Becoming a Better Artist

An 8-week course breaking down and discussing critical knowledge, techniques, and creative approaches needed to create strong artistic foundations

Course overview Course overview

Course Overview

Create a strong foundation

Learn the basics of art as well as the subtle details in between different techniques and approaches. Rob Chang breaks down each principle, idea, theory in visual communication into an organized step by step manner. This way you can understand each layer as you go. All level artists can benefit from this discussion and become a better artist.


Course Format:   Standard
Lecture Type:   Pre-Recorded
Feedback:   Individual Recordings
Duration:   8 weeks
Assignment:   Deadlines each week
Q&A:   Once a week
Materials:   Photoshop (or equivalent) Sketchbook, Paper, Pencils, Pens, Brushes Any graphics tablet similar to the Wacom line of products, or touchscreen stylus with comparable technology and performance
Skills level:   Beginner
Prerequisites:   None

Environment design WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

What you'll learn

The more you know, the better.

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In the first week, students will learn about the heart of an image—what makes some images evocative and exciting while others uninspired and lifeless. Students will learn to understand different types of images such as visualization, decorative, straightforward and abstract narratives, and subcategories like voyeuristic, exhibitive, simple action, and cause & effect. Students will also learn the different purposes each serves, and learn to utilize the same storytelling techniques that good fiction writers use to make their images more compelling and entertaining. The complex subject of taste will also be analyzed and discussed, bringing to light both practical and philosophical issues that all artists must face during their artistic existence. Week one will also demonstrate how students can inject life and personality into images of inanimate objects and scenes containing cars, products, and interiors, thus turning sterile images of artificial objects into expressive ones with emotional resonance. To wrap up week one, Rob will bust some common myths, address typical misguided mentalities, correct popular misinformation, set the record straight about some popular controversies in the digital art community, and even demonstrate his secret weapon for preventing carpel tunnel syndrome when working very long hours repeatedly, as well as explore the importance of effective time-management and how to combat lack of motivation. Video content overview: Please note, each week's videos are supplemental and not the main focus, while the most important lessons are taught in the lecture notes, described in the 'Lecture notes content overview (text & images)' section above. -Countering eye fatigue -Going from sketch to drawing -Flexible and efficient layer organization -Effective brush settings for drawing and painting -Using appropriate brush sizes. -Importance of horizontal flip -Sketch refinement with color variants -Transform vs. Erasing -Blocking in general colors and lighting
For many artists, effective composition is something that eludes them. Week Two will cover various aspects of composition such as dividing up a space, choosing focal areas, uses of variations, selective detail, overlapping, framing, balance, repetition, diagonals, contrast, negative space, leading the eye, spatial depth...etc. In conjunction, perspective, camera angles, and focal lengths will also be explored to further enhance and strengthen students' ability to construct effective composition. Other topics also covered include accidental distractions and manipulation of the horizon, as well as how to create emotional intimacy with effective choice of composition, how to establish the desired psychic distance between the viewer and your characters, and how to create visual drama by using uncommon camera angles appropriately. Video content overview: -Maintaining layer flexibility for drastic changes -Layer security -Dealing with the "wrong layer" -Finding stray pixels -Precise shapes and edges -Visualize everything in perspective -Final phase painting demonstration
Lighting is one of the most powerful tools for establishing the mood of an image, and it is also responsible for the sense of dimensionality in images. In week three, students will be exploring the various ways to design and construct lighting setups (dramatic, soft, low key, high key, 3-point lighting, and beyond) and learn about light quality, light type, light direction, and how to utilize them to portray different types of moods and atmosphere. The relationship between light and shadow, and the complexities of ambient light and bounced light will also be covered, as well as the varying light behaviours in relation to surface properties and viewing angles, how light falloff behaves when considering distance vs. angle, and how light sources appear in various conditions. In addition, Students will learn about the deceptive values of colors and how it can make their images too flat and uninteresting, the importance of value coherency, how and when to manipulate values for stylization purposes, and how to design their images with tonal composition for maximum readability and overall coherency. Video content overview: -Blocking in fast lighting -Using gradations as foundation -Experimenting with lighting schemes -Adapting useful 3D workflow for 2D artworks -Maintaining lighting flexibility and control -Nulling lighting the easy way -How to check values -Final phase painting demonstration (continued)
Color theory is a very complex subject, and by deconstructing the technical and artistic reasons behind color choices, students will gain insight into how colors can be deployed for specific creative effects, and how to determine the appropriate colors to use in any given situation. Students will learn about color temperature, the effects of chroma, color relativity, color contrast, color emotion…etc, and the laws of physics that play a vital role in understanding the nature of colors such as mixtures of colored light sources and how various colors behave under different colored lights. In addition, students will also learn about the common mistakes that artists make when dealing with colors, how to avoid those mistakes, and how they can be bolder with colors and use them in unconventional ways to achieve unexpected and refreshing results. Video content overview: -Adding punch with colored light sources -Altering color of light sources -Simplifying colors of reference images -Selective color Changes -Altering color details -Isolated saturation -Harmonizing chaotic colors -Final phase painting demonstration (continued)
Week five will cover the topic that stomps many artists as much as colors do—the surface treatment. Students will explore important aspects of surface treatment such as how to depict weight, distance, size, and lighting with just contour lines, various painting techniques and brushwork such as bristle marks, impastos, splatters, dry brush/scumbling, stamping, washes, scribbling, etc, when to use smudging/blending and when not to, how to avoid the dreaded “smudge-a-titus” syndrome, understanding the differences between traditional mediums vs. digital and how to utilize them each effectively. Other topics includes the importance of edge dynamics, how to create textures quickly and creatively, the proper use of textures, matching brushwork to specific surface types, how to use selective detail, when to rendering against or along forms, using appropriate brush sizes for different situations, the struggle between painting smooth/clean vs. expressive brushwork, the misconception of what “speedpainting” is and isn’t, understanding brush economy and speed vs. deliberate expressiveness, and how to gauge the amount of detail an image actually needs for the purpose it serves. Video content overview: -Achieving organic, expressive lines -Hatching approaches -Differences between brush engines of 2D applications -The pros and cons of blending, and various approaches -The "clean and smooth" look vs. expressive brushwork -Effective brush marks for different surface types -Creative and effective custom brush settings -Extremely fast and effective texture painting -Texturing with photos -Determining appropriate level of detail -Dealing with foliage and hair
Week six will deal with iconic shapes, psychological and physiological analysis of expressive body language and facial expressions, the complexities of multi-layered emotions, when to exaggerate or pull back an expression/pose, and part two of the complex matter of taste that focuses on the dangers of unchecked self-indulgence. Students will also dive into the sophisticated subject of stylization and the wide range of possibilities, understanding the building blocks of visual vocabulary, and learn to create the right stylization for any given project (anime, realism, comic book, etc), as well as learn about the detriment of inappropriate stylization and the negative impact it has on intellectual properties. The matter of aesthetics will also be discussed, covering the inner workings of both masculine and feminine beauty, why many competent artists fail at depicting attractive people but do fine at everything else, and the various considerations that artists must be aware of when dealing with aesthetics such as personal biases, cultural biases, and global standards. Video content overview: -Dealing with hair and fabric -Experimenting with stylization -Final phase painting demonstration (continued)
Week seven will cover cautionary advice that will help steer students away from common pitfalls that many artists, novice or veterans alike, often fall victim to—both emotional/personal ones as well as career-related ones. Rob will also teach students how to troubleshoot their own work without always relying on external help, clarify important creative philosophies and why they matter in one’s artistic growth, and list all the critical things students must do in order to become better artists, including a comprehensive strategy guide for learning, practicing, and growing in the most effective way possible that will take anyone from total beginner all the way to advanced professional, while avoiding wasting years of precious time when using ineffective methods and being a victim of bad habits. To top week seven off, Rob will also conduct a no-holds barred Q&A session with the students, where no questions will be left unanswered—be it techniques, workflow, valuable tips & tricks of the trade, career development considerations, facing industry/office politics, dealing with clients, bosses, subordinates, and co-workers, and how to achieve personal and professional fulfillment while managing disappointments, failures, and unfulfilled goals and dreams. Video content overview: -Maximize your dynamic range -Final color tweaks -Effective sharpening -Use composite layers -Step-by-step walkthroughs -Final phase painting demonstration (continued)
The final week is for revisions and improvements to students’ final projects—an opportunity for students to implement changes to their work after receiving critique and feedback. Week eight is vital, as students will discover just how much they have absorbed throughout the course, where their work has improved, and what areas they must continue to work hard on. At the end of week eight, Rob will assess the students and do his best to make sure that they have learned all they need in order to become self-reliant, so they will be able to continue on their own after the workshop and achieve their individual goals. Video content overview: Final phase painting demonstration (continued)

Your journey starts here

Lectures by Rob Chang

Rob Chang is an artist, writer/director, composer/songwriter, and photographer. He has worked for clients such as Sirius Entertainment, Dark Horse Comics, Malibu Graphics, Innovation, Red Orb, 3DO, Z-Axis, iWin, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and more. His titles include Panzer Cops, Robotech:Invid Wars, Avenue-X, Prince of Persia 3D, Battletanx: Global Assault, Dave Mirra's Freestyle BMX 1&2, Risk, Battleship: Fleet Command, Polly Pride, Spiderman 3, Surf's Up, and much more.

May 14th - July 23rd

Summer TERM Registration



Classes Begin

July 21st!

Pricing & Schedule

Even though our courses are the most affordable for the quality of education.

These Finance Options allow you to focus on your goals instead of the barriers that keep you from reaching them.

Employer Reimbursement

Animation Guild CSATTF

Payment Plan

Companies that hire our students

  • Naughty Dog
  • Luma Pictures
  • Google
  • EA Games
  • DreamWorks Animation
  • Blizzard Entertainment

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