Record Your Art

Record Your Art

Have you ever wondered how I create my videos for this website? This tutorial is for every artist who has ever wanted to record their digital painting process in order to share with others, or simply watch for fun later. Here, I will cover the screen recording software I use and how I go about shooting, editing, and distributing my digital illustration demos.

This post is quite a doozie, and it answers one of the most commonly asked questions that I get from you readers. Enjoy!


iShowU Snapz Pro X

I use a program called iShowU. It is only available for the Mac platform. I have also used a program called Snapz Pro X. Both have similar features and produce similar results. iShowU, however, is a bit cheaper at $20; for Snapz, you have to buy the “pro” version for $69 in order to get video capabilities, but the software also has some great still capture abilities that help justify the price difference. I have experience using both of these pieces of software, and I would happily recommend either one.

Download them here:

I’m sorry, I don’t know of any freeware alternatives, but they both have free trials that you can try for a limited time. I also have absolutely no idea what to use on the Windows platform. If any of you readers have any input on this, I’d love for you to leave a comment on this post.

How I Create Videos

If you’ve seen some of my videos on this site, especially the most recent ones, you’ll notice there is a bit of additional editing that I do after I am done recording. This helps make them more interesting and viewable. Here is a step-by-step look behind this process:

Set Up

In both of the products I mentioned, there are many settings that you can change to fit your needs.

  • Size. First, you have to decide how big your capture area is going to be. I usually choose the standard size of 640 x 480.
  • Recording format. This is the codec that is used to record your video. I use a format called Apple Animation. It is uncompressed, and takes up a lot of hard disk space. It is best to use an uncompressed format like this for your initial recording, and not something like H.264, which is highly compressed (i.e. makes small file sizes), because it is less intensive on your processor. And if you edit your video later, it is best to start with the highest quality video you can get. If your disk space is precious, just remember you can always compress your video later, then delete your original footage.
  • Frame Rate. A standard video is around 30 fps. I usually record around 15 fps because 1) it produces smaller file sizes, 2) you really don’t notice a difference, and 3) if you do notice a difference, it doesn’t matter because I know I’m going to be speeding it up later anyway.
  • Camera movement. Both iShowU and Snapz Pro have the same camera options. It can either follow the mouse or stayed fixed on one area of the screen. Having the camera follow your mouse is useful for some reasons, but unless you want to give your viewers motion-sickness, you will want to shoot with a fixed camera most of the time.
  • iShowU settings


In the early days, I would just plop the camera into the center of my screen, hit record, and start painting. This is all you really need if you just want a time lapse video. Because of the “teaching” nature of this site, however, I wanted more angles and zooms to show more of the palettes and options. To make this easier for me, I have set up three basic camera angles that I choose from before I begin a shot.

  1. Follow the Mouse.

    Follow Mouse camera

    I have the camera do this when I am trying to show specific steps that deal with the menus and palettes. Again, I don’t use this too often, and definitely not when I am painting, because it gets dizzying after awhile.

  2. Fixed, Center.

    Fixed, Center camera

    My standard 640×480 camera stays in the middle of my screen. This is the setting I use most often (in fact, my earliest videos were done completely with this camera setting). It is great for showing general painting in Photoshop. However, it isn’t so great when you need to see the palettes, toolbars, and menus.

  3. Fixed, Full Screen.

    Fixed, Full Screen camera

    With this option, I use a much larger area that covers more of the screen so you can see the bigger picture. I like to use a camera area of 1280 x 960 (double of the standard 640 x 480), then just change the “Scale” option in iShowU to 50% so the video outputs to a normal size. This setting is great for steps where you have to see what I’m doing in relation to everything else, but you don’t want to use it all the time because elements on the screen get scaled down so small that it’s hard to see them.

When I am shooting it usually goes something like this: choose a camera setting, paint, choose a camera setting, paint,… I will choose the setting that is best for whatever I am doing so you can see it well. It makes the painting process a little sporadic, but the results are fun.


When you use one camera angle, you’ll end up with just one recording. The most you will probably have to do with it is speed it up.

Because I now work with multiple angles, I end up with many smaller “shots” that I have to combine together. To do that, I bring all the clips into iMovie and place them in order on the timeline. I cut out parts I don’t want, and speed up the clips using the Video FX panel. Finally, I add a transition between each clip.

Editing in iMovie Adding transitions

When I’m done, I export the full quality video. I then use Quicktime Pro to place a watermark (more on that here and here) and convert it to iPod format (I also use iSquint to do this; it’s quicker).

For more information about creating a good screencast, go to this great tutorial here:

Sharing and Distribution

YouTube iTunes

I provide each of my videos for download in Quicktime format here on the site. I also use YouTube. I don’t use YouTube exclusively because they re-compress your video and the quality isn’t very outstanding. Many people ask me what settings I use for the videos I upload. I just use the same Quicktime videos that are here on the site. If you are having trouble getting passable quality on YouTube, try going to their help page.

Despite the quality issues, using video sharing sites is great for distributing your videos. You can embed a player directly on your site, and others can share it just as easily. Place any of my videos on your own blog by going to its YouTube link and pasting the code into your post.

Here are some video sharing sites of interest:

I also provide my videos as a podcast in iTunes. This is great option for you if you plan on creating videos regularly to share with other people.

Making a Good Video Great

Not that I’m the end-all, be-all of art videos, but here is my opinion of what makes a good art video stand out from the crowd:

  • Use a variety of angles. A simple time-lapse is great and all, you can find these everywhere. I would love to see more videos with more careful editing and thought put into them.
  • Make it short. Although I love watching people paint, my attention span usually won’t last for a twenty-minute video. Keep it down to a few minutes, please.
  • No music. I usually turn the volume down as soon as I hear it. I’m a country girl, sorry.
  • Speed it up. Watching a video in real-time is definitely too slow. And even when a video is sped up, it is sometimes still too slow for my taste (although I have been accused several times of making my videos too fast). Try to find the right pace that works best for your video.

I Want More Art Videos!

Okay, so now forget all that good/bad/great video stuff I just said. Even if it breaks one of my “rules” above, I want to see more art videos! Send me a link if you make one of your own. I’m always up for some cool art stuff…

If you have comments, additions, or questions about creating art videos, please leave a comment here on