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About Design & Interfaces / Professional Premium Member Zhou ShuoMale/Singapore Recent Activity
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Zhou Shuo
Artist | Professional | Design & Interfaces
well i dont have much to say about myself, a self-taught concept artist / matte painter, pretty much an industry rookie, currently working for Ubisoft and is working hard to be better than what he was yesterday.

Please drop me a note if you are using my personal works for non-commercial use, credit will be much appreciated.

No free labor request please.

and thank you for visiting my page!

you can find more (a lot more, actually) daily spitpaints / doodles / sketches / updates / even some professional works on my facebook -

I have had this journal in mind for quite a long time, thinking I will find a time to write it down after I find a job (so that I can give 'advice' as a professional :D). I've been less active in the past weeks since I was on a probation in a game company and I thought I would make it this time, unfortunately today I was told I have to go back to job hunting again. Anyway I'm not gonna wait any longer since some of my fellow deviants have been asking for advice for a long time.

Before I start my apologies if some points in this journal are not clear because of language, I am not a native English speaker.

I'm not giving these advice as a professional or an elite artist (I hope I was!), just sharing my learning experience and some personal understanding of conceptual design and arts. Please ignore or correct me if I got things wrong.

Ok. Some related information about myself I studied computing at university, in my final year I found myself really lack of interests in programming or banking or whatever so I started teaching myself digital painting. I had some basic training of sketch and watercolor when I was a kid so I was not totally starting from zero, but I did manage to reach where I am now within 6 months as a full-time computing student by self-teaching so I think my experience would be of some use.


Learning resources

Idrawgirls (just realized they changed their channel name to xia taptara)- pretty useful for beginners, though I only watched 2-3 videos of theirs but it did get me started. I recommend those who are new to digital painting to watch a few of their speedpaintings first.

Feng Zhu's design cinema imo it's the gem of all video tutorials available on youtube. Many people say that it's not for beginners or it is more about tricks other than fundamentals, I partially agree with them but I have to say it is still very useful. I started watching design cinema right after a few episodes of idrawgirls, I tried to mimic feng zhu's composition, brush stroke and workflow (he just has too many!). If your goal is to enter the industry then his commentary is definitely what you want to listen to.

Daarken his character speedpainting video's helped me a lot

Other youtube channels I used to watch Scott Robertson, Sandara, Alex Negrea.

Basically you can find all these channels simply by searching for video tutorials, and there has to be tons of other valuable tutorials that I haven't found myself I would be grateful if you can share yours with me.

Levi's livestream Levi (leventep on dA) is my all-time favorite artist. Not only because I started with his brush, I watched his livestream, but also because of his personality and his understanding of the industry and art itself. Imho Levi can be considered as the role model for all artists. His livestream is definitely not for those who haven't had fundamental trainings in fact it took me more than 3 months to be able to merely understand what he was doing. But once you can understand his workflow, you will be surprised to see how valuable his videos are.

Social networks dA, facebook, CG Hub, just go there and see what other artists are doing. You dont need to know how they worked, just watch the final work carefully and trying to learn from their brush strokes.

I only spent $$ on two learning resources, James Paick's DVD and the book Foundation 1 by FZD... not counting all those artbooks I collected as a gamer :D

You must think when and after you watch, otherwise it wont work. 

Technique tips

These tips are just based on my own observation and understanding

Brushes I always see people asking around "what brushes are you using?" trust me 95% of the artists are using almost the same set of simple brushes  - chalk, soft round, mist and for some paintings, plus a few more custom special effect brushes. Brushwork is all about playing around with the settings.  Don't be superstitious about brushes, tools are just tools, it is the skills that matters.

Textures Don't abuse it, don't refuse it. The ability of using textures properly is very important for professionals, yet I've seen a lot of people using too many textures in their stuff that all the textures blend together making it extremely difficult to tell what the concept is. Remember when the audience first see your work, they should always see the atmosphere, concept, main object first, not the tons of texture files you have used. A personal tip always paint over your textures.

Density this is what I feel many beginners are lack of, yet not many tutorials have mentioned. Density can be the line thickness, detail level, saturation, contrast, object numbers, etc. It is why many paintings look flat or lack depth. For example, many beginners tend to use the same line width to highlight objects in both foreground and background.

Learning photography for fundamentals - Imo learning photography systematically is a better way of learning fundamentals such as perspective and composition, compared to reading painting tutorials. It gives a deeper and more intuitive understanding of how perspective and composition works, since you learn by observing the real world instead of applying formulas to imagination.

Fundamental comes first Yea I believe everyone tells you this... don't spend too much time doing photo bashing before you are confident enough about your fundamental skills.


Do not cheat yourself the attitude

Well I may probably get stoned for this part, take it easy.

What I really don't like about the current artist community is that too many people are creating arts to feed their ego instead of to hone their skills. Don't paint over photos and say it's your study from scratch, don't use textures then deny it. It won't do you any good. Don't spam your work where you probably won't get useful critiques, or ask others to follow you just to make you feel good.

I also noticed that many people always emphasize how fast they did their work or they are doing the work "just for fun". We all come from the time when we create shitty stuff, but some people became elite artists because they don't treat all their works "just for fun". Speed only matters after you are able create nice stuff using a lot of time, not when you still need a lot of fundamentals to learn. Speed only means a difference in detail levels, if your quick ones have obvious mistakes then it is time to spend more time.

Practice makes perfect, not likes - Levi


Always open to new stuff

Now seems like every artist needs to be a generalist to be able to survive... Knowing a bit of both 2D and 3D is important, you don't have to be a 3D expert (of course being one is better!), but some basic modeling/sculpting knowledge will for sure help you a lot. The same applies to VFX, traditional arts, etc.

Never be afraid to try new styles. My previous work was to create cartoonish illustration and I used to be afraid that it would affect my ability of painting serious stuff, but actually I can feel a noticeable improvement in my sketching skills after a few weeks of painting cartoonish stuff.

Don't always stay in your comfort zone.


Learn from everything

Conceptual design is not something purely from imagination. All characters, mechs, buildings, environments are based on real stuff so that they look real. Observing surroundings is a good habit, study designs from games and movies is very important.

Learn 25 hours a day

Nothing will make you a better artist without your own hard work. Everyone knows this so I'm not going to talk about it.

Do not work for free

When you urgently need to fill your portfolio, do personal works. A sincere client will offer to pay you without you asking for it.


Important. But I myself is also wondering how to network.


That is basically all I can think of for now, hope it will help those who wants to be professional concept artists just like I do :) I am also a beginner myself so your advice will be much appreciated!

Thank you all for the support and critiques made so far and good luck to all!


Add a Comment:
Cutswolf 4 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Awesome gallery. Do you use Corel Painter? If so, how is it working for you?
tnounsy 4 days ago  Professional Interface Designer
Thank you!
I use photoshop for all my 2d paintings, haven't tried Painter yet since photoshop works great for me for all cases so far :)
Cutswolf 4 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Great. Thanks.
Jakemono Mar 18, 2014  Hobbyist
Big props on your work man, awesome, awesome stuff.
tnounsy Mar 18, 2014  Professional Interface Designer
Thank you for your kind words! :D
Jakemono Mar 18, 2014  Hobbyist
Well earned! Oh, you actually being able to answer this, I think I have a decent question for you:

Pros often say "Just draw a lot" when asked about the best way to improve. However, I think its quite essential to build visual library and train the eye by observing. Also reading books, watching streams and video tutorials, listening to podcasts and interviews about creating art is also a great way to improve, and I'm gonna sum these up as studying. I think studying is downplayed a lot when asked about practice.

Do you think its better to draw than study? For example, I draw around 6 hours a day, and I use another 6 for studying. Would I see more improvement with drawing more?

ps. with drawing in this case, I mean drawing from imagination and not doing photostudies or lifedrawing/still life.
tnounsy Mar 18, 2014  Professional Interface Designer
Hi Jake,

i think what the pros mean when they say 'just draw a lot' also include time for studies. drawing from real life/photo reference/screenshots/masterpieces play a huge part in self-training and no one should ignore that. you are absolutely right about building your visual library, in fact as you go further into art, it should be an instinct to observe and analyse everything you see daily to expand your visual library.

when you feel you lack something in your art you should focus more on study, simply drawing a lot from imagination helps less correcting your understanding of the real world. actually during the training phase, you should only draw from imagination when you are trying to apply things you learnt or experiment new stuff. later when you feel more comfortable with your skills you might start doing personal pieces (non-studies) for fun or for portfolio use.

12 hours a day sounds a pretty decent amount of training, but try to slow down and do not think about speed.

hope it helps :)
(1 Reply)
yutaka11111 Feb 28, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Your works are awesome! I am your fan now^_^
tnounsy Mar 1, 2014  Professional Interface Designer
Thank you! :) glad you like my stuff
yutaka11111 Mar 3, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
your stuff is terrific!Headbang! 
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