How I do it.
I've been drawing my whole life (at least as far as I can remember). Like most kids, I would scribble my favorite tv or video game characters in crayon or marker. And I was always pretty good at it I suppose. I guess I've just been blessed with a talent. Also, I've always been fascinated with color, special effects, and computer generated graphics. I guess part of that comes from playing video games so much, and watching Star Trek and Star Wars. I would actually record just the special effects parts (transporters, phasers, etc) and then go back and watch them frame by frame. Total geek, I know.

My computer graphics 'career' started the year I wanted a Super Nintendo. My dad bought me one, but only because he found a bundle that had Mario Paint included. He thought it would give me something creative to do, rather than just sit and play video games all day. And it did. Mario Paint was a pretty sweet program for the time. Doing something comparable probably would have required a $2000 computer, and I don't even know if Photoshop was around back then. But Mario Paint gave you a paint program, basic music editor, and 4-9 frame animation. So I played with that A LOT.

Fast forward to 1996, when I got my first PC, and the ever popular Microsoft Paint. I played with that some, and liked it. Then with some scanner or something we got Adobe Photodeluxe (the old cheap version of Photoshop), and I found a new host of tools to play with. Filters! Gradients! Lens Flares!! So I really liked that. Then one day dad brought home the one program to rule them all, Photoshop 4.0. I pretty much fell in love with it.

Since then, I've learned as much as I can, and I'm still improving my technique. Becoming a good artist, no matter what the medium, just takes lots of practice, experimentation, and attention to detail. Programs are just tools, like a pencil or paintbrush, and still takes skill to make good art. But the more powerful the program, the easier it is to make your images. So here are some of the programs I use:

Adobe Photoshop. I really believe this is one of the greatest programs ever written. Just about anything you want to do with 2D images, you can do with this program.

Bryce was my first venture into 3D, and I still use it for a lot of my images. It's power is in it's ease of use. Much less complicated than other 3D programs, so it's easy to get into, and it has a really nice (albeit slow) renderer. It's other advantage was that it's realtively cheap to most commercial 3D programs. Of course, it is limited in what it can do. It doesn't have a modeller and navigation can be troublesome in complex scenes.

Blender is a very powerful 3D application. You can do just about anything. Model, texture, animate, render, it even has a game engine and basic video editor. And best of all, it's FREE FREE FREE!! Since it's been open sourced, it's improved a lot. It's still a bit hard to get into, you really have to read the manual and tutorials to "get it", but once you get it, you'll see that it's a very well structured program. I've mainly used it as a modeller, but in the future, I'll probably use it more for full scenes, animation etc.

If you ever plan to do digital painting, you MUST own a graphics tablet. It totally changes the way you work. Especially when combined with Photoshop's brush engine, or another program like Painter. Most of the pros use Wacom, and I have a Graphire that I use all the time. Most of my recent images would have been impossible without it.