Stock Illustrations

RPG cover for mecha based role-playing
RPG Cover

I’m experimenting with making all the images that can be found on Starbright Illustrations available as stock art. I have discovered three ways of doing this so far. For example, I love the mecha posing on the cover of this role-playing game (which is available from RPGDriveThru).  I think other people are going to like it too, and possibly want to use it in games they are designing, or for cover art for a book they are writing, for playing-card art or just to illustrate a short story in a blog. Here is the image without the cover graphics of the role-playing game.

image of a mecha among post-apocalypse buildings
MECHA SMASH!

I want to enable these options, so people can use the art for a reasonable fee. The first option, for people who just want a low-resolution version for use online is to click the PM button in the corner of the image. This takes you to the Permission Machine Page, where it is possible to buy rights to the low-res version of the art.

PM website for buying rights to stock illustrations
Permission Machine

The art is only 86.81 kb and 204 x 300 px, so is only for use as a small embed on the web. The second way to get the art is to go to Image Embed.

The Image Embed Interface
Get the Bigger Picture

At Image Embed, there are two options for using the image. It can be used free, but with attribution and a watermark, or it can be used without attribution for a small fee per impression. The image is also much bigger, at 1816 x 2662 pixels and 3.2MB, so it can be embeded at a larger size. Use in print is not allowed however.

To use the image in print, on playing cards, or in PDFs, you can buy a personal license, or commercial license directly from this site. (What these two licenses mean)

Purchase

So enjoy your image as a low-res embed, high-res embed or download.

Image Embed

image_embed

I’ve found a website that I can upload my images to, so that people can use them for a small fee. It’s called Image Embed. Here is my first image on the site.

According to their blurb, ‘IMGembed is the new standard for ethical online image use. With our proprietary technology, image owners can track, attribute and monetize their online images by CPM. Bloggers and publishers can pay on the number of actual impressions displayed. A win-win.’ They even have a video explaining how the whole thing works.

A future moon rover with guns
Futuristic APC

I’ll try anything to get my work out there, especially if it’s monetised, so I’ve started uploading images. I started with a nice render of a futuristic sci-fi moon rover. So go to Image Embed to see the portfolio of images I’m putting together.

Greeble Time

spaceship render with greebles
First Sprinkle of Greebles

The structure and the hull of the spaceship is pretty much done. When it’s complete, the new spaceship will be the star of the latest spaceship supplement from Starbright, like this one at RPGDriveThru.

I’m going to leave it very primitive and blocky, like an office building tipped over onto its side. Below, the towering office building as it appears in the Blender interface.  The sail is pulling the spaceship ‘upwards’ through space. Down in this picture is towards the pointy bit of the spaceship at the bottom of the image, with the cables for the solar sail above.

capture of the blender interface showing WIP spaceship
Tower Block Spaceship

It is intended to be a hard sci-fi type of spaceship with no allowances made for streamlining or entering an atmosphere.

So the next stage is to add some lighting and a whole bunch of greebles. I like to attach all the lights used to the hull of the spaceship because, in the voids between stars, that is probably the only light that will reach it. There aren’t many lights on the hull yet, so the spaceship is dark against the background of stars.

a spaceship dark against stars
Dark Spaceship

It also doesn’t need giant engine nacelles, because all of the thrust is coming from the giant solar sail. The spaceship will probably end up with some position-keeping thrusters to go along with all the windows and airlocks it already has sprinkled around on its hull. All of these small features are greebles, of course, and it is one of the most fun parts of spaceship design, trying to decide what the engineers of the future would poke through the hull and why.

Even Minecraft benefits from Greebles, as this blogpost by Ragnur shows.

Solar Sail Texture

While searching for a solar sail texture, to make the sail on my spaceship look more technological, I found this blog by an artist doing something similar. He has come up with a beautiful concept. His sails are much more robust, and his spaceship more ‘hard science’ but quite similar in a lot of ways.

render of spaceship with solar sail.
The sail looks like it’s made of cheese. I think we need a texture.

I went looking for a sail texture because the sails were looking a little smooth. A quick way to take the smoothness out is to add an image in the texture slot for the solar sail material. I found this circular graph paper sort of thing at this fascinating looking website. And it fit the bill perfectly. The site’s called TeXample.net, and it is dedicated to the wonderful world of TeX and friends.

graph paper made with tex
Circular graph paper.

I figured that projecting it onto the sail would add some detail and, like I said, it worked perfectly, though I had to distort it quite a bit, mostly by turning the size of the projection way down. (Or up. I’m not sure which, but the cuts in the surface got denser.)

render showing texture on solar sail
Now the sails have some texture

Next on the agenda is to create some cables, so it looks like the spaceship is actually attached to the sail. These ones below are way too thick.

cables for solar sail
Cables like bread sticks

When it’s complete, the new spaceship will be the star of the latest spaceship supplement from Starbright, like this one at RPGDriveThru.

Bluecanvas

screen grab of bluecanvas art market
Another Art Market

I have started uploading my work to yet another online market. This one is called Bluecanvas. They describe themselves as an international, multi-genre, online community of artists and art lovers. They also have a quarterly publication that features artists from their online community. They hope everyone will be able to find inspiration that reaches across genres, and hope they can provide the right tools for their users to inspire everyone, artists and non-artists alike.

Uploading work is real easy, but I’ll reserve judgement until I see how effective the site is as a platform for getting my work noticed.

That’s always the hardest part of the equation for any creative, but perhaps they will be a great new channel for my work, and that can’t be bad.

Solar Sails Are Big

New render of smaller spaceship
Bigger Sails

According to this site, “The physics tells us [a solar sail is] going to be the size of Texas”

Oh my. I’m going to have to have a rethink about the design of my spaceship. How do you show such a huge solar sail. Even a spaceship the size of a cruise liner, or a city for that matter, will be nothing more than a dot in comparison to its enormous propulsion system.

The latest render now has a much bigger sail, and it fades off into the darkness nicely. I’m not sure things would really fade off into the darkness in real space, but I’ll stick with it for now.

When it’s complete, the new spaceship will be the star of the latest spaceship supplement from Starbright, like this one at RPGDriveThru.

I’ve also been looking for information on the position of the spaceship. Most real solar sails have the payload at the hub, but the spaceship from Avatar has the spaceship out on a boom. I’ve also seen a lot of artist’s impressions of solar sails with the spaceship trailing on cables.

I found this authoritative looking patent application with the spaceship in various locations. Here are some illustrations from the patent.

various positions for solar sail crew compartment
Hub or Boom?

It seems that most designs have the spaceship trailing the sail (being pulled) instead of out in front (being pushed). Who am I to argue? So now my spaceship is travelling left to right, being pulled by its sail.

Spaceship with Solar Sail

It’s time to start a new 3D spaceship, and, this time, it is going to have a solar sail. Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about solar sails. So, it’s off to Wikipedia to learn about them. The picture below is from the Wikipedia solar sail page.

wikipedia image of solar sail
The Japanese IKAROS spaceprobe in flight (artist’s depiction) by Andrzej Mirecki

Apparently, the highest thrust-to-mass designs for deployable structures are square sails with the masts and guy lines on the dark side of the sail. Usually there are four masts that spread the corners of the sail, and a mast in the center to hold guy-wires. One of the largest advantages is that there are no hot spots in the rigging from wrinkling or bagging, and the sail protects the structure from the Sun. This form can therefore go close to the Sun for maximum thrust. Most designs steer with small moving sails on the ends of the spars. Like this other picture from the Wikipedia page.

Sketch of soalr sail
Best solar sail design.

This image is in the public domain because it was solely created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that ‘NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted.’

I was surprised to read this. Based on my experience of sails here on Earth, I had expected a solar sail to be a kind of bag with strings pulling the spaceship along, but it is actually a flat sheet on a pole, pushing the spaceship along.

another solar sail
Another Good Design

Ring sails are another option. They’re panels attached to the edge of a rotating spacecraft. The panels would have slight gaps, about one to five percent of the total area. Lines would connect the edge of one sail to the other. This might be an attractive sail design for large manned structures. The inner ring, in particular, might be made to have artificial gravity roughly equal to the gravity on the surface of Mars.

These are just some basic ideas on using solar sails to get from start to star. This blog goes into a lot more, and fascinating, detail as it describers the spaceship from Avatar. I’ve decided to have a circular sail, and have dual command modules on rotating spars, making this a very ‘hard science’ type of spaceship. Here’s the first render. The first of many.

Blender render of spaceship mesh with solarsail
First render of the ‘Solar Driter’

 

 

 

 

Spaceship Deck Plans with GIMP

Today I’m working on deck plans for the Silver Dart. When it’s complete, the new spaceship will be the star of the latest spaceship supplement from Starbright, like this one at RPGDriveThru.

spaceship deck plan created with GIMP
Spaceship, with a grid

I wanted to add a scale to the image, and that meant drawing a grid of lines on the background.This can be done directly in Blender, but I decided to put it on the render afterwards, using GIMP.

I couldn’t find a grid command in GIMP, however, so I had to go a-Googling. It didn’t take long to find the answer to my, ‘where’s the grid command?’ blues. I found this simple info page, which pointed me in the right direction.

The answer is: Click “Filters | Render | Pattern | Grid.”

As I work on the deck plan for the new spaceship, I try as much as possible to be influenced by the plans of real modern yachts. I also want to allow the spaceship to be big, to enable it to contain all the interior areas.

The great thing about working with Blender is that the deck plans can be created there, with the spaceship mesh to work from as reference, and with human figures for scale.

It’s a way of working that results in very credible deck plans, rather than the ‘castle in space’ kind you often see that wouldn’t even fit within the outline of the spaceship, never mind being to scale. Though this is a common an hounourable problem, that even effects the Millennium Falcon. This from Wookieepedia.

Like many science fiction spacecraft, the Falcon’s interior sets cannot actually physically fit within the exterior sets. Subsequent Expanded Universe plans are consequently a compromise attempt at squeezing the interiors in (often with detriment to headroom). These compromise plans often also result in the Falcon having rather small engines for a ship considered notable for its speed.

Landing Pad for Spaceship Illustration

spaceship on landing pad
Spaceship on Landing Pad

With this render, the inspiration behind my latest spaceship is probably becoming painfully obvious. Yes it is very ‘Falconesque’, but hopefully different enough to forestall any copyright entanglements. There is, in my defence, a long tradition of being inspired by the Falcon within Sci-fi. See the Scorpio from Blakes 7, to take just one example.  The Falcon itself, of course, has many inspirations. It is basically a marriage between a B-29, as explained on Blastr, and a flying saucer. It’s saucer origins are more obvious in shots of the spaceship while only half complete. In this semi-complete state it looks like the saucer from The Day the Earth Stood Still.

When it’s complete, the new spaceship will be the star of the latest spaceship supplement from Starbright, like this one at RPGDriveThru.

When the new versions of Star Wars with improved special effects were being released, one of the more essential expansions was when the Millennium Falcon first arrives at Cloud City. ILM inserted several new shots, including the Falcon as it soars through a corridor of buildings towards the horizon. Then, as the freighter disappears behind a building, there is a cut to a new shot of the Falcon heading around the building towards camera and settling over the landing pad. During that 10-second scene, almost a quarter of Cloud City comes into view.

It’s a wonderful sequence, and the Falcon looks good on a landing pad with landing gear down. So I thought it would be nice to have a shot of the new spaceship I’m working on, on a landing pad.

The landing pad is also very directly inspired by the pads at Cloud City, which were in turn inspired by any number of landing pads that had gone before.  Like this one from 1955 that I found at Fantastic Plastic.

detail of 50s plastic mode landing pad
50s Landing Pad

 

New Site for Space Backgrounds

I’ve found a new site for the spacescapes I use as backgrounds for my spaceship models. It’s called Astropix. on their FAQ page, they say –

Most of the images are available for general use, but the details vary institution by institution. We ask that you read the “Rights” section on each image.

So, as long as I check the release on each image I should be OK to use them. This nebula, for example, comes from the Hubble, with a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. So let’s quickly credit them;

Creator: ESA/Hubble, Garching bei München, Germany

Now we can use the image.

Hubble galaxy image
Trifid Galaxy, with black boxes

Three huge intersecting dark lanes of interstellar dust make the Trifid Nebula one of the most recognizable and striking star birth regions in the night sky. The dust, silhouetted against glowing gas and illuminated by starlight, cradles the bright stars at the heart of the Trifid. It lies within our own Milky Way Galaxy about 9,000 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Sagittarius. This image is a close-up view of the centre of the Trifid Nebula, near the intersection of the dust bands, where a group of recently formed, massive, bright stars is easily visible.

Because of the black squares, I had to chop it up a bit for use as the background to a spaceship render. I used GIMP for this. Although I also have access to Photoshop, I rarely find myself bothering with it. So now our galaxy picture looks like this.

cropped image of the trifid galaxy
Cropped Galaxy Picture

Now all I have to do is use it as the background to my spaceship render. I found a nice blog post explaining how to use a photo as a Blender background. It’s changed since version 2.5, which most of the stuff Google finds refers to. Google seems to like old websites, I guess because it thinks it can more likely trust them. This isn’t so great for often updated stuff like Blender, where there have been a lot of changes recently.

spaceship with spacescape background
A Sea of Stars

Now the spaceship lighting looks way too bright, and there still aren’t anywhere near enough greebles. The work goes ever onwards.

When it’s complete, the new spaceship will be the star of the latest spaceship supplement from Starbright, like this one at RPGDriveThru.