Mwa-ha-ha… In honor of my first Halloween post, I thought I’d conjure up a little Alchemy!

No really. I mean Alchemy. You know, that free program from a while back that not a whole lot of people use any more?

Get it here!

Well I still use it on just about every piece I do. Like a zombie, I keep it alive in my workflow, and it doesn’t eat much of my brain. In fact the program is so simple, that I can take my brain out of the creation process and move on instinct, as there are no layers, and most importantly, my version has no un-do. You just react on instinct, which is what you have to do to survive a zombie apocalypse, right?

If you can’t handle the suspense, you can scroll down the the THREE demo videos I made for this post of the monsters above. But c’mon, you can take it, no need to cover your eyes through the scary parts.

Alchemy can do a lot of cool stuff. But for the purpose of this article I will just use the basics.

1) I switch between Line and Fill in ‘Style’. For the most part imagine you are drawing shapes with the lasso tool in photoshop, but those shapes auto fill with color and/or gradients the moment you lift up the stylus. I am drawing with shapes more  than with lines.

2) I build up with different opacity using the ‘Transparency’ slider.  Like water color washes.

3) I use the default ‘Shapes’ selection under the ‘Create’ drop-down. That will fill any shape you make with the stylus.

4) I sometimes use the ‘Gradient’ effect under Affect. Which fills my selections with a gradient rather than a solid.

I often use Alchemy  in the early planing stages of a painting. For instance- Step 1: Make rough pieces in Alchemy.  Step 2: Assemble into comp in Photoshop.  Step 3: Make final art in photoshop or traditionally.

I use it for gesture drawing.

But I also use it for props. In mirror-mode, I can’t think of a quicker way to make interesting bladed weapons. It allows you to draw in symmetry. I can then take these weapons and transform them in photoshop to give more perspective. No more need to find sword photos on google and photochop them. Make it in like 2 min. You will spend way more time than 2-min searching for the web for cosplay swords, you know you will. Maaaaake it….

(This was the base for the sword in the above Angel cover.)

Or environments.

Or like Dr Frankenstein, I can create characters/monsters that I can later import into my piece and manipulate. These 2 monsters are straight out of Alchemy with no post manipulation. But I will cut them up and transform and paint on top of these later. I find when slogging on a painting in photoshop, it is fun for me to break away and create a few puzzle pieces in Alchemy, then bring them back to life in Photoshop.

But today my friends, is Halloween. A special occasion, deserving some special monsters. So to give you all a treat and not a trick, I’ve made few videos for your candy bags, jamming on classic monsters in Alchemy. (Each one took me about 45 min to an hour real time.)


Could you do similar things in photoshop? Sure. Especially since the latest edition has symmetry!  But the reason I keep resurrecting Alchemy is the SPEED with which I can work. I do loads of lasso tool work in photoshop. But I have to use three or more steps to make the same move I can do in one in Alchemy. And because I have no undo in my version,  or layers, I have to think about every stroke. There is no futzing with it after you make it. No history brush. No fade. You gotta think about the moves you make and be present with the work. It keeps your mind sharp.

Hmm so on second thought, maybe I am feeding more of my brain to Alchemy than I first considered. Damn zombies… Happy Halloween!