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Colin Smith
January 18, 2019

This is a concept vehicle I created using a combination of 2D and 3D applications, including Autodesk SketchBook, Fusion 360 and 3ds Max.

There are many benefits to learning and using multiple medias.  Not only does it exercise critical components and necessary skillsets of working in the entertainment industry, but it also helps solve problems and can save time.

“What I really enjoy about SketchBook is that it doesn’t pretend to be a large suite that offer tools I may never use. I use everything it has to offer and it serves its function quickly and efficiently.”

Tools are meant to be used and not the other way around.  I would never advise relying on tools over learning the fundamentals.  If something needs to be highly accurate and delivered in a short amount of time, using 3D software provides a head start with dimensions, the angles and perspective that you can build on.  There are many complex details that can be resolved quicker using a mixed tool approach.  In this time-lapse video, you can see how I use different applications to get to the final design & illustration.

When you start out, it can be a challenging to find the right tool-sets. I would recommend selecting the tools you need for a job and making it work for you rather than trying to get the perfect suite.  This doesn’t mean the tools don’t matter – Brushes, splines, pens, and voxels play their own roles and make a difference. A sculptor might say you should be able to sculpt with a fork, but you really wouldn’t do that when you can get better results more easily with a small spatula. Likewise; It wouldn’t make sense to noodle angles and curves in an unfamiliar package when you already have tools and techniques to get the job done.  When you really learn how to negotiate a new tool, you’ll figure out how to leverage it to serve the right purpose in your process.

What I really enjoy about SketchBook is that it doesn’t pretend to be a large suite that offer tools I may never use. I use everything it has to offer and it serves its function quickly and efficiently.  Something like Photoshop is more of an all around suite that gives me a small handful of tools that I can use to finish and edit my images.

On the 3D side, I enjoy Fusion because I can develop machinery quickly and, if I want to, accurately down to the millimeter. It gives me a lot of control over the forms and provides cloud storage, access to thousands of assets, and has a native exporter that provides me with poly data I can use in other packages.

I usually use 3ds Max for staging and refinement. If I have a large environment piece to develop and/or render; Max is my go-to. It’s great for exploring naive shapes or refining a geometry created in other 3D applications, like Fusion 360.

One major reason I work with multiple tools isn’t about process or even the product per se; it is more about my craft. While some people have a preference for raw illustration or sculpting, for me, it is a huge benefit to deal with the more daunting aspects as quickly and easily as possibly, which allows me to spend more time on the tasks I really enjoy.

This shows at the end of the day, and that’s what really matters. Tools and projects may come and go, but as an artist, it is OUR work that we are remembered for.

– Elijah

Elijah McNeal is a Concept Artist in the Entertainment Industry. His experience covers a broad spectrum of design in games and film with an emphasis on Weapons and Interiors in an unmodern setting. He has worked on critically acclaimed releases such as Neill Blomkamp’s ADAM, The Gears of War Franchise, Shadow of The Colossus and Fortnite. After years working in-house at game and fabrication studios; Elijah became a full-time freelance artist and has remained so since. He lives quietly in the Great State of TEXAS focused on his family and his craft. 

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Colin Smith

Colin is a Sr. Product Manager on the Automotive and Conceptual Design Team at Autodesk. During his 25-year career in the CAD industry he has worked in customer support, training, consulting and as a product manager for Alias and Fusion 360. Currently, he works on SketchBook and Project Sugarhill and is based in Toronto, Canada.