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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.

Going Digital

When I talk with other artists, one thing people seem interested in is my experience transitioning from being a traditional artist to working digitally, and any tips I might have for other who also want to make the switch.  The most important thing to remember for artists who want to go digital is that you are switching your medium, and just like if you were to decide to transition from watercolor to sculpted clay, there is going to be a learning curve.  This post covers the basics that traditional artists who are considering transitioning to a digital medium should know.

Why Go Digital?

Attracting new clients.  There are some clients who specifically want artwork layered.  This is only possible in digital programs.

Evolving your style.  As with any new medium, going digital opens up the opportunity to use new techniques and tools to create a new style and take your artwork in a new direction.

Changing your work process.  When I painted with watercolors, it was important that colors be applied in a certain way at a certain time, and so I needed a large block of time in which to work.  When I became a working mother with a baby, I hardly ever had a few hours straight to paint.  Going digital allowed me to work in smaller blocks of time – 10 minutes, 30 minutes….whatever the baby would give me.  I could work, save the file, and then come back to the piece at the next available opportunity.  There is also something to be said for not having to use up valuable time stretching paper or color-correcting scanned artwork.

The Tools

TabletsPick your pen & paper.  While it is possible to illustrate with a mouse or trackball, the majority of digital artists prefer to use a tablet and stylus.  There are two general varieties.   Tablets like the Wacom Intuos are like a mousepad that sits in your lap.  As you move the stylus across the pressure-sensitive pad, the cursor will draw corresponding marks on your main monitor.  This is an affordable option for those who want to try their hand at digital art to see if the medium is a good fit for their art.  These types of tablets are also nice for artist who may want to work primarily traditionally, but want to make edits/touch ups to their artwork digitally before sending to a client.  There are also tablets that allow the artist to draw directly  on the monitor/screen.  Ipads and similar tablets can be used in this way, but the most elite option for this type of tablet is the Wacom Cintiq.  This tablet, though expensive, is a highly pressure-sensitive monitor that sits in your lap or on the desk, allowing the artist to paint directly onto the screen in a very natural manner.  For those who want a more mobile option, Wacom released it’s Companion model last year, which is a combination Cintiq-laptop.

Pick your program.  There are lots of programs out there to use for digital art, but the most popular are Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Corel Painter.  Illustrator specializes in creating vecctor artwork, which is typically flat or gradated color, very graphic looking, and capable of being up or down dramatically without affecting image clarity.  Painter is a tool for those who want to create realistic painterly illustrations that mimic oil paints, chalk, pastels and other traditional media.  Photoshop allows for painting with a variety of brushes for different effects as well as image/photo editing capabilities.

Time to Learn

Traditional artists, particularly those not accustomed to scanning their own artwork, may find that they need to brush up on some technical knowledge.   For example, digital artists must know what file format the final images should be delivered in.  It is common for clients to want CMYK (color profile) 300 DPI (resolution) Tiff (file format) files.  However, some clients may have other preferences, and the digital artist should know how to set up their image to reflect these preferences before they start painting.  Digital artists also know that the colors on their monitor may not be trustworthy for print-correct-colors.  It is helpful to preview your artwork on a variety of monitors to look for any colors or values that are not reading correctly, or to compare the colors on your monitor to a Pantone color swatch book.  The digital artist must also understand file size, and be able to store and deliver large files in a way that is not inconvenient to the client.  It is not uncommon for a layered working Photoshop file to be over 300 MB in size.  Most email inbox can only take up to 100 MB total, so email is not a good way to deliver many 300 MB files to a client.  Luckily, there are lots of online file sharing services, such as Dropbox, that can help the digital artist get his/her artwork to the client.  Some of these services are free, and some are not.  Other artists have personal FTP sites related to their personal websites to deliver files to a client. Before promising digital art to a client, it is important to understand file formats and specifications, and to have a reliable method for artwork delivery.

Time to Explore

As with any new medium, an artist cannot master it overnight.  Some techniques that worked for the artist traditionally will carry over to the computer environment easily, and some will not.  And just like every oil painter works differently to create the style that he/she wants, the same is true for digital artist.  Every digital art program has brushes and settings that can be used to achieve different looks, and it will take time for the new digital artist to find the tools and techniques that are right for his/her own artistic method.  After talking to a variety of artists who made the switch, you can expect about 6 months of practice and exploration before finding your digital style and being proficient enough at it to execute an illustration project on a deadline.  Youtube has lots of great videos of artists working digitally and sharing their work method.  These resources can be great sources of inspiration for those who need a little help learning the many techniques available for constructing  digital art.

Time to Change?

While many new digital artists try to identify techniques and tools that will allow them to duplicate their traditional style on the computer screen, it can be an unexpected pleasure to find that changing mediums can also change and evolve your illustration style.   For me  experimentation has been the best part of working digitally. With watercolor, I was always playing it safe, particularly with colors, because one wrong brush stroke could ruin hours of work. However, in Photoshop, I am able to try out colors, lighting and textures on separate layers without risking losing hours of work. By having the freedom to explore, I have been able to diversify my colors, create more engaging compositions, and add scanned textures and patterns.  I also found myself eventually gravitating towards more textured brushes, giving some areas of my artwork the look of chalk pastels rather than paint.  This enabled me to achieve color layering and depth that I was unable to achieve through traditional means.  Once I let go and stopped trying to get my new medium to behave like watercolor, I became open to using new color application techniques that eventually took my artwork to a more satisfying place.  The image below shows one of my last watercolor images, my first successful digital illustration, and my current digital style.

DigitalArtProgressionI hope all artists who are thinking about making the switch to digital enjoy the process of learning a new medium and seeing where it takes their artwork!  Happy illustrating!

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.

Characters with Character

Remember that one book with the kid with the hair and the shorts and the solid colored shirt and a smiling face?  Yeah, me neither.   Think of your favorite children’s picture books.  For me, books like “Olivia”, “Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon”, and “Knuffle Bunny” come to mind.  Chances are, you can picture your favorite characters from your favorite picture books clearly, and they can’t be mistake with any other character from any other book.  They are unique, 3-dimentional people with personalities that are expressed through the text and the images.  As illustrators, we have the job of creating characters that are as one-of-a-kind as real people that we might meet in real life.  To fully realize a character, it is important to visualize and link the person and the environment.

The Character:

After reading the manuscript and description, try to envision everything about your character.  How tall is he/she?  What sort of build?  How about facial expressions?  How does he/she wear he/her hair?  What sorts of clothes would he/she prefer to buy on a shopping trip?  Does your character have a hobby, quirk, or particular interest?  If the manuscript does not specify, take artistic liberties and fill in the gaps!  For example, for one of my recent books “Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek”, I was given a manuscript about a Riley, an athletic girl who becomes the spokesperson for a line of girls’ shoes, and who goes by the name “Riley Mae” so that people will know she is a girl.  This told me that while Riley was sporty, she was not defined by the “tomboy” stereotype. (By the way, I HATE the word “tomboy” and all that it implies…..ok moving on.)  She is in touch with her femininity, and has an interest in fashion.  So, when it came time to design her character, I thought about how Riley would want to look.  Her hair would be pulled back in a pony tale, but have you ever seen an active athletic girl with permanently perfect hair?  So, I gave her a few front pieces that never quite stay in place.  So she holds those stray hairs back with a decorative clip (a different one for each book).  She has freckles from being outside in the sun.  Also, when she chooses her outfits, I figured that Riley would want to keep thing comfortable, but with a little embellishment, just like her hair.   As for the shoes, Riley goes all out.  They are sporty, fashionable, fun and girly, and full of details.

Riley-Mae-and-the-Rock-Shocker-Trek-604x270I also wanted to make sure that she had a least one quirky facial feature.  You know how when babies are born, everyone says “Oh, she has Aunt Kathryn’s nose” or “Oh, those are daddy’s eyes!”?  Making sure that your character has deliberately designed, not generic, facial features helps to keep your character reading as an individual, real person.  For Riley, I gave her a dimple on just one side of her mouth, a cute rounded nose and a heart shaped face.

 

The Environment:

You can really tell a lot about a person by walking into their house.  How a person decorates, cleans (or not) and keeps their personal space says something about their personality and priorities.  For our characters, there are lots of opportunities to visual express who they are as people by remembering that the environment’s design is really a part of the character design.  There are lots of places where we might use the setting to add little touches that support and flesh out the character.  Bedrooms.  Closets.  Lockers.  Refrigerator doors.  School cubbies.  Backpacks.  Real kids decorate their rooms, scribble on their notebook covers, tape up photographs, draw pictures, display keepsakes and personalize their space.  Our characters should do so as well.  We can also make our characters more interesting by breaking stereotypes.  Not every girl loves pink and princesses.  Not every boy loves sports.  Why not have a girl’s room decorated with a dinosaur theme?  A boy’s backpack with a space ship doodled on it with permanent marker?  Maybe your character is interested in trains, or nature, or is obsessed with a particular animal, or has a favorite color.  Few kids have only one interest.  Having a setting with little details that express your character’s hobbies and passions, even if they are not mentioned in the story, makes your image feel more real and unique, and builds up the world in which your character lives and moves.

HowIHelp_10n11_FullKeeping it Real:

Coming up with current outfits, accessories, unique props and fun environments takes time and research, and tight deadlines and project juggling can make it difficult to be creative within a time-crunch.  One solution that has worked for me is keeping a digital archive of inspiration on Pinterest.  Every week, I make some time to surf the web looking for bedding, curtains, lamps, clothing, and gathering them together in my digital artist reference archive.  This way, when I need inspiration for a trendy teen character, or a little boy’s bedroom, I have references at my fingertips.  This also allows me to keep my references current, so that my outfits and props don’t look dated.  I am sure other artists have other tricks for gathering and keeping track of references as well.

The more unique we make our characters, the more we as readers can relate to them, because they resonate as actual people with quirks, interests and personalities, not as characters just demonstrating an action from the text. Thanks for reading, and have fun looking for interesting props, patterns and people to inspire your next piece!

Book Signing Success

Congrats!  You have been published!  Your book is being carried in bookstores, and your local store has agreed to host a book signing event for you!  Every author and illustrator has their unique way of presenting at events, but here are some tips, tricks and ideas to help make your next book signing a success for you and the kids…..so that hopefully the bookstores will want you back!

Publicize Your Event

Get the word out!  Nothing feels worse than having a poor turn-out for your event.  Make fliers to distribute to local schools’ a week or so in advance so that kids can bring the information home to their parents.  It might help to provide schools a copy of your book along with that big stack of fliers.  Contact your local newspaper at least a month ahead of time to see if they can do an article to feature your book and to promote your event.  Make a Facebook sticker/image to promote your signing, post it on your timeline, and ask your family and friends to share it on their own pages.  Make sure all of your friends and their kids know about the signing, and encourage them to come.  Crowds draw crowds!

Bring Props

Is your book about pirates?  Where a pirate hat!  Does your book take place at the beach?  Wear a Hawaiian shirt, sun hat and pass out cheap sunglasses to the first 20 kids!  Creating a little atmosphere can generate excitement about your book.  At a recent book signing for “The Summer Fairy”, the author Elizabeth Gillihan brought a vase of flowers (she let the kids be “helpers” and put the flowers in the vase), balloons and sat on a stool decorated like a toadstool while she read the story to the children.  She also passed out pixie sticks to all of the children who attended the story-time portion of the signing.

BookSigningKristi Valiant, author and illustrator of “Penguin Cha Cha”, had these fun cardboard cut-outs made for her book signings.

PenguinChaChaEngage For Every Age

There will probably be a wide age range at your event, from parents to preschoolers.  Remember, bored children are unhappy, restless, disruptive children.  If you are doing an illustration demo, be aware that not ever child may be old enough or able to follow along, and not every kid likes to draw.  Having coloring pages available can help those children be engaged even if they don’t feel up to drawing along with the group.  An easy way to do this is to print out the sketches of pages from your book, pass them out and have a basket of crayons available.  Also, encourage your audience to participate by asking them questions that you know will receive positive answers.  If your book is about summer, ask the kids “Who going camping this summer?” or “Who likes swimming?!”  Use questions as ways to help your audience connect to some aspect of your book.

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Indiana SCBWI Spring Conference

A few weeks ago I was able to attend a wonderful SCBWI, which had some very enriching sessions for illustrators, leaving me feeling inspired and excited to create new pieces and to apply what I learned to clients’ work!  If you are not involved with your local chapter of SCBWI or other professional organization, I encourage you to do so.  Attending national conferences, while obviously very great opportunities, can be difficult to attend, depending on your financial, traveling and other personal needs/situations.  Local conferences can be a great alternative, and can offer a more intimate experience for the attendees. For example, in addition to participating in the sessions for illustrators, I was also able to volunteer as a reader for a picture book manuscript critique session, which was a fun additional way to connect with the staff and members and be more involved with the weekend experience.  Here are some highlights from my favorite sessions.

Keynote Speaker LeUyen Pham

LeUyen Pham is an award winning illustrator and author who works in many diverse styles.  If you haven’t seen “Big Sister, Little Sister”, you should check it out.  My own daughter loves this book, written an illustrated by Pham.  In addition to talking with us about her history and journey into the publishing world,  she spoke about strategies she has used to stay fresh and relevant in the constantly evolving world of children’s book publishing throughout her career.  Pham style is constantly in a state of evolution, and she likes to very her technique and look, sometimes drastically, from book to book.  She encouraged illustrators to take on projects with which they feel a connection, to create samples that reflect the types of projects they would like to work on that year, and to send those samples to a small targeted group of art directors.  Most of all, Pham spoke about the importance of making personal connections with clients, and allowing clients to see you as a multidimensional person rather than just a work source.  IN noe of her breakout sessions, Pham talked about how she goes about constructing a picture book.  We looks at the development of visual hierarchy to facilitate storytelling in each individual scene, as well as how that hierarchy fits into the overall scope of the book, creating a natural flow between page turns.   She was such an inspiring and engaging speaker, and this particular session on picture book construction was so enriching!

BigSisterLIttleSister BoyLovedMath VampirinaBallerina

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maria Middleton, Associate Art Director

Two of my other favorite sessions were offered by ABRAMS Kids Books associate art director Maria Middleton.  The first few illustrators who signed up for the conference had the opportunity to work with Middleton on a “homework project” in which we had to create character and place them in a situation where they will encounter conflict, great or small.  We got to send her our sketches, which she reviewed ahead of time, and then created final art to be reviewed during a session at the conference.  This was so much fun!  I love seeing everyone’s interpretation of the theme, and the evolution for sketch to final.  Here is my artwork that I created for the assignment.

SCBWIBeaverDam

In a separate session, Maria talked about the makings of great cover design.  She encouraged us to think about the spine, which is often the only part of the book that is visible on bookshelves, and giving attention to typography.  For those illustrators who feel comfortable doing so, she suggested hand-lettering the title text, so that the cover has that added touch of image-text unity and customization.  She also walked us through the many stages of some of the book covers that she art-directed, explaining how the team arrived at the final cover design for each book.  It was intriguing to see the thought process behind each revision, and to see how those changes drove the cover towards a stronger design.

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3 Handy Illustration Resources

1. Figure and Gesture Drawing

Whether you’re a seasoned professional, a new student, or a hobbyist with dreams of becoming the next Jack Davis, figure and gesture drawing is important to practice to keep your skill levels up and to help you keep progressing as an artist. However, sometimes it isn’t always easy, especially if you aren’t in art school anymore, to go to a local figure drawing meet up when deadlines are looming. Thankfully, the kind folks over at Pixelovely have created a nice online replacement for those studio figure drawing classes that you can do right from home… in your sweatpants… with all those potato chip crumbs on your face… anytime you want. Its free too!

figure

Here’s the link: http://artists.pixelovely.com/practice-tools/figure-drawing/

2. Facial Expressions

Grimace is a cool tool to help you reference facial expressions when you don’t have a mirror handy, to use yourself as a model, or can’t get your friends to make goofy faces for you to reference. Its got a nondescript cartoony face with sliders next to it that make the face change to portray various degrees of six common emotions. You can use two emotions together for even more emotive expressions as well. This resource is free online and there is also an app available for iOS mobile devices for 99¢. The only downside to this is that its pretty fun to spend a lot of time playing with the multitudes of different expressions you can get using the sliders. Don’t waste too much time though. I’m sure you’ve got a deadline right around the corner.

grimace

Here’s the link: http://www.grimace-project.net/

3. Color Palette Generator

For those times when you just can’t seem to get a harmonious color scheme and things are starting to look like a clown just threw up on your illustration or you’re going for a nice color scheme that you saw in a photo or piece of art online (Remember… Great artists steal!), DeGraeve has a free color palette generator just for you. All you do is find the URL for an image that has a color palette that you like, copy and paste it in, and… VIOLA!… a simple palette is generated in seconds to get you started on your next masterpiece. The cool thing about it is that it gives you a desaturated and a saturated version of each palette generated too.

Screen shot 2014-04-12 at 11.08.49 PM

Here’s the link: http://www.degraeve.com/color-palette/

I hope you find these resources useful. Now go make great art!

Your pal,
Kevin Cross

Light em’ up!

How we choose to light our scenes  is just as important as how we compose them.  Lighting sets the mood.  A harsh red concentrated spot light can make even a sweet painting of a toddler girl feel spooky, and cheerful sunny ambient lighting makes monsters seems friendly.  It directs the viewers eye around the page, emphasizing details or hiding secretive elements.  In short, great lighting makes for great visual storytelling.  By being deliberate about how we choose to light our scenes, we can give our artwork added dimension and drama.  For this post, I would like to share some of my favorite lighting tutorials and resources for artists.

Cyril Rolando is a gifted digital artist whose entire portfolio focuses on high-drama dramatic lighting of surreal fantasy scenes.  He has graciously made many tutorials to share his technique and artistic process with others.  He gives great tips and tricks for digital art in general, and his instructional gallery is well worth browsing thoroughly.   However, I would like to draw attention to Rolando’s tutorial on using adjustment layers in Photoshop to quickly change lighting hues and temperatures to affect the mood of a piece.  Click on the image below to find the full tutorial.

CyrilRolandoImage Continue reading

John Stanko Creates the Cover for Imagine FX issue 96

John Stanko recorded this screen cast while he created the cover for issue 96 of Imagine FX. Created in Corel Painter, this cover was inspired by Frank Frazetta and so it’s of a classic fantasy heroine and some tigers just for fun. John Stanko is an Assistant Professor of Visual Communications at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He has also created artwork for Legends of Norrath, Dungeons & Dragons, and Magic: The Gathering. “John trained as an oil painter and uses a similar workflow in his digital art, making him the perfect choice to adapt Frazetta’s theories” says Imagine FX post about this cover.

This video is a long one, with a run time of about 53 minutes. It’s nice that Imagine FX finally put out a tutorial video with commentary. Most of their videos are just speed paintings with no voiceover from the artist. I found it very interesting with a lot of good insight. Just the overlays of bright colors he uses is pretty amazing to see. Let us know what you think of this video in the comments. Below are a few process images and the final cover for issue 96.

ifx_cover96

Free or not so Free Fonts?

tipsandtricks

I posted an article a while ago that went into a number of places online that you can search and download various fonts for free. Here.

Well I am in the process of creating my own children’s e-book as well as finishing up my first exclusive e-book with Julia Dweck called, “Mary Had A Sleepy Sheep.”  (Achem, be sure to like our fan page on Facebook.) The publisher made sure to tell me that any font I used had to be licensed for commercial work. Believe it or not, this was the first time a publisher had even mentioned that as a requirement. At the beginning of my process I had researched and looked on my favorite free font sites and found the fonts that I thought would work best with my book. I’d paid no attention to the lic. status of those fonts. Uh-Oh!

So what does licensed for commercial work mean?

It means that people who create fonts have just as many rights to their work as any other artist. A font being up for free doesn’t presume that you can use that font in any way you choose. Just like artists only sell certain rights to publishers or clients for their images, the same is true for designers who create fonts. In general most fonts that are free give you the right to use it for personal purposes. Which means it should only be used and displayed, not sold. Some designers will want credit cited if you post or display any works of yours that have used their fonts in them. While others hold no such requirements.

Licensed for Commercial Work means that the designer has given you permission to use their font in for profit or commercial purposes. The stipulations for this, again, can vary from designer to designer. Some will want credit given while others may ask for a small donation. All of this is done of course on the honor system.  You are still able to download the font but not adhering to what the designer has asked can result in you being in a copyright infringement situation should you be caught. So tread carefully. In most instances the designers instructions on how and when you can use their font gets downloaded as a text file with the font itself as well as being displayed in some way on the site that you find and download it from.

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Unfortunately I have yet to find an easy way to search font sites to only find ones that are lic. commercially. (Nothing like finding the perfect font and realizing that it’s only licensed if you buy it outright. This can cost in the hundreds of dollars depending on the font.) Luckily on the front page of  FontSquirrel they’ve compiled a list of what they deem as the best free lic. fonts to download. Many of which would be suitable for a children’s e-book. So get to bookmarking and enjoy!

Sesame’s Best Practices Guide for Children’s App Development

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We all can see how touch screen devices are changing the landscape for so many things, phones, games and books. Interactive experiences are the new norm for our youngsters. They no longer need to use keyboards and mouses to experience computing. So who should we look to when creating interactive experiences for our Toddlers and Preschoolers? Why Sesame Street of course.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, has released a PDF that offers their findings from touch screen studies and tips for designing and developing apps and ebooks for preschoolers.

Sesame Workshop Vice President of Education and Research, Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, had this to say about the best practices guide. “These best practices are a result of our research with preschoolers and their parents. We’ve developed highly effective methods and ways we can make apps and ebooks more engaging to help children learn”

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This document contains research commissioned by Sesame Workshop (50 studies plus) and then they break down their approach to creating educational content for touch devices. The study also categorizes the most and least intuitive gestures for touch screens, tips for visual design and layout. The PDF also outlines features for creating book apps and ebooks. Should your e-book include reading options like narration? Where are the trouble areas that kids could accidentally touch? This document addresses these questions and so many more.

If you’re in the market to create an interactive experience for children this document is a good resource. You can download the PDF here.

Link: http://www.sesameworkshop.org/assets/1191/src/Best%20Practices%20Document%2011-26-12.pdf

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