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Kyle Lambert on Digital Art and Illustration With the Mac

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Kyle Lambert is a digital artist and illustrator from the UK who has created some of spectacular digital illustrations and is a pioneer of the digital craft. We’ve been fortunate enough to speak to Kyle and ask him about his work, how fundamental the Mac is to his workflow and what the future might hold for digital art and illustration.

Kyle Lambert is a digital artist and illustrator

Kyle Lambert is a digital artist and illustrator

So Kyle, hello! What you've been up to recently?

Hi there, I’ve just recently come back from being featured at Macworld / iWorld in San Francisco. One of my paintings was displayed at the entrance hall of the Moscone West main hall, which was an amazing feeling. While I was there I got the chance to do some live painting demos on my iPad and also got the opportunity to produce portraits for the guests at this years event, including Ashton Kutcher and Will.i.am.

Kyle has created digital portraits for celebrities such as Beyonce, Stephen Fry, Ashton Kutcher and Will.i.am

Kyle has created digital portraits for celebrities such as Beyonce, Stephen Fry, Ashton Kutcher and Will.i.am.

When did you first start using the Mac?

I’ve been a Mac user now since 2005 when I bought myself a Powerbook G4 17” to get me through university. I am the perfect case study of someone who bought an iPod, fell in love with how easy it was to use and became curious about the advantages of using Apple computers for creative work.

Tell us a little bit about your current Mac setup and some of the tools you use.

Most of my current setup is reasonably old because I invested a lot of money around 5 years ago to get a system that I wouldn’t have to update for a while. My main machine is a Mac Pro from 2008 which I added 16GB of RAM to. Connected to that I have a 30” Cinema display and a 21UX Wacom Cintiq tablet which I use mainly for sketching and outlining. For most of my painting work I now use a Wacom Intuos5 Touch tablet.

I am the perfect case study of someone who bought an iPod, fell in love with how easy it was to use and became curious about the advantages of using Apple computers for creative work.

Kyle’s choice of tools include the Wacom Intuos5

Kyle’s choice of tools include the Wacom Intuos5.

You originally trained as an oil painter. How much of a difference has the Mac (and going digital) had on your work?

I think it’s the simplicity of the Mac that almost encourages you to question what else it is possible to create.

The transition from traditional painting to digital was a gradual one for me because I’d been exploring Photoshop for several years before the idea of using it for painting crossed my mind. I one day realised that I could scan in my drawings and colour them in digitally, which was a big step forward. As I became more comfortable with the digital tools I started pushing my work further until I was essentially creating fully digital paintings.

I think it’s the simplicity of the Mac that almost encourages you to question what else it is possible to create. I felt much more comfortable with the idea of purchasing a graphics tablet and organising all of my artwork on my Mac than I’d ever done with my PC. Every day I find working in an intuitive and reliable environment allows me to focus on being creative.

Beware of Bots is one of Kyle’s most recent projects where most of the work is done on the Mac

"Beware of Bots" is one of Kyle’s most recent projects where most of the work is done on the Mac

What are some of your most frequently used Mac apps?

I’m not really that big on downloading apps. As you’ve probably noticed, I spend most of my day immersed inside Photoshop. I’ve been making my own brushes and textures now for so long that I rarely need to use any additional software to complete a painting.

Kyle spends most of his time immersed inside Photoshop

Kyle spends most of his time immersed inside Photoshop.

Occasionally I will use Adobe Illustrator for more graphical illustration work and I’ve also used Art Rage Studio for exploring organic looking traditional painting. For video and motion graphics I use Final Cut Pro and Motion which I’m professionally certified in. The rest of the apps I use are the usual favourites like iTunes, Mail etc.

How do you create some of your awesome illustrations, from conception to the finished design?

My workflow at the moment begins on my iPad in the app Adobe Ideas. It’s a great simple yet powerful app that allows you to create detailed vector sketches. I often start with very loose doodles and then refine my ideas by working over the top on different layers. I will also begin exploring colour and tone to develop the mood of the piece.

Once I’ve settled on an idea I then export the sketch as a PDF to my Mac. There, I will import the sketch into Photoshop and scale it to the desired size for the finished illustration. I then create layer groups and use the key outlines of my sketch to establish the silhouettes for my painting. The last step is to paint over the sketch using my custom brushes.

I will sometimes use my iPad as a way to take my work in progress around with me. I can then make notes about fixes I need to work on when I get back to the studio.

Kyle’s workflow starts on the iPad before moving to the Mac, where the initial ideas and sketches are fleshed out

Kyle’s workflow starts on the iPad before moving to the Mac, where the initial ideas and sketches are fleshed out.

Some of your most popular work is, of course, the amazing Toy Story / Shining illustrations that you created using just your iPad. Do you see a point in the future where you’ll solely work in iOS or will the Mac always have it’s place in how you work?

I figured out pretty quickly that it was possible to create finished illustrations on the iPad, and that in it’s self is an amazing thing. I did a number of pieces when the iPad first dropped including a portrait of Beyonce and the Toy Story / The Shining mashup that showed what was possible. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean that it’s always the best way of doing it.

The simple fact is that working on high resolution artwork is always going to be easier on a bigger screen, because you don’t have to constantly zoom in and out to see detail and how it affects the overall image. I’ve never seen the iPad as a device that will replace my Mac. Instead I see it as a tool that gives me flexibility and mobility that I don’t have with any of my other devices to create digital artwork wherever I happen to be.

But just because you can do something doesn’t mean that it’s always the best way of doing it.

In the future I think the line between Mac and iOS software will continue to blur and the only factor that will dictate where you choose to work will be the size of screen that you are most comfortable using.

Kyle’s Toy Shining illustrations have been widely praised and Lee Unkrich, Director of Toy Story 3, even has a storyboard poster

Kyle’s Toy Shining illustrations have been widely praised and Lee Unkrich, Director of Toy Story 3, even has a storyboard poster

Thanks Kyle!

You can explore more of Kyle’s work on his site, kylelambert.co.uk, as well finding him on the following social networks:

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