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Creating a Square Up Online Art Store

I’ve been sending out invoices to clients using Square for years now. It’s easy to use and they only take 2.75% for online transactions. It’s not great to lose additional revenue, but it’s really efficient. My clients can pay via credit card and I get my payment within 1 to 2 business days. But when most People, me included, think of Square they think of the company that gives you a little card reader for your smart phone so you can take orders at conventions or at small mom-and-pop shops. Most don’t mention that they offer a free online e-commerce platform for you to showcase your goods and services. The best part is you can create a store in just a few minutes and Squares only cut is the 2.75% transaction fee. With no monthly maintenance fees, this seems like one of the most cost-effective ways for artists to sell there work online. Other companies like Paypal charge 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction and another online retailer, Etsy, charges a $0.20 fee when listing a item and a 3.5% transaction fee on the item’s sale price. When you’re dealing in low-cost items SquareUp seems to be a fairly cost-effective solution.

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So how does this help me as an artist?

Well, I recently created my own online store using SquareUp. Last year I attended the Rose city Comic Convention here in Portland and many people ask me if they could purchase prints and other items from me online. Sadly, my answer last year was, no, but this year I’m ready to go. I found creating a stored with SquareUp to be fairly simple, but some of the more advanced options I used were a little more intricate. That’s what I’d like to talk to you about today, some of the more advanced options. Like I mention earlier, creating a store with them is easy. First thing you need to do is create an account with SquareUp. Once you’ve entered in all your information and linked your account to your bank you can begin creating a store. I found setting up a basic store to be fairly simple. The thing that took me the longest was creating the images and writing descriptions for all the items on my store. If you’d like to learn how to set up the store check out Squares help page for all the information.

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Now that you’re all set up with your account and a store I’d like to talk to you about the more complex part of the store “Modifiers.” Modifiers, in the case of an art store allows you to do more customizable commissions. For instance, if someone would like a sketch with a single character in it there is a set price, but if they would like more than one character they can select a different option and the price will adjust accordingly.

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To create a modifier, go to the Items tab of your online Square Dashboard. To the left of the word items will be a list of options. The second option is “Modifiers” select this tab. Once on that page click the blue “Create Modifier set” button. Now begin entering the Modifier’s information. In my case I entered information for having my patrons be able to select a different paper size. The options included 6×8, which is the default size, or I created two other options; 9×12 or 11×17. Each has a different additional cost associated with it. I did the same for characters and then clicked save. Go back to the Modifiers tab, click the “Apply Set to Items,” button and apply your newly created modifier to the items you would like it applicable to. When you’re finished, click “Apply to Items.” I created different modifiers for digital commissions and regular hand-drawn commissions Each having different layers of complexity. For instance, a digital commission would have a color option which adds quite a bit more cost to the commission. Once you’ve created all the options you would like, go preview your store. Make sure everything looks right and then start marketing it to your followers.

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It’s worked out great for me so far, but I have seen a few drawbacks to this service. The first is that there’s no way to sell digital goods. You can sell the item and then email people a download code but other than that there is no other way yet. Another drawback is marketing. Other sites like Etsy will place your items in the searchable database where people can find them easily using the right keywords. Square doesn’t have such a function. The marketing side of it is left up to you. And the other drawback which I have not experienced myself, but read about online was that Square can sometimes freeze your account. For more information about these occurrences, my suggestion would be to do a web search for them.

So far my experience with Square’s online e-commerce site has been really good. The system for setting up the store was very easy and since I was already using their service most of the account setup was already done.

You can check out the store I created and the Modifiers I made at squareup.com/market/normgrock.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Blog Post to Audio File

Yesterday, I found something great using my Mac. I normally find many great articles online about how to improve my art – Everything from how to better market myself to a new trick in Photoshop. The problem is I never find the time to actually read these articles. I always open the post in a new tab in Safari with the best of intentions of going back and reading the article, but I never seem to find the time. So yesterday I had about 15 of these tabs open and was just about ready to close them all because I knew I was never going to read them when I had a thought. What if there was a way to convert these articles into an audio file that I could just listen to. I love listening to audiobooks while I work so this seem like a great idea, but how to do it. It turns out it’s easy, if you’re on a Mac.
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On a Mac all you need to do is select the text you want read, using speech to text, and then click on the text holding the Control button. The normal control options show up and if you’re using OSX lion or higher in the dialog box will be a option called “Services” and under services will be another option that says “add to iTunes as a spoken track”. Click the option and another dialog box will pop-up asking you what you would like to save the file as, which voice you would like to use, and where you would like to save the file to. Click save and after a few seconds the text you had selected turns into a audio file inside iTunes for you to listen to at your leisure. I know the voices in OSX aren’t perfect to listen to, but it’s one way to get the information without having to sit down and find the time to read all these articles.

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A few things to keep in mind when trying this. It needs to be an Apple application. I’ve got this trick to work in Safari, Preview using a PDF and TextEdit. I’m sure there are many more ways to do this but these are the Applications I use in my own personal workflow. I haven’t been able to try it in all applications, but I did try in Google Chrome and this option was not available when I selected the text. There’s probably a PC way to do this as well but since I’m on a Mac I haven’t done the research. If anybody knows of a way please let me know in the comments or write you’re own post, it’s fun.

I personally will use this for all the art articles I want to read, but when I told my wife about it she was super excited about using the same trick for all of the sites she frequents as well. I guess the Internet is full of loads of other information besides artist blog articles, who knew.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Add Photo Adjustment Layer in Photoshop

In this video I give you a quick tip about adding a photo adjustment layer to my illustration, when I’m just about done with my image.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Building a Portfolio Site using WordPress

When I first started my career I was working hard to manage extravagent websites to showcase my work. These sites were hard to maintain if you’re not a programmer, which I’m not. Luckily my brother is a web developer and is always happy to lend a hand but as his career has grown he has had less and less time to help out. I needed to find a new solution. So a few years ago I switched my portfolio site to a WordPress powered portfolio site. Now the WordPress content management system manages all my portfolio images, blog posts and my contact page saving me (and him) a lot of time and money.

For the most part WordPress (WP) is often thought of as just a blogging platform, but it can be used as a content management system. A content management system or CMS is a application that allows publishing, editing and modifying content, organizing, deleting as well as maintenance from a central interface. For me the WordPress CMS is easy to use, keep up to date and customize through themes.

Before we get to the WordPress side of things theres a few things we should go over to get your site up and running. First you’re going to need to get your self a domain name or URL. I recommend getting your own URL versus having a hosted site by say Blogspot. It looks a lot more professional and people notice if you don’t. For example my domain name is NormGrock.com. Having a domain name helps your customers remember where to find you on the Internet and gives your site a bit more credibility. You can grab yourself a custom URL at registrars like GoDaddy.com or Namecheap.com. There are many others but these are the ones I have used. Before purchasing you should hunt around for promo codes to save a few bucks. These companies always seem to be running promotions.

Once you have your URL you will need a place for your files to live on the internet so you will need a host. Basically, a host is a company that has servers dedicated to sending your web files when someone visits your site. This is something you could do yourself, but it requires much more time and effort. I’ve used GoDaddy.com for hosting but as with registrars there are many to choose from. You will need to sign up for an account with a web host so that your website files have a home. If you choose to host your site and register your domain at the same company your domain should be linked to your host otherwise you will need to update your settings to make sure they are properly linked. Doing this varies depending on your host and registrar though they usually have directions somewhere on their site. To keep things simple I suggest buying both with the same company.

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Now that all of that is taken care of, you should install WordPress on to your site. Many web hosts now offer tools to automatically install WordPress for you. However, if you wish to install WordPress yourself, this guide will help. Once WP is on your site its now time to log in and choose a theme. To log in to the admin area of your new WordPress website place “wp-admin” after your domain name, for example http://example.com/wp-admin. Once you’re logged into the admin panel you can upload a theme you’ve downloaded or install a theme directly from WordPress to your blog by using the Add New Themes option in the Appearance sub-menu. In this menu you can manage your themes, new installs, preview your changes, delete themes, activate, and update themes. The current active theme always appears first in the upper left corner. When you first install WordPress the WordPress Twenty Fourteen theme is displayed as the active theme. If you roll over the image with your cursor, a “Theme Details” button appears. Click it to see, along with the name of the Theme, the Theme version, and the Theme author, there is a short description of the Theme. There are many themes out there to choose from. Some are free and others are for purchase. I personally decided to buy a pre made theme to save myself some time and programming heartaches. It may have cost a little bit more but it was worth it. The site I used to purchase my portfolio theme is called ThemeForest.com. Again, there are many sites out there where you can purchase themes from. A quick Internet search will reveal most of them to you and the same goes for free WordPress themes. Be sure to use the keywords “Portfolio” and “WordPress” in your search. This is a very important step so you’ll want to take the time and find a theme that fits your needs the best. This will be the foundation for your portfolio site.

Once you’ve selected the theme for your site this tutorial becomes a bit more difficult to continue because their are so many themes out there and all of them are different. The best way for this section to continue is for you to read the instructions that came with your chosen theme and follow them to a tee. Most themes will allow you to customize them like uploading a logo, changing the background color, and add additional pages. Be sure to include an about page, Portfolio page, Contact page and a blog if you so choose. Keep your information simple and only share your best pieces and you’re on your way to building a great portfolio site.
Now that you’re up and running with your WordPress Portfolio Site, what should you put in your portfolio? Well we have a post that’s ready to answer this question for you. Check out What to put in your Children’s Book Portfolio by Donald Wu.

If all of this sounds like too much work for you There are some other options you can choose from which are free. I personally enjoy the flexibility that WordPress gives you to customize your site but here are some additional options if you’re interested. Read Which Free Online Portfolio Websites is right for you? here.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Business 101

One thing I noticed when I started out as an illustrator is that there are lots of resources for the “fun” parts of the business – how to put together a portfolio, how to make promotional postcards, how to market to clients.  However, being an illustrator isn’t just about drawing pictures.  To be a successful freelancer, you must have a basic understanding of how to set up and run a business.  This means book keeping, invoicing, paying taxes, keeping track of expenses, etc.  I am sure that every artist has different tools and techniques for keeping their business in order.  I’m going to share a basic business roadmap for beginners who are ready to jump into this industry.  So, before you ever send your first promotional postcard to prospective clients….

Setting Up Shop

  • Name Your Business – Even if it is just “Your Name Illustration”, have a name.
  • Get a Website – This website should be “Name of Your Business.com”
  • Get an EIN – An Employer Identification Number is a number issued by they IRS which basically acts as a Social Security Number for your business.  Every time you work with a client, you will be required to provide that client with either your SSN or your EIN for tax purposes.  Having an EIN does several important things for you.  1)  It keeps you from having to give out your SSN to every client you work for.  2)  It helps keep your business and personal monies separate. 3) You will use it when you do the business income/expenses portion of your taxes.  You can apply online for an EIN through the IRS’s website.
  • Incorporate your business – Many artists operate as Sole Proprietorships, which do not require incorporation or an EIN (Although you can still have an EIN if you are a Sole Proprietorship).  However, you also have the option of incorporating as a single member LLC or an S Corp.  You should investigate the tax laws for your state for these options.  An accountant who specializes in small businesses can help with this decisions.  You can incorporate your business by visiting your state’s Secretary of State webpage.
  • Set up a business checking account – In my experience, it is important to keep your personal and business finances separate.  Many banks offer a free or low-fee basic business checking option for small businesses.

 

Setting Up Records

OK, so now you have a business set up, and it probably cost you a little bit of money.  As a business owner, you must have a method for keeping track of your costs as well as your invoices.  There are programs such as Quickbooks  which can help you do this.  However, I just use Microsoft Excel.  I have 2 spreadsheets per year.  One is called “20XX Expenses” and the other is called “20XX Invoices”.  On the “Expenses” spreadsheet I have columns for Date, Item, Vendor, Purpose, Cost and Payment Method.  On the “Invoices” sheet, I have columns for Invoice Date, Invoice Number, Client, Project Description, Completion Date, Invoice Amount, Invoice Paid Date, and Estimated Taxes.  So, every time I spend money for the business (gas to go to a conference, books of stamps, paint supplies, etc), I enter the date from the receipt into a row of my “Expenses” spreadsheet.  Every time a project is completed, I enter the data into the “Invoices” spreadsheet.  This is a basic, inexpensive way to keep track of the money going into and out of your business.  There are also programs you can purchase that can do this more efficiently, some of which can sync with your tax preparation software to make life easier during tax season.

Setting Up Invoices

When a project is competed or a billing benchmark is reached, you should send your client an invoice.  This can be mailed, or sent as a PDF to the client’s email.  It is a good idea to create a template document that you can use over and over again to send to your clients.  Your invoice document should include:

  • The name and address of your business.  This will be what you want the client to make the check out to.  So, since you want to deposit this into your business checking, whatever name/entity you are using on your business checking account should be what you use on your invoice.
  • Name and address of the client
  • Description of the project (Example – 16 full color illustrations for Name Of Book)
  • Invoice Number – So that you can easily keep track of which invoice is which
  • Invoice Date
  • Invoice Due Date – Usually 30 days after the invoice date
  • Amount of Money Due to be Paid

Your invoice template can be set up using programs such as Microsoft Publisher or Microsoft Word.

OK, now that you have your basic business set up, it’s time to start looking for clients and managing projects…..

Financial Flow of a Project

  • Marketing:  It’s time to send out postcards, buy ad space in an annual directory, hire some guy to fly over New York with a banner promoting your artwork….however you decide to market your services.  Pay for these marketing avenues with funds from your business account, and be sure to log those costs in your Expenses spreadsheet.
  • Contract:  Yay!  The marketing worked!  A client has sent you a contract, which will include the fee for the project, billing benchmarks, and may also include a place for you to list your SSN or EIN for tax purposes.  Give the client your EIN on the contract and any applicable tax forms they may need for you to fill out.  Make sure you retain a signed copy of the contract for your own records.
  • Invoice the Client:  You’ve reached a billing benchmark!  This may vary from project to project.  Some small projects may be billed once for the full fee after final art is delivered.  For many projects, 50% of the fee is due to the artist upon approval of sketches and the remainder due upon completion of final art.  For large budget projects that span many months, there may be 3 billing benchmarks: signing of the contract, delivery of the sketches, and delivery of final art.  These will be detailed in your contract.  When you reach a benchmark, send your client an invoice, and note the amount due, the date and other applicable information in you Invoices spreadsheet.
  • Receive your Money:  When you receive your payment for the client, update your records in your Invoices spreadsheet to show the invoice as paid.  Then deposit the check in your business checking.
  • Taxes:  It’s exciting to open the mailbox and find a check for that project that you worked so hard on, but remember, not all of that money is yours.  You will have to keep a certain amount aside for Uncle Sam’s taxes as well as money to keep in your business to fund your business expenses (that guy in the airplane wants to be paid, too).  To know how much money to set aside, you must know what income tax bracket you fall into.   You must know what your yearly household income is, and can look up your tax bracket online.  Whatever bracket you fall into, there is a corresponding percentage that must be put aside from every paycheck for taxes.  So, if you fall into the 25% tax bracket, and your project earned you $100.00, you must keep $25.00 of that paycheck aside for taxes, plus a little extra for your future business expenses.  So you may decide to keep $30.00 (30%) in your business checking for these purposes.  Your business taxes can be paid quarterly by using that year’s 1040-ES forms, which can be downloaded from the IRS.  If you pay estimated taxes quarterly, be sure to log this information in your Expenses spreadsheet so that you can reference this when you file your taxes for the year.
  • Pay Yourself:  After you have figured out how much money have to remain in your business checking for taxes and expenses, you can pay yourself.  Have your business write you a check (or transfer the funds, or whatever) for what is leftover after taxes and expenses.  This is your personal money, and can go into your personal financial accounts to pay for a big ice cream sundae to celebrate a successfully completed project.

 

There is a lot more to running a business than what is listed here.  Self employed business owners must know what appropriate fees to charge to clients, be familiar with what day-to-day costs can be logged as home office expenses when filing taxes, and in general be excellent record-keepers.  However, I hope that this walk-through helps those who are ready to set up shop in this industry do so a little more easily and with a few less bumps in the road to business ownership.  Thanks for reading!

About the author

  • Jennifer ZivoinJENNIFER ZIVOINContributor

    Jennifer Zivoin has always loved art and storytelling, so becoming a children's book illustrator was a natural career path. Most of her illustrations are painted digitally, though she draws inspiration from traditional media. In addition to artwork, Jennifer enjoys reading, cooking, and ballroom dancing - especially tango! She lives in Indiana with her husband and daughter.

3 YouTube Drawing Channels You Should Check Out

The Internet has changed education so much since I was in school. It provides so many great resources for people to learn from.  Anything from home improvement to learning how to play the guitar can be learned. Almost anything is on the web. It can also help you become a better artist. One of the best places I have found to help me better my art skills is YouTube. There are so many channels out there dedicated to art it’s hard to find a good place to start. So here’s just a few of the YouTube channels I frequent to help better my art skills.

Proko TV – https://www.youtube.com/user/ProkoTV
We have talked about Proko on the site before but this content bears mentioning again. The site offers high-quality production and the amazing insight given by Stan Prokopenko, not to mention he takes art subjects and makes them pretty entertaining. Proko TV has instructional How to Draw videos. The drawing lessons are approachable enough for beginners and detailed enough for advanced artists.

CGMasterAcademy CGMA – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJKxFIEmsfDEs-B5F6IGoIg
CG Master Academy (CGMA) is an online community dedicated to helping artists develop and cultivate their creative talents. Filled with some of the best tutorials on YouTube, their online demonstrations will help aspiring artists in their goals of becoming industry artists.

FZD School – https://www.youtube.com/user/FZDSCHOOL
And finally, I enjoy the FZD School channel.  This channel is made by the instructors at FZD School of Design which provides an education in entertainment design. Even though this is partially an advertisement for their school it is a great resource for learning tips and tricks for creating production artwork. They talk about how to be a professional, what to put in your portfolio and many many other topics in these almost hour long videos. It’s a good source of inspiration for me.

These are just a few of my favorite YouTube channels. If you have any that you think should be added to this list please leave them in the comments and we can continue to add to this Post.

More Life with Subsurface Scattering

Subsurface scattering (SSS) is the phenomenon when light enters a translucent material and upon entering it the light scatters inside the material before either being absorbed or leaving the material at a different location. I know this sounds like a hard idea to grasp but it’s a good concept to keep in the back of your mind when painting skin or other translucent materials.

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Subsurface scattering is mostly used in 3D applications, but I apply it when illustrating organic characters such as people. Adding a red tint to parts of the character such as the fingertips, nostrils, and ears really brings a character to life. SSS occurs most often when three conditions are met: translucent flesh, thin forms, and backlighting. Any organic surface where the light doesn’t have to travel very far to emerge out the other side is where this phenomenon occurs. Why do you add this additional color to these areas? Because of SSS many organic and inorganic materials are not totally opaque at the surface, so light does not just bounce off the top of there surfaces like it would in say a material like metal. Opaque materials allow light to enter the surface and once inside the light scatters around. As the light scatters around it takes on the color of whatever is inside the material. Finally, the light emerges out at a different location, but it projects a hint of the color of what is on the inside. For example, human skin is opaque. Blood is trapped within the skin. The light enters the skin. Then the light enters the blood and emerges out the other side with a reddish tint. A great example of SSS, hold up your hand in a dark room and using a flashlight shine the light back through your hand and watch how the light travels through your skin and gets scattered, taking on a reddish color.

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Subsurface scattering not only occurs with skin but other surfaces like the skin of fruits, leafs, marble, milk and gels. Without knowledge of SSS photo-realism really cannot be achieved so next time you’re drawing keep in mind the principles of subsurface scattering and watch how your characters are brought to life.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Photoshop Fireworks for the Fourth


For the Fourth of July I thought it would be fun to show you how to create some fireworks in Photoshop. There’s a ton of different ways to make fireworks but here’s a few tricks and filters you can use to create some quick digital fireworks. Watch the above video for the entire process of how I created the fireworks you see below. Have a happy and safe Fourth.

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About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Making The Legend of Halloween Book Cover Part 2

Thanks for checking back for the second part of this two part post about how I created the Magical World of Sebella: Legend of Halloween book cover.  In part one we discussed how I started this project learning the clients expectations and how the client suggested scenes from the book that might make good imagery for the cover. Next, based off these discussions how I design characters to fit into this magical world. Finishing up last weeks post with talking about how I created a final Black and white line drawing, got it approved, and ready to be colored. This week I’m going to show you the process I used for coloring the entire image and how I finished the project up by laying the cover out in InDesign. If you’d like to read part one you can find it here.

For my coloring process I screen recorded the entire session of me painting the cover. This process was over several days and the video is sped up quite a bit. I think it took me about 10 hours to paint the cover and the full-length of the video is about nine minutes. I hope you enjoy zooming through 10 hours of my life.

When coloring I normally use five or six different tools: brush, eraser, gradient, smudge,  lasso selection, and the magic wand tool. In this case I took my color rough and snapped it to the right side of my Photoshop layout, just for reference as I’m adding color. In this illustration’s case the first thing I started with was a gradient just to establish a base color. From there I roughed in some of the background elements. Once I was happy with the rough background I began adding a base color for the characters. For me, it’s easiest if I use the brush tool and establish the outline of the area I’m trying to fill and making sure there are no open areas. Using the magic wand tool I select the inside of the area. Once that selection has been established I expanded anywhere from two pixels to six pixels out as to avoid the nasty pixel ring that can be left behind if you don’t expand your selection. To do this quickly I create an action in Photoshop that expands my selection two pixels out. Once the flat colors are laid down for all the characters, I begin establishing some quick shadows on the characters using the gradient tool. I know a lot of artists don’t like to use the gradient tool, they say it makes it feel more computer-generated and for the most part I agree. Since this is just the base and I’ll come back painting over these areas later, I don’t have a problem starting with the gradient tool. It just helps me define shapes. Now I’m going in and adding a few lines to faces and areas so I won’t need to use my sketch layer anymore. I never delete the sketch layer until the end because I will refer back to it several times.

At this point (2:00 minutes in) in the drawing I’m looking at it and not really enjoying the way the characters are turning out. There’s a lot of things that I could nitpick about it but instead of scrapping the entire picture I decide to focus on the background. Hiding the characters layer I find myself enjoying the task of painting the background and it really energizes me for the rest of the image. Sometimes I find myself worrying about silly things like the way layers are organized and making sure I use selections so that I don’t paint outside defined shapes. When I feel this way I normally do the scariest thing I can, which is flatten the image. It helps me let go of all that silly stuff and just paint.

Once again happy with the background, I turn my attention back to the characters. When I find myself unhappy with a part of the painting it’s nice to focus on something else and come back later to the problem areas. Just don’t wait too long. Remembering to flip the canvas horizontally helps me see the problem areas of the image. By flipping the canvas you can see the image in a whole new light. Sometimes I’m staring at a drawing for too long and I start to gloss over the mistakes I’ve made. In this case a characters eye was to low on his face and when I flipped the canvas I was able to correct this mistake (3:30; it goes by really quick). I continued to add details where needed. I added some needed color to the sky and bats flying in the background. Now back to refining the characters. I start adding darker shadows and highlights of the edges of characters to help better define the light sources. Finally, I add details, details, and more details. My last few steps are to add some missing pieces of candy (7:45). A color adjustment layer and a dark blue gradient from the top of the image to help sell the idea of night. It also helps the title pop off the page a bit more.

Once again I send this image to the client and her only change is to make the text “The Legend of Halloween” a different color.

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Now that the cover is approved it’s time for me to lay out the artwork in Adobe Indesign. With this cover there was also a design element which was designing the back cover and spine of the book. The author had already sent me the text for the back, so it was really just a matter of defining the colors, coming up with some decorative elements, adding the UPC code area and applying some of the design elements from the back cover to the spine.

I hope you enjoyed my process for creating this cover. It was well worth it and I really enjoyed creating it. I really appreciate Thea Berg allowing me to share all of this with you. If you have any questions about this process please leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to answer them.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Making The Legend of Halloween Book Cover Part 1

In this post I’m going to walk you through my process for creating a book cover. A self-publishing author, Thea Berg, approached me to do a cover in her book series The Magical World of Sebella. The first book cover was illustrated by Wilson Williams, Jr. who sadly passed away last year. So I thought it was very nice of the author to think of me to do the second book’s cover. Wilson was a good friend and I was honored that I could continue the work he had started with the first cover.

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I’m going to breakdown my entire process for creating the second book cover in the series The Magical World of Sebella book 2: The Legend of Halloween. I’ll show you the character designs, the cover sketches, color comps, my coloring process and finally how I laid the book out in Adobe Indesign. With all that being in this post, it’s going to be a little bit longer than normal so it may end up being broken into two parts. Let’s get started.

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My process begins with talking to the client. In this case it was a few emails and a phone conversation. During these conversations we discussed her characters, who her target audience is, and the story. I wasn’t able to read through the entire book’s script so she sent me over chunks of the book that she thought would make the best imagery. In our conversations we kept coming back to this same scene, in which the characters are entering a magical candy garden. This ended up being the area we chose for the illustration to take place in. With all of that out of the way I was able to start drawing. First, I looked at the first book’s cover and the look of the characters that were established in the cover. With this book taking place on Halloween we knew that these characters would need completely new outfits. The first thing I wanted to do was establish the characters’ costumes. We had already discussed what costumes the characters would wear: witch, cowgirl, Princess, and ninja costumes. When I’m designing characters I usually start off with a silhouette of the character but since a majority of that was already established from the first cover I was really able to focus solely on the characters’ outfits. I started with really rough sketches and then continued to refine. By dropping the opacity of the layer of my last rough sketch, creating a new layer and continuing to draw over the top of the last sketch, I refined the image until I came up with an image that I’m happy with. Once I  created a sketch I enjoyed, I darkened the line work and added some color. Then I sent the designs over to the client for approval. The sketches were approved rather easily with one minor change; the witch character looked a little old. I reworked the image and was on to the next step of rough sketches for the cover. Continue reading

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