New Character: ‘Aviator’

"Aviator." Character Bust. (c) 2014 Michael J. Barnes.

“Aviator.” Character Bust. (c) 2014 Michael J. Barnes.

I decided to taking a break from creating aliens, and monsters, and sci-fi characters and draw up something new. I am in the process of a new illustration for my portfolio, and decided to produce a new character for its. This new characters is called “Aviator.”

With this character, I learned a few new techniques. These techniques mostly involved the leather helmet and goggles, and I am really pleased with the results. I ran a search for “leather healmets” and found images online, and based the sculpting of the helmet and goggles on the images I found. I wanted to create an old-tymie looking pilot for this illustration.

This character bust was created in ZBrush, and composite produced in Photoshop. This 3D Model has been added to my 3D Modelling gallery. You can also view my other works in my Illustration Portfolio.

I would like to know your thoughts. Please leave a comment.

— Mike Barnes is a professional graphic designer and illustrator with over 15 years of experience. His online portfolio can be viewed at



Design is more than just drawing ‘Pretty Pictures’

Artist 4 Hire. (c) 2012 Michael J. Barnes.

While almost everyone has access to some sort of graphic design software — largely due to the Internet, and with that kind of access there appears to be a wide range of folks who now claim to be graphic designers.  While many of them are professional designers, many more are just “Photoshop-pers.” Putting it another way, almost everyone owns a wrench. I don’t know about you, but when my car breaks down, I always take it to a professional mechanic. I always seem to get better results.

So why should you as a business professional use a professional designer rather than just go to your nephew who owns a copy of Illustrator? Well, here are just a few good reasons:

1. A professional designer knows how to help you exceed your goals.

As a professional designer, s/he knows that it takes more than just drawing a “pretty picture”, or just throwing some pictures and text onto a blank page with the hope that the final result is “good.” The professional designer also acts as a consultant. As a consultant, s/he will ask questions, learn more about the client, the client’s company and customers, and learns what goals the client wants to reach. With all the answers in place, the professional designer takes that information and guides the project to the place that best achieves the client’s goals.

2. Research: Trends vs. Trendy.

A professional designer keeps up-to-date with the current design trends. And while s/he knows what is trendy today… trendy may not be the answer to achieve the client’s goals. Trendy may just stunt the client’s needs as the final project may just reach a small portion of the market. If that’s the goal, that’s GREAT. However, if the client’s goal is to reach a wide market… you get the point. The professional designer does his/her research. That research often involves reviewing the client’s previous projects, and viewing the client’s competition. The professional designer learns all that s/he can about the goal then takes that information to produce the goal-reaching result.

3. Builds relationships.

The professional designer builds a relationship with the client. Although the client’s nephew already has a built-in relationship with his uncle, it doesn’t mean that he will know much about the his uncle’s business. The professional designer will keep in contact with the client as often as possible. S/he will ask the right questions to learn more about the client’s company, the product or service offered, and about the customers. The professional designer cultivates the relationship to the point that s/he will not only produce the project, but will become a “partner” to produce a final project that will exceed the client’s goals.

There are many other aspects to the differences between the professional designer versus the “Photoshop-per”: Creativity, technical skills, knowledge of color, experience, outside-the-box thinking, etc. All great qualities of the professional designer.

As a young designer, I worked for a great art director. One day I presented, I thought, a final version of a project to him. He looked it over, slowly turned his head, looked me in the eye, pointed to an image on the design and asked me,  “Why did you put this image here?” My rookie response was: “I think it looks good.”  That turned out to be the wrong answer. I was taught a painful lesson that day: A professional designer knows that just because something might look good, it may not be the right look to achieve the goal.

So ask yourself, when you are ready to begin your next project: “Who will be of the most help to me? My nephew, or a professional designer?”

I’d like to know what you think. Leave a comment and share why you think a professional designer is the right choice.

— Mike Barnes is a professional graphic designer and illustrator with over 15 years of experience. His online portfolio can be viewed at



Newest Work: ‘Evening Stroll’

"Evening Stroll." Digital Illustration. (c) 2014 Michael J. Barnes.

“Evening Stroll.” Digital Illustration. (c) 2014 Michael J. Barnes.

This is the second illustration for my series of “Candid Shots from around the Galaxy” (still just a working title). Here we see Eleanor and Edgar taking a casual stroll through the streets of their home town.

Both of the characters and their clothing were sculpted in ZBrush. The background image was created in SketchUp, then imported into Bryce for rendering.  The final composite was produced in Photoshop.

his image Evening Stroll is the second illustration of the series and was  inspired from a photo by  photographer Daniel Arnold.


WIP: Edgar, Alien Bust.

"Edgar." (c) 2014 Michael J. Barnes.

“Edgar.” (c) 2014 Michael J. Barnes.

“Edgar” here is my latest character sculpt. He’s another alien set to appear in an upcoming illustration. Created in ZBrush and composite produced in Photoshop.


Flying Cars

"My First Futuristic Flying Car." (c) 2014 Michael J. Barnes.

“My First Futuristic Flying Car.” (c) 2014 Michael J. Barnes.

"My Second Futuristic Flying Car." (c) 2014 Michael J. Barnes.

“My Second Futuristic Flying Car.” (c) 2014 Michael J. Barnes.

As a kid,  I was a big fan of the Jetsons, and later of the Star Wars series. In both of these shows, they featured “flying cars.” To this day, I am greatly disappointed that we don’t have flying cars today, as I hoped we would when I was young. Well, fear not, the flying car is here. These images above show two of the concepts I have created for production. I just need to come up with the “actual” technology to make these vehicles airborne.

Actually, I have created these to be background elements for a future illustration. These “flying cars” were modeled in ZBrush with composites produced in Photoshop.



WIP: “Eleanor” A new character.

"Eleanor." Digital Character. (c) 2014 Michael J. Barnes.

“Eleanor.” Digital Character. (c) 2014 Michael J. Barnes.

So, this is Eleanor. My latest alien creation, just an average middle-age female. Eleanor will be a feature character in an upcoming illustration.

This character was digitally sculpted in ZBrsh, with the composite produced in Photoshop.