Robot A Day April 8

Today I’m continuing my project of photographing my collection of chrome robots under colored lights. This is the limited edition chrome R-1 Robot released by Rocket USA – presumably in 2000, judging by the date on his chest. The “RUR” on the robot’s chest is a reference to the play “R.U.R.” by Czech playwright Karel Capek, in which he coined the word “robota”(based on a slavic word meaning “hard labor” or “slavery”) for the artificially created humanoids in his story; this was the root for the English word “robot”.

I again layered two different photos to produce this image, but this time combined it with a little bit of creative masking. Masking is a method of completely or partially concealing parts of a layer in Photoshop. Here are the two original images:

Purple_RUR_web RedGreen_RUR_web

I put the purple robot photo on top of the red-green image. I then used a mask to remove parts of the purple robot; the mask included a gradient blend, which is why you get all that cool color mixing. The mask makes the purple image completely transparent in a circle that is centered over the robot’s face; then the circle lets more and more of the image show as it expands outward. By the time you get to the bottom part of the robot, you are seeing all of the purple image, and none of the one underneath.

I also used the airbrush tool on the mask in order to reveal some details of the robot’s rivets and grills from the second picture, to heighten the illusion that the robot was being bathed in golden light from above. Here is the final result:


I did the photography for this project with an amazingly simple and cheap setup: A small softbox cube that I paid about 25 USD for on eBay; two gooseneck desk lamps from Ikea; some color-changing LED bulbs that I scored on eBay for around 13 USD each; and a Canon Powershot SX50HS, a great point-and-shoot camera that’s simple enough for a beginner, but has enough features to serve as a take-along camera for a more experienced photographer. You can get one at the time of this posting for about $350 USD, maybe even cheaper if you’re lucky. The results wouldn’t fool a real professional with their quality, but you can blow most anyone else away!

I would like to thank my new friend Steve Day for gifting me with this lovely robot, and also give a shout out to his business, The Little Robot Shop, based in the UK (but poised for world dominance!). They make fabulous greeting cards, wrapping paper, posters, etc. featuring cool vintage robots, and will be offering a few of my designs soon. Check em out!


Robot A Day April 7


Here’s my contribution for today. I put my HaHa Toys chrome High Wheel Robot into my softbox and hit it with some colored lights, then took a few photos. This is actually a combination of two different exposures, one that had the crazy color I wanted, and another that had better detail. It’s the first step of a project I’ve been thinking about for a while – I actually purchased this robot specifically for this purpose (ummm, and to add another robot to my mighty robot army in progress!).

My eventual goal for this project is to get a spiffy psychedelically lit image to use as source material for a vector art project. For you who are wondering what in the world that is, it’s basically a way of making an image that can be reproduced at any scale without losing any detail.

If you’ve ever tried to blow up a tiny digital photo, only to see it come out all blocky and chunky, then you have seen the limitations of pixel-based art. All of your digital photos are composed of tiny little squares of color…if you blow them up, the squares get bigger and bigger, until they become very obvious and distracting.

When you make a piece of vector-based art, the computer basically comes up with a mathematical formula for your image. you then tell the computer what size to make the image, and what resolution (how many pixels to use), and it does all the dirty work for you. The end result is that your image will look just as crisp and clean blown up to billboard size as it does when you print it out on your home printer.

If you imagine an image like this one printed out so the robot is about the size of an average human being, you’ll get an idea of the end goal of this project. Pretty sweet, huh?

HaHa Toys High Wheel Robot


here I am, still in the experimental stage of this blog. I’m still a rank noobie in the world of blogging, trying to figure out even the most basic of things…how to find my blog, how to find other people’s blogs, how to switch between the blog and the dashboard…I’m sure many of you remember that first, awkward phase! Blogging etiquette, ping backs, blavatars, gravatars – I didn’t realize there would be so much more than just jumping in and typing random thoughts and posting cool art.

Thus far I’m finding the whole interface rather clunky and non-intuitive. I’ll be much happier when it’s not such a chore just trying to make things work, and I can get down to the business of producing some interesting content!

The pic for today is a photo I took of my HaHa Toys High Wheel Robot. It’s a modern Chinese copy of a classic vintage robot made by KO/Yoshiya in Japan.

I was happy with the lighting and overall look of the photo. The valuable lesson that I took away from this shoot is that you REALLY have to pay close attention in preparing your subject for the shoot! Despite giving the robot what I thought was a thorough cleaning, I found that a glance at the finished photos revealed a lot of lint and dust left behind by the cloth I used for the job. Now I have a whole batch of beautifully lit, perfectly exposed photos that are ABSOLUTELY USELESS due to the fact that the amount of time it would take to clean them up in photoshop would probably be greater than just starting over from scratch.

Ah well, live and learn…live and learn.