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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:
HB-Duran Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2015  Professional Traditional Artist
Great advice! Just landed my first, full time game art job and am teaching myself some CG skills. Your work gives me great hope for the future! Awesome work and thank you for the tips!
tnounsy Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2015  Professional Filmographer
Thanks! glad it helps, it has been almost 2 years and I feel like it needs a revision, will do when I have time :)
XavierWard Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
nice journal man, will check some of those out. really blown away by your whole gallery now I've had a look around, seriously inspired me!
picking up my wacom pen right now :D keep it up man, i have a lot to learn from your stuff :)
tnounsy Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2014  Professional Filmographer
Thank you! :) glad my stuff helped a bit! :)
cgartiste Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Networking is about finding those people (such as yourself) who are open to dialogue. Not the elitists who feel they are too good to be a part of the unwashed masses. I've seen my share of those idiots around too. Find those open to communication and then just shoot the shit with them. I've located a bunch of the vendors I use from 3D and 2D products here on DA and begun tagging them in my works. This has gotten them commenting and I follow them and comment on their journals and profiles too. Pretty soon the dialogue becomes natural and you've built a "network" of individuals you admire and who don't mind criticizing you in return. That's networking.

Brilliant journal mate. You and I are in the same boat. I'm a self taught artist. Struggling on my own but still. It's good to see you making a go at it.

Cheers mate!
bleep-bleep-kun Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for sharing. The tips are really helpful. I thought I was lost until I read this. Thank you very much.
tnounsy Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2013  Professional Filmographer
No problem, glad to see it helped!
mint-ful Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2013  Student Digital Artist
This journal has motivated and encourage me a lot! This also has a lot of informations in it which will definitely helped me in one way or the other. 
This journal makes me smile and makes me tell myself there is no time to give up, thank you!
tnounsy Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2013  Professional Filmographer
Thank you! Glad I could help :)
keep drawing!
Kalkri Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2013   Digital Artist
Thanks for writing this journal! It definitely hit a lot of sore spots for me, but it is extremely motivating and informative, so yeah, thanks again =)
tnounsy Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2013  Professional Filmographer
Thank you, glad it helps (and i definitely mean no offense!) :)
If-I-Were-5-Seconds Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2013
This is hilarious. I was JUST about to ask where to get started in digital art... 

But this still leaves - what software do you use?
And Im assuming a drawing tablet of sorts? 
tnounsy Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2013  Professional Filmographer
Hey sorry did not see your comment, I use photoshop for all my 2D paintings, for 3D I use modo/blender/maya/zbrush but most of the time I just use them as a complimentary to 2D

Yes you should get a tablet, a wacom bamboo/intuos should work fine

and sorry for the late reply again!
zeedurrani Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Some great tips here zhou and you're improving every time I see your work mate!

As someone said below and this is a personal belief of mine, it's just as important to mingle and have strong friendships with people at your own level and as those that are high above. In fact there's a tendency to always look up to others anyway so that's the easy part but finding good people who're going through the same challenges you're going through is often harder to find.

Any way keep it going man and just watched you ( for some reason I never hit that button) although I do tend to frequent your work regularly anyway.
tnounsy Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2013  Professional Filmographer
Hey Zee, thanks for the comment!
Yup I agree networking and getting to know people at higher level is important, in fact which is necessary to keep one motivated and inspired. The thing is from what I see, some people tend to make networking their first priority and invested too much time into it and seldom practice to hone their skills. I may be a bit biased though, my apology if my words were misleading to some.
zeedurrani Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Actually the philosophy I love best is what I heard from Leventep (another artist which you mentioned you like) where he emphasises learn to paint and draw amazing stuff and the work will generally come to you almost automatically. I've actually used the philosophy in other parts of my life and it's the best thing out there.

Too many people just like to talk and complain and in the process get no where. So completely agree with you there.
LasseLevin Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Shaddy Safadi's first tutorial series is another great one… he's worked on Uncharted and Last of Us for a few. His thoughts give a very different perspective to digital art than Levi's videos or Feng Zhu, it's more traditional and focused on fundamentals but not really in a boring it-doesn't-matter way of an old art professor, more of taking the essentials of your paintings and making it to something much more interesting and stylish. It's a long series for what appears to be such a simple painting but you could take his techniques and apply them in a much faster way. To be honest I'm not even a fan of his technique but I felt I learned a lot from the series. Plus I really recommend his brush-set…

Yeah, I'd say simply painting every day for several hours and constantly trying to think about how to make your art better will pretty much get you to the top level in a few years. Motivation is kind of a problem for me though, sometimes I'm insanely motivated and sometimes (like now actually) I'm not, it's like I've lost all energy all of a sudden. At this point it becomes about finding more motivation, for me watching people like Shaddy paint or looking at awesome work from guys like Andree Wallin makes me easily open Photoshop again.

I totally agree with you about artists just honing their egos, I feel like many artists just stop on a certain level once they feel like their work is a lot better than many other amateur artists or, even worse, request feedback from their relatives who don't have any knowledge of art. It's like a kid who's drawing at school and all the other students who draw stick figures praise the kid for his / her drawing skills and the kid feels like he is really good at drawing, except in reality he isn't compared to many others who enjoy drawing.

And yeah I also agree about not being afraid to try out new styles or techniques, there's nothing wrong with using photo textures or 3D in your work, you just have to figure out how to use them properly. 

tnounsy Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2013  Professional Filmographer
Thanks for the input bro, you have always been an inspiration to me.
I recall I have watched some of Shaddy's stuff but seem like I didnt pay enough attention :D will definitely go back to check again.

haikuo Featured By Owner Aug 28, 2013
Cheers for this. I love reading these kind of things because every artist always has some unique gems of info that I've never heard before. I'm definitely going to check out all the learning resources you suggested and as for networking, I think DA is really good. I reckon for beginners it's less important to have mass exposer and more useful to make friends with people in the same boat as you, but then again if your looking for a job mass exposer isn't a bad thing :D.
tnounsy Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2013  Professional Filmographer
Glad it helped :)
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August 28, 2013


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