Monthly Archives: April 2013

Robot Media is Trying to Make Creating Digital Children’s Books Easy


As we all know, the last couple of years the publishing industry has started to move more to the digital side of publishing. Leaving us illustrators that don’t have any or very little coding skills trying to find ways to get are content out there. But what if anyone could create interactive children’s books for tablets and mobile? Well thats the question Barcelona’s Robot Media is trying to answer.

Right now on Robot Media‘s website you can sign up for an invite to get the beta of their application, Storybuilder. Storybuilder is an award-winning (Publishing Innovation Awards) desktop application made to produce stand alone children’s and comic book apps for mobile devices. With 3 million downloads and content from publishers like Random House and HarperCollins Robot Media could be on its way to becoming the industry’s leading interactive picture book platform. The “Storybuilder” tool provides “everything an author needs to build a rich, interactive, animated book as easy as creating a Powerpoint presentation” says the companies founder Hermes Pique.


So what’s in it for Robot Media? Their model sees them take 30% of what is left after Apple’s or Google’s 30% app store commission.

I’ve downloaded the Storybuilder application and I’m playing around with it now. Not a lot to report yet, but I will give it a full review when the app gets out of beta. As of now the software beta is only for Mac. No word of it coming to other operating systems. If you are interested about the software, you can sign up for the beta at to try it for yourself.

Joe Madueira-Do you really want to be an artist?

Joe Madureira is a prominent comic artist, character designer and video game developer. Joe rose to prominence drawing the X-Men for Marvel comics and launching his creator owned title Battle Chasers. Joe then left comics to work in video game development and since then has ventured back into comics from time to time and will be penciling upcoming issues of Wolverine for Marvel comics.

Joe recently made a post on his Facebook fan page addressing the myriad of questions he receives from “aspiring artists” about how to make it or be great. Here he delivers his advice and wisdom to those who strive to be professional artists. This advice is well met for an artist seeking to become a professional in any field of illustration. Learn from his experiences and apply them to your own in the way that makes the most sense.

Be forewarned Joe is speaking frankly and is using more frank and “adult” language in his post.


Do you really want to be an artist? Or a successful working professional?

Believe it or not there is a difference. I’m not usually a soapbox type guy, I don’t like instructing people, and I think I’m a terrible teacher. But hey, it’s Friday and I’m in a strange mood. So here goes:

I’ve noticed that a good number of my fans happen to be aspiring artists themselves. This is for all you guys. I get asked constantly: “Where should I go to school?” “What classes should I take?” “What should I study for anatomy?” “What pencils and paper do you use?” “Should I be working digitally now instead of traditionally?” “How do I fix my poses? Learn composition? Perspective?” “When am I going to develop my own style?” “Who were your influences?” “Teach me how to draw hands!” The list goes on…

Here’s the deal. All of that stuff *is* important, and it may nudge you in the right direction. A lot of it you will discover for yourself. What works best for one person doesn’t work for another. That’s the beauty of art. It’s personal. It’s discovery. DON’T WORRY ABOUT ALL THAT CRAP!

Instead I’m going to answer the questions that you *SHOULD* be asking, but aren’t. These are things that have only recently occurred to me, after doing this for 20+ years. These things seem so obvious, but apparently they elude a lot of people, because I am surprised at how many ridiculously talented artists are ‘failing’ professionally. Or just unhappy. The beauty of what I’m about to tell you is that it doesn’t matter what field you’re in or what your art style is.
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Creating a vector graphic from a bitmap image in Adobe Illustrator

In this edition of the Once Upon a Sketch screen cast we show you how to use the live trace tool in Adobe Illustrator. In Adobe Illustrator CS two Adobe added a handy tool called the live trace tool which allows you to convert bitmap images into a vector based image very easily. Check out the video to learn how.

Guest Post-Yvonne Herbst-How to write a children’s picture ebook, part 2


The road to publication had broadened for many writers and illustrators with the advent of e-books. But the process can be confusing to many. Where to start? What to do? How do you do it?

Well we feel the best way to learn is through the experiences of others. So join us as Writer/Illustrator Yvonne Herbst walks us through the second part of her journey to self publication! Learn from her journey and incorporate what you can into yours.



In my last post I ended with mentioning Book Creator and how this app got me on the road to finally finishing my digital picture book.

I painted the pictures, per their specifications, in Photoshop. I then emailed it to myself.  Opened and saved it onto my ipad and placed it into my file in the book creator app. The text is also added at that time via Book Creator. There are a variety of fonts, sizes and colors to choose from. You can also record and apply sound effects in the Book Creator app.  This is great if you want to make an interactive book to be published in iBooks.

It was fun to open it along the way in the kindle for ipad app and see how the pages turned. It gave me a better feeling of whether the story was flowing or not.  Once I had my book the way I wanted it I saved it to my dropbox in the epub format and pdf format. I sent several pdf’s of my book to friends who were kind enough to proof read it and make comments about my illustrations. Then I got a tax identification number. You may need one to publish your book depending on where you decide to sell it online!

Book Creator works closely with iBooks so the next step for me was to publish my book to ibooks. You can either self publish to ibooks or you can choose a service to do it for you. There are several available. I looked more closely at Lulu and BookBaby. The advantages offered are that they can publish an ebook to several sites at once and save you the stress of filling out the application for each and every site. They will also format your book to their specifications.

A limitation of Book Creator is that it only churns out fixed epub files. As a picture book creator this is what you would want. Unfortunately Lulu and Bookbaby can’t just wave a magic want and make the file fit to all smart devices big and small. Therefore it’s not possible to take advantage of these services with Book Creator alone.  I found out again that publishing a picture book is not easy and I would have a more complicated road to get my book onto multiple sites.

Next I realized that to publish on iBooks I needed to have an ISBN number. Not all publishing sites require it. Barnes and Nobles and Amazon do not  but iBooks does. To get an ISBN number you can go to this site and pay $125.  I was tight on cash and I wanted a bigger bang for my buck than just the ISBN number. Bookbaby will publish your book to ibooks for $99. If you need an ISBN number they charge an additional $19. The  total cost to me was $118. If I had gone through the site that offered only an ISBN number I would have payed $125 but still needed to publish my book on ibooks myself. Bookbaby offered me a better deal all around. With everything paid for and an ISBN number assigned to my book and I was ready for the next step.

Make absolutely sure that everything is spelled correctly and you are 1000000% happy with your book before you give it the GO! (By the way, the people at bookbaby are friendly folks!)

So that was easy peasy (pretty much). My book was now on it’s way to ibooks and would be published within 3 to 6 weeks.

Next, how the heck do I get it published to Barns and Noble and Amazon?

PhotoShop CS6 Keyboard Shortcut Cheat Sheet


When I work in Photoshop I almost exclusively use keyboard shortcuts. It just makes my work flow so much faster and It’s always nice to have a handy cheat sheet to remind me of all the shortcuts that are out there. So when I found this handy Photoshop CS6 cheat sheet made by I thought I would pass it along. Until I saw this I had completely forgotten that you can control the opacity of your tools with the number keys. Little reminders always help. You can download a large version of this image here.


How to contact an Art Director Part 4-Mike Linnemann

Hey folks! I ran across this series of four interviews with Art Directors(primarily from the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre of Publishing) from Kiri Ostergaard Leonard. Where they go into some depth on the best way to approach them and your work and portfolios in general. We will be highlighting one article per week. Please find a snippet below from the article and then a link to the full post. Enjoy!

Again summarizing from previous posts: This is a blog series to help art students as well as new artists familiarize themselves with the best ways to go about contacting art directors, when starting out as an illustrator. The goal is not to be a nuisance and make a good impression.

In order to give you a well rounded perspective I asked a handful of art directors to answer 10 questions on the topic. First was Marc Scheff from Tree House Brand Stores and second up was Wizards of the Coast Art Director Jon Schindehette , next we had Lauren Panepinto from Orbit Books and to wrap it all up, here is an interview with Mike Linnemann, who is a former Art Director from Fantasy Flight Games.

1. What is your preferred method of communication if a new artist is looking to make contact and why? (ie. Postcards/email/phone/facebook/meeting in person)
Email is best. It is the fastest and most easily recorded. It’s a lot harder to forward a Facebook message/tweet to a fellow art director, no?

2. Social media is becoming increasingly popular amongst artists as a tool for networking, how do you feel about artists befriending you on Facebook? Is there a right and a wrong way to go about it?
There is no “right” way, but there’s definitely a wrong way. Creating a fan page or just using the personal page doesn’t matter. In the end, if you don’t have an external portfolio link-self website or DeviantArt etc, you won’t be added to the list.

Another example of the wrong way would be adding someone randomly or sending a Facebook message with just a portfolio link. When you are cold calling an Art Director introduce yourself at the bare minimum, don’t just send a link. Here’s an example of a message you could send:

“Hi Jim,
I’d like to work for you. Here’s my portfolio link:
– Frank Jenkins”

We befriend artists because we talk and work with them, it’s a gray area but there are levels, like adding someone on Twitter vs. Facebook. There’s a privacy/intimacy line.

Find the rest of the article here!

Contest-Undiscovered Voices for EU Illustrators or Writers


So many illustration/writing contests are limited to only being able to be entered by U.S residents. How awesome it was to find a new contest for any current European SCBWI members who are not currently represented by an agent or published.

Welcome to Undiscovered Voices 2014!

Undiscovered Voices is a competition for unpublished and un-agented writers and illustrators living in the EU.

In partnership with SCBWI British Isles and Working Partners.

Open for entries: 1st July to 15th August 2013

Illustrator Criteria

The anthology will present a selection of children’s illustration pieces and be sent to art directors, agents and editors in the UK. The anthology is being produced thanks to the kind support of Working Partners Ltd.

This year we’re asking artists to illustrate one of five story starters from past Undiscovered Voices writers – Maureen Lynas, Paula Rawsthorne, Steve Hartley, Sarwat Chadda and Sara Grant. We are grateful to these authors for providing original work to inspire entrants.

Writer Criteria

The anthology will present a selection of novel extracts from 5+ to Young Adult novels and be sent to editors and agents in the UK. The anthology is produced thanks to the kind support of Working Partners Ltd. To submit your written extract, please read the following eligibility criteria, rules and information, and then go here to fill in the online submission form and upload your entry.

For more info on how to enter the contest please follow the link.

Learning via Streaming-Stanley Artgem


As artists we all learn differently. Some of us need to be in class. Some of us need to just go into a room by ourselves and practice, practice, practice. Some of us need to get input from friends and feed from their energy and some of us need to learn by watching others create.

For those who learn best by the latter we have a cool way to get to sit on the shoulder of artists while they work. You can even ask them questions!  All from the comfort of your own home.


There are a number of sites that offer live streaming activities. Sites like Livestream,, or Ustream offer varying levels of  service that allows someone to live broadcast the activity on their desktop while including audio and interactive opportunities for onlookers. This has allowed a number of artists to go live and allow fans to watch them while they work and ask them questions about their process.

We’d like to highlight a few of the artists who do this often and have a number of videos saved that you can go back and watch at your leisure.

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Digital Painting with a Collage Base

I saw this video yesterday and thought that it was an interesting take on digital painting. The artist, Marco Bucci, starts with an old painting of his and then uses it as a collage base which he paints on top of. Although he starts with a collage background by the end of the painting it’s nothing more than texture in his Forest Village scene. He walks you through his thought process on composition and value. As well as a few thoughts on creating concept art for the entertainment industry.
This video was posted a few years back and he starts the video off by wishing you a happy 2011 but I still found a lot of good information in it. I only mention this because I almost skipped this video from the intro. I had never thought of starting a painting with a abstract background, but now I’m going to have to try it.

Guest Post-Yvonne Herbst-How to write a children’s picture ebook, part 1


The road to publication had broadened for many writers and illustrators with the advent of e-books. But the process can be confusing to many. Where to start? What to do? How do you do it?

Well we feel the best way to learn is through the experiences of others. So join us as Writer/Illustrator Yvonne Herbst walks us through the first part of her journey to self publication! Learn from her journey and incorporate what you can into yours.


After many years of toying with the idea of actually illustrating and writing my first children’s picture book I finally realized that now is the perfect time to simply go for it. Why? Because we can all self-publish!

As an Illustrator I always knew that I was going to have a hard time finding a publisher who would not only accept my story, but would also accept me as the books illustrator. There are illustrators who are also the authors of their own books.  It is very difficult to actually accomplish that feat. You need to both write and illustrate at a professional level. Even then that doesn’t guarantee that your illustrations are the best fit for your particular story. Most publishing houses want to choose who will illustrate a chosen manuscript.


Along came e-books and suddenly a whole new world of possibilities emerge. Not only can you publish yourself on various e-reader platforms, but you can also send your book to a printer and have it printed yourself. Combine that with the fact that you also have the social networks available to promote your work. You can really get your book out there on your own now.

It’s still a scary process however. You do not have a publisher/editor holding your hand along the way. Is your book good enough?  In my case English is my second language. Although I think I am pretty good at communicating in English, I definitely have a hard time knowing where commas go and stumble over general grammar all the time.

It is also hard to write for children in general. Children’s picture books are especially difficult. You want the pictures to flow with the words. Your written words combined with the pictures should entice the reader to actually want to turn the page and see how the story unfolds. How do you break up a story into single pages with a nice cliffhanger of sorts at the end of each page? Do you write the story for each page first, or do you start illustrating first and then write the story to match? It was a bit of a puzzle to me as a complete novice.

I had many people read the story along the way. Some even wrote it for me at first. Of course, this was before I realized that in order for it to flow with my illustrations I really needed to write it myself. I had to make countless corrections in spelling and grammar. I also had about a large number of pictures that worked at first and did not in the end. I found that a mockup book (dummy) helped me very much! I stapled my sketches together and filled these pages with drawings and placed the text.

Surprisingly the real headache ended up being trying to find out what size and format the book needed to be for each e-reader. That was terribly difficult!  There seemed to be a ton of opinions out there on that matter. Did I really have to learn xthml or pay hundreds of dollars to a company to do this for me? In fact, it was so confusing I almost gave up. I had already done so much work though that I didn’t want to.

What got me started again was my discovery of an ipad app, called Book Creator. It is a very easy to use app that simplifies the creation of an eBook. It saves your work as a fixed .epub file. This is what you’ll need if you are publishing a children’s picture e-book. It also saves your file as a .pdf which can be opened in many e-readers. This format also makes it easy to share your book with friends and family. Book Creator’s files also let me publish to Apple iBooks.

Here is the direct website for Book Creator so you can read up on the application.

So Book Creator got me on the digital path. Little did I know I was just at the beginning of many headaches. Luckily it got me on the path to success!


More of “How to write a children’s picture ebook”  next week!

Find my book “Pigs Cannot Drive a Tractor!” on Amazon for Kindle (or the kindle app for ipad) and also on Barns and Noble, for NOOK readers!

 How to Write a Children’s E-book-Part 1
How to Write a Children’s E-book-Part 2

Original Post can be found here

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