OK, so in the last couple of days I upgraded my main workstation to Windows 7. Part of the reason is that I simply wanted to have the latest and greatest, but the real reason is that under Vista I’ve had random BSODs. As I upgraded I ran into a couple of problems, including BSODs. The thing that peeved me the most until I started searching though was a really odd issue with Photoshop CS5. Thankfully I wasn’t the only one suffering from it. I’m first going to complain about the pressure sensitivity issue because that’s mostly been resolved:

Photoshop CS5 x64 bit Pressure Sensitivity Problem


Windows 7 Crashes into a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) because of Firefox

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It has been years since I’ve wanted to make an animated header, but not by using an animated GIF or Flash.

Rant against Flash: Actually Flash was something I seriously considered doing but over the years I went from really liking Flash to not being such a huge fan. Perhaps this shift in attitude is due to Adobe’s refusal to support Linux as viable platform even to this day. Sure, now they finally got a flash player that works under x64, but good luck waiting for native versions of Photoshop and the rest of their software to appear in Linux anytime soon. Anyways, I’m with Steve Jobs on this one (though he’s still a retard about not putting the Flash Player on an internet device.) I really hope HTML5 will finally provide an open standard that would make Adobe’s Flash obsolete sometime in the next 15 years.

So, moving on to the news this post is about! At a first glance you might not notice, but I finally have a new header on the site which scrolls through a few slices from my artworks from over the years. Special thanks to Sand & Mercury for providing me with a motivating example and the info I needed to get this thing running. Over the next few days/weeks I’m going to have some new images up there but the hard work is done now and the entire WordPress Theme I’m using has been modified to make use of the JQuery Cycle javascript plugin. If you’re interested in using this plugin it’s very versatile and worth checking out, integrating it into the site was not very hard either.

Yay, everyone rejoyce, please let me know if you encounter problems browsing the site. I’ve tested under IE, Firefox and Chrome and all looks good though I might have missed some obscure corner of the site. At first I had a conflict with the Flash Slideshow Gallery I use on a few of the posts but I cleared that up now I think.

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Below you can see our final entries which we submitted for the Team CHOW 3 contest. The topic which was thrown out to the teams was to create a Tarot Deck and each team had to choose cards which to illustrate. While the restrictions were to do a minimum of two cards per team member (artist) each team could only choose half of their cards to be of the High Arcana. Our team initially chose only two high arcana cards, the Fool and the High Priestess, because it was said bonus points would be awarded to the teams who did mostly regular cards. Unfortunately we never managed to finish the High Priestess, also no bonus points were awarded which makes me cringe because the High Arcana cards definitely seemed more interesting to draw. Now that I’ve been through two team challenges I’ve learned that following the guidelines is pretty pointless. Also it was very disappointing because conceptart.org decided to not publicize this challenge, especially compared to the previous one, as a result the artists who worked on this got very little exposure. Still, great work was done, and many of us learned a lot by participating (I sure did.)

Of the six cards we finished I only made the King of Pentacles and worked on the Fool and the Ace of Cups as collaboration.

Tarot Card - The Ace of Cups

The Ace of Cups initial concept (giant figure holding a cup filled with lava in a fiery landscape) was proposed by me. Clanlord did the initial drawing of the one depicted above which I then modified and colored, Headhunter put on the finishing touches to this piece.

Tarot Card - King of Pentacles

Tarot Card - The Fool

Headhunter created the remaining 3 cards by himself: the Queen of Pentacles, the Four of Wands and the Two of Wands.

Tarot Card - The Queen of Pentacles

Tarot Card - Four of Wands

Tarot Card - Two of Wands

I’m real proud of the work we did during this challenge, I also feel I learned a lot as opposed to the previous challenge where I just did a big push in terms of gruntwork. You can see we didn’t do well in the final voting section but by looking at the quality of the work I’m now convinced it’s a popularity contest in ca.org when the final votes are tallied up. The good part is that we did great work and finished before the deadline while following the rules and sticking to the topic.

Special thanks to Clanlord and Headhunter for being on the same team with me, it really was an honor.

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OK, so Doomsday Dream Clan has been on a tear lately despite me being sick and miserable. While we were discussing topics for the Tarot Challenge I came up with the idea to do a dark torture theme for our cards. As I started doing concept sketches with this dark theme I kept drawing chains and even simple chains can be a pain in the ass if you try to draw every link… So I searched last night for Photoshop chain brushes and didn’t quickly find a good result. So here I am today to hopefully help some people out with a free download of a brush I created.

Download Niva’s Simple Chain Brush – Photoshop CS3

Disclaimer: This brush is being released AS IS. It may not work as advertised in Photoshop versions older than CS3. Use it in whatever way you’d want, though if you make something cool with it comment below and send me a link so I can check it out!

Tutorial on how to create a Chain Brush for Photoshop

I’m also going to explain how to create this brush for those of you who would like to create your own. This will be a somewhat advanced tutorial in how the Photoshop Brush engine works. While it may seem complicated at first the power of Photoshop brushes is immense. If you use the program to do digital painting, like I do, you owe it to yourself to learn this stuff and use custom brushes.

I’m going to discuss the problem before we begin. A chain is composed of usually identical links which interlock with each other to form the actual chain. The simplest chains are ones with straight oval links which fit into each other at a 90 degree angle of rotation from the axis of the chain as it is stretched out. There is slack in chains though, and generally not all links come together at 90 degrees as the chain hangs loosely.

Step 1 – Create a basic pattern which will be repeated in order to get the desired result: In this case a chain!

Two links of the chain which will be used in Photoshop as a custom brush

As you can see the drawing is very simple. I wasn’t even too worried about making it look accurate and good. There are many other ways in which a chain can come together but the primary purpose of this brush is for concept work and visualization so it will be quick and dirty. Notice that I did create some shading in the image above. It’s very important to make the image on pure white. The Photoshop brush engine when it samples an image to define a brush pattern uses white (or gray) in order to define opacity. Only pure black will be filled in completely as you use this brush, the gray areas will be somewhat transparent depending on how white they are.

Last night while I was searching for chain brushes I found many which are simply too long and are impossible to repeat properly to be used in the way I need this brush to be used. So it’s important to make sure the pattern is short enough so that when you repeat it and curve the links can still come together without adding too much illusion as being “double linked” pattern… which they are in terms of the brush.

Step 2 – Define the brush pattern.

Select the entire image, if you’ve started with pure white this won’t matter as Photoshop will only select non-white areas. So effectively even though you’ve manually selected a large image the brush pattern will be smaller than your selection.

Define Brush Pattern - Tutorial Step 2

After making your selection go to Edit > Define Brush Preset…

Once this has been completed you will immediately have a new brush visible in your brush selection window. However, this brush is not very useful until we change it’s behaviour a bit which is what I will discuss next.

Step 3 – Modifying the brush behaviour in order to achieve desired results.

There are two main things to take care of here in regards to the chain brush. Right now the newly created brush is just the ugly two links I drew earlier, which by itself is not useful. However, if we modify some of the attributes of the brush we can get a really useful tool in the end. Go to the brush window and select the new brush. If you don’t have the brush window visible go from the main menu in Photoshop and select Window > Brushes.

Once you have the window visible and you’ve selected your brush navigate to the Brush Tip Shape window, and you’ll get the following screen.

Brush Tip Shape Window in Photoshop

The first thing you want to take care of is to re-orient the brush so that it flows better. Sadly I drew the brush vertical so it has to be rotated by 90 degrees. In the area where you have the circle visible you can grab the arrow and rotate it around manually. Or you can type in the value of 90 degrees in the window labeled “Angle”. Next you want to go to the very bottom of the window and drag the spacing bar utnil you get to about ~190%. This means that as you trace a path, after one brush appears, the next one will appear at 190% of the distance in that path where 100% is the length of the brush. This seems to make little sense, because remember the brush was originally positioned vertical, but we’ve now rotated it and are making it fit horizontally. Photoshop however still remembers the original brush positioning which was defined by the brush pattern at the start and uses that value to calculate when the next pattern gets put down. Don’t get lost in the numbers though, just drag the bar until you get the chain links to meet appropriately. It’s up to you as an artist to decide what looks good.

Lastly, still in the same window we must activate “Shape Dynamics” by checking it. Make sure to click on the text itself and turn everyting off. The only thing you should have is Angle Jitter at 0% and Angle Jitter Control selected as Direction. Here’s what it should look like:

Selecting Angle Jitter Control to Pen Direction

Once you make this selection the angle of the brush will be calculated based on how your pen is moving, or your mouse (shame on you if you don’t have a tablet and are trying to paint on a computer!) Ok, now it’s time to test the brush, you can reduce the size to a more managable value like 200 pixels tends to be best for this imo. Big brushes are useful sometimes but generally take up too much resources… then again, we’re using Photoshop so you better have some resources! Generally speaking most simple brushes can be kept small, however some texture brushes are good to be bigger so that more of the texture detail is retained within the brush. If you shrink texture brushes too much then the detail gets lost. In this case 200 pixels is fine since this is a brush which will be used for a concept art stage and you’ll probably paint over it manually to make the work look better. If it needs to be smaller then you can simply shrink the brush size down as you need without worries.

Step 4 – Once properly configured save your brush pattern so that you can quickly access it in the future!

Test your brush on a blank canvas, make sure it works as expected. Once you’re satisfied you want to make sure to save these settings. The problem is that to do this you must create a new brush. Unless you do this, if you select another brush, and want to go back later to using the chain brush, you’ll have to reconfigure it to look right again. Unless you have some strange fettish for reconfiguring Photoshop brushes you won’t want to repeat this process. So with your newly minted brush selected go to the Brushes Window, click on the menu window (little arrow just below the X to close the Brushes Window) and select “New Brush Preset…”

Last step - Saving your configured Brush Preset

This will create a new brush yet again, but you can go back and delete the old brush which is entirely too huge and useless. Now you have a very quick and easy brush you can use for making some evil looking chains in your drawings. Here is a test sample of what the brush should look like in a single spiral stroke:

Testing the newly created chain brush

I hope this was useful, remember that your comments make my day so drop me a line. Cheers!

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Greetings to my website frequenters. As you know a few months ago I participated in a team challenge at conceptart.org which was in my opinion the single best thing I did in terms of pushing my art forward in 2009. Through collaboration with the artists in this challenge I believe I managed to push my artwork to the next level. It was a lot of work and I got burned out by the end, taking almost a month off from drawing anything once the challenge was finished. However, my batteries have now been recharged and I’m ready for new battle. A new team challenge is beginning with the turn of the year, click the image below to see our thread where we will be posting our work once the challenge is started.

Doomsday Dream Clan LOGO for Team CHOW 3


Last time our campaign was limited due to a very late start, we lost a 3rd of the month before we got rolling. Once we did get rolling one of our members was not able to contribute very much to the team pushing forward and this really hurt us since we had to create extra artwork due to the member being on the team but not producing at the same level. This time I’m much more confident that we will have better results. Here are the members of the Doomsday Dream Clan:

Clanlord – a young artist from Bulgaria who has a very unique style.
Headhunter – a professional artist from Bulgaria.
Niva – that would be me! I live in Houston but I’m also Bulgarian.

Notice that this team is comprised entirely of Bulgarian members. If you want to monitor our progress click on the image above to go to our thread. Once the work is finished I’ll be posting here as well.

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Well, after a couple years of service through HostMonster I’ve decided to renew my hosting service. While I was doing the renewal I noticed that the .net and .org domains were available and decided to gobble them up and park them to my already existing domain.

The Eternal Seven empire is spreading throughout the web! Your domain might be the next victim of my acquisition!

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I’ve had the account for a long time actually but I decided to actually try using it to see what I can do with it. Here is a link after 30 minutes of work tonight:


I’m mostly going to use it for testing stuff at this time but who knows what the future may bring…

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Nextgen plugin is not working on this site anymore, it really was nice while it worked. Thinking about removing it completely from the site. All of the images thing plugin used to link to are available on the site so just search around.

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After a very long wait the new CG Challenge has finally been announced!

Here is the main page: Steampunk Myths and Legends

I have been around CG Talk for years now and have seen many challenges go by without bothering to participate. Every time a challenge is announced I don’t like the topic at first, though usually by the end of the challenge I see the work done there and I regret not participating. This time I’ve decided to take part as I actually really like the topic and I already have many ideas in my mind.

Here is my thread in the challenge forum: Niva’s Steampunk Thread

Gallery of my Steampunk Drawings

Everyone knows the myth of Icarus who dared to fly. It was the first idea which came to me. Then I started experimenting with some concepts for Baba Yaga – the old Slavic legend of an old hag who abducts children.


Keep checking here, as I make new additions they’ll appear in the gallery.

Here are links to other entries in this challenge I am interested in following:

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To give something back to the WordPress community I’ve decided to share my wordpress theme “as is” including the artwork I’ve created for the header above. You can modify this for your own website if you wish of course and I do not have problems with you modifying any of the images included in the download.

Screenshot of the Eternal Seven Theme in action!

Download HERE


This theme is compatible with WordPress 2.7.1 – note there is nothing special about the theme really and it should work with any older version too.

Note that this is a very simplified (TRUE SINGLE COLUMN!) theme without a sidebar. This theme is optimized to show fairly large resolution images within the content frame without the use of gallery plugins. It is ideal for portfolios but does require some knowledge of code. I’ve stuck with this layout for a while and even though it requires some coding the finished look is exactly what I’ve wanted my website to look like. If you tend to blog a lot (and write huge paragraphs) I suggest modifying your “content” tags in the style.css file to your liking.

Instructions on how to install the theme:

  1. Download the theme to your computer.
  2. Extract the files and go into the e7 directory.
  3. Open the header.php file and edit it to your liking so that your links will go at the top!
  4. Open up the footer.php file and take a look, you may want to edit links and make the theme compatible with wp-stats.
  5. Once you’re done modifying upload the theme to the wp-content/themes/ directory on your server.
  6. In your dashboard navigate to the “Appearance” section and then select the theme.
  7. If you get any errors please CONTACT ME so that I can fix them!
  8. If you are planning to use this theme for a portfolio similar to me you’ll have to manually code links and insert images, I have not found good plugin yet…

Thanks for checking out the theme, I hope it works for you!

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