The importance of a great work space

I've been trying to organise my thoughts on this for quite sometime, and thought I'd share a couple of the lessons I've learned along the way whilst building my home studio setup.



Having switched to an all digital workflow pretty much a year ago to the month, I think I’ve finally got my workspace organized in a way that I like. It’s been a long process of trial and error (and generally moving things around!), but it’s important. It’s amazing how much time can be lost and how easily your rhythm can be broken by having to rearrange your desk to fit your workflow. Here are just a few reasons as to why you should take the time to optimize your workspace.



 Above:Monitor and Cintiq in standard setup
Left: Cintiq in 'drawing' setup with iMac raised


1. Ergonomics. This is the big one. As a freelancer, you are investing in yourself and, unless you’ve got a healthy cash reserve or private insurance, you can’t really afford to have downtime through sickness or injury, let alone preventable injuries (like dreaded RSIs). Look at your posture and alignment with your desk – is it set at the right height? Now to think about your ass: Invest in a decent desk chair, spend a bit more and aim for one with extra lumbar support and adjustments. This will really make the difference when you’re into your 8th consecutive hour rendering. Go to Staples, or Ikea and try a bunch out – it’s totally a personal preference, but try not to buy on cost. I highly recommend either full or at least partially mesh back support. Finally, is your chair at the correct height in relation to your desk? Are your feet flat on the floor? Do you need a footrest? There are tons of great resources out there about workspace ergonomics that will help you get this right.

2. Light! This is an important one, even if you're working solely digitally. Not only is it important to  help prevent eye strain, but the colour of background light can greatly affect the way you interpret colour on the screen. I have opted here to get as much natural light as possbile in the bay window (they're also about 9ft tall, which means LOADS of light even on a grey day!) and use under desk LED lighting for working in the evening. This is great as it bounces nicely and means I'm not sat under an overly bright light source. I also use daylight bulbs in the studio where possible, although this is generally more relevant when I'm working on paper!

3. Clutter and kipple. Take time to look at how you work, and what you need to keep to hand on a day to day basis. Do you really need all of those pen pots full of half used Biros? Do you really use that matted stack of Post-it notes? Does anyone really need a mouse mat anymore? I tend to try and keep my workspace a clear as possible, not just for the noticeable time saver of not having to cut through  piles of junk, but for the psychological benefits that a great, clean workspace brings. This is somewhere you’re spending a lot of time being creative – try to carry that through in the way you arrange your workspace and aim for somewhere that you’ll find inspiring day in, day out.

4. Time savers. Along with clutter and kipple, this comes from looking at your workspace from the point of view of your workflow. For example, I’ve just spent a fair bit of effort mounting my 21 inch iMac on a gaslift arm as I have 2 working positions that I use when drawing: Cintiq down as a drawing board; and up for rendering with the Intuos3. I found that I was twisting a lot to see the second monitor on the iMac when the Cintiq was down. Now with the iMac mounted I can move it up above the Cintiq while I’m working and use it for reference. Not only has this saved me a lot of time and helped maintain focus while working, but I’ve also noted much better posture while working with the Cintiq down.
The Belkin Nostromo N52 Speedpad
Another time saver has been the Belkin Nostromo. I’ve remapped the functions in OSX Montain Lion using a programme called Controller Mate IV which, when used in combination with custom keyboard shortcuts and actions in Photoshop, allows me to keep up the speed of working without having to balance a keyboard in my lap when the Cintiq is down. I got the idea for this from  a great post over at Ctrl+Paint.com – if you’re not already following the biweekly releases you should definitely go and check it out!

I guess the most important thing I can stress here is try stuff out. Experiment. What works for one of your favourite artists may or may not work for you. However, if you’re constantly refining your workspace and workflow, you’re almost certainly going to save yourself time and energy in the long run.

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Tom Parrish Concept Art and Illustration: The importance of a great work space

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The importance of a great work space

I've been trying to organise my thoughts on this for quite sometime, and thought I'd share a couple of the lessons I've learned along the way whilst building my home studio setup.



Having switched to an all digital workflow pretty much a year ago to the month, I think I’ve finally got my workspace organized in a way that I like. It’s been a long process of trial and error (and generally moving things around!), but it’s important. It’s amazing how much time can be lost and how easily your rhythm can be broken by having to rearrange your desk to fit your workflow. Here are just a few reasons as to why you should take the time to optimize your workspace.



 Above:Monitor and Cintiq in standard setup
Left: Cintiq in 'drawing' setup with iMac raised


1. Ergonomics. This is the big one. As a freelancer, you are investing in yourself and, unless you’ve got a healthy cash reserve or private insurance, you can’t really afford to have downtime through sickness or injury, let alone preventable injuries (like dreaded RSIs). Look at your posture and alignment with your desk – is it set at the right height? Now to think about your ass: Invest in a decent desk chair, spend a bit more and aim for one with extra lumbar support and adjustments. This will really make the difference when you’re into your 8th consecutive hour rendering. Go to Staples, or Ikea and try a bunch out – it’s totally a personal preference, but try not to buy on cost. I highly recommend either full or at least partially mesh back support. Finally, is your chair at the correct height in relation to your desk? Are your feet flat on the floor? Do you need a footrest? There are tons of great resources out there about workspace ergonomics that will help you get this right.

2. Light! This is an important one, even if you're working solely digitally. Not only is it important to  help prevent eye strain, but the colour of background light can greatly affect the way you interpret colour on the screen. I have opted here to get as much natural light as possbile in the bay window (they're also about 9ft tall, which means LOADS of light even on a grey day!) and use under desk LED lighting for working in the evening. This is great as it bounces nicely and means I'm not sat under an overly bright light source. I also use daylight bulbs in the studio where possible, although this is generally more relevant when I'm working on paper!

3. Clutter and kipple. Take time to look at how you work, and what you need to keep to hand on a day to day basis. Do you really need all of those pen pots full of half used Biros? Do you really use that matted stack of Post-it notes? Does anyone really need a mouse mat anymore? I tend to try and keep my workspace a clear as possible, not just for the noticeable time saver of not having to cut through  piles of junk, but for the psychological benefits that a great, clean workspace brings. This is somewhere you’re spending a lot of time being creative – try to carry that through in the way you arrange your workspace and aim for somewhere that you’ll find inspiring day in, day out.

4. Time savers. Along with clutter and kipple, this comes from looking at your workspace from the point of view of your workflow. For example, I’ve just spent a fair bit of effort mounting my 21 inch iMac on a gaslift arm as I have 2 working positions that I use when drawing: Cintiq down as a drawing board; and up for rendering with the Intuos3. I found that I was twisting a lot to see the second monitor on the iMac when the Cintiq was down. Now with the iMac mounted I can move it up above the Cintiq while I’m working and use it for reference. Not only has this saved me a lot of time and helped maintain focus while working, but I’ve also noted much better posture while working with the Cintiq down.
The Belkin Nostromo N52 Speedpad
Another time saver has been the Belkin Nostromo. I’ve remapped the functions in OSX Montain Lion using a programme called Controller Mate IV which, when used in combination with custom keyboard shortcuts and actions in Photoshop, allows me to keep up the speed of working without having to balance a keyboard in my lap when the Cintiq is down. I got the idea for this from  a great post over at Ctrl+Paint.com – if you’re not already following the biweekly releases you should definitely go and check it out!

I guess the most important thing I can stress here is try stuff out. Experiment. What works for one of your favourite artists may or may not work for you. However, if you’re constantly refining your workspace and workflow, you’re almost certainly going to save yourself time and energy in the long run.

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