“Many elements and symbols [get] overused,” says illustrator Maciel – but he adds: “What makes something a cliché isn’t so much the element, but your usage of it.” He thinks that part of the problem is people attempting to recreate existing pieces – while this is fine for mastering techniques, true creative work incorporating an element of the artist’s personal style, and some kind of meaning or message.

Digital Arts, January 2010
cover by Ricardo Ajcivinac

Many of Photoshop’s effects can become tired, particularly when used at default settings. Fabio Sasso points out: “There’s overuse of glows and other light effects. The best way to avoid doing this is to simplify, and understand whether a style fits the need of the target audience.”

How to be good
Although Photoshop is the core of photo illustration, it won’t make great art on its own: this takes flair, inspiration, and a grasp of key art principles. This means that digital artists need a good understanding of perspective, lighting and composition – and an ability to sketch comes in handy too, particularly for creating hand-drawn elements.

Illustrator Luuk Vermeyden explains: “You can learn the basics of Photoshop in months and make good artwork. The most important skill, though, is the ability to draw: if you draw well, in a unique way, you stand out and people can’t copy your style so easily.”

Inspiration is the trickiest thing of all to come by – it’s the ever-elusive spark that makes one idea stand out from the pack. In really good Photoshop art, as in so much other creative work, the techniques are so polished that they’re all but invisible, while the concept seems to speak directly from the piece.

“Focusing on styles, effects or techniques doesn’t usually work for me,” says illustrator David Waters. “Being an artist, you see lots of work that inspires you – and particularly digitally, you see other artists doing new things. It’s all too easy to get caught up focusing on those details, but it’s always better to always let the concept drive the style and direction of your art.”

Tan Vacío, a personal work by this month’s cover artist Ricardo Ajcivinac, demonstrates the detailed real-world texturing we’ll be seeing more of in 2010.