Title: Digital Artists Master Class: Character Design

Publisher: Ballistic Publishing

Edited by: Daniel P. Wade

Artists: Anne Pogoda, Kekai Kotaki, Gonzalo Ordonez

Review by: Archie Easter

Ballistic Publishing is beginning to become a household name when it comes to digital art publications. After creating a number of wonderfully received art books for games such as God of War III and Uncharted 2, Ballistic has now followed up on its impressive array of books in its Digital Artists Master Class series with a book focused squarely on character design. Three artists headline this particular volume: Anne Pogoda, Kekai Kotaki and Gonzalo Ordonez; each of which displaying different approaches in terms of character design and art style. Each artist’s section features an interview with the artist, a gallery that includes commentary on each piece, a selection of focused tutorials, and finally an invited artist gallery that includes numerous works from many other talented artists.

Not simply a showcase of art like some previous offerings in Ballistic’s Exotique series of books, the Digital Artist’s Master Class series has also strived to be instructional as well, with its artists sharing tips and techniques to better one’s focus in each volume’s particular subject. The tutorials included in Character Design are an essential step-by-step guide though the creation process of several art pieces from each artist. Each tutorial is in-depth and takes readers from sketch to finished work, all the while including clear instructions and commentary for each stage of the design process.

It is these tutorials that truly set this book apart from other digital art books on the market. Each artist’s varying style means that readers essentially receive instruction of separate parts of character design based on that artist’s particular focus. Anne Pogoda’s style of digital painting makes for breathtaking pieces, and the included tutorials cover character variation as well as saving a design by merging elements from other sketches or pieces to create something new. Kekai Kotaki’s background in creating concept art for the Guild Wars series of games leans his tutorials more toward the side of character creation and developing art from initial rough sketches to fully realized designs. Gonzalo Ordonez’s more magna-centric approach has more of a digital illustration feel, and his colorful character creation tutorials definitely set themselves apart in the usage of color to make a piece stand out. This was a great approach to take for the book as it presents a much more rounded approach in terms of techniques and art styles.

Likewise, the invited artist galleries also display a wide breadth of varying styles and subject matter. Each piece also includes a brief bit of commentary from one of the three central artists on what particular elements they liked about each piece and why they chose to include it in their gallery.

Ballistic is no stranger to the excellent presentation of its books, and Character Design is no different. At 208 pages, Character Design is paperback and printed on thick paper stock with a hard slip case that makes for a very professional presentation. Commanding a $75 price tag, this book isn’t cheap, but once seen in person, it’s hard to feel that one isn’t getting their money’s worth here. As with previous books, Ballistic is also offering leather bound limited edition versions, but at $170 the limited edition is quite properly being billed as “For the serious art collector.” For many, the standard slip case version will be more than sufficient.

All in all, Character Design strikes a great balance in not only beautiful examples of some truly top-tier digital art, but also offering enough direction and advice that even veteran artists could learn some new tips to speed up workflow and better their own creations. While somewhat expensive, considering the quality of the work on display and the stunning presentation that Ballistic brings to the table, it is money well spent for any growing digital artist looking for both inspiration as well as tips from seasoned industry professionals.

For more information, ballisticpublishing.com

Pads and Panels received a copy of the book courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.