About the movie
This two-minute long animation shows progressive relief shading, drawn by me, of a solitary peak in the Adirondack Mountains near Lake Placid, New York. Using the airbrush tool in Photoshop 5.5 and a 6 x 8" Wacom ArtZ tablet, over 800 brush strokes were applied from start to finish. The strokes were recorded in batches of 100 in Photoshop's history palette (the maximum number that can be recorded at once) from where the individual animation frames were then copied and pasted into QuickTime Pro. Assembling the animation took considerably more time than drawing the shaded relief.

The 800-plus animation frames together yielded a movie 125MB in size, too large to post on the Internet. By discarding 5 out of every 6 frames, I reduced the file size to 24MB and then further reduced it to only 1.5MB by applying Sorenson video compression. Despite the downsampling and lossy compression that were used, the animation still realistically depicts the creation of hand-drawn shaded relief. My airbrush strokes are very light, so you don't miss much by not seeing them all.

As you watch the movie the underlying contours will disappear halfway through, to show the shading develop with less visual distraction. However, while drawing, the contours were visible to me continuously as guides, although I would occasionally turn them off to inspect the piece as a stand-alone graphic. Knowing when to stop working a shaded relief is critical, before the point of diminishing returns is reached—overworked pieces often look too heavy and mechanical. In this case lunch was my signal to quit.

Enjoy the show!

File size: 1.5 MB. Requires QuickTime 4.0.
The high quality (i.e. larger) original movie is available here as a Stuffit self-extracting archive (4.1 MB) Mac xPC
You may use the movie any way you wish without asking my permission.

Want to try your hand at manual relief shading? Click here to download the Photoshop file used to make the movie above (839k).