Friday, February 21, 2014

My Transition from Photoshop to Manga Studio 5

Hello everyone! It's been quite a while since I posted here! For the past few months I've been knee-deep in illustrating a new picture book set to come out in the Fall.

I've had my head down illustrating pretty much every spare moment I had since September, but I've finally emerged from my art coma and want to tell you all about my experience with Manga Studio 5!

I transitioned over from Photoshop to Manga Studio with this latest project, so I got four months of serious on-the-job training with the program. I went from ZERO knowledge of the program to it becoming second nature.

I have to admit that I had tinkered around with the program for a while last summer, but gave up because I just wasn't feeling comfortable with it. Then right before I started this last project, I fiddled with Manga Studio some more. At the same time, Photoshop started becoming finicky and began feeling super clunky. I went back to Manga Studio (with some nudging from fellow SMA illustrator Tracy Bishop) and gave it another try because I was just getting too frustrated with Photoshop feeling like it was laggy and slow.

When this last picture book project came along in September, I bit the bullet and decided to go for it--to try and complete a painting in Manga Studio. The cover was due first and I figured I could attempt the cover in Manga Studio and switch back over to Photoshop if things didn't pan out.

Well, let's just say I fell in love with Manga Studio and never looked back.

Here are a few of the main reasons Manga Studio is the clear winner for me:

  • The brush engine is a million times better than Photoshop's. There are way more options to finesse your brushes in terms of pressure and color blending, etc. Manga Studio also allows for creating brushes using multiple images at once which is something I have always wished that Photoshop could do.
  • The perspective guide/ruler is AMAZING. It came in handy SO MUCH. Manga Studio allows for your pencil/brush lines to snap to the perspective ruler which takes a lot of fuss out of drawing cityscapes (or anything in perspective, really).
  • The ability to create models of people in different poses and angles really helped for my latest project. I painted scenes where there were many, MANY people in them and my husband would only model for me for so long, so I had to build poses in Manga Studio (which is supremely easy to do).
  • You can set the fill bucket to close gaps in your line drawing, making laying on the first layer of color so much quicker than attempting that in Photoshop. 

Just one window of the MANY different brush options Manga Studio 5 has.

The poseable 3D models are an amazing feature. It isn't a memory hog and never slowed my computer down at all.

In all, I worked 100% in Manga Studio with this latest book project and just figured it out as I went. I have to say that my fellow Simply Messing About blogger, Tracy Bishop really, really helped me out if I found myself stuck. She's been using Manga Studio for a while and had the answer to pretty much all my questions! ;) Check out her wonderful Manga Studio tour video!

In case you're wondering, I never had to take any of my images back to Photoshop for any retouching or post-painting work. I suppose everyone paints differently, so there is a chance you might need to go back and forth for certain things, but I didn't have to. I pretty much found a solution to anything I needed to do in Manga Studio. However, if you do need to switch back and forth, Manga Studio makes it easy to export or even save your file as a Photoshop file!

If you have the opportunity to try out Manga Studio, I highly, highly recommend it. It's like Manga Studio's creators took everything illustrators and painters love from Photoshop, made them a million times better and then added more awesome stuff on top! All without having to deal with the bogged down feeling that Photoshop can bring. I must also mention that Manga Studio is a mere fraction of the cost of Photoshop. Yay!

In the weeks to come, I will be doing tutorials based on some of my favorite things about Manga Studio....keep an eye out for them! Until then, do yourself a favor and at least download a trial version of Manga Studio 5 if you can!

'Til next time!


Monday, February 10, 2014

Keep drawing, then draw some more

A few years ago, I was fresh off maternity leave…10 years of it. I thought I'd pick up my illustration career where I left off. Well, while I was 'away', the world changed. Internet? Whoa. Now I was competing against illustrators from all over the world! Quite a few with animation backgrounds who could draw like nobody's business. It was clear I'd have to step up my game. I needed to get much, much better at drawing. Gulp! Luckily, I met local illustrator, Tracy Bishop whose drawing talent is amazing. She also has a great critical eye. She got me drawing from life. She critiqued the heck out of my work (still does), and gradually, I got better. I am by no means done. I hope to always improve my skills. But I'm starting to breath easier. I beginning to really feel the flow when I draw. I don't cringe when I look at my current work. It's been a very discouraging process, but also pretty exciting.

Older drawing on the left, newer on the right. Getting there, but not quite where I want to be yet.

It's no surprise that I love drawing animals, but drawing people was not fun for me. I've made a lot of progress on this front as you can see here. There's just much more life in my animals as you can see below.

Drawing well has many benefits like getting hired for jobs, being able to handle whatever scene you'll need to create, and of course, you can't bring a story to life if you're limited in what you can draw.

What I want you to take away from this is that you must draw well, really well, to get work in the children's book world. You can't cut corners. You can't trace photos, you can't overly depend on reference. Draw everyday, even if it's bad drawings, it all helps. Carry a sketchbook everywhere. (I need to do more of this myself.) Think of the training that goes into qualifying for the Olympics or playing college or pro sports. Heck, even if you're just working on staying in shape, you have to work those muscles on a regular basis.

If you go to SCBWI events (and you should be), pay for a portfolio critique. Nothing beats hearing from someone who actually hires illustrators and can tell you what you need to work on. Our local Illustrator's Day has an illustration professor who give critiques, too. He's crazy amazing at seeing the weaknesses in your work and what to do to fix it. It's painful, but much kinder than in art school. Hearing nothing but flowers and light about your work gets you nowhere. You need the truth, because that's the only way you're going to get better and someday get hired. If you want nothing but compliments, show it to your mother.

Here are some great resources for improving your drawing skills, but remember, nothing replaces the practice and observation of real life.

There's so much drawing goodness on Erika Eguia's Pinterst boards! I've started a Character Design board here.

Great drawing books:
Drawn to Life Volume I & II
Character Mentor, Tom Bancroft
Creating Characters with Personality, Tom Bancroft
Vilpu Drawing Manuals, Glenn Vilppu
How to Draw, Scott Robertson

Online classes & tutorials:
School of Visual Storytelling's How to draw everything with Jake Parker
Figure & Gesture Drawing
Sparkbook, Cedric Hohnstadt
Illustrator Alicia Padron is now offering classes.

Good luck and happy drawing!