Noscope August: Open House


Update: Noscope August has been launched.


Since May 1st 2001, I’ve been doing 5 graphical pieces every month. Since sometime in 2003, I’ve been releasing layered PSDs (TIFF) files of my work. Now, I want to try something different.

This time, you get to critizice my work, while it is being made. I will, to the best of my ability, document my process, thoughts and actions leading to Noscope August, and post screenshots, interim work, source files and the likes. Meanwhile, comments to this thread will be open for your thoughts, requests, questions and wishes…

The purpose of this is to break the mold, and actively use the process to get valuable feedback. I hope to be done by friday evening, because I’m busy saturday.

Theme & Idea

Usually, I start a couple of days before the 1st of the new month. I pick one of the ideas I write down during the month, and start forming it in my head. A previous idea was to make “close-ups of Absinthe with lots of texture, icky colors and bubbles”, which resulted in “Chasing the Green Fairy”.

This month, I picked an idea that said:

“MeCompany-like wallpaper’ish images with soft 3d curves and lots of colors, but more elegant like the default OSX wallpaper”

The OSX background looks kinda like wavy, and the MeCompany (the company that designed covers for Bjork’s Post, Homogenic and SelmaSongs) backrounds I’m referring to, can be seen here: Wall 1, Wall 2, Wall 3, Wall 4.

I picked a size of 1000×1415 px, because while I like panorama more, it’s been a while since I did vertically oriented images. At the same time, the aspect ratio of this is similar to that of european A4 (used for letters).

With this as the vague but general theme, I’m going to explore possibilities and see what comes out of it.

ToDo List

In order to provide up a complete Noscope serving, the following must be done:

  • Image 1
  • Image 2
  • Image 3
  • Image 4
  • Image 5
  • Choose name
  • Choose song
  • Choose header image
  • Design background and borders for installments
  • Upload and test
  • Write newsletter
  • Write journal entry

Image 1


I didn’t know I was going to do “Open House”, on this one, so I cheated and this image is already done. Here are, however, my thoughts on the process.

The first image in the series is always the most diffucult. Basically, Image #1 is the design, that has to be approved before proceeding. In fact, images 2-5 are just elaborated versions of image #1. As such, this image also sets the standard (and time needed) for the rest of the images, so it’s definately the hardedst part of an installment.

I knew that I had to use 3D assets to get the look I wanted, but felt lazy so I wanted to take a shortcut. The long (and possibly right) way to have done it would be to model the entire scene in 3D, and “just add colour”. Since I’m not that much of a 3D wiz, however, I figured I could just model some assets, and composite them together in Photoshop. So I threw together a Nurbs spline and extruded a shape using a Lofts modifier. I added a semi-translucent blue and highly reflective material to the resulting shape, and ended up with something I liked. I made 2 shapes using this technique.

After compositing a bit in photoshop, I found a composition I liked, and added lots of reddish, greenish and yellowish colors. Using a scatter brush, I also added small twinkles on a layer set to dodge. I added a diagonal pixelpattern, as the one I used last month, to the background… just to make it look a little digital.

Source files for Image 1:


Image 2

I am forcing myself to try and create something in the light spectrum of colors, rather than dark and shady. I want to go more simple than with image 1, but due to the nature of the technique currently at hand (exploring flukes and lucky accidents), it may end up more complex.

Interim work:


Final piece:


Final piece, adjusted:


As you can see from the final piece, it turned out quite different from the interim piece. In fact, while I was fairly satisfied with the composition of the interim image, it proved more of a problem than helpful. I don’t want to make the MacOS wallpaper again, it’s fine as it is. I wanted to make something that wasn’t a wallpaper, and such an image needs some “action” of some sort. This made me blindly explore strange colors, always keeping some blue remaining, only to ultimately abandon the blue color completely.

The final result came after turning the tables and making the whole image colored yellowish greenish. I added some light flares to the bottom left, to add the “action” it needed. Dodging, painting and color finetuning turned it into something I figured was good enough.

I’m not entirely satisfied, though, and may end up adjusting some things. One of the things I think I failed to do, was making it light enough, as promised.

Adjustments that did end up in the final piece are subtle, but in my opinion, helps out a bit. I’ve smoothed out the orange / red part in the upper right corner, and softened it. At the same time, I’ve intensified the bottom left green.

Source files for image 2:


Image 3

I always find that the middle images of the 5 are the ones where I don’t take chances. I basically just go with the flow of the preceeding two. In this case, sorry, I’m going dark on this one.

Interim work:


Final piece:


Final piece, adjusted:


To finish this piece fast, I threw together some complex shapes, and didn’t worry so much about simplicity and elegance. As I mentioned before starting this image, I wanted to make a darker image, like the first one. Not because it’s nicer, but because I find it easier. Colors dodge better, and details that hide in the shadows are inevitably more interesting.

With the composition and interim image fairly in place, I felt the image needed some action, somewhat in the same way as Image 2 needed. So I decided to paint some sort of light pouring out of the horn shape to the right. This was done by taking a 3D shape, pasting it as a channel, adjusting brightness/contrast and basically grabbing various interesting curves from the shape, and using them as light. I finalized this by adding a dodge layer and some light sparks using the scatterbrush.

Basically this channel technique is used to separate light parts of a B/W image out as selections, that can be used to fill with any color.

Adjustements to the final image were only in the details. Some of the digital diagonal texture was added, and some light was removed from the upper right corner.

Image 4

I’m going to try and make this image light.

Interim work:


Final piece:


Final piece, adjusted:


Well, it did become light. I’m not quite satisfied though. Since the other images had lots of color, it pretty much dictated that this image should go the same direction. Thus, I added some greenish tint in the bottom left. Unfortunately, this didn’t work at all, and I will revisit and update it eventually. For now, it just looks like something from the wall of a pizzeria, which is definately not what I aimed for. As such, I will revisit this image tomorrow, and probably just monochromatize it.

Update: Monochromatized it. It’s more simple now without the bottom green colors, I like it that way.

Image 5

I’m fairly tired of the whole shebang, like I usually am when starting image 5 in a series. This is when I convince myself that forcing a deadline upon myself is pointless and stupid.

I’m gonna aim for a fluke.

Interim work:


Final piece:


Final piece, adjusted:


While I was pretty happy about the initial 3D shape in this image, it would turn out to be a fairly tricky image to do. The shape, which at first had seemed fairly simple and elegant turned out to be rather complex and hard to stand on its own. A fair amount of painting had to be done. I experimented with some blurred vertical stripes to give an effect of updraft but that part pretty much died when I added particles that fell, thus the adjustment. As for the adjustment, the previous iteration had simply become too complex. So I went back and simply removed some shapes and colors. It did help a lot.


I think it could be fun to use Illustrator blends in the images. Also, I’m not so good with really light images, (white background), so that would be a challenge I should try out. In general, I want to make the images a bit more simple than Image 1—less going on with shapes and such.

Your comments

Since this is an experiment, I’m eager to hear what you think of this idea. Comments I would appreciate could:

  • what parts you like
  • what parts you don’t like
  • what colors you think would work
  • ideas for what song I should use, pick one from the downloads section
  • a title to the installment
  • ideas for the the surrounding border / background HTML/CSS
  • most importantly, what source file(s) you would like

8 thoughts on “Noscope August: Open House”

  1. steve says:

    While i like your first image idea that you’ve posted… I am compelled to post a comment if for no other reason than to be the first to post to your Open-House. I don’t even feel worthy enough to critique your designs… all of them are awe inspiring and I learn from each of your layered file postings. For someone who claims not to be a 3D wiz, you sound like you konw a lot.

    I will look forward to the continuation of this experiment. I will encourage you to puch yourself into a light atmosphere as opposed to the dark motiff you ordinarily delve into. For no other reason than the fact that you said yourself you tend to stear away. Go light and heavenly…

    Best Regards,


  2. Joen says:

    Thanks for your feedback!

    I am no 3D wiz—I work with 3D wizzes though! I ask them from time to time, and collect what little scraps of information I can.

    I’ll try and make Image 2 light and simple.

  3. steve says:

    nice job breaking out of your (turtle) shell and working into the lighter realm of the images… I Really like 2 and 3 a lot. The final piece resembles a piece of digital art from Marc Chagall if he ever used a computer to me… As usual, nicely done.

  4. Joen says:

    Thanks again. I really thought it was difficult to go lighter from the beginning.. and as you can see it’s not quite as light as it probably should have been :).

    I’m fairly satisfied with #2 though, especially with the detail which is not really visible in this 25% scaled version.

    As for breaking in to the realm of images, it came naturally as I consciously decided to work up my skills. Some of my past work came to pass because my skills didn’t allow me otherwise.

  5. kjsgirl says:

    I don’t even come close to being qualified to critique your work, it’s out of my league, so I will just say that I love your images and find them aesthetically pleasing but also interesting enough that they hold my attention for more than a fleeting glimpse.

    I am forcing myself to try and create something in the light spectrum of colors, rather than dark and shady.

    I always find it incredibly difficult to force myself to create outside of my usual artistic ‘box’. I think that’s what I envy from people who are prolific and original producers of any artform.. they lack the fear of failure or frustration that can come from pushing outside our self-imposed boundaries and comfort zones and trying something new.

    Anyway, I’m glad you share your work with us Joen.

  6. Chris says:

    i agree.

  7. Chris says:

    Joen, which shapes are you modeling in 3D? are you using 3D Studio Max?

    What texture are you assigning to the shapes?

    Do you think it would be easier to make these designs in Photoshop?

  8. Joen says:

    Oh thanks both.

    While I appreciate your comments, kjsgirl, I must say that these pictures are not out of anyones league. The difference is, perhaps, that I know software—in other words, I can more easily dab down my thoughts on a canvas, because I’ve done it hundreds of times before. It doesn’t mean that I am more creative or original than any of you.

    they lack the fear of failure or frustration that can come from pushing outside our self-imposed boundaries and comfort zones and trying something new.

    Thanks so much, I really appreciate this comment. This was actually one of the main reasons for starting this very site—having a place where I could make good or bad stuff. And trust me, there’s a lot of bad stuff in the archives 🙂


    Joen, which shapes are you modeling in 3D? are you using 3D Studio Max?

    The soft curved shapes in the background are 3D meshes. Yes, I’m using 3ds max.

    What texture are you assigning to the shapes?

    I am using a slightly bluish material (no texture), that is 60% transparent, and has a high specularity. Actually, a really simple material.

    Do you think it would be easier to make these designs in Photoshop?

    No, not at all. While all the colors, composition and sparks were added in Photoshop, that part was all relatively easy. But making sure one had some interesting shapes—some assets to work with, would take such a long time to paint oneself. It could be done (although probably not by me), of course, but this was the shortcut. Just getting the form and depth feel right would be a pain if it wasn’t done by a computer.

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