Mentees, not Manatees


Andres Esquivel – Week 2 (left), Week 4 (right)

Although manatees are awesome, and something I need to post about in the future, this post is all about my mentees!

Last week was the final week of my third Intro to Digital Painting class and the fourth week of the first Advanced Digital Painting class. I’ve been extremely happy with the progress everyone has made, so I just had to share a few of them. These first few are from the Intro to Digital Painting class. During week 2 I have everyone paint a black and white still life and on week 4, they paint a color still life.

Savage McCants - Before mentorship (left), Week 4 (right)

Savage McCants – Before mentorship (left), Week 4 (right)

Sometimes it is really hard to believe how much progress my students make from week to week. I know I ask a lot from my students, but I think it really pays off in the end.

Right now I’m currently teaching 11 Intro students and 11 Advanced students. The Advanced class meets every other week, so we are only on week 4 right now (even though the class has been going for 8 weeks).

This is the first time I’m teaching the Advanced class, so it is really exciting seeing all of the assignments. Sometimes the Intro assignments get a little repetitive, so this is a nice break. If I have to paint one more tree during the week 3 assignment, I think I’ll go insane. I really need to change that assignment.

I also have a few updates about future classes. I have mentioned several times that I am no longer doing a waiting list for the mentorship.

Vlad Rikowski - Advanced Week 3

Vlad Rikowski – Advanced Week 3

Intro to Digital Painting – December 5th

The next Intro class will be starting on December 5th, so I plan to make the official announcement for submissions on November 14th. At 11:00AM PST and 9:00PM PST I will post on FB and Twitter that I will be accepting submissions. The first 5 people during each time slot to reply by sending an email to will be accepted. Payment will be due by December 4th.

I’m hoping that by accepting submissions at two different times, international students will be able to submit during at least one of those time slots.

It is unfortunate if people don’t have Facebook or Twitter, but those are probably the two easiest ways to get the word out. If I posted on my blog or website, I’m not sure how often people would check them to even see the announcement. I guess maybe if someone had an RSS reader that might work.

Yoobin Han - Advanced Week 4

Yoobin Han – Advanced Week 4

Advanced Digital Painting – 2015

The next Advanced class will probably start in February. Again, there is no waiting list, so it will be first come first serve. My current Intro students will have the opportunity to take the Advanced class without having to go through the submission process. Any seats left will be open to public submissions.

When we get closer to the end of the current Advanced class, I will let everyone know when I’ll be accepting submissions for the next Advanced class.

I should probably also mention that I still haven’t finished the demos for week 11 and 12 of the Advanced class. Right now it is still a 10-week course. I have no idea when I’ll finish week 11 and 12, but hopefully I will soon. Of course I’ve been saying that for about a year now, so who knows.

Ben Liou - Advanced Week 3

Ben Liou – Advanced Week 3

Payment Plans

I also changed around the payment plans a bit, which is good for some but bad for others.

Instead of offering 10% off by paying in full, I have lowered it to 5% off. I already lose between 2.9-3.9% from Paypal fees, plus my mentorship is extremely cheap compared to other mentorships and online classes, even without the discount.

The good news is that I am now offering a US military discount of 20% off. This is a flat 20% off, so you can’t combine it with the 5% off. Normally if you select the payment plan, you can’t get a discount, but the military discount works with the payment plan as well.

Not joining the military has always been one of my biggest regrets in life, so I want to give a little back with this discount.

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the work from my current students. See you next time!

GP San Antonio Playmat – Spirits of War

Spirits of War

Spirits of War

Next month I’ll be one of the guest artists for GP San Antonio from November 28-30th.

Steve Port contacted me and wanted to know if I would be interested in creating an original playmat illustration for the GP. They wanted something that was specific to the city of San Antonio, so of course the Alamo and the Riverwalk were the first to come to mind.

The illustration needed to look like it could fit within the world of Magic, but it couldn’t look too much like Magic. The Riverwalk is a little too modern, so I didn’t know if I could make it fit very well within the world of Magic. I ended up going with the Alamo idea, but I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the Alamo.

At first I considered painting a battle scene, but I thought it would be a little too complicated. Players will be playing Magic on top of these playmats, which means there are going to be a lot of cards and tokens cluttering the surface. If I painted something that was complicated and then added all of the elements from the game on top, I thought it would just be too chaotic and it might distract the players from the game. I wanted something a little more simple, but not too boring.

The Sketch

Original sketch

Original sketch

My first sketch had the warriors standing in front of the Alamo, but they were all living. WotC had to approve my sketch, and their feedback was that my painting didn’t feel fantastical enough to fit within the world of Magic. They also suggested that I make the designs of the warriors similar to the designs in Khans of Tarkir.

I decided to turn all of the background warriors into spirits. Hopefully that would give the illustration a more fantastical feel. I had also planned on making the main warrior’s sword glow, but I thought it would blend in too much with the background warriors.

Video Tutorial

At this point I thought it would be cool to record my painting process and create a new tutorial. Since I hadn’t recorded the process of the original sketch, I repainted it specifically for the tutorial.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to record the entire process. Some parts during the middle of the process weren’t filmed because it would have taken up too much space and the video would have been extremely long. I usually spend 2-3 days on a Magic painting, so this painting took me probably more than a week to paint. Even after skipping parts of the process, my video was still 6 hours long. I was able to cut that down to a 4.5 hour demo and the video file is around 9 GB.

Selling a 9 GB file through my own store might end up exceeding my bandwidth, so I decided to offer the tutorial through Gumroad. Yes, I have finally joined the Gumroad frenzy. Be sure to check out my other videos on Gumroad as well!

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

This morning I checked my FB feed and saw that my Ob Nixilis card finally came out after waiting for more than a year! I’ve been waiting for a long time to show this painting, but I have some mixed feelings about it now that so much time has passed.

I guess the good thing about going back and looking at older paintings is that I can see what needs to be fixed. Sometimes I’ll go back and fix older paintings before I make prints. My older Magic cards were pretty loose and painted at smaller sizes, so they don’t always translate well with larger prints.

Someone on my FB page asked if I had started in black and white and added color later or if I had started in color first. I started in black and white like I normally do. Starting in color is pretty rare for me. I usually only do that if I’m doing a study from life or if I have a very clear idea of what I’m going to do with the color scheme.

I wasn’t planning on showing the process for this painting, but since someone asked, I figured I would go ahead and show it.

Here is the art description I received.

“This is a planeswalker, one of Magic’s iconic, world-traveling mage characters. Ob Nixilis is black aligned planeswalker who eventually gets transformed into a demon. This card represents him as a human before becoming a demon. Ob Nixilis stands over 6′ tall, and is broad across the chest. He is clad in black armor that parallels his torso in demon form. On his breastplate, and written in blood, is demonic script (no real-world letters or symbols please). He is bald, and there is heavy stubble on his face. He has sunken, but intense eyes, and he has the look of a person who has seen some seriously dark stuff. Or, perhaps he looks like a sort of black magic addict. Your choice. Under one arm, he holds a helm that is fashioned with the same horn pattern as he will have as a demon. Ob Nixilis stands in front of a blood-stained altar.”

After reading the description, I just realized that it had asked for a demonic script written in blood on his chest. I completely forgot to add that, whoops! I guess it wasn’t that big of a deal since no one ever brought it up.


Ob Nixilis, the Fallen by Jason Felix

The image the description referred to was the painting done by Jason Felix. I tried to make some of my armor designs similar to Jason’s painting, mainly the helmet and the shoulder spikes. I also kept the glowing chest the same since it already looked like plates of armor.

Before going into the painting I already knew that I wanted to give a nod to the portrait paintings done by John Singer Sargent. Sargent has always been one of my favorite painters and I thought the setting and mood would fit well with Ob Nixilis.

I don’t know much about the lore behind Ob Nixilis, but I saw him as being snobby royalty that would revel in having his portrait painted. Hopefully it doesn’t go against his lore.


The Earle of Dalhousie by John Singer Sargent

It seemed like his face was a major part of the art description and I liked the idea of him being addicted to black magic, so I decided to spend more time working out his face during the initial sketch phase.

Typically I don’t spend this long on a specific part of a sketch before giving it my AD, but I wanted to make sure they had an idea of where I was going. I wanted it to look like the black magic was actually corrupting his physical appearance and staining his eyes and lips. It reminded me of the Mentats from Dune who would drink so much sapho juice that it would stain their lips red.

I’m actually not sure if I had completely worked out his armor design when I sent my original sketch for approval. The sketch I’m showing now is more refined than what I usually send clients for approval.

I took some pretty funny reference photos of myself holding my ice hockey helmet and sword, although I wasn’t holding both at the same time. I should probably go back and do that just because it would look ridiculous.

Ob Nixilis sketch

Ob Nixilis sketch

Throughout the process I kept having to make him look taller. Looking back at this sketch, he looked really short. He definitely doesn’t look like he is over 6 feet tall like the description said.

After I received approval, I started working on different color variations of the face. I wasn’t even worried about working on the color scheme for the entire image, I just wanted to get the face nailed down first. It also helped that I already knew he was going to be in black armor and the pillars and altar were probably just going to be a stone color.

I came up with two different color variations for the face. In the first one I was going for a sickly pale skin tone with a bit of green and yellow. For the second one I decided to try something completely different and went with a blue and purple color scheme.

Both of these were achieved by adding color on an overlay layer. The pale one also required quite a bit of opaque painting on a normal layer to get what I wanted, but the blue/purple one was almost done completely with one overlay layer.

Face color variations

Face color variations

I ended up going with the first one because I felt like he looked more like an addict and it showcased the staining better than the darker version.

Now that I had an idea of where i was going to go with the face, I started working on color for the rest of the painting. The black armor was also done using an overlay layer. Of course I couldn’t just make the entire armor black, so I would have to go and add more color variation by painting opaquely on a normal layer on top of the overlay layer.

Ob Nixilis process

Ob Nixilis process

In the third image, I decided to add some red cloth to his design. It made him feel a little more like royalty and it added some color variation to the image. Later on I added more red to his arms because otherwise the red cloth felt too isolated. I needed red somewhere else in the image to balance it.

The next to the last image is closer to what I actually submitted to WotC. When I found out my painting was released this morning, I opened the file to post it. I noticed that he still looked really short and his Captain Morgan leg looked off. I moved his head and neck up to make his torso longer and lowered his bent leg. I actually think I made the image a little too dark. I should probably go back and fix the levels.

If you are interested, I added prints to my inPRNT gallery. Check it out!

Dokiwear: The CG Art Glove

Image from DokiWear Kickstarter

Image from DokiWear Kickstarter

Not too long ago I was contacted about testing out a new glove designed for CG artists called the DokiGlove.

This glove was designed to eliminate oil from your screen surface and continue cleaning the surface at the same time. It is also supposed to act as a sports compression, offering hand and wrist support.

I’m not sure how much it actually helps in terms of supporting the wrist. According to their size chart I am a medium, but it seems a little too loose to act as a viable sports compression. Maybe it would work better if I had a small.

That being said, it does clean the surface and it eliminates oils from your fingers and hand. It is well constructed and also looks nice.

The microfiber cleaning cloth appears to be ultrasuede. When I first heard about the glove, I thought the microfiber cleaning cloth would be the typical cloth most people associate with computer cleaning cloths like this one. I personally hate the feel of the typical microfiber cleaning cloth because your skin sticks to it, or at least mine does. I’m glad they went with ultrasuede.

When I first saw the glove I was under the impression that the two fingers offered palm rejection. I’ve seen gloves in the past that only had the ring and little finger covered, and the reason was for palm rejection. After testing the DokiGlove, I now know that there is no palm rejection. I went to their site but I didn’t see anything about palm rejection, so I guess it was never a part of their design.



It would be nice if there was palm rejection, but most devices and apps have a palm rejection feature, so it isn’t that big of a deal.

What I really want is a wrist strap like the Handeze Flex-Fit. I think offering a version with the wrist strap would really appeal to artists with carpal tunnel syndrome. Actually, it should appeal to all CG artists because the wrist strap is not just something that helps with active carpal tunnel syndrome, but it also acts as a preventative measure.

Since the DokiGlove isn’t a very tight fit, I am able to wear my Handeze Flex-Fit gloves underneath the DokiGlove. It isn’t ideal, but it works.

All in all I think the DokiGlove is a great product, but for me I wouldn’t use it if I couldn’t wear my Handeze Flex-Fit glove underneath it. If they offered a version with a wrist strap, I would abandon the Handeze Flex-Fit glove for the DokiGlove.

Be sure to check out their Kickstarter!

MtG of Thrones

Dragon Throne of Tarkir

Dragon Throne of Tarkir

Another one of my cards from Khans of Tarkir was spoiled yesterday. Technically it was spoiled a couple of weeks ago because someone took a picture of it and posted it online, but the image was really blurry and you couldn’t really see my art.

It was kind of funny when I received these two commissions because back in the beginning of 2013 I had painted Zurgo Helmsmasher sitting on a dragon skull throne. Of course the description for these two cards was exactly that; paint Zurgo Helmsmasher sitting on a dragon skull throne.

Why two cards with the same painting you ask? The one without Zurgo was going to be for Khans of Tarkir, and the one with him sitting in it was going to be used as a special promo card.

Hmm, how was I going to do the exact same painting but do it differently? Since Magic cards are a horizontal format, I figured it might be better to show the throne more from the side, especially since dragon skulls are fairly long.

Dragon Throne of with 100% more Zurgo Helmsmasher!

Dragon Throne of Tarkir…now with 100% more Zurgo Helmsmasher!

I couldn’t just plop Zurgo in the throne from this first painting because he would be a little too small in the painting. I zoomed in and changed some of the banners so that they would fit the composition better. I also had to move the armrests because I had painted them too low in the original and he wouldn’t fit. I think I still kind of fudged it, but oh well.

When I originally painted Zurgo Helmsmasher sitting on the throne with his two archer buddies, the throne looked a lot different. I had painted this back when we didn’t know what the dragons were going to look like, so I just made one up. After we concepted the look of the dragon, they asked me to go back and change the painting.

There you have it, Zurgo sitting on a throne looking pretty.

Khans of Tarkir – Concepts & Illustrations

156633 Sarkhan, the Dragon's Voice

Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

Hey everyone! I have some more Khans of Tarkir art to show you. I’m also going to go ahead and repost the illustrations from before so that you can get the whole picture of what I’ve done for Khans of Tarkir.

Today WotC posted the video of their Khans of Tarkir Worldbuilding panel at Pax Prime 2014. If you weren’t able to attend Pax Prime, be sure to watch the video! They also posted a high-res wallpaper of Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker.

Since they spoiled a few pieces of my concept art at the panel, I wanted to show some higher quality images of the same concepts. For some reason they looked incredibly dark at the panel. I’m not sure if it was the projector they were using or what. I know my name is Daarken, but my paintings aren’t that dark! Or at least they aren’t anymore.

Back in January, 2013, along with Chase Stone, Tyler Jacobson, Sam Burley, and Wayne Reynolds, I helped concept Khans of Tarkir. Over 15 days I produced almost 40 painted concepts…which is pretty fast for me. The other guys probably produced between 60-80, so I’m pretty slow compared to them. One day we came to work and Chase whipped out this fully rendered illustration that could have been slapped on a Magic card and called it done. That sneaky little jerk painted that whole illustration the night before at the hotel after hours.

The Pitch

Actually, I should probably start at the beginning. Back in September, 2012, I received an email from Jeremy Jarvis asking me if I would like to paint a pitch illustration of Sarkhan Vol because they were planning on returning to his home-plane. I believe I was actually the first person to create a painting for Khans of Tarkir. This was back before the project had been approved by the higher-ups.


Original Sarkhan concept

I received the email on a Friday and they needed the sketch by the following Monday and the final a day or two after that. It was a pretty short turnaround, especially since nothing had been concepted yet for the world.

I was basically given the phrase “a heavy metal Mongolian inspired empire” and told to run with it. Of course that world is so large and expansive that it was hard to narrow down the essence in a single painting. I basically tried to throw everything into the same painting and hoped it worked.

To the right is the original Sarkhan sketch I gave them on the following Monday. I knew I wanted to pull something from my original Sarkhan Vol design from Shards of Alara so that you could more easily identify him as Sarkhan Vol. I thought similar pauldron spikes might be a good way to link the two designs.


Updated Sarkhan iteration

After some feedback, I submitted the following painting. I changed the position of his head to match the original Sarkhan Vol and I continued to refine his costume design. I personally like the original head position better.

I also added an embroidered dragon claw on his left pauldron. They wanted some sort of clan symbol on his armor, so this was my first stab at a Mardu symbol. The Mardu symbol was later changed to a set of wings while Temur adopted the dragon claw symbol.

The following January we arrived at WotC to concept the rest of the world. I didn’t actually work on Sarkhan while I was at the concept push. He was already in a fairly good place and there were much more important things to worry about, especially since we had a limited time to finish everything.

After I returned home at the end of January, I was contacted again to see if I wanted to update Sarkhan since I had just spent three weeks working on Khans of Tarkir. I knew a little more about the look of the world and they wanted to see my take on an updated design.

Sarkhan_Concept 02 05

Third Sarkhan iteration

Sarkhan’s previous design was a little too convoluted. Since I didn’t know what the Mongolian inspired world should look like, I had just thrown everything in the design. I tried to simplify the design a little more and focus on the large scale mail as the repeating shape of their culture.

The pauldron spikes were replaced with two dragon horns. Hopefully they are still reminiscent of his original spikes while also adding in a bit of narrative regarding his connection with dragons.

I also changed his weapon to fit more with the look of the other Mardu weapons we created. There is also a little storytelling element on his weapon.

He also needed some more color and more bits of fur. The fur was tricky to add due to his red pants and black boots. Do you know anyone else with red pants, black boots, and white fur? Yeah, I really didn’t want him to look like Santa and every time I added the fur with the red pants and boots, he looked like Sarkhan Claus. I tried to hide the pants as much as possible and keep the colors toned down. If you are a good little boy or girl, Sarkhan Clause will bring you a bleached dragon skull for Christmas!


Like I mentioned before, a few of my concepts were spoiled at the Khans of Tarkir worldbuilding panel at Pax Prime. I wish I could show you more, but these are the only ones I can show right now. Maybe I’ll release more in my next book!

You’ll notice that the Temur ice elemental has the text “Temur Djinn” written on it. My original idea was that this was what a Temur Djinn would look like, but they later decided to make him an ice elemental instead.

Usually when I concept something at the pushes, I don’t receive card commissions of anything I concepted. This time was different. I was able to illustrate both my Temur Ice Elemental and my Sultai Rakshasa…and Sarkhan of course. I also illustrated a fetch land, which is really cool. I’ve only illustrated two lands before this one, Badlands and Fetid Heath. I think Badlands was only released on MTGO.

Mardu trailer illustration

Mardu trailer illustration

After the concept push, I created this Mardu illustration featuring Zurgo Helmsmasher which was going to be used in the SDCC teaser trailer. This illustration also had a really short turnaround. I think  it was also commissioned on a Friday and I turned in the final on the following Monday.

Females play a large role in this set, so we wanted to show them in more powerful positions…and wear normal armor, sans boob plates.

I hope you enjoyed this closer look at the concepts and illustrations I created for Khans of Tarkir. If they release more of my concepts I’ll be sure to post them. If not, you might see them in my next book (if I ever make one).


Huion GT-220

Huion GT-220 - Claptrap wants to know what all the fuss is about.

Huion GT-220 – Claptrap wants to know what all the fuss is about. (Claptrap not included)

Not too long ago Huion contacted me and asked if I would be willing to review their upcoming GT-220 if they shipped a unit to me. I had never heard of Huion before, but the products on their site looked interesting, especially for the price.

Behold! The new Huion GT-220! This is a 21.5″ tablet monitor with an IPS display. It has a native resolution of 1920×1080 and has 2048 levels of pressure.

Other than mobile tablet devices, like the Fujitsu ST5112, Asus EP121, Wacom Companion, and Windows Surface Pro, I’ve never used a desktop tablet monitor. It looked and sounded great, so let’s see how it turned out.

If you don’t want to read the review, I also created a video review that shows the GT-220 in action.

Update 9/9/14 - I purchased the Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter for my Mac. The Huion drivers for Macs are a joke. The trigger buttons can only be mapped to either left or right click and you can’t calibrate your stylus. I would NOT recommend the GT-220 to any Mac users. Here is the short video update.

Update 11/4/14 - Huion insisted that I return the unit because I had problems with it, even though the deal they had with me was that I would be allowed to keep the unit if I did a video review.

Multiple times I told them that returning the unit wouldn’t fix the problems since many of them are driver and firmware related. They said if I returned the unit, they would send me an updated unit that had fixed some of the issues I had in my review.

I also did not want to pay for shipping. They kept emailing me, demanding that I return the unit and they said I would have to pay for shipping myself. Again, I told them I was not going to pay for shipping. Finally they agreed to reimburse me for shipping if I sent back the unit. I bought tracking and paid around $26 for shipping to California.

They received the unit back on Oct. 20th. After several unanswered emails and giving me the runaround, they have yet to pay me back for shipping, even though they received the unit 15 days ago. I think I just got suckered into doing a review of their product for free. Actually, not free, I had to pay $26 for shipping and $30 for the VGA adapter, so actually I had to pay money to write the review. I would recommend avoiding Huion. If they ever reimburse me or send me a new unit like they said they would, I will post a new update.

Update 11/5/14 - Well, after publicly posting about not hearing back from Huion yesterday, I received an email saying they will reimburse me once I send them the receipt. Good thing I keep my receipts.

Here are some more specs from the Huion site!

Technology Electromagnetic Digitizer
Type IPS Monitor
Screen Size 21.5″ (Diagonal)
Aspect Ratio 16:9
Display Area (H x V) 476.64 mm x 268.11 mm
Pressure Sensitivity 2048 Levels
Viewing Angle (Typical) H : 178° V : 178°
Pixel Pitch (H x V) 0.2485 mm x 0.2485 mm
Native Resolution 1920×1080
Hand Input Resolution 5080 LPI (Lines per Inch)
Reading Accuracy 0.12mm 2048 PPI (Pixels per Inch)
Brightness 250 cd/m2
Contrast Ratio (Typical) 1000 : 1
Number of Colors 16.7 M
Report Rate 220 RPS (Revolutions per Second)
Response Time 5 ms
Video Interface VGA DVI HDMI
Data Communication Interface USB
Power Supply Type External Adapter
Power Supply (Adapter) Input 100-240 VAC, 50/60 Hz, Output 12VDC, 3A
Operation Power Consumption <36W
Standby Power Consumption < 1W
Pen Power Consumption 300uA (Max.)
Errors of Digital Pen Detecting ±3mm (Tilted ±50°from Vertical)
Operating System Support Windows XP or later,mac OS X10.7 or later
OSD Language English, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese, etc.
Operation Temperature 5-+40°C (41-104°F)
Operation Humidity 10-80% (Non-condensing)
Unit Dimension (L x W x H) 520mmx40mmx320mm
Carton Dimension (L x W x H) 558mmx124mmx408mm
Weight Net 5.42kg
Rechargable Pen Minimum 800 hours of continuous use
Accessories 1xVGA cable,1xUSB cable,1xAC adapter,1Xpower cable,1xdriver
disc,1xpen charging cable,1xpen holder,1xpen tip removal tool,8xspare pen tips
Photo Aug 24, 9 03 31 AM

Huion GT-220


Before I unboxed the unit, I watched and read some other reviews online about the GT-220. Everyone mentioned that you needed to install the drivers before plugging in the device, otherwise you would be in for a nasty surprise. I also read through the manual.

After I unboxed everything, I noticed that the driver disc that was supposed to be included was missing. Apparently China doesn’t allow the export of discs, so unless you live in China, you won’t be getting the disc. No big deal, I’ll just go download the drivers from their site.

I downloaded the Mac drivers and installed them on my Mac desktop. During the installation I received an error message and the drivers never installed. I looked around online for some help, but nothing worked. I then contacted Huion, but their response was to give me the link to the site I had already found via Google. That was pretty much their only solution. I guess it didn’t matter anyway considering my Mac desktop doesn’t have a VGA or HDMI slot.

Luckily I have a PC desktop as well. The drivers worked and I plugged in the GT-220. Now the problem with my PC is that it is probably around 8 years old. It only has 4 GB of RAM and is pretty slow.

Below are some images from the Huion site. I don’t have a very good camera and the lighting in my apartment is horrible, so there isn’t a reason to take pictures that won’t look as good as these.


Driver options

Driver Options & Calibration

The driver options are pretty spartan. You can change the pressure of the stylus to hard or soft and customize the two trigger buttons. Aside from that and calibrating the pen, there isn’t much else.

Whenever I’m working in Photoshop, I always map alt to the first trigger button, which activates the eyedropper tool. Unfortunately whenever I clicked the first trigger button, it didn’t activate the alt button like it was supposed to. Not only that, but it would randomly think I was pressing the second trigger button, which was mapped to right-click.

If I don’t map a modifier key to the first button (alt, ctrl, or shift), it seems to work. It will still sometimes think I’m pressing the second trigger though. I also found that mapping a modifier to it will work outside of Photoshop, but not in Photoshop.

Having a useless trigger button is a huge problem for me since that drastically reduces my speed and efficiency.

Calibration has been a pain and I can’t get the cursor to appear underneath the stylus tip. I’ve even tried offsetting where I click during the calibration process, but I still can’t get it quite right.

Like most tablets, there is some cursor drift around the edges of the screen.

Stylus and stand

Stylus and stand

The Stylus & Stand

The stylus is very light and a little smaller than the standard Wacom stylus. Instead of an eraser on the end, it has a port to recharge the stylus.

It also has two trigger buttons, but like I just mentioned, only the second trigger button works in Photoshop. I searched around online and it seems that several other people have this same problem. I believe Huion’s response was to simply replace the stylus.

The stand opens to contain the replacement nibs and tip removal tool. The design is almost identical to the Wacom stand, except the materials are much cheaper.

The Screen

Since the GT-220 has an IPS display, the colors and viewing angle is pretty nice. I did some tweaking in the menu options, but I think the colors are fairly close to other monitors.

The contrast looks nice and the screen is bright. Since I’ve been working on a tablet PC for the past 5 years, it is nice to paint on a large screen again.

It comes with a screen protector that has a bit of a matte feel to it. I usually use screen protectors anyway because I’m always paranoid that I’ll scratch the screen. The screen protector can be easily removed since it only has sticky areas in the corners. I don’t think the contrast or colors are compromised by the screen protector. I remember one of the screen protectors I used on the Fujitsu ST5112 made everything look fuzzy.

If you remove the screen protector, the glass actually grips the nib sometimes, causing it to make squeaking sounds. I prefer how it feels when working on top of the screen protector.

The screen surface did start to get a little hot. I wouldn’t say it was hot enough to cause any problems, but it gets a lot hotter than the Companion. The Companion actually never even gets warm. They must cool it with magic. I admit though, I haven’t used the GT-220 for hours on end, so I’ll report back later if I find any problems after working for longer periods of time on it.

Of course there is one problem with the screen, dust. There are numerous large pieces of dirt and debris caught underneath the screen. According to Huion, dust gets under the screen during shipping. If that is the case, then they should be shipping the unit sealed inside of a plastic sleeve. I checked around online again, and most people have this problem.

The only way to remove the dust is to unscrew the monitor and completely dismantle it. Usually taking apart your device voids any warranty, plus you always run the risk of damaging the product. Below are some pictures of the dust stuck under my screen. There is more than this, but you get the idea.

The Unit

Every review I have read or watched has mentioned this, and I will again. There is a huge problem with the cords. If you lower the stand, the monitor will actually sit on top of the cords, which makes the unit unstable. It can also damage the cords since they are so close to the bottom that they have to bend quite a lot. If you want to lower your monitor, you won’t be able to.

The menu buttons are on the bottom of the screen, which means when the screen is at certain angles, you won’t be able to press the buttons unless you pick the unit up or move it off the table.

Someone on my YouTube brought up an interesting solution of turning the GT-220 upside down. I suppose you could do this. Usually video cards have an option in the control panel that will allow you to rotate your screen. I tested mine out and I was able to flip the screen. The stand still works, but it is harder to adjust, which means you might have to flip it, adjust it, and then flip it again. Of course all of the text on the monitor, like the logo and menu buttons, will be upside down. It is a bit ghetto, but it can be done. In the end, the user shouldn’t be required to turn a unit upside down in order to fully use it.

The unit itself is pretty light, weighing in at 11.9 lbs. The Wacom 22HD is 18.8 lbs while the 24HD is a whopping 63.8 lbs with the stand. I’m sure you won’t be lugging it around much since it is a desktop unit, but still, it is nice when you do have to move it.

Performance in Photoshop

Let me start off by saying again that my computer is very old. It only has 4 GB of RAM and probably needs to be reformatted. I’m running CS4 because I kept getting an error message in CC 2014 saying I ran out of RAM. That being said, the GT-220 still seems to be very responsive.

When I tried to use the GT-220 in Photoshop CC 2014, I couldn’t get the stylus to draw anything. Sometimes it would draw a straight line across the screen, but that was about it. I looked online and found some new CC 2014 drivers on the Huion Tumblr. With the new drivers I was able to get CC 2014 to work, but it caused CS4 to no longer work, so I had to go back to the other drivers.

What I’m missing are the express keys, which means you need to either use a keyboard or a Nostromo. It isn’t that big of a deal since this is a desktop tablet, which means you are going to have a keyboard sitting next to you anyway. Still, it would be a nice addition.

Squiggly line in Photoshop

Squiggly line in Photoshop

I’m not sure if this is just a Photoshop bug, but there is the squiggly line problem that people have reported with other tablets. Basically, if you draw small fine lines while zoomed out, they will look really squiggly and jagged. I don’t do line work, so it doesn’t bother me and I actually never noticed it until someone brought it to my attention.

When I’m just drawing random lines, for testing, the pressure sensitivity seems to be fine. When I’m actually working on an illustration, I find that I have a hard time getting the full range of pressure. I even set the pressure sensitivity to very soft, but I still feel like I can’t get the range I want. I’m not sure if it is recognizing all 2048 levels of pressure or not. Sometimes it will also throw down a big paint blob.

It could be because when I’m working on an illustration, I pick up and put down the stylus a lot since I’m making several different brushstrokes. Maybe there is a problem with the stylus activating right away when it comes into contact with the screen, I don’t know. I do know that sometimes when I put the stylus to the screen, I have to tap the stylus to the screen before it will recognize the stylus. This could be some feature to extend the battery life of the stylus.


When I buy a product that will be used for my job, I want it to work out of the box with the least amount of downtime possible. It took a few hours trying to find the correct drivers, install them on various machines before I found one that worked, and get it up and running. Even after that, it still didn’t perform as it should (stylus buttons not working, drivers not working in some apps, calibration is off).

I think this could be a great unit, but it isn’t quite there yet. I’m really not sure how some of these problems got through R&D. The cord flaw is just so obvious that I’m surprised it left the production floor.

If they can fix the problems with the stylus buttons, cords, dust, and drivers, I think this could be a great alternative to a Wacom Cintiq, especially given the price. Half of these problems could be fixed with a driver update, but who knows how long that will take.

I would just like to thank Huion again for sending me the GT-220 to review. Update – Huion has since demanded that I return the unit to them and have yet to reimburse me for shipping or send me a new unit, even though they said they would.

Update 9/2/14 – Huion released new drivers on Aug. 28th that were supposed to fix the calibration issues. I downloaded and installed the drivers and it completely broke my GT-220. It no longer recognized the stylus at all. I ended up having to roll back to the previous drivers.

Update 9/9/14 - I purchased the Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter for my Mac. The Huion drivers for Macs are a joke. The trigger buttons can only be mapped to either left or right click and you can’t calibrate your stylus. I would NOT recommend the GT-220 to any Mac users. Here is the short video update.

Update 9/11/14 - New PC drivers again. This time the drivers actually work, but they didn’t fix any of the problems I had before. Calibration still doesn’t work properly (even though they claim to have fixed it) and the stylus trigger button still doesn’t work either.

Update 9/13/14 - I was given a firmware update that was supposed to fix the stylus trigger button. I installed the update, but the trigger button still doesn’t work.

Update 9/18/14 - The new drivers (PC) helped with the calibration, but alt still doesn’t work in Photoshop.

Update 11/4/14 - Huion insisted that I return the unit because I had problems with it, even though the deal they had with me was that I would be allowed to keep the unit if I did a video review.

Multiple times I told them that returning the unit wouldn’t fix the problems since many of them are driver and firmware related. They said if I returned the unit, they would send me an updated unit that had fixed some of the issues I had in my review.

I also did not want to pay for shipping. They kept emailing me, demanding that I return the unit and they said I would have to pay for shipping myself. Again, I told them I was not going to pay for shipping. Finally they agreed to reimburse me for shipping if I sent back the unit. I bought tracking and paid around $26 for shipping to California.

They received the unit back on Oct. 20th. After several unanswered emails and giving me the runaround, they have yet to pay me back for shipping, even though they received the unit 15 days ago. I think I just got suckered into doing a review of their product for free. Actually, not free, I had to pay $26 for shipping and $30 for the VGA adapter, so actually I had to pay money to write the review. I would recommend avoiding Huion. If they ever reimburse me or send me a new unit like they said they would, I will post a new update.

Update 11/5/14 - Well, after publicly posting about not hearing back from Huion yesterday, I received an email saying they will reimburse me once I send them the receipt. Good thing I keep my receipts.

Advanced Digital Painting – Video only tier!

Illustration from a Client Brief

Illustration from a Client Brief

I am pleased to announce that the “video only” tier for my Advanced Digital Painting class is now available for purchase!

The class is 10 weeks long and includes 25 videos totaling more than 1,500 minutes. You can purchase the video only tier by sending $250 to my Paypal account ( with a note letting me know that you are purchasing either the Advanced class demos or the Intro class demos. You then need to create a free Vimeo account and send a message through Vimeo to my user (Daarken). I will then give you access to the videos.

Since this is a “video only” tier, you won’t receive any of the files or references I mention in the videos, you will only receive the videos. If you want full access to everything, you will need to take the class.

In addition to receiving the videos, you will also receive access to the private mentorship forum. You can upload your homework assignments and chat with the other students taking my class. Instructions for how to gain access to the private forum can be found in the F.A.Qs on the Enliighten site.

Take a look at the course outline!

Week 1 – Clothed Figure I
Most figures need some type of clothing. This session will cover how to clothe your figures and topics like action folds and materials will be discussed. Paintings will be done from photo ref.

Week 2 – Clothed Figure II
Unlike week 1, this session will cover painting clothed figures from your imagination with an emphasis on depicting different materials and textures.

Week 3 – Character Design
This session will cover how to design a character from a silhouette and how to take it to finish. You will also learn what makes a good character design and what you should think about when you are designing your own characters.

Week 4 – Turnarounds
Learn how to do turnarounds of your character design from week 3. These are important if you want to go into the film or video game industry.

Week 5 – Character Portraits
Give your character designs some interesting faces. Different ethnic groups will also be covered during this portrait painting session.

Week 6 – How to use Photo Ref in Illustrations
Many people shy away from using photo ref because it is considered “cheating.” This session will show you how to use your own reference in your illustrations and how it will benefit your career.

Week 7 – Illustration From a Client Brief
Create an illustration from an actual professional client brief. Style guides will also be provided so that the students can create an accurate illustration based on the assigned IP.

Week 8 – Battle Scenes
Battle scenes are commonplace in the gaming industry. This session will go over composing large battle scenes and how to portray depth, scale, and imply a larger force without having to completely paint every detail.

Week 9 – Sci-Fi Illustration
Instead of focusing on the fantasy genre, this session will cover the sci-fi end of the spectrum. Gas masks, robots, and space ships, oh my!

Week 10 – The Business Side of Illustration and Concept Art
Students usually know how to create a good portfolio, but they rarely know how to actually submit one or who to contact at perspective companies. This session will cover the business side of the industry and will cover topics like contracts, invoicing, taxes, and self-promotion.

Khans of Tarkir from SDCC

Zurgo Helmsmasher

Zurgo Helmsmasher…and crew.

Hey everyone! I’m sure you are all back from SDCC by now. I didn’t go, but I saw some of my Khans of Tarkir illustrations were spoiled at the con.

This first illustration was painted more than a year ago. I had just gotten back from the first concept push for Khans of Tarkir when I was asked to paint this illustration. I think I only had 2 days to paint it, so it was a bit of a rush.

Back then we didn’t really know what the dragon skull should look like, so a few months ago I had to go back and repaint it because we changed the design.

The big guy in the middle is Zurgo Helmsmasher, the leader of the Mardu clan. Next to him are two warriors from his clan, one female and one male. I’m sure many of you will be happy to see that the female archer is in full armor, sans boob armor.

Helmets from the other four clans are displayed as trophies on the dragon’s teeth in the foreground.

You can actually see this illustration at the beginning of the teaser video released at SDCC.

156579 Veiled Motives 02

Mighty morph tiger dude?

This is another illustration that was spoiled at SDCC. I don’t really know much about the card since they never tell us what they do.

Yup, I think that is all I have for today. Thanks!

…now draw the rest of Soul of New Phyrexia

Soul of New Phyrexia - M15

Soul of New Phyrexia – M15

New Magic stuff!

Last night I found out that my Soul of New Phyrexia card had been spoiled.

I almost forgot about this guy since I painted him a year ago. I always enjoyed painting Phyrexian stuff, so I was pretty excited about this guy. Phyrexian aesthetics tend to suit me well since I like painting weird flesh metal stuff, sprinkled with a dab of oil and smoke.

I wasn’t very happy with my old Phyrexian paintings, so this was a chance to redeem myself. Here is the description I received.

“Show us a massive Phyrexian construct (40 feet tall) lumbering through the oil-slicked land. Tubes and pipes writhe from under its feet. The giant machine’s construction has hints of the silhouette of Elesh Norn – the Phyrexian praetor. Some of it is plated with cracked white porcelain intermixed with plates of black darksteel covering its hull. At its head is a grinding maw, looking something like a lamprey crossed with a drilling machine. Its body has the Phyrexian organic-machinery look, maybe it has smokestack vents along its arms/legs issuing forth vile pollution.” 

I put together a short little process shot of the painting, although it feels a little like the famous “how to draw an owl” meme. Sometimes my final changes quite a bit from my sketch, but with this painting I stuck pretty close to the original sketch.

soul of new phyrexia process

The first image is the black and white sketch that I submitted to my art director for approval. After receiving approval, I started to add the base colors using overlay layers and some opaque painting.

The major change I made along the way was his face and chest. Originally I had him dripping some toxic slime from his face hole, but then I remembered that I was supposed to make his maw look like a lamprey crossed with a drilling machine. It pays to pay attention to your brief!

Sarkhan Vol

Sarkhan Vol – Khans of Tarkir

Apparently I forgot to post my Sarkhan Vol painting from the upcoming Khans of Tarkir block and Tyrant’s Choice from Conspiracy.

It seems crazy to think that it has already been six years since my original Sarkhan Vol painting came out in Shards of Alara. My painting style has definitely changed over the years, so much so that I always hate looking at my older paintings.

I wish I could go back in time and shake myself and yell “stop being lazy!” I’m sure in six more years I’ll say the same thing about this painting. There are already several things about it that really bug me, but what are you gonna do?

The next painting I want to talk about is Tyrant’s Choice. Some people had a problem with this painting because they said a cell couldn’t hold water since it would just leak through the bars. There are several explanations for this, and this was done deliberately.

Maybe there is glass between the bars, maybe it is magic (whenever something can’t be explained, it must be magic!), or maybe the area beyond the foreground bars is also flooded, but you can’t really tell since that is where the viewer is and it would make it too hard to see and understand what is going on if I made everything look like it was underwater.

153153 Inquisitor's Decision 08

Tyrant’s Choice – Conspiracy

Sure those explanations could work, although the magic explanation is stretching it a bit, but the main reason I did this was because of artistic license. If you took the foreground bars out of the scene, it would completely change the drama of the shot. I knew I wanted the bars in there, regardless of the logic.

I also intentionally placed the bars so that they are almost creating tangents with the figure, same with the bars behind his head. Tangents cause unease. This guy is fighting for his life, so I wanted that added tension. I wanted it to feel claustrophobic; I wanted it to feel like the world was closing in around him.

Sometimes tangents can be a good thing in a painting…sometimes. Tangents are sort of like the dodge and burn tool. As long as you know how to use them correctly, they can make your painting look better.