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The Neverhood – Such an Underrated Masterpiece

We love The Neverhood, it’s been one of the most underrated games and creative masterpieces of the ’90s. It was a full stop motion production and the team put in a lot of effort to fully build this world and characters from clay (No other digital additions, pure clay!). The Neverhood was quirky, had great characters and was full of humour which can be heard in its music, style, and sequences of the game. It appears to be picking up some great traction in the community again and we’ve been seeing a lot of fanfictions (and wanted to share it with you).

Below are a few videos we’ve found, I’ve been listening to most of these on repeat the last few days, ah nostalgia:

The Neverhood Song (Southern Front Porch Verses)

OVERWHAT

Behind the Scenes – Neverhood and Skullmonkeys [Making of]

The Neverhood – making of #1

Also,not to be missed

The full soundtrack (Catchy as Heck!)

Credits to The Neverhood Creators:

Writer(s): Dale Lawrence; Mark Lorenzen; Doug TenNapel
Composer: Terry Scott Taylor
Developers: The Neverhood, DICE Los Angeles, Riverhillsoft
Designers: Doug TenNapel, Mark Lorenzen

Some extra info on how they started

“Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Interactive, which had recently started, needed fresh and unusual projects and TenNapel approached Spielberg with the idea of a claymation game, with Spielberg accepting it for publication.[2] The Neverhood, Inc. made a deal with DreamWorks Interactive and Microsoft, and the game went for development. According to the developers, creating the game’s characters and scenery used up over three tons of clay.”-Wikipedia

Interview with a lens-cowboy.

Interview with a lens-cowboy.

This is one of my favourite interviews so far and I have literally been waiting for a stable internet to upload this one.

 

We feature VFX legend, Bradley Stilwell. I met Bradley at Knead in Kloof a couple of years ago and he really gave me a lot of good things to think about over the conversations we had.

 

He’s also been a great inspiration to my personal work and today, you get to read about this amazing man.

Now, not to name drop, but…

This awesome man has worked on titles like Lego Batman, Ninjago, Hotel Mumbai, Mad Max Fury Road, Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Gahoole and Black Sails.

 

So without geeking out too much about what Bradley has worked on, let’s get into the article and learn more about this man’s journey so far.

Do you have a specific art piece you are fond of and why?

There is a great deal of art I enjoy but some of my favourites include Rodin’s the Kiss & Winged Victory at the Louvre. I guess I have a thing for wings.

My favourite painters are John Singer-Sergeant, Alphonse Mucha, Klimt, Seurat, Picasso, Goya, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec and others too numerous to mention here. I had an amazing trip to Barcelona and
fell in love with the work of Gaudi as well. In addition I love comic art so have plenty of contemporary artists that influenced me as a youngster growing up without even realising it: https://www.widewalls.ch/comic-book-artists-popular-culture/

 

There is a lot of great digital comtemporary work that I like too. One just has to check out Artstation.com. I’m currently loving Paul Chadiesson and Jama Jurabaev’s work. Very Inspiring.

 

What is your favourite element about your work? Why?

Three things: Story, technology and people. It’s the convergence of these three things that make my work a joy. I love working with creative people. They inspire me, challenge me and bring a colour and variety to my work that I just love!

 

When did you realize this is something you would want to do fulltime?

I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker, since high school. Fate directed me to post-production but the love of film and story still lies at the heart of what I do. I still have dreams of being the next Spielberg. I can’t see myself doing anything else really.

What is your favourite pastime outside art?

My family is my greatest love so they get most of my time. But when I get the time i enjoy cycling, gym, travel, the ocean or a good movie with my wife. I also love South Africa especially Cape Town so as a family we often visit town around the Cape. It’s really is a special place.

 

If you had all the time in the world and unlimited financial means – would you create the same art you create today?  Or would you create something different?

Good question. To think what we could create with unlimited resources!
I guess there are a lot of things that I would create if I had the means to produce them, but some of the most exciting creative experiences, for me, have been using whats at my disposal to the best of my ability, even if the materials are meager. So to answer the question, yes I probably would create something grander but i think I would still enjoy the creative journey just as much as I have to date.

 

What has been your biggest stumbling block in your journey, and how did you overcome that obstacle?

My biggest regret is holding back, not making the most of the time I had in my twenties. I was cocky and, like most young people, sure I had all the time in the world. I grew up in the old SA and I always felt like places like Hollywood just weren’t for kids like me. I think that’s another tragic consequence of the Apartheid era: shackled beliefs. I sometimes get given the opportunity to talk to young students and the one thing I try to impress on them is to never hold back! Just go for it! Time flies and every day is a chance to realise your dreams! Apply for that job at Lucasfilm or Weta or Pixar or whatever!
I also wasted a lot of my time and energy in nightclubs, getting drunk, doing drugs and getting caught up in the wrong crowd. Don’t do it! The first thing to go will be your professional reputation and your career. Shortly thereafter, your sanity, followed by your life. Save yourself the trouble. Rather spend your money on popcorn and movies.

 

How do you avoid burning out?

The film industry is a marathon, and it requires stamina, especially long form work. You can be the fastest, you might even be the best, but on large, complex, highly collaborative projects, I feel the person consistently producing reliable, predictable, quality work, will be not only the most sought after, but also the happiest. Ironically these people often turn out to be some of the best at their craft.
So make a life of it. Don’t overwork. Go home to be with your family or friends at the end of the day. Eat well. Sleep well. Do plenty of exercise or sport. Find enjoyment in areas outside work. Whatever brings a healthy balance to your life. Move away from the computer regularly. It’s not going anywhere!

 

What’s your favourite show to watch?

I’m currently watching 12 monkeys on Netflix and The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair on Showmax. I like a sci-fi and fantasy but my wife doesn’t. This is a good thing. In meeting her halfway I’ve been introduced to a lot of shows I wouldn’t otherwise see. Like good rom-coms!

How would you describe the work you do, to someone outside of the creative industry?

These days I simply call myself a digital artist or a VFX supervisor. If somebody pushes me for more info I can get into details quite passionately. I love what I do but I often have to stop myself when I catch them staring at me glassy eyed scanning the room for a refill. Then I quickly sum up by saying those two magic words: ‘Pixar Films’. If somebody’s in finance then I stop at ‘digital artist’.

What has been your most frustrating moment in your career, working on something, where you just put everything down and left the room?

I have made a point of never walking off a job. I have come close and I have dropped the ball many times but I have never stormed off a job. There was a recent project that saw me crack and lose it with somebody but I will always regret it. Once that’s out it can’t be taken back. However it’s not an easy industry, especially when large budgets are involved and jobs are running over. I try to learn from those experiences and hope that others will cut me some slack for my shortcomings.

 

How did you overcome this frustration to be able to return to the work?

The great thing about this industry is that people are very open-minded. We’ve all been there: bad day, trouble at home, feeling like a failure. The important thing to remember is that we’re not the only ones who feel like this at times. Most of the time it’s a simple matter of sitting down and having a good honest heart to heart. 90% of the time it’s a simple communication issue. People are incredibly gracious if you give them the chance. (They won’t be if you insist on being a dick though.)

On the other hand, after taking time to weigh up all factors, one might have to make the decision to move on. There are times when I realised that the project has run it’s course or that perhaps this particular work culture just isn’t for me. I believe it’s a mistake to expect each and every experience to produce a golden result. Don’t jump from one ship to another too often but don’t be afraid to have the confidence to value yourself enough to stand up and walk out if you feel you being genuinely compromised. As a younger man I made this mistake. It cost me dearly and I won’t do it again. You’re nobodies doormat.

 

If you could go anywhere in the world, on an all-expenses paid trip, where would you go?

Italy. I have never been but my wife has. It’s my eat, love, pray. Art, food, history, romance… they all seem to converge in Italy. One day… 😉

 

Every artist of any kind should make at least one trip to the Louvre in Paris.

 

What helps you to stay motivated when you feel depleted and you really need to meet a deadline?

Money! Make sure you get paid. I worked for free as a young man and it is so counter-productive. Don’t do it young people! You will never do your best work for free, unless it’s for yourself of course.
Other than that, make sure you believe in the project. We often have to take work without knowing what the film or series will be about but if you can try to land jobs that you agree with, that you believe in, then you will put your heart and soul into it, and the work will sing. It’s very disheartening to findout halfway through a project that it’s a personal or moral compromise.

What would you say is the most important thing an artist should do, when they approach you for portfolio feedback?

 

In terms of film and animation, I find lighting and colour the two things that can help a project most. If you spend some time on Artstation you will quickly discover that simple mastery of these two arcane disciplines are what set the men apart from the boys.
The greatest take-away from my time spent at Animal Logic was the countless hours spent in dailies with Craig Welsh and Grant Freckleton. I wouldn’t be a fraction of the artist I am today without them, and I am still only scratching the surface.

 

What do you think, is the most important discipline to develop that will help carry you in any of the career paths available to you?

 

That’s a life lesson in one question right there!
As I grow older I feel it’s becoming more important to be patient and tolerant with people. I think I feel this way because I suck at it! But my wife and kids, and my experiences with the many wonderful people I have worked with, have revealed to me that if I can grow in this regard, then it’s a good thing. It’s ironic that it’s not those I’m being tolerant with that stand to benefit most. That would be me.

As I move into more into supervising and directing, I think this is a key to successful team building. Is this not what collaborating is all about? It’s also a huge challenge for me, so stay tuned. 🙂

 

Where can we follow you online?

www.bradleystilwell.com and www.lenscowboy.com

 

Artist Interview Ben Winfield

Artist Interview Ben Winfield

We have a rather special interview today in the sense that this specific artist is one of those who you meet at a bar and you think, wow this guy is really cool… until he shows you his artwork and your first thoughts go to “WHAT THE HELL!? WHY HAVE I NEVER SEEN YOUR WORK?! IT’S AMAZEBALLS!”

I met Ben at the CTIAF a few years back and had the privilege of hosting a panel discussion with him and two other artists, Caroline Vos and Remi Abrahams, about Digital Colouring. It was a good discussion and we had a packed room.

Well, now we also have an interview with him and this is where we dive right into the meat of things.

Do you have a specific art piece you are fond of and why?

 

No one piece really, but there are a couple that I am happy with how they turned out. I would say those are the Medieval Stormtrooper, Skull Knight, and the Biker Gramps dude. For the stormtrooper, it was the marrying of two themes together which I think worked well. For the Skull Knight it was getting the metal and atmosphere right that I enjoyed. There is always something that can be learnt from each piece.

 

What is your favourite element about your work? Why?

 

I definitely do enjoy light. There is a lot of theory there that is interesting and there is always a lot to learn in that regard. I love doing line work as well, but I feel more free when I do digital painting.

 

How did you find your way into this field?

 

After I received my degree in Fine Art in 2010 my first job was for a travel accessories brand in Rome designing pens and wallets. From there in early 2012 I began working in video editing and educational videos back in Cape Town, all the while practicing my digital painting. Then one day in 2014, Caroline Vos approached me to ask if I would be interested in helping out as an intern on a project that she was busy working on. When I came into the studio it turned out to be Shy The Sun and they were working on an animation for Riot Games called The Curse of the Sad Mummy. After the project ended I kept up my relationship with the studio and at the beginning of 2016 I was hired to work full-time for them.

 

When did you realize this is something you would want to do full-time?

 

I knew I wanted to be a concept artist back in 2003 when I was still in high school. I didn’t know how to get there, so I studied fine art at the Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town. However, once I had graduated I realised that I had lost focus on what I wanted to do with my art so in mid 2011, I began teaching myself digital painting with an aim to be hired as a concept artist or illustrator one day.

What is your favourite pastime outside art?

There isn’t much time outside of art as my hobby is also practicing art and doing tutorials, but I am very much into running. I’ve entered a number of marathons and ultra-marathons over the years, with my highlight being the 75km PUFfeR that I ran in 2017.

 

If you had all the time in the world and unlimited financial means – would you create the same art you create today?  Or would you create something different?

 

I have thought about this before, and I would like to think that I would still make art. However, I would definitely focus more on developing my own fantasy worlds and ideas.

 

What has been your biggest stumbling block in your journey, and how did you overcome that obstacle?

 

I would say it is the desire to be better right now. That I need to acknowledge that growth takes time, and that getting better in art is not something that happens over night.

The other is being inundated with so much amazing art online. There are a lot of crazy good artists out there that it can be demotivating. However, the trick is to see the skill and growth in other artists as a way to motivate yourself and your own artistic practice.

 

How do you avoid burning out?

 

I haven’t experienced burnout per se, but if I am on the same project for a long period of time it can be difficult to stay motivated. Especially if it’s a project you don’t really enjoy. I think it’s good to always have different projects going at the same time so you can jump between them and to stay fresh. This also helps when one has one’s own personal projects that can be worked on as a way to stay motivated.

Doing exercise, and making sure that I spend time hanging out with family and friends is also a good way to avoid burning out.

 

What’s your favourite show to watch?

 

I’ve watched True Detective season 1 quite a number of times, and it’s great to have playing in the background whilst I work. The Wire is also really great.

How would you describe the work you do, to someone outside of the creative industry?

 

To set the scene. I sit at a desk and work on a Cintiq 27QHD which is essentially a computer monitor that you can draw directly onto with a stylus. In terms of my work, there are a number of different things I do, but I mainly get to use my imagination to visually develop the ideas from a client’s imagination, or lack thereof. This can include developing and digitally painting characters, environments, and assets to be used in developing animation or video games.

 

What has been your most frustrating moment in your career, working on something, where you just put everything down and left the room?

 

I’ve luckily never experienced something so dramatic as that. There are moments though where I’ve wanted to pull my hair out with ridiculous client requests, or doing hundreds of changes or iterations on the same design.

 

How did you overcome this frustration to be able to return to the work?

 

Unfortunately when you’re paid a salary you have to come back to work the next day. This is actually helpful because if you say you’re stepping away from a project at say 6 pm, it allows you to come back the following day hopefully fresher and less frustrated. Going for a run is also helpful. After work though haha.

 

If you could go anywhere in the world, on an all-expenses paid trip, where would you go?

 

Somewhere with an incredible landscape. The Patagonian region in South America looks like it could be amazing. Iceland looks like it could be beautiful to visit as well.

 

What helps you to stay motivated when you feel depleted and you really need to meet a deadline?

 

Taking a break from the computer helps. Going outside for a run is also good. I do try plan my deadlines so that I don’t get to a place where I have to work all night. So setting realistic deadlines is a good idea.

 

What would you say is the most important thing an artist should do, when they approach you for portfolio feedback?

 

Firstly, one has to be open to criticism and feedback. This is key. If you aren’t willing to hear someone’s advice, then you shouldn’t be asking for it.

Have an idea as to what you are struggling with, and where you would like to improve. Everyone has different goals artistically that they’re aiming for so this is helpful when providing feedback. For example I am interested in imaginative realism, so I like to focus on realistic lighting and rendering, but I still need to have an understanding of anatomy.

 

What do you think, is the most important discipline to develop that will help carry you in any of the career paths available to you?

 

Always be willing to grow and improve in your practice and being open to change.

 

 

Where can we follow you online?

Instagram: https://instagram.com/ben.winfield

Website: http://benwinfield.com

Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/benwinfield

ArtStation: https://www.artstation.com/benwinfield

Twitter: https://twitter.com/benwinfieldart

Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/benwinfieldart

Email: ben@benwinfield.com

10 Best Digital Notepads of 2019

10 Best Digital Notepads of 2019

If you’re anything like us at Pixelsmith, you’re a hands-on kinda person who likes to be able to work, sketch, jot notes and plan in a natural manner – but still be able to organise and store everything digitally. Until a few years ago, this wasn’t really possible, or at least not ideal. Now, however, we’ve been proverbially saved by digital/electronic notepads.

Coming in all different shapes, sizes and mechanisms, these notepads are a fairly new innovation on the tech scene that’s starting to catch on and see some interesting and innovative variations. These notepads serve all kinds of functions from direct to digital notes, sketches that you can store both on paper and digitally, and even screens that feel and bend like paper. The possibilities are simply endless.

We’ve put together this guide to our ten favourite digital notepads of the year, all with their own pros and cons and special nifty features. We’ve chosen some top picks, compared them all by size, price, and features, and reviewed each one individually with their pros and cons so you can find the best digital notebooks for you.

Best Digital Notepad for Sketches

Unsurprisingly, Wacom’s Bamboo Slate comes in on top when we’re looking at digital notepads for sketching. It’s responsive and accurate in terms of pen strokes and sketching style and is one of the perfect ways to begin your creative process by hand, and easily transfer it to the digital workspace.

Following Wacom’s long history of making great tablets, pads and various styles of digital sketching devices, the Bamboo Slate keeps this trend of quality products from Wacom going.

Our Favourite Digital Writing Pad

The RoWrite Smart Writing Pad is our top pick for a digital note-taking pad. It’s straightforward and easy to use, when paired with an Android or iOS device via Bluetooth, all your notes or sketches show up immediately in real time, where you can edit or adjust them.

This is a great way of organising and storing your writing while still being able to jot down notes by hand. In addition, when not paired the tablet stores everything you write internally so you can transfer, edit and organise it later.

Best Electronic Notepad Pen of 2019

The Moleskine Pen+ is a pretty innovative creation from one of the most common household names in ‘analog’ notepads. Featuring a design that doesn’t look all that different from the original Moleskine pens which clip onto the covers of their notebooks, the Pen+ Ellipse is a technological advancement like no other.

It has an infrared camera alongside the pen tip allowing for it to trace and track all of your notes, sketches and drawings. These can then be transferred to your device either live or when whenever you’re ready to connect. The ink tip in the pen is simple, tiny and replaceable, and the pen itself also has a comfortable triangle shape. In addition, it comes together with one of the best digital notebooks we could find.

Best Digital Notebooks Compared

Top Digital Notepad Reviews

These are our favourite digital notepads in no particular order. You’ll notice they each have a handy short list of their main attributes or focuses, as well as a pros and cons list underneath each product. This should help you get an idea of each tablet at a glance.

reMarkable Paper Tablet Review

Pros
  • Always Synced
  • Built to be Distraction Free
  • Anti-glare easy readability
  • Feels like a pen and paper
Cons
  • Pen tips need to be replaced frequently
  • Pen isn’t pressure sensitive
  • Price doesn’t quite match up with features

The reMarkable Paper Tablet is one of the most interesting and innovative takes on a digital tablet we could find, and stuck out to us for this very reason. While it’s got a very high price point compared to all the other devices we reviewed, nothing felt quite like the paper tablet when it came to a balance between functionality and niftiness.

The display is large and sunlight-friendly, and uses CANVAS technology to produce a display somewhere between that of a Kindle and a piece of paper. It’s made for writing, reading and sketching, allowing you to import and export PDFs, eBooks, notes and doodles via WiFi capability.

It can convert handwritten notes to typed text, sync over wifi, and without a backlight or a glass screen, it’s very easy to read and use for long periods of time in various kinds of lighting and brightness. You can also share your notes via email, or annotate your PDFs by hand, saving them with your notes written on top. Of course, since we’re in the modern age, as soon as a note is saved to your Paper Tablet, it’s available via the cloud on all devices you have synced.

  • $$$
  • 10.3” CANVAS Display
  • Global Sync
Click to Check Price on Amazon

Wacom Bamboo Slate Smartpad Review

Pros
  • Incredibly accurate tracking
  • Good battery life
  • Strong functionality in terms of cloud and export
Cons
  • None we could find

Wacom is well known for their digital drawing tablets, both those with and without screens. They’re the leader in this field, with most professionals working with drawing tablets using Wacom products near exclusively. With the Bamboo Slate Smartpad, Wacom haven’t stopped short of their usual excellence even in their venture into this new field.

The slate itself, underneath your drawing or writing pad, is the mechanical factor here in conjunction with the pen. You simply place your pad and draw or write as you usually would, and the Slate uses electromagnetic tracking and pressure sensitivity to record your movements and super accurately reflect them on your synced devices. It’s a nice balance of working digitally, yet still with analog tools that you’re familiar and comfortable with.

The Bamboo Slate Smartpad is aimed to be a creative tool more than anything else. How you use it creatively, however, is totally up to you. The app is great for handwriting to text transcription, accessing your saved notes on the cloud, and great search functionality. In addition, you can export any of your notes to a number of file formats for different graphics and design software.

  • $$
  • Great Build Quality
  • One of the most trusted tablet brands
Check Price

RoWrite Smart Writing Pad Review

Pros
  • Live view
  • Great colour and style pen options
  • Carry folio is well designed
  • Good price point
Cons
  • Paper refills have to be the exact dimensions or official RoWrite paper
  • Battery life could be better

The RoWrite Smart Writing Pad is a really hot contender behind the Bamboo Slate, almost like it’s younger sibling. It serves all the same functionality, with a few slight differences, at a better price point, yet not from a titan brand.

Again, the pen uses regular ink for you to sketch and take notes as you please, but uses pressure sensitivity to digitally capture everything you do. It also comes with handwriting-to-text transcription tools, a host of pen styles, thicknesses and colours, and strangely enough, captures video of all your strokes. The reason for this feature is unclear, but we thought it could be useful if you’re creating tutorials or other video content using this tablet as a medium.

As with the Slate, the Smart Writing Pad allows you to sync to the app when you wish (until this point, all notes are stored in the app, ready to sync and edit), and also offers live viewing so you can watch what you’re writing or drawing live, in the editing app – once again a feature handy for tutors. It’s great for use in the office or at school, but even better just to have as a creative tool in your arsenal, especially if you’re someone who’s a digital content creator.

  • $$
  • Live tracking view on synced devices
  • Great selection of pen style and shape tools
Check Price

Boogie Board Writing Tablet Review

Pros
  • Simple, functional
  • Sleek design
  • Connect to PC via USB Cable
Cons
  • Contrast isn’t as strong as other Boogie Boards
  • No undo for mistakes

The Boogie Board Writing Tablet is a little step back from the digital notepads we’ve already looked at in terms of its aims. It’s meant to be simple and straightforward – you take notes, you share them onto your device if you need, and you start another note.

We’d imagine it would fit best as part of a classroom, or teaching program, or for use on-site in various professions in place of a simple analog notepad. It’s got a slick black display with bright, light writing making it easy to read in any environment, and your notes can be shared via Evernote, or to your device via Bluetooth.

With a battery the lasts for up to five days, a sturdy, child-friendly build and small form factor it makes for easy transporting, allowing you to easily take it wherever you need to go. It also has handwriting recognition when saved to Evernote. It’s a simple eWriter, but a good one, and if you’re looking for something simple then this is likely the one for you.

  • $$
  • Simple and functional
  • Great for kids
  • 9.7” Display
Check Price

Rocketbook Everlast Reusable Notebook Review

Pros
  • Super lightweight
  • No frills
  • One of the cheaper digital notepads out there
Cons
  • No sync options – camera scan only
  • Frixion pens don’t work as well as standard pens with the Everlast

The Everlast notebook from Rocketbook is a hot take on digital writing tablets. It comes in at an incredible price point, and of course sacrifices some functionality for the price, however, Rocketbook have found great workarounds to a lot of these issues.

It uses a combination of a Frixion erasable pen, and a phone app for scanning pages. Once you’ve drawn or written your notes to completion, scan them into the app and wipe the page clean with the included cloth – pretty neat. Each page also has seven different symbols along the bottom, which you can assign to apps like Drive, Email, Evernote or Slack. A simple selection of one of these symbols instantly sends your current note to the desired destination.

You can, however, use any pens (including colour) in this notebook, making it great for the creative on the go. If you’re looking for a quick and cheap way to take notes by hand and store them digitally, then this is the one for you. It’s not terribly fancy or finicky, but very effective and useful for what it does.

  • $
  • Looks like a standard ring bound notebook
  • A4, A5 and Mini size options
Check Price

iskn The Slate 2+ Review

Pros
  • Use any pen or pencil
  • Works with any paper you desire
  • Doubles as a drawing tablet
Cons
  • Calibration can cause issues
  • Some customers felt the stylus was too sensitive

The Slate 2+ is a pretty standard take on digital notepads and falls somewhere between the Everlast and SmartPad in terms of how it works. It’s got great reviews and seems quite popular among artists, more so than those looking for the best digital paper tablet for the office or school, at least.

It’s a sturdily built tablet that works with all your own pens and pencils, not requiring any fancy digital pen to use it with. It takes paper up to 0.27” in thickness, which you clip in and align, and simply go ahead and draw on.

You can use the Bluetooth sync or USB cable on the Slate 2 to then sync it to your computer or personal device, to watch and edit your creations in real time. You can also use it standalone and sync your creations at a later stage, or use it with a stylus as a regular drawing tablet with Photoshop, Illustrator, and other similar programs.

The battery lasts for around 7 hours, and the Imagink app that it comes with offers a great selection of different artsy tools for drawing whatever you desire. It’s a great choice for those with a focus on art and design, and will easily find its place in your regular creative setup as it’s incredibly versatile, with functionality that can be tailored to your personal needs.

  • $$$
  • Doubles as a standard drawing tablet
  • Great for drawing
Check Price

Moleskine Pen+ Smart Writing Set Review

Pros
  • Great quality pen and paper
  • Very cool and innovative tech
  • Moleskine Notes app is quality
  • Ncode paper can be replicated and bypassed
Cons
  • Pen is just a rebranded Neo Smartpen

So, as we previously mentioned, the Moleskine Pen+ works in two parts with the pen forming one, and their smart notebook forming the other. This means you can’t effectively use either of them independently, but together the set is a quality piece of innovative electronic notepad tech.

When writing or drawing, the pen uses an infrared sensor to detect movements across the dotted Ncoded paper in the diary. When synced with the Moleskine Notes app, you can transfer all your notes and sketches to organise and edit them digitally. There are handwriting to text transcription features, colour editing options and more, all stored on the app.

Your strokes can also be paired with real-time audio, again making this a great tool to use for instructional or tutorial purposes. It’s also easy to export and share your notes as PDFs, images, vectors or text files, although it’s probably still best used as a fun creative tool and a breakaway from solely using digital or analog for these kinds of purposes.

  • $$$
  • Size and shape of a regular Moleskine
  • High price point
Check Price

Newyes Robot Pad Review

Pros
  • Simple, straightforward
  • Child-friendly
Cons
  • Limited Functionality

The Robot Pad from Newyes is essentially just a digital whiteboard. It’s got one-use note functionality, meaning that it doesn’t store your notes anywhere, nor sync them, but simply is a place to write things down, then erase and repeat. In many ways, it’s like the Boogie Board only in a simpler form.

It’s super thin and weighs nearly nothing, allowing for easy carry and use on the go (ie. for shopping lists, or something for kids to draw on in a restaurant), and comes with two big magnets on the back so you can attach it to a fridge.

It’s plain and simple, with no frills, and isn’t really a work or productivity focused tool. It would be best used simply as a digital whiteboard, or as something for children to sketch on in car rides or on an airplane. You could even use it for notes at a talk or something similar, although be warned – the erase button clears everything, so don’t write anything important on it that you might forget!

  • $
  • Simple memo pad
  • No sync, export or save options
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Rocketbook Wave Smart Notebook Review

Pros
  • Microwaveable
  • Great partner app
Cons
  • Limited Reuse
  • Pretty simple overall

The Rocketbook Wave is an interesting variation on their Everlast notebook. While not fully reusable, like the Everlast is, its mechanisms still piqued our interest and we felt it deserved a place on this list. This was not only because of the name brand, but also because it seems like some of the tech in this electronic note pad could serve interesting uses in the future.

Unlike the Everlast, it’s not fully reusable – the manufacturers say it’s got a realistic 5-20 reuses available, depending on a number of factors. It also uses a Frixion erasable pen, and similar smart note syncing functionality (complete with the app designated smart sending), and has 80 pages each with a dot grid pattern, and a QR code which tells the app the page number. Like the Everlast, there is no sync, but rather a page scanning via camera feature.

The microwave feature is the most interesting part though. To clear the notebook, simply pop it into the microwave until the pages appear blank. This heat sensitive technology isn’t particularly groundbreaking nor special, however, it’s a very interesting use of it and we’d be interested to see where Rocketbook takes it in the future.

  • $
  • Not fully reusable
  • Microwaveable (?)
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Elfinbook Everlast Smart Notebook 2.0 Review

Pros
  • Reusable up to 500 times
  • Fantastic Price
Cons
  • No sync functions
  • Partner App needs improvement

The Elfinbook Everlast is your replacement option on a budget for the Rocketbook Everlast. It’s just about identical in how it works, and how it looks and feels, from the erasable Frixion pen to the scan-only, sync-free functionality.

Half the pages are lined, and half blank making it ideal for a bit-of-both approach to drawing and taking notes, however, it can be hard to open or turn pages due to the tight ring binding on the side. It also wipes clean with a damp cloth, although one isn’t included in the package so you’ll have to prepare your own ahead of time.

The scanning itself is pretty accurate, and while this is really nothing special, it’s still a decent quality product that works and described, and will serve its basic function. We’d personally recommend the Rocketbook product more, however, if you’re on a tight budget then this is the better choice.

  • $
  • Erasable Pen
  • No sync, Camera Scan only
Check Price

Digital Note Pad Buyer’s Guide

After writing these reviews, we decided to put together a short guide on what to look out for when shopping for a digital notepad.

More than just an electronic notebook with a pen, you’re going to want something that not only works for you in terms of what you’re going to use it for, but it helps if the technology helps teach you to work in new ways that you might not have otherwise discovered.

Firstly, you’ll want to check if it has sync capabilities. If you’re a creative, artsy tech head like we are, you’re going to want a notepad that has a simple sync function, so you can either move your notes onto a device to edit and share, or store them on the cloud without fear of losing them.

Secondly, and quite an overlooked factor, is the pen itself. It’s important that you look at the measurements and dimensions of the included pen to make sure it’s going to be something you can use comfortably without having to really adjust to the size and shape of it (especially when you’re using a pen in a new and innovative way).

A good way to do this is to go to an art shop, find the pen or pencil most comfortable for you and write down the measurements – other than this, you could just pick one of the tablets which allow you to use your own pencil.

Lastly, always remember to check the dimensions of your tablet. It’s easy to think it looks bigger, or smaller, than it really is. This could lead to issues, either with you being disappointed by how small your digital notepad is; or buying one that’s too cumbersome to be effectively portable.

Conclusion

You’ve now got a nice variety of options at various price points, all with different features and extras, to choose from.

If you’re still undecided, we’d recommend either the Wacom Bamboo Slate or Rocketbook Everlast. We felt these were the two best-made and most functional digital notebooks without too many frills that you’re paying an arm and a leg for.

Please do send us over some of your creations from these nifty little devices, we’d love to see what you came up with and how you found them to use!

MattePaint Academy with Conrad Allan

MattePaint Academy with Conrad Allan

Sometimes we watch a film and we see an environment that leaves us wondering whether that background was painted or if they built it in real life. In most cases, those sets would have been digitally done up because building that equivalent in real life, would have cost far more than fronting the bill to pay an artist or studio to do a digital version.

This is why Digital Matte Painting is such a valuable skill to have in your toolbox, or if you’d like, you can specialise in it.

To understand the significance of why this skill is so widely used today, we can take a few steps back to where it comes form and take a look at a few examples of it in well known films.

 

In the EARLY days of Matte Painting artists would paint on a sheet of glass while the image was aligned to a locked down camera and after that, it just evolved into what we know today. Yes, I did skip a lot of canon because this isn’t a history lesson.

Some of the most well known examples of matte paintings, can be seen here:
https://www.toolbox-studio.com/blog/10-great-matte-paintings-that-have-changed-the-way-we-see-movies/

 

Apart from that, I’m not going to keep you with more fluff, I’m just as anxious to read and find out about the MattePaint Academy, from the team who brought you MattePaint. Those of you that know me, know that I am also like to crack my hand on an attempt at a matte painting now and then, but I would like to do more of them.

 

Also, I get distracted very easily and… SQUIRREL!

 

Okay, okay… back to topic.

Example of an image completed in the MattePaint Academy

So, The MattePaint Academy is an added bonus in the form of self-driven, online based learning resource for digital artists looking to learn the art of Digital Matte Painting basics, but to emphasise, this is a free bonus you get with a monthly membership to MattePaint.com to download images so it’s a perfect companion for a learning artist.

Most of the academy consists of you setting your own goals and projects and you learn from the team who are part of the closed group on Facebook. You will work with awesome artists like Conrad Allan, the Co-Founder of Matte Paint and there are multiple avenues for you to explore in getting started.

Wai Kin Lam

Apart from just being there in the group and siphoning off the other group members, learning new techniques and levelling up your skill level, the academy is also working day and night to enhance their offering to you as a member of Matte Paint Academy.

Some of these include:

  • Paint Overs of existing work, where your working files are assessed and you get feedback based on that file.
  • Mock Interviews with Conrad Allan
  • Digital Matte Painting Challenges
  • Tips and tricks for faster workflows
  • One-on-one sessions with Conrad up to an hour long! (depends on his availability)
  • Livestreams

 

They also have a Discord server for Matte Paint Academy members. As a Discord user myself, I can not emphasise the value of this setup, though I use Discord for gaming and chatting to party members… anyway, back to topic.

Balazs Petheo

For a little sample of some of the Matte Paint Academy, the guys released this tutorial for us to include in this article:

 

Caroline Sandgren – Cresent Moon Island

Some of the more nugget sized info pieces can be found in the group, where the guys will post short tutorials or little quick breakdowns for you to see.

There’s also the MattePaint Artwork guides, which are available for download without a subscription (you’ll still need a few credits). The Artwork Guides are written by users of MattePaint.com and are designed to help artists from beginner up. When you purchase a guide it includes any images and 3D renders that the artist used, has an article to accompany it and even the original PSD from the artist!

With all this being said, from my personal experience with Conrad and the team, I highly recommend subscribing. Not only because it’s as incredible resource, but because I am also busy implementing changes on my work which the Matte Paint community gave me a tonne of feedback on and my piece is better off for it!

If you can’t afford a subscription, you should at least join their free Facebook Community!