Our best in-depth features from 2018

Sit down for long reads that took a good look into career success, millennial culture and the stories behind some amazing software and illustration triumphs.

Going in deep with the new iPad Pro. Delving into the long history of Adobe AE. Discussing the taboos of mental health and an industry closed off to the working class. Digital Arts did all these things and more this year, looking deeper into the ongoing changes of the creative industry and the tools it uses, and how one can get their foot in the industry in the first place.

We looked into detail about how certain classic TV sequences were made, the passion behind tremendous movie posters and cult homages, and equally passionate rebuttals of our social fix-addicted world. To do this we interviewed, we researched, we published thousands and thousands of words, giving more than just pictures to show you the bigger picture.

This was 2018 on Digital Arts - go in-depth into the year that was with our favourite features.

Illustrators' raw accounts of coping with mental illness

Artwork: Ben the Illustrator

An illustration survey from our friend Ben O' Brien aka Ben the Illustrator found an incredible 79 percent of 1,261 respondents said they feel anxiety or confidence issues are affecting their careers. Following these revelations, eight illustrators and Ben chose to speak unapologetically to Digital Arts about their own experiences with depression, anxiety, insomnia, bipolar disorder with psychosis and addiction.

By publishing personal accounts from illustrators, we hoped to help others in a similar position feel less alone, and hopefully wear away at the long-associated stigma of mental illness. 

Read what illustrators had to say here.

Stunning official movie posters by top illustrators

Doaly's official artwork for Baby Driver

Here we explored why film studios such as 20th Century Fox, Marvel Studios, Warner Bros and Lucasfilm are favouring illustrated social media and marketing initiatives for the promotion of films such as Star Wars, Baby Driver, Avengers, Ready Player One, Guardians of the Galaxy, Wonder Woman – the list could go on.

They’re turning to global artist collective Poster Posse – founded on its exceptional fan art and large following – for these official illustrations, which could be in the form of fine art prints, limited edition posters, collectable tickets and even exhibitions and installations, creating an exciting opportunity for illustrators to work with the franchises they love.

See the amazing posters for yourself and learn how they were made.

Game of Thrones VFX breakdowns

Rushed, plot and action-heavy – and more than a little silly in places – Season 7 of Game of Thrones concluded the other year, but the visual effects houses who worked on the series published most of their VFX breakdowns in 2018.

In this feature you'll find these breakdowns plus some behind-the-scenes films created by HBO that cover both production and post (including the series' standout battle The Loot Train Attack). You can see how specific episodes were created, long with cities, castles and of course that dragon. 

Check out the story here.

25 years of After Effects

As After Effects turns 25, Dave Simons, one of its original developers who is still at Adobe, told Neil Bennett about how they nearly went bust before it took off, and how it’s survived when so many rivals haven’t.

Find out the fascinating history here.

How to set up as a freelance illustrator

Peter Henderson's personal project, 'Hipster Coffee'

Find practical advice on whether you should go freelance straight out of university or not, managing money, how to find work and create contacts and what’s important to have on your website.

We also looked at which social media platforms you should be advertising yourself on, how to balance illustration with another full-time job and how to mentally prepare for a freelance lifestyle. An indispensable guide.

Read the full story here.

The Future of VR

While Siggraph is traditionally a conference covering animation and VFX, recent years have seen an increased focus on VR. On our trip there this year we saw a wealth of new VR headsets and ways to make the medium more engaging, with innovations powered by wind, drones and rooms with props for multiple players.

Check out the tech here.

Illustrators exploring our social media obsession

Here we featured personal projects by artists which explore our different interactions and habits with various social media platforms, and the potentially destructive role social plays in our lives, but yet how we can’t bear to be free of it.

Andrei Lacatusu (above), Sharmelan Murugiah, Paolo Beghini, Ben Fearnley and Igor Kozack explore themes of addiction, self-esteem, jealousy, searching for validation, and ego-boosting habits.

See the works here.

iPad Pro 2018 review

Following its launch in October this year, we spent over a week with the brand new iPad Pro, testing it with a wide range of professional-level art and design apps from Procreate to Affinity Designer. So did illustrators including lettering artist Ian Barnard and concept artist Rob McCallum, who gave us their thoughts in this in-depth review.

Read the review here.

How AI is powering groundbreaking plugins

Over the past five years or so, we’ve heard a lot from the likes of Adobe about how AI – or, more accurately, machine learning – will power the next-generation of creative tools. And now we’re starting to see that become a reality.

At the Siggraph animation conference in Vancouver this year, Nvidia showed off a series of plugins for Photoshop and Premiere that tap into the machine-learning capabilities of its new Turing GPU architecture and Quadro RTX hardware to make the most mundane of tasks run much more smoothly – and with less manual retouch needed afterwards.

Check out their capabilities and our verdicts in this piece.

Costa Coffee's red gets a REDesign (of sorts)

A designer needs to consider a whole array of variables when tasked with creating a brand colour toolkit, a style book from which your client can ensure colour consistency.

Speaking with acclaimed agency ODA, we learnt how they brought Costa Coffee's local and global outlets under the same uniform colour, a project which came about when the company's signature red was found to actually not be so signature across items in-store, and even on storefront signage both here and abroad.

See how ODA painted the town red for the recolouring, and how you too can create the perfect colour toolkit.

The absence of working class people in UK's creative sector

Creative and cultural industries in the UK are made up of a relatively homogenous group of people, excluding the working class and potentially less liberal-minded people from both entering its workforce and attending its creative output.

We examined the reasons behind this problem looking at results from a report from sociologists from Universities of Edinburgh and Sheffield, whom Miriam Harris interviewed for this enlightening piece.

Get the full lowdown here.

How new tech is changing the filmmaking process 

The Third Floor's Michelle Blok told Giacomo Lee this year about how VR and other new technologies are changing how previs is used on major TV shows and Hollywood movies including Mission Impossible: Fallout

With over a decade’s experience in visualisation working on Marvel blockbusters and the Star Wars universe, Michelle is the one to talk to about the changing nature of previs and techvis (aka technical previsualisation), and her comments confirm that the boundaries between film and TV production are blurring. 

Read the full story here.

New cover art for vinyl reissues

There was a lot of great vinyl artwork in 2018, and in this feature we looked at the fantastic new artwork being made for rereleases where the original artwork was out of bounds.

Speaking to top illustrators, we learned about how they brought new looks and sleeves to LP albums and 7" singles by the likes of Elliott Smith and Studio Ghibli composer Joe Hisaishi, including a chat with Japanese reissue label LAG while we were at it. 

Check out the covers and the histories behind them here.

The Balbusso Twins do Atlas Shrugged

Famed illustrating duo the Balbusso Twins talked to us about mixing Futurism with bygone Hollywood cinema for a new edition of perhaps the 20th century's most controversial novel.

We're talking about Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, as released this year in a new illustrated version by the Folio Society. Using a selection of their illustrations for the book, the Twins gave us their thoughts on the novel and their vision for it, explaining their influences and process in fascinating detail.

Read their words here.

How Akira has inspired artists for 30 years

Classic anime Akira celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, inspiring fantastic tribute projects from creators around the world such as Ash Thorp, Luca Longobardi (above) and Post Panic.

We spoke to various creators about the movie's artistic influence, and examined in-depth about how they created startling projects ranging from vinyl sleeves to CGI shorts.

Read the full story here.

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