I found this book quite by accident while browsing away an afternoon in the book store, and as I have a latent desire to learn how to draw creatures, I bought it. The volume is accompanied by a CD containing hundreds of fantasy clip art pieces. All images are simple outlines in PSD layered format and compatible with Adobe PhotoShop, Adobe PhotoShop Elements and Corel Paint Shop Pro.
The author spends the first part of the book giving a brief look back at human imagination and the need to express ourselves, going back through time to the advent of cave paintings. He follows this with a quick introduction to the file contents of the compact disc and plants the seeds in the reader's mind as to how the image files he has provided can let your imagination roam free in the world of fantasy art. The art files contain high-res files of characters, accessories and backgrounds. There is also a file folder full of low-res images for those those who may have older computers. The Characters folder contains 25 pre-drawn files of Orcs, Faeries, Ogres, Horses and more. The Accessories folder contains everything the well-equipped fantasy creature could need from hats to shoes and every weapon in between. In the Background folder, you will find 8 detailed backdrops for your fantasy art piece. As each file is layered, you can adjust elements of each image to suit yourself. You can also remove layers or copy layers over from another image file to make your own unique images based on the art provided.
Information about the art files is followed by a quick two-page briefing about the basic technology needs for creating digital art. Followed by this is a short tutorial on the PhotoShop tools you will most use for editing the images and then colouring them. Next up is a quick colour theory lesson covering Primary, Secondary and Tertiary colours along with an explanation of the colour wheel, colour opposition and balance.
Once your brief tutorials are done, the author takes the reader through the "meat and potato" sections of the book - digitally painting the pieces. He begins with the simplest form of digital painting, blocked-in colouring using the Paint Bucket Tool. Following this, the author goes through a detailed tutorial in regards to colouring and shading using the brush tool. Even those with the most basic of PhotoShop skills should be able to follow this tutorial and produce a very well done piece of artwork. Mr. Crossley also discusses the use of limited colour schemes in your characters. He explains that by using a limited scheme, the beginning artist will be able to focus more on shading and lighting while not worrying about a large myriad of colour, while the ensuing tutorial on shading and highlights brings the whole process to life. The next tutorial is how to use many of the alternative tools available in PhotoShop, such as the Image Adjustment features: Hue, Saturation, Lightness, Burn, Dodge and more. Mr. Crossley follows this lesson with one in the reflective properties of metal, so that you will be able to make your warrior's helmet and weaponry shine and appear to have more texture. He also covers this process for hair, fur and bones.
Now that he's covered all of the basics, Mr. Crossley moves on to step by step instructions on how he colours his fantasy characters as well as a lesson on speed painting, which is very difficult for beginners to master, but something I personally am almost always awed by. Mr. Crossley gives one last lesson about creating a fantasy army scene before he encourages the reader to let his or her imagination run loose with the graphics files. He explains how he personally created each graphics file, in hopes that the reader will begin creating original pieces now that the process has been explained, and he again encourages the budding artist to mix and match pieces of the files to create fantastic creatures. With this encouragement the first part of the book ends. The second half of the book is taken up with detailed information about each image file on the CD - how many layers it is, what is on each layer, and more. As a bonus, he has even included a card template, so that the reader can even create a fantasy card game or collector set.
Overall, I found this book to be very useful, and I am hoping that by practicing often with the provided graphics files, I will begin to find a way to unlock my currently limited drawing abilities and start to draw my own completely original pieces. I would recommend this book to anyone who is just beginning the process of learning to paint digitally and even to those who are a bit more experienced.