We caught up with YouTube Artist PhaseRunner to find out his expert Photoshop tips, as well as how he creates his mesmerizing artworks using Envato Elements.
Digital artist and successful YouTuber PhaseRunner has established a loyal online following who admire him for the dark, dystopian creations that he shares with his 160K YouTube subscribers and 61K Instagram followers. Art lovers from across the globe are magnetically drawn to his work, which often feature mythical creatures, post-apocalyptic landscapes and sci-fi inspired characters and scenes.
PhaseRunner is a skilled Photoshop artist with a knack for merging the magical with the morose, who’s turned his passion for creativity into a full-blown career. Alongside YouTube and Instagram, the talented artist sells his prints and digital artworks on his website, where he also runs his GuideRunner program – a monthly series where he guides aspiring artists through his creative process and techniques when creating a piece in Photoshop.
We caught up with the man behind the screen to find out his secret to becoming a successful YouTube artist, as well as how he creates his mesmerizing artworks using Envato Elements.
How did you get into digital art?
Digital art first piqued my interest when I was studying web design at university. I stumbled across digital art and developed a passion for concept art and illustration. It wasn’t long until I dropped out of university to pursue a career as a self-taught digital illustrator.
Twelve years on, I’m happy to say that I’ve worked on various exciting projects – from creating board games and book covers to working as a game designer and background artist for feature length animations. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with some big clients, including Lucasfilms, Middle Earth Enterprises and Fantasy Flight games, and had several of my digital paintings featured in ImagineFX magazine.
How did you become a YouTube Pro?
PhaseRunner came about two years ago. I’ve been a fan of Bosslogic for some time, and seeing their work inspired me to move away from traditional digital painting and delve into the world of photo manipulation. I’d had some success with my personal YouTube channel featuring time-lapses of my speed paintings, so it felt natural to do the same with PhaseRunner.
Fellow YouTube artist Benny Productions had already paved the way for Photoshop artists on YouTube, creating a genre that wasn’t necessarily about providing tutorials, but inspiring and showing your process in the form of speed art.
What inspires your SpeedArt videos and how do you create them?
Other than movies, books and music, my biggest inspiration is the online art scene. Ideas can often ignite from seeing another artist’s work – you’re not looking to emulate or copy their art, but you might be influenced by the use of scale, color or subject matter.
How was the experience of being part of Benny Productions’ edit race?
The word ‘challenging’ springs to mind. Benny’s edit races are an incredible platform for Photoshop artists to showcase their abilities, but also an opportunity to work alongside the man himself. The experience pushed me to be as creative as possible, and gave me the opportunity to see how different artistic approaches and directions can result in very different outcomes.
Which other YouTubers inspire you?
I follow a handful of YouTubers and channels that cater to different needs. The obvious one is BennyProductions – his ingenuity and innovation always inspires me to push myself. I’ve also watched Tyler Edlin, Jeremy Fenske and Imad Awan for some time – each of them bring a unique style to the table. Envato Tuts+ is also a must subscribe for anyone wanting to get into digital art or design.
What are your top tips for growing a Youtube channel and connecting with your audience?
For upcoming artists, ‘start strong’ is a phrase I find myself repeating. You need to push aside all the superficial things that come with starting a YouTube channel or social media account – such as cool titles, logos and headers, or views, comments, and likes. Instead, focus on your growth as an artist. Hone your skills, and give yourself time to develop away from the noise and buzz of social media. Whether this takes one year, five years, or – in my case – 12 years, you need to know who you are as an artist before you launch a YouTube channel. YouTubers like rafy A are a great example of why you don’t always need to rely on overproduced videos with long intros; the result of their work is strong and universally appealing.
To connect with your audience, encourage participation and comments. I’m still humbled by the fact that people are willing to invest the time to watch my content and leave a comment. To acknowledge and reply to them where possible is the least I can do.
How do your ideas get from your imagination to YouTube? Walk us through your creative process.
My ideas come from all sorts of places. I’ll usually start by checking out Photoshop-related Instagram pages that I follow, along with some of my favorite artists. Then, once an idea has been sparked, my process is as follows:
- Whenever I get an idea, no matter where I am, I’ll straight away make a note of it in my phone, which I then later add to a Google Doc. This way I always have ideas to draw from when needed. I also find it helpful to plan ahead, so I have at least four week’s worth of ideas in the bank. I often find that my strongest work comes from this method.
- Once I have a direction, I’ll then start to source the assets I need to create the final image. I’ll start by creating a baseplate for the composition, although it can sometimes take several attempts to create the right one. It’s then a case of taking mental notes of what’s needed, and rolling the camera.
- When it comes to speed art content for YouTube, my aim is to leave the camera rolling for as long as I can, but at some point I’ll need to jump off and complete the piece off camera. Screen recording your work can often hinder the experimentation, and though some viewers want to see the undo/redo of the edit, I find the video begins to look clumsy and loses its flow.
- Once the image is complete, it’s then a case of packaging the video, engaging your editing skills and finally, uploading it to YouTube. I’m a firm believer that your video can live or die by the quality of its thumbnail. A great thumbnail has to catch the eye of your viewer, especially if it’s their first visit to your channel.
What programs, tools or techniques do you use to create your work?
Photoshop is pretty much always open on my MacBook, I couldn’t imagine using anything else. Other than that I’ve taught myself how to use After Effects and Illustrator to a standard level. For an edit suite, I’ve been editing on Final Cut Pro for many years. I also use a Wacom Intuos pro tablet which allows me the freedom and accuracy to create high-quality digital art.
How does Envato Elements help you create your work?
If Batman was an artist, Envato Elements would be his Batarang. It’s the most effective tool I use when prepping a new piece of art or a video. Having an unlimited resource such as Envato Elements at your disposal is very helpful. When creating a new piece I often test out two to three rough image compositions. So having multiple assets, including 3D objects, helps me test out ideas and work out any issues that might appear down the line. From a video perspective, the graphics, video templates, sound effects, and music assets are useful to any budding YouTuber wanting to add a professional polish to their new channel or video.
What types of creative assets do you use the most?
Tornado Escape is a piece that I believe truly showcases the power and usability of the assets found on Envato Elements. For Photoshop users, the 3D assets allow you to set up and find the perfect angle for your composition. With Tornado Escape, I didn’t just want to drop the spaceship asset in as is; I wanted to build on it using other assets, like the 3D engine I also found in the 3D asset library. Same with the tornado assets used – for me it’s all about putting your own spin on it and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with photo manipulation.
What are your top tips for creating engaging, high-quality video content?
The most important thing for me when creating a video is the artwork. If the final result lacks quality or isn’t interesting, viewers are less likely to stick around. Here are my top tips:
- Something I often see is lack of consistency between theme and content – make sure everything connects, including your logo, banner, intro, music, and content.
- As previously mentioned, the thumbnail is everything. It’s almost an artform in of itself. Do some research and find other video thumbnails that sit within your channel’s niche, learn from them and tap into your design game.
- Dive into your channel’s analytics. Don’t stress over them, but learn from them – there’s a lot of useful information in there that can guide you to improving your channel.
- Communicate with your audience. It’s mostly positive out there, and if people like what you’re doing, then their support can be the very thing that gets you over the finish line when creating your next masterpiece.
What do you love most about creating content for YouTube?
One thing I really get a kick out of is when people tell me that I’ve inspired them to take up Photoshop. That’s kinda what the channel is about from a deeper perspective – to inspire people to create, regardless of what artform they take up. It’s also important to me that I have an outlet for my own creativity. YouTube allows me to achieve short-term goals and generate the encouragement and positivity needed for me to challenge and drive myself to even higher creative levels.
Your channel is so sleek! What are your top tips for keeping it consistent and professional?
I think the key to keeping things slick and professional is ‘consistency’. It’s important to create a cohesive journey for your viewers, so that every click takes them deeper into your world. For PhaseRunner, a lot of my passion stems from the 80s, which pushes my branding in that direction. Even though most of the art I create isn’t necessarily related to the 80s, the way it’s packaged, from the intro to the colours seen, still fits together and feels organic and uniform.
What have been the highlights of your career so far? Do you have any exciting creative projects on the go?
Releasing my first officially licensed Star Wars print is still the highlight of my digital art career. PhaseRunner was born out of my love for Star Wars, so that was an incredible achievement for me. My first official Marvel print will also be released soon, so I’m super pumped for that.
In terms of my YouTube channel, we’re about to reach 170k subscribers, which to me is massive. I’m extremely grateful to the PhaseRunner community for all their encouragement and support – the channel has only been going since October last year, so I’m very humbled with how fast it’s grown in such a short time.
What do you wish you could have told yourself when you were just starting out? Any words of wisdom for aspiring artists?
At the risk of sounding cliche, I would have told myself to embrace failure. You learn a lot more about yourself and your work through failing than you do through your success. For the digital artists who are thinking of starting a YouTube channel, only take the leap when you’re truly ready. YouTube can be a little less forgiving than the other social platforms, but if you start strong, it can be extremely rewarding.