Monthly Archives: July 2013

Guillermo Del Toro talks Creature Design

Guillermo del Toro the director of Pacific Rim explains the design process involved with creating the Kaiju for his movie and just creature design in general. He talks about the importance of the characters silhouettes and discusses some of his influences. He also talks about one of the biggest mistakes he sees in character design. He says one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a character designer is to design a character with a perpetual frown. This comment really got me thinking about my own characters and has changed my thought process when creating a villain. Watch the clip to hear more of his explanation. It’s a short clip leaving me wanting more of Guillermo Del Toro’s insight.

Contest – Lee and Low Books New Voices Award Time to Submit

Lee and Low Books sponsors a yearly contest for up and coming Children’s Book writers of color, The New Voices Award.

About the Award

LEE & LOW BOOKS, award-winning publisher of children’s books, is pleased to announce the thirteenth annual NEW VOICES AWARD. The Award will be given for a children’s picture book manuscript by a writer of color. The Award winner receives a cash grant of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash grant of $500.

Established in 2000, the New Voices Award encourages writers of color to submit their work to a publisher that takes pride in nurturing new talent. Past New Voices Award submissions that we have published include The Blue Roses, winner of the Paterson Prize for Books for Young People; Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story, a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Texas Bluebonnet Masterlist selection; and Bird, an ALA Notable Children’s Book and a Cooperative Children’s Book Center “Choices” selection.

Manuscripts will be accepted from May 1, 2013, through September 30, 2013, and must be postmarked within that period.

For more information and to find out about past winners follow the link.


PACT – Professional Artist Client Toolkit


PACT – Professional Artist-Client Toolkit will be a tool to help freelance fantasy, sci-fi, and comic book illustrators negotiate a better living wage for themselves. This Toolkit is the brain child of artists Jim Pavelec, Todd Lockwood, Randy Gallegos, Mike Sass and Aaron Miller. The PACT web tool kit is not a portfolio site, but will be geared towards improving the standards for artists within the fantasy, science fiction, book publishing and comic book industries. They describe this project as “a place where we can learn to be more professional, to promote an appreciation and more respectful attitude toward the work we do, and encourage companies to treat us in a more professional and economically viable way”. If the project is funded it will cost $29 a year but if you back the project they will give you a Two Year Membership for that same price.

If this sounds interesting to you, you should head over to their IndieGoGo page and take a look. The deadline for donations is the 17th of July. Just a day away. Check out the PACT funding site for more information.

Once Upon a Sketch is not endorsing or affiliated with this project. This article is simply informational for people that may not have heard of the project.

Words of Wisdom-Will Terry-Advice for Illustrators


Will Terry is a ridiculously huge attribute to the Children’s Illustration market. He continues to go out of his way to help others within our community and answer questions that up and coming illustrators have about our industry. In the following video he answers a number of questions he’s received from illustrators. So sit back, relax and enjoy. You are sure to learn something new!
Original post here.

Publishing Children’s e-Books Infographic

While surfing the web I found this infographic about publishing children’s e-books. This info graphic has some interesting facts about the e-book market that can help you make an informed decision when you’re getting ready to publish your e-book. Did you know that parents are twice as likely to buy your e-book on Amazon’s store as opposed to apples. Check out the graphic below to get more interesting tidbits like that.
I found this graphic on KiteReaders. KiteReaders is a publishing platform for authors and publishers to produce, distribute and market their children’s picture books on various mobile devices. If their services sound interesting to you check out their work at


Archive.Org-WayBack Machine


In the spirit of the continuing theme this week of recovering old files lost, I’d like to present a great site that can potentially help you recover a website you are looking for that in no longer in it’s old spot.

I found this resource when I was taking a course on web design a few years ago and it has proven a great resource time and time again.  The WayBack Machine!


‘The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library. Its purposes include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format. Founded in 1996 and located in San Francisco, the Archive has been receiving data donations from Alexa Internet and others. In late 1999, the organization started to grow to include more well-rounded collections. Now the Internet Archive includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages in our collections, and provides specialized services for adaptive reading and information access for the blind and other persons with disabilities.”

It’s basically an Internet library that attempts to catalog and archive websites so that you can find a website that may have been up 10 years ago and no longer is. In no way is there process complete. Obviously the idea of archiving every site on the internet complete with links, images, and documents is a ridiculously large one. So it stands to reason that not every site is archived, nor is every image or file. But it’s still a great place to go and look if all else fails. So how does it work?


Follow the link to the homepage.

Enter the name of the website you’d like to find and “Go Wayback”!


The results you get will hopefully look like above. A top bar that lists years from ’96 to current will appear as well as a calendar. The top bar shows the archiving activity for the years that the site being searched was archived. As you can see in the above example, was first archived in 2011.

You can select any year that the site has archived information for in that top bar. Once you do you will note that there are blue circles around select days within the calendar. These blue circled dates correlate to when the site was archived by the Wayback Machine. So if we had an article on our site on March 2nd that we took down or edited on March 6th you should be able to still find the old version of the article on March 2nd.

So please add this site to your resources and use it as you have need! It doesn’t always catch everything but it’s usually my first stop when trying to find an old site, image or article that is no longer available. Enjoy!

Online Backup Solutions for my Artwork


As you may have read from Wilson’s post yesterday last week he had a scare with his computer. As computers will do, his PC hard drive decided to just die on him. As you can imagine Wilson had the normal response for someone put in this situation “Oh no what have I lost!”. It turns out that he had almost all his client work backed up but he lost some of his personal work and years of accumulated information. I felt that now would be a good time to share the online backup solutions I’ve used with you and Wilson.

Upfront I’d like to make a confession. I am really anal about backing up my artwork and computer. I’ve worked hard to create my collection of work for the last 15 years and I couldn’t imagine losing it to a fire, my computer being stolen or a hard drive crashing. Especially now that I work mostly digitally it is important that I am always backed up. Not only for my sake but also the clients I work with. I work on a Mac and use the Time Machine backup software that Apple offers with their operating system, but that is still only on-site backup which would not help against fires or other disasters to my office. So here are the three online backup solutions I’ve used.

The first backup option I’d like to talk about is Dropbox. We’ve talked about this service before on the site and we really love it. For a basic plan its free and you get 2 gigabytes. You installed the Dropbox app on your computer and then start placing files in the folder called “Dropbox”. Anything you put into this folder will be synced with your Dropbox account. All your files are also accessible via the Dropbox web site. The drawback that dropbox has is that it’s not an automatic backup service. You have to put your files in a particular place on your computer for them to back it up so this wouldn’t cover your applications folder or anything on your system. To me this is a service that is great for transferring files but as an online backup service it’s a little lacking. We all know that artist’s files can get rather large quickly so you’re free two gigabytes will fill up fast and even if you’re paying for the service it won’t back up your entire computer. If you’d like to learn more about dropbox check out our other articles.

Lessons learned-Info lost!
Using Dropbox to Share Files With Clients
The next online solution I tried was Carbonite. Carbonite starts off with 3 home plans—the $59 per year Home, $99 per year HomePlus, and $149 per year HomePremier. I got going with the standard Home version and found it to work great with a few stipulations. Carbonite installs software on your computer and the software will continuously backup your data to carbonates servers. Great feature. Not having to remember to back up my files was awesome. Once it had backed up all my files my files were accessible through a web-based interface when away from my computer. They also offer an application for smart phones that let’s you see your files as well. They also offer a feature that if your computer dies you could use Carbonite’s application to restore all or some of the files. The “Home” plan offered unlimited back up storage of one PC which was great for me but any other computers in my office were left high and dry. Other things that Carbonite left high and dry are; video files, data on external drives and files over 4GB. Some of Carbonite’s competitors let you back up more than just one PC to your account, but they normally have data caps.

If you would like to try Carbonite for your self you can try their free 15-day trial.

Which brings me to CrashPlan. The reason why I switched from Carbonite was they were offering a special that if you signed up you got a years worth of service for five dollars. It was a great deal and I’ve found that CrashPlan offers specials like this fairly often. I signed up for CrashPlan’s service called CrashPlan+. It offers a lot of the same features that Carbonite offers but the real benefit to CrashPlan is that I can back up 10 computers on my one account. Now, this isn’t the basic plan which is one computer Unlimited Storage for $60 a year. The multiple computer plan now lets me save all my important data on all my computers. Now that I have a little one, I need all those precious photos of him growing up backed up. Maybe most importantly, it is very simple and intuitive to set up on all my computers. Which is great because backing up my data is very important to me. If it was a pain I would be less likely to do it and subsequently my family members would probably never do it. The price for this is a little steep at $14 a month or $150 a year but as I find my life becoming more and more “digital” I find it important to back up the important files and memories.

Try CrashPlan for free by signing up for a free 30-day account – no credit cards, no commitments.

I know there are lots of other solutions out there like Mozy and SOS Online Backup but these are the services I’ve tried and I wanted to let you know how my experiences have been. For additional information on online backup solutions, you can check out this comprehensive comparison chart of back up services and if you have any other suggestions for online backup or comments please let us know.

Lessons learned-Info lost!

This past week some of you may have noticed that Norm was doing all the posts. This is because my computer died last week.  One thunderstorm and my horror was complete. My hard drive was gone and with it potentially a lot of client work. It was scary how easily my business was crippled. Not to mention the fact that even in recovery I lost years of accumulated information. A freelance artist’s nightmare to be sure! So what lessons did it teach me and what can I pass on to you?

First of all, back up everything regularly. Daily if you can. I actually have a few backup resources. I just wasn’t using them regularly. This was silly on my part and unprofessional. It does a disservice to me and more importantly to my clients. The same is true for you if you aren’t doing it.  Here are some options that you can use for back up.


I have an account with dropbox. An online storage service that gives you 2 Gigs of space for free and 100 Gigs for $9.99 a month. You can also get others to use their software and they will increase your storage space for doing so.

Norm wrote a great post about them and how to be gin using their services here.


I also had an external hard drive that I purchased via Tigerdirect. It has 2TB of storage and cost me around $120.00. Good investment!


I also had an additional hard drive on my computer. This is what saved my life. When you normally get your computer it already has it’s operating system installed and the places you file things have a predesignated space on that same hard drive. Since I had an additional hard drive I opted to store my client work there. Turns out that the hard drive that died was the one with my operating system and not the one with my client work.  But it’s pointless to have all the above back up  if you aren’t using them properly.

I did end up buying another computer and I transferred that hard drive to it. The problem was that all my programs, saved links, preferences, etc. were all on the dead hard drive.  Gone forever. I think  will miss my saved internet links the most.

But what would have happened if the client files were on that dead hard drive? What if I didn’t have the money to buy another computer? What Plan B’s do any of you have in line should anything like this happen to you?

So what is my plan going forward?

  1. Client work gets an online place to be saved to daily.
  2. You have emergency funds for your car or a credit card that you only use in case of emergencies. Have a similar plan for your computer. Put away a portion from every job that you don’t touch and is to only be used in case emergency repair is needed.
  3. Don’t just backup your client work. Also back up your preferences, favorite lists and even downloaded add-ons and programs. You’d be surprised how many things you use daily and don’t realize it. This can be done on a weekly or monthly basis rather than daily.

What secondary measures do you take if any? What additional suggestions would you give to our readers? Please chime in below.


Preparing pencil sketches using Channels in PhotoShop


First off I’d like to start off with a quote from one of my instructors in college about working in Adobe PhotoShop. He said “There are a thousand ways to solve the same problem in PhotoShop”. This statement is 100% true. I know there are so many other ways to accomplish a nice clean line drawing but here is the way I’ve found that works best for my work flow.

When starting its best to understand how you work. For me, I do my pencil sketches with a blue non-photo reproducing colored pencil. It helps me get the gesture of the drawing down before going in with a pencil to tighten up my lines. Knowing that I scan my sketches in color (RGB) at 300 DPI or PPI. I know some artists also use red colored pencils for their under drawings and this process can also be done with a red colored pencil but for this tutorial I’m going to just concentrate on removing the blue line. Now that the sketch is scanned and saved to my computer, I open it in PhotoShop.


Having started with a blue line I need to now remove it. I start by adjusting the hue/saturation (Image > Adjustments > hue/saturation) With the hue/saturation dialog panel up you will see a drop down menu set to “Master”. On the “Master” setting drop the saturation all the way down to -100. Then go to both the “Cyan” setting and “Blue” setting and adjust the brightness all the way up to +100. Now to adjust the levels of the drawing (Image > Adjustment > Levels) until the image looks right. One of the goals of this is to get a nice crisp white background.

To get the gray lines on their own layer there are many ways to do this. For instance, you could create a duplicate layer of your sketch and change the layer blend mode to “Multiply” and paint on a layer underneath. This way works fine but when I’m coloring I like to have control of all my lines and its hard when the drawing is surrounded by white. You will see why in a few steps. Continue reading

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