Resources

Welcome to the CG Chatter resources page! I created this as a go-to spot with helpful links relating to the art, business, and lifestyle of creating computer graphics.

Before checking out these great resources, please read this disclosure.

Website/Online Portfolio Design & Hosting

  • Bluehost: I’ve been hosting my sites through BlueHost for several years now, and the deciding factor was their easy WordPress integration. They also offer a ton of great tools that give you total control over you site files, so if you want to get into the nitty gritty or do your own FTP uploads/downloads, that’s no problem at all. They offer very competitive prices, and I’ve been surprised at the good quality of their customer service despite being such a large company. Click here to check them out!
  • GoDaddy: I’ve purchased my domain names through GoDaddy.com since I launched the first version of my personal portfolio site, ecarlsen.com, and have had a very positive experience with them. Prices have stayed reasonable. They do push a lot of extras on you at the checkout, so be sure to carefully assess whether you really need them. But still it’s been smooth sailing for me ever since I first bought the domain in college.
  • ThemeForest: I created cgchatter.com and ecarlsen.com with themes purchased from ThemeForest, and have been very happy with my experience. They make it easy to find themes and developers that have been vetted by a large community. If you want to purchase a theme through them, I’d recommend looking for lots of positive customer reviews, checking out the support forums to ensure the developer is responsive and helpful, and spending a lot of time clicking through the theme’s “live preview” from any device you want your site to be accessed from. Trying out the theme for yourself and checking out the theme’s features list will help you to anticipate how much the theme can grow with you as your site grows.

Tutorials & Training

Software

  • Adobe Creative Cloud: A Creative Cloud membership gives you the tools needed to create almost any flavor of computer graphics. The only days when I’m not using Adobe software occur when I’m working on a predominantly 3D project, but even then I’ll often be tweaking textures in Photoshop, compositing in After Effects, or exporting out of Media Encoder. I think the new subscription-based model is very reasonable – for $50 a month you get access to ALL of the latest Adobe software, which used to cost thousands of dollars to buy outright. They also offer a free 30-day trial so you can try it out first. Here are the Adobe Creative Cloud programs I personally use on a regular basis, and examples of what I use them for:
    • After Effects (animation, motion graphics, compositing)
      • Includes Mocha, which is fantastic at tracking footage
    • Media Encoder (exporting/compressing videos for delivery and playback)
    • Photoshop (photo editing & manipulation, texture creation, graphic design)
    • Illustrator (vector-based graphic design, including the CG Chatter logo and colored icons)
    • Premiere (video editing)
    • Audition (recording and editing the CG Chatter podcast)
    • InDesign (invoicing and other branded documents)
    • Note that Adobe products are not particularly geared toward 3D (for which I predominantly use Autodesk Maya), though you do get a light version of Cinema 4D with After Effects.

Personal Finance

  • You Need a Budget (YNAB): Financial software that has totally changed how I handle money and is helping to keep me focused and organized while paying off my student loans, as well as tracking business expenses for tax season. I’ve been personally using YNAB since 2011 and have converted several of my family members to it as well. It’s totally free for college students, and otherwise you can click this link to save $6 off the regular price.
  • TurboTax: I started using TurboTax for my regular and freelance taxes and have found it to be a great balance of cost and ease of use. It’s a bit more DIY than it would be if you’re going through an accountant, but is very user-friendly and in general costs much less. You also don’t pay until you actually file, so will have plenty of time to try it out.
  • Ting: I switched to Ting as my cell phone provider in 2014 to help pay more on my student loans. You only pay for what minutes, texts, and cellular data you actually use, so it’s possible to have a monthly bill under $20, which is totally doable if you stick mostly to WiFi. There are no long-term contracts and their customer service is fantastic. CG Chatter readers can get $25 off if they sign up through this link.

Books:

  • Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines: I purchased this book while in school and have continued to refer to it over the years for guidance on things like invoicing, pricing, business practices, and how to deal with a number of situations that may come up in our field. It’s packed with information. Definitely recommended for fellow CG artists.
  • The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey: I’m big on personal finance, and, apart from YNAB, this has been the biggest game changer in how I handle money. Soon after graduating and starting my career, I had WAY too much debt, primarily from student loans and credit cards. I found this book and Dave’s plan incredibly motivating and it really helped get me on track for a better financial future. Everything in it will seem like a no-brainer after you read it, yet so few of us are actually living in line with his common sense advice. Dave’s politics and religion sometimes find their way into this book, but it’s very minor so I wouldn’t let it deter you if your views are different in those areas.

FREE Software

  • Blender: Robust open-source FREE 3D software that can hold up against the heavy hitters like Maya, 3D Studio Max, and Cinema 4D. Oh, and it’s free.
  • AwesomeBump: AWESOME free software that generates normal, height, specular or ambient occlusion, roughness and metallic textures based on just one image. There are plenty of settings you’ll still want to tweak, but when used in conjunction with textures.com it’s not hard at all to end up with highly realistic 3D textures that look great.
  • Sculptris: A free alternative to ZBrush that is ideal for getting your feet wet in the world of digital sculpting.
  • TinkercadMuch simpler 3D software which is totally web-based and a great starting point for 3D newcomers.
  • Autodesk Matchmover: Effective tracking software, useful for compositing 3D elements onto live footage. Used to come bundled with other Autodesk products and is now a standalone FREE download!
  • Gimp: This is an alternative to Photoshop with many similar features.
  • Audacity: Audio editing software. I actually used it to achieve the vocoder-like effect in the CG Chatter Podcast intro.
  • Google Docs: Clean and simple to use. Saves automatically. Browser-based so easy to access anywhere. I’ve almost entirely ditched desktop word processors in favor of Google Docs.

FREE Assets

  • Textures.com (formerly “CG Textures”): Huge repository of free textures with 15MB of downloads allowed per day, and more if you subscribe to their paid plan.
  • Free PBR Materials: Free PBR materials, provided at 2048×2048. Each texture zip includes a normal map, albedo map, roughness map, metallic map, ambient occlusion map, and height map.
  • Google Fonts: Free extensive library of fonts. I’ve been using this regularly in my work because it has a lot of great search and preview features, and it’s easy to either download the fonts or use them elsewhere on the web.

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