces. Blender Master Class can step you smoothly through the entire process of working from concept to completion.

Si Dunn

The Artist’s Guide to GIMP, 2nd Edition – Newly updated for GIMP 2.8 – #bookreview

The Artist’s Guide to GIMP: Creative Techniques for Photographers, Artists and Designers, 2nd Edition
Michael J. Hammel
(No Starch Press, paperback –  Kindle edition)

GIMP is a free and full-featured alternative to Adobe Photoshop. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) now has a long track record and many users, but it remains difficult for newcomers to learn, particularly if you just jump in and click around on menu options, trying to figure out what to do and what is possible.

Michael J. Hammel recently has updated his popular GIMP how-to guide to encompass the latest version of the software and its newest tools. Hammel has been writing about GIMP since its early development stages in 1996. So he knows the package backward and forward, and, fortunately, he knows how to explain it to others, too. His book is well written, usefully illustrated, and rich with how-to lists and tips.

The Artist’s Guide to GIMP doesn’t follow the usual model for software guides, where menu choices are shown and explained one after the other, in minute detail. Instead, Hammel’s 295-page book uses a tutorial approach, and each tutorial covers a specific area of graphic design.

Of course, newcomers are given a one-chapter introduction to GIMP 2.8’s menus and features. The Fundamental Techniques chapter also shows how to use the program in multi-window and single-window mode.

The remaining five chapters, however, take a tighter focus as they continue to teach. And even experienced GIMP users can learn new things from them. The topics covered are:

  • Photographic Effects
  • Web Design
  • Advertising and Special Effects
  • Type Effects
  • Creative Inspiration

The chapters introduce a series of small projects, and you are shown how to complete them and achieve a variety of effects by using the appropriate tools and techniques.

Meanwhile, the projects in the final chapter, Creative Inspiration, are intended to inspire you to “move beyond simple desktop artwork” and use GIMP as “a tool to express yourself” and create new works of art.

“You seldom need just a hammer for a project,” Hammel writes. “GIMP provides the hammer, the saw, the drill, even the kitchen sink.”

Fortunately, in The Artist’s Guide to GIMP, he shows you how to pull the right tools out of the toolbox at the right time and use them the right way to complete each task with style and quality.

Si Dunn