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Managing your image files with Adobe Bridge

For those who use the Adobe Suite in their workflow, you may have had Adobe Bridge when it came bundled with Photoshop but never bothered to use it. Or rather, opened it by mistake when attempting to open a new Photoshop file, and then quickly closed it again. I had always thought it was a tool made for photographers, but I recently decided to give it a try, and I’ve found it so helpful for my workflow that it’s now the first application I open when starting my day. If you’re not currently using Bridge, here’s a quick summary of the features that make it a great tool for illustrators to view and manage images:

  • When working on projects (such as picture books or graphic novels) with a large number of image files, Bridge can make it a whole lot easier to compare them all together to check for things like the color scheme across the series, pacing, or consistency of any little details. And, you can easily open any image type in its native application directly from Bridge if you need to make a quick correction. You can even open multiple files at once. Once you make your correction and save the file, it’s view is automatically updated in Bridge
  • You can get thumbnail previews of pretty much any image type (.PSD, .AI, Cam RAW, PDFs, Indesign files, Videos) that normally windows explorer or the file viewer on mac will not generate previews for
  • It’s great when viewing large groups of images – where a quick drag of the zoom bar will increase or decrease the thumbnail sizes, allowing you to customize your view and see all your images as a whole, or zoom in to check details on a smaller group of images
  • The Path bar is a great tool, and with it you can quickly and easily get to the folders and files you need. Right-clicking on a folder will show you all sub-folders within

The path bar at the top of the Bridge window is a really convenient and quick way to get to your files. It has a lot of nice functionality that makes it super quick to use (see it in action in the video links at the end of this post)

  • When viewing files you also have the option to view multiple sub folders at the same time (this can be really helpful if you have groups of imagesfor a project in different sub folders you want to compare or preview all together)
  • You can easily drag thumbnails around to reorder them any way you like, or sort them based on any number of preferences (filename, date, color profile, label, rating, keywords). This can be helpful if you are comparing a group of images and want to place them next to each other
  • The Output view lets you quickly and easily batch create PDFs, contact sheets, or web galleries for groups of images directly from Bridge. This is a really nice feature if you need to prepare an archive of a group of images for client viewing

There are many viewing options, and the Output view is really handy for batch exporting groups of images

  • If outputting a group of images or even various file types for a job, it’s very easy within Bridge to check the color profile for all the files to make sure they are the same (this is very important when sending files for printing)


To get a feel for the interface and see some of the very useful features in action, check out this quick video tour by Martin Perhiniak on Tuts+–psd-17633

Here’s another great video covering the basics of the Bridge interface on –


Adobe Illustrator Tip – The Free Transform Tool

In this video we have a quick tip for you about using the free transform tool in Adobe Illustrator. The free transform tool isn’t as easy-to-use as you might think. There’s a trick to get images to distort, if you don’t know the trick the free transform tool behaves very differently.

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.

Drawing Contest from Autodesk

If you’re age 13 to 24 and have a iOS, a android device, Mac or PC then you’re halfway to winning some fabulous prizes from Autodesk. Download the free Autodesk SketchBook Express app for your device of choice, then the only thing left to do is tell “My Story” using the SketchBook Express app. If this sounds like a good idea to you then join the “Live it. Sketch it. Share it.” design competition. Your story could be pretty much anything. A character you created. A moment in your life or something that symbolizes your culture. It sounds pretty wide-open to me.

If your image is selected by the judges Autodesk is offering some nice prizes. The prizes range from a Wacom drawing tablet, $2000 worth of art classes from Schoolism or have your work critiqued by Bobby Chiu. So who can enter? You must be 13 to 24 years of age and be a resident of one of the countries where the competition is available. For the rest of the official rules visit the contests page. The contest ends July 31. So you have around a hundred days left to get your Image submitted. Best of luck to you youngsters.

Free PhotoShop Brushes and How to Install Them

Last week on a whim I threw away all my Photoshop brushes. Lately I’ve been feeling like my work has been missing some texture. I have a few brushes that I had been waiting to try and never did because I was stuck in my ways. I know that it’s not the brushes that make a good artist but I feel like I needed to change something and the brushes were the quickest and easiest thing I could think of.

By the way PLEASE don’t throw away your brushes without backing them up first.

This impulsive move has led me to several great places to find new Photoshop brushes. I thought I’d share some of these sites with you. Please be sure to download these brushes as soon as possible. They are free from each of these artists and they could remove the links at anytime.

First let me explain how you install new brushes into Photoshop.

  1. Before you install make sure that the brushes you’re about to use are compatible with the version of Photoshop you’re using.
  2. Next download the brushes. You may have to unzip the file so be sure to do that as well. The brush files extension should be .abr
  3. Now open PhotoShop.
  4. Once Photoshop is open click “Window” menu in the tool bar and select brushes Presets.
  5. Now select the drop down menu in the upper right-hand corner of the brush palette and open that menu. Once the drop-down menu is open select “load brushes”.
  6. Now find your saved .abr brush file and open it.
  7. The brushes you added should show up in the brushes palette near the bottom.

Now onto the brushes. Please know that all the links below go to the creator of these brushes website and you will be going to outside pages to download these brushes. Continue reading

Streamline your Workflow with Manga Studio Story Editor

I think it’s fair to say we’re all looking for ways to be more productive. We want to make our workflow as streamlined as possible so we can get more done in a day. Well, if you do any comic or graphic novel work and have yet to try out the Story Editor in Manga Studio, you may want to read this mini review – it could help improve your workflow and increase your productivity.

While working on my current graphic novel, I decided to try the Story Editor in Manga Studio EX 4 to see if it could help me save time and make the whole process easier.

One of the main benefits I’ve found in using the Story Editor is that it’s helped me focus more on working out the flow and pacing of the story and less time managing different files. I can quickly lay out my rough sketch pages, add in dialogue, and move pages or scenes around to fine tune the flow and pacing of the story – all from one application.

The Story Editor – Overview

When creating a new file in Manga Studio, you have the option of creating either a page or a story. Basically, a story is a file that groups all of your individual pages together in one place (think Adobe Bridge but with a lot more functionality). With the Story Editor you can easily write or import all your dialogue, view and edit all your pages, make global changes to dialogue or font styles, and export your pages to individual files or as a PDF (great for creating a book dummy).

Creating a new story

When creating a new story file you are presented with a window where you can set the dimensions of all the pages (you can set your own or choose from a number of templates), margin guides, output resolution, and indicate the number of pages you would like to set up for your story. You are also given the option to add some footer information to all of your pages (title, copyright info, and position of page numbering). All of these settings can easily be changed later if you need to adjust things.

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Adobe Adds New Features To Creative Cloud For 2014

Last week Adobe announced new features to its Creative Cloud subscription service. In mid 2012 Adobe launched Creative Cloud and has been releasing new features for it since it’s inception. In 2013 they released 50 new enhancements for the service and 2014 is looking like it is going to be no different. They’re kicking the year off with new additions to Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC and Indesign CC. The notable additions include Perspective Warp to Photoshop, Illustrator receives Live corners and Indesign gets some E-pub enhancements. Let’s talk about these and a few more features a little bit more in-depth.

Photoshop CC
When talking about Adobe products you always need to start with Photoshop. It’s the product that pretty much everyone uses and everyone knows about. For 2014 they’ve added three key features to this program. The first one that jumps out to me and looks to be the most important to illustrators is Perspective Warp. Adobe’s description of this tool is: Fluidly adjust the perspective of a specific part of your image without affecting the surrounding area. Change the viewpoint from which an object is seen.pscc_perspectivewarp

Another feature that they added is support for 3-D printers. Photoshop already has 3-D tools but now they’ve added the ability to easily create, refine, and preview your design, and then print models directly to a connected 3D printer or other online service. Also new to Photoshop is Linked Smart Objects. This could be a big deal to you depending on what kind of work you do in Photoshop. Photoshop already had smart objects but now it’s even smarter. When you link an image into your PSD, Photoshop can now tell if you’ve made a modification to it and automatically update that file inside your document. For example, if you’re working on a poster with the company logo on it and the company decides to change the color of the logo at the last minute you will just need to add the updated file to your workflow and it will update in your document. Sounds pretty nice. Read more about all of PhotoShop’s new features here.

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How Manga Studio convinced me to draw digitally

Well, mostly. I still prefer to work on my rough concept and thumbnail sketches traditionally, but for refined sketches and final linework I find myself using Manga Studio more and more frequently. I’ve made numerous attempts to switch to drawing digitally using Photoshop, but for me, the drawing tools in Photoshop just don’t feel as smooth as they do in Manga Studio. Drawing in Manga Studio feels very natural and as close to traditional methods as I’ve experienced. In addition, there are a few very good pen tool options that make the drawing experience that much better. I’m going to talk about some of those options here.

Just a quick note: For the purposes of this overview I’m working with Manga Studio 4, and only talking about the pen and some related tools. The newest version (Manga Studio 5) looks like it has quite a few interface improvements and other new features (Tracy Bishop did a great video overview of Manga Studio 5 on the site in May last year), but for the tools I will be talking about, I do not believe a whole lot has changed.

Okay, here is an overview of some of the features and the drawing tools that really sold me on using Manga Studio:

Pen Tool Options

My first impression when using the pen tool was how nice and smooth it felt. The pen is very responsive and I was impressed with the line quality you can achieve. There are also some very interesting options and settings available for the pen tools:

Stroke-in and Stroke-out

On the pen tool options palette there are check boxes for stroke-in and stroke-out. Turning these on will taper your line at the beginning or end (or both) of your stroke. You can also use these stroke-in and stroke-out options in conjunction with your pen speed.


This tapering of your line is applied in addition to the regular pen size tapering you would get with the reduced pen pressure as you finish or start a stroke, and will ensure your line starts and/or ends in a nice tapered point. The great thing is that you can turn this option on or off, and adjust the amount of tapering for either end of your stroke as needed when drawing.



Another great pen tool option is “Correction”. With this turned on, Manga Studio will smooth out your pen stroke after you draw it. You can set the level of correction, so you can apply a very subtle correction or a lot of correction, depending on what you need. This option can be really useful if you are drawing some large round shapes or arced lines and want them to have a nice smooth feel.


In my experience, I’ve found that the smooth feel of the pen tool, in combination with these two options above can really help you achieve some great looking line work. Continue reading

Inking and coloring artwork in Adobe Illustrator

When I first started doing the Once Upon a Sketch Screen Casts I created a series of two videos about how I ink and color my drawings in Adobe Illustrator. Well, it’s been over a year since I created this set of videos so I thought I would share them again for those who haven’t seen them yet and even if you have seen them you might like a refresher. I just watched these videos again and learned things from myself that I had forgotten (which is really funny).

Some might ask why you would want to create inked looking vector lines in Illustrator when you could use another tool like Photoshop, Sketchbook Pro or Manga studio to get the same look. My answer to them would be, even though the two lines might look the same on the surface they are two very different things. The main difference between the two would be that vector lines are infinitely scalable and raster images are not. Example, a company hired me to design mascots to promote one of their programs, I created these characters using the same techniques shown in these videos and most were created at around 8.5in x 11in. With these images being created in a vector format it was no problem when the company asked me to create a billboard using the same artwork with no loss in quality when the images were blown up to about 600 times the size that they were created at. This would not have been the case if the images were created in the other programs. Now that you know why you would want to create this type of drawing, here are the two videos. The first is how to create inked looking lines in Illustrator and the second is how I fill in those lines using the Live Paint Tool.

The first video is about how I set up my brush tools in illustrator to get and inked looking vector line. I also use the blob brush tool to show you how to create a different type of line and describe the difference between the two tools. Continue reading

Great Sketchbook Pro Demo Videos

When I’m not working in Photoshop I spend my time with Sketchbook Pro. As I was trying to figure something out with a tool in Sketchbook Pro I came across their YouTube page and found some great videos of artists using Sketchbook and as can easily happen when searching for one thing on the Internet you find something you never intended.

The first video I got side tracked by is from Asuka111 and this demo is called Bike Craft. Asuka111 starts with Sketchbook on the iPad and then brings the drawing onto Sketchbook Pro on their PC to finish it up.

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