This section was going to form part of a FAQ as I often get asked about the kinds of books I refer to when I'm working or what kind of books novice CG artists should be reading. It turns out the easiest answer I can give is to put up some examples of the best books I currently have on my shelves. Unfortunately a lot of the more interesting ones are out of print but these few here should be enough for now. I've set this up so a click on one of the images will take you to where you can get more details about the book and even buy it. If you have any questions or comments about any of these books then send me an email. Hope it helps!

Computer Graphics Theory

Digital Character Design and Painting (NEW)

Definitely my most valuable purchase of recent times. It's actually in three sections: Character Design, Traditional Painting Art Theory and Digital Painting Techniques. The first two sections lack examples and are pretty brief but the third section is superb. You couldn't hope for more detailed, precise, practical advice. Also includes a CDROM with software and amazing time-lapse movies of the author in action.

MEL Scripting for Maya Animators (NEW)

This is probably most suited to those Maya animators who are comfortable with some of the more technical aspects of Maya but have so far been intimidated by the complexity of MEL. There's also plenty for occaisional MEL dabblers like me, but MEL experts should probably check the contents before purchasing.

Maya: Secrets of the Pros

This fascinating book covers a range of advanced topics. Probably more suited to professionals, it concentrates less on actual mouse clicks and more on general approaches to complex technical challenges. Rather than being a training manual for individual artists it presents working solutions and methods for use in real production environments.

Digital Lighting and Rendering

An excellent resource for anyone in computer graphics. Novices and intermediates will get the most from it but self-taught veterans will probably find a few gems as well as gaining inspiration from the fine example images.

Digital Texturing and Painting

Aimed at pretty much the same level as the above book, Digital Texturing and Painting focusses on those interested in improving their texturing skills. A large portion of the book deals with real life examples and studies of traditional art but there are plenty of CG exercises plus a CD of tutorial files. The author uses Maya but he also translates the concepts into XSI and Max

Advanced Renderman: Creating CGI for Motion Pictures

A fascinating book for anyone who wants to know what's going on inside their renderer and how to get the best out of it. There's a lot of RenderMan specific examples but the concepts explained are universal. Those who are comfortable with maths and programming will find it satisfyingly in-depth and those that aren't can easily skip those parts and move on to the excellent sections on lighting and composition.

Special Effects & Filmmaking

Cinematography Screencraft

19 of the world's best cinematographers discuss their art with hundreds of frames reproduced from their films. Fantastic work from The Piano to Saving Private Ryan.

Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects

How often do you buy a book and watch it turn into ancient history before your eyes? An enormous volume containing the fascinating story of how special effects used to be made before the CG revolution, including hundreds of fabulous pictures from ILM's classic moments. Still relevant in many places but largely a nostalgic recollection of the non digital special effects industry.

Industrial Light & Magic: Into the Digital Realm

The story of the pioneering days of CG and digital effects, from cinema's first "Morph" right up to the controversial Star Wars Special Editions. Still vastly interesting of course and again packed with gorgeous pictures. Enough material to keep you reading for weeks.

Film Directing Shot by Shot

An essential read for anyone who didn't go to film school but is planning to make their own CG movie. You might think watching movies all your life has given you enough knowledge to string a few shots together but trust me, you shouldn't render a single frame until you've read this.

Traditional Art Theory

Figure Drawing Without a Model

There's no magic formula in here for drawing figure, just a lot of advice on how to eventually develop the right skills. There are some tips to follow and some training exercises, plus a range of extremely good example sketches. More inspiration than theory but a damn fine book nonetheless.
Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery

If you've ever struggled with unrealistic creases and wrinkles in your characters' clothes you'll know why this book is so popular. A whole book devoted solely to the art of drawing creases in clothing! Lot's of theory, techniques and examples for getting all those little lines just right.

Art & Illustration

Oblagon: Concepts of Syd Mead

Syd Mead has probably done as much to define the look of 20th century sci-fi as any other individual. Also an accomplished designer in the "real world" Mead has designed on such movies as Tron, 2010, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and of course Bladerunner. His trademark is stunning but believable visions of the future.
Spectrum 8

Busty dragonslayers and exploding starships take a back seat in this marvelous compilation of contemporary fantasy and science fiction illustration. Featuring the work of around 200 artists this is a fantastic up-to-date collection with an enormous range of styles and subjects. Published in 2001, watch this space for Spectrum 9.
Spectrum 7

Spectrum 8 was so good I had to go back in time and pick up Spectrum 7. Pretty much the same as above: every style imaginable; every subject imaginable and apparently every artist imaginable. With barely any text and around 300 full colour pictures you absolutely can't go wrong with this book. Please note that despite what I said above there are some busty dragonslayers if that's what you're into...
Spectrum 9 (NEW)

A very predictable purchase I suppose. Just as good as volumes 7 and 8.
The Pre-Raphaelites

A hundred years before Global Illumination, the pre-Raphaelites were using the latest technology to produce paintings with eerie photorealism. Incredibly beautiful and with some atmospheric medieval themes that put some of these D&D artists to shame.

J W Waterhouse

J W Waterhouse is one of the artists features in the above book. More great pictures but slightly too many of them are in black & white.


I have a few cheesy sci-fi/fantasy illustration books on the bottom shelf and this one was the first I ever bought. The fact that this is still in print shows the outstanding quality of Jim Burns' work. Yes, it's quite dated but being whisked back to 70's and 80's sci-fi imagery is no bad thing once in a while
Heavy Light: The Art of De Es

A wide range of surreal art from De Es. Starts off a little creepy then develops into some lovely textured paintings. Unfortunately descends into some pointless daubings towards the back of the book. Still very good though.

Mind Fields: The Art of Jacek Yerka

Fascinating, intricate paintings accompanied by some surreal texts by Harlan Ellison.

Useful Reference

World Air Power Journal

This was an enormously useful book when I was working on Viper all those years ago. It's basically a quarterly journal for geeky planespotters but it just happens to have photographs of all kinds of military aircraft. The photos are pretty functional (no arty sunset shots) but there's about 500 of them so it's perfect for sci-fi concepters. This particular issue has a fold-out feature on the B52 but I expect all the issues would be equally useful.


This might seem like an odd inclusion but I've referred to it quite frequently. Useful reference material for anyone expecting to model large structures of any kind, not just bridges.

Water and Architecture

Some fascinating pictures of all kinds of architectural subjects from Miami swimming pools to medieval fountains. Some of the modern features are particularly inspirational.

Gothic Revival

If you're doing "gothic" you need this book. Pictures of everything from chairs to cathedrals all in intricate gothic style. I referred to it constantly when modelling on HMS Carnage.

Movie Art

The Art of Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope

A marvelous book featuring mostly concept sketches and paintings from Star Wars' pre-production, plus photo's of props and models. Gain insight into how the legendary TIE fighters and X-Wings evolved in the minds of the creators, and see the inspirational artwork that sold the Star Wars idea to the sceptical studios. Also features the full script so you can finally figure out Princess Leia's incomprehensible last line of dialogue.

The Art of Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

More of the same but this time there's no script. Normally I wouldn't recommend relying on this kind of book if you've been asked to design a spaceship; the temptation to plagiarise is far too great! By all means flick though the pages but your ideas should really come from contemporary sources like motorbikes or submarines or aircraft.

The Art of Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Obviously even more of the same. Whatever your thoughts on the quality of the film itself the artwork has to be the best of the trilogy.

Film Architecture

A fascinating book that explores some of the most striking architecture featured in the movies. Includes examples from Metropolis and Bladerunner as well as many others both well known and obscure. There's a bias towards the black and white horror movies and visionary sci-fi epics but that's fine by me.

From Star Wars to Indiana Jones: The Best of the Lucasfilm Archives

Similar to the Art of Star Wars books above but this time also featuring works from the Indiana Jones trilogy. This book also focusses more on the physical aspects of the movies with close-up photo's of models, props and costumes.

The Prince of Egypt: A New Vision in Animation

The story of the movie's production alongside large reproductions of some of the backgrounds, pre-production sketches and finished frames. If you've seen the film then you probably already know how great this book looks.

The Making of Alien Resurrection

These "Making of" books can often be pretty pointless but I include this one as a bit of an exception. The text may be lacking in detail but every page is full of texture and atmosphere. Some great artwork and special effects elements from the movie.

more to follow...


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