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Concept Art Reverie 2009- The Workshops

a fantastic or visionary idea…

Sunday the doors opened up at 1 pm (now that’s an artist schedule!), and the true meat of the conference began.  Before the opening keynote, Massive Black CEO Jason Manley stressed to the crowd that Reverie would address the economic climate woes through exploring the various markets where an artist can sell their work. Though this flexibility, artists can gain more opportunities and independence.  This was echoed further in the opening keynote by Lorne Lanning, creator of Oddworld.  When film went from silent to "talkies", there was a need for content that caught Hollywood by suprise.  That is, once audiences were exposed to films which had sound, there was a demand for talkies and less interest in silent films.  Hollywood did not plan for this, and still had a backstock of silent films for the upcoming film season.  Walt Disney latched onto this opportunity by offering his animated films, which could have sound quickly added to them.  From there, Disney had its foot in the door and as the cliche’ goes "the rest is history."

Pt. 1: The Conference | Pt. 2: The Workshops

Sessions were divided among traditional and digital art lines (three areas each) going on simultaneously.  A thing I was struck by was the informality of the sessions. Due to the layout of the Fashion Gallery, everything was open and no doors were closed.  People freely went back back and forth between areas.  Professional artists continued to man sketching areas and demonstrated their skills while being available for questions.  Thoughout Reverie, a live model area similiar to last night’s was open for folks to take a break and practice their newly-learned techniques.  For those who brought their laptops and wacom tablet, tables and power strips were provided to create impromptu "islands" of attendee artists.


Monday sessions I attended were:

"Nude Life Drawing with a Focus on Anatomy and Structure"

This session was dual headed with a digital painting demonstration by Massive Black artist Andrew Jones and an anatomy Q&A by fine artist Michael Mentler.  Mentler teaches regular seminars in Dallas at The Society of Figurative Arts and is known on the Conceptart forums as "The Bone Doctor" for his extensive knowledge in human anatomy and construction.  He took questions and produced various diagrams, methodologies and shortcuts beyond the typical "head measuring" scenario, as well as pointed out common mistakes people make in constructing heads and posing figures.  On a personal note, he aided me with how to properly measure a foreshortened figure by mapping it to a perspective plane.

"Flower and Flow"

Speaker Jenova Chen of That Gaming Company held a talk about how they got off the ground with their game "Flow" and the development of their new game "Flower." Chen’s background is in film, and approaches games in terms of the emotional experience that one would get from a movie experience.  He posited that entertainment is driven by a hunger to experience different feelings.  At the moment, games are focused on primal power fantasy models (such as first person shooters.)  This leaves the game market largely untapped in other user experiences.  In "Flower" the character is the landscape in a conflict that involves the interaction between the wild and urbanized environment.  The user is in a journey as they navigate with objects they pick influencing the changes in the landscape.  In "Flow," the character is a microorganism that dives through levels evolving and interacting with other microorganisms.  It’s start was as a Flash game which was developed as part of Chen’s thesis.  Like Disney, a technological opportunity came up in the form of the Sony Playstation 3.  Sony needed downloadable content for their new platform and online store.  They were able to approach them with a game that had an established user base, and Sony hired them for a three game contract.


Tuesday workshop intensities peaked, and I took the advice of one of the veterans to feel free and move around from panel to panel. Highlights:

“Creating interesting characters, npc’s and world histories from scratch.”

Writer Josh Sawyer for the gaming company Obsidian Entertainment opened describing the writer’s side of the character and world creation process, using an ensemble cast of characters for an undisclosed upcoming game.  The background of the game is based in a hard science environment and consists of military-based characters. Influences into the story and characters came from a combination of both Sawyer’s own degree in History, and from pop culture and keywords given to the characters.  The ensemble cast was created to be racially diverse; however, it really started to come together after the medic character came forward in development.  He acted as both a foil and a standard to measure up the others.  Sawyer also talked about the back-and-forth relationship of this development with the artists.  For instance, a concept art sketch of an African-American military character had a mechanical bracer.  This was done by the artist as an visual interest affectation.  From that, the writers asked themselves why it was there and proceeded to brainstorm a back story of him being a test pilot, an accident leading to a loss of a limb, and his resulting distrust of scientists and technology.

“Sequential Art and Storytelling for Entertainment.”

Afterwards, artist Marshall Vandruff took the main stage.  The centerpiece of his lecture was “Little Nemo in Slumberland” created by Windsor McCay.  McCay was a cartoonist who created "Nemo" in 1911. His background was in circus posters and stained glass.  But his work was ahead of his time, as he solved many film framing and editing conventions prior to cinema!  Using McCay’s work as a touchstone, Vandruff talked about how visuals work in terms of giving information, panels and scene construction, how style affects mood, composition and visual metaphor.  Please visit his website for more on this topic and references.

“Google Sketchup 2d/3d Concept Design Process”

Held in one of the smaller Digital Arts rooms by Massive Black artists Kemp Remillard , Rich Doble, Sam Brown.  Remillard spoke on the use of Google’s lightweight and free 3D software package in mechanical/technological constructs in illustration.  Models would be constructed and have basic lighting applied in Google Sketchup, and then inserted into an illustration (Photoshop-generated in this case) for detailing such as paintwork, insignia, or battle  Having an initial model gives one the  option to rotate and tweak to your hearts content without having to redraw a complicated structure or struggle with perspective problems.

“Toy Making for Independent Artists and Professionals”

The collectible toy market is a growing market, with potential for many artists.  And it’s not just someone’s sculpture of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  You can see many outsider artists creating original works.  Scott Wetterschneider of Big Shot Toy Works held an open forum question-and-answer session for artists interested in entering the field.  In short, artists work with companies such as Big
Shot Toy Works by submitting their designs either by full sculptures or 2D concepts for the company to make a prototype from.  Before entering the field you do want to research heavily into the market and have a plan for promoting your works, otherwise you will have about ten thousand vinyl toys in your closet.

“The Art of the Graphic Novel and Comics”

Marko Djurdjevic, senior concept artist and cover illustrator for Marvel Comics, talked about his work for Marvel’s Blade, Thor, Ghost Rider, and other titles.  The typical comic book cover is typically a dramatic action scene coming from the pages of the comic.  Instead, Djurdjevic would take the story and make a visual idea of the story. This would be done with simple solutions, with avoidance of excessive detail.  Compositions of multiple characters (in terms of size and placement) would relate to the context of the story, as well as body language.  As Djurdjevic talked, Massive Black concept artist Jason Chan drew up a mock superhero "Massive Black" comic cover from scratch.


Sunday was business oriented with last chances for networking, opportunities for portfolio review by Marko Djurdjevic and Massive Black artist Coro Kaufman. Various recruiters were also on hand taking resumes and portfolio/demo reels.

On stage were two panels which ran back to back:

"The Business of Art and Entertainment– Understanding Contracts and the Art of Negotiation"

Panelists were Jason Manley, Games Producer Sherry McKenna, and artist Shawn Barber. McKenna brought in a wealth of experience through her current role as a producer and her past work in the visual effects industry. She challenged the audience to think what their goals were…fame? money? getting your foot in the door? McKenna advised that of all things, you must offer a fair deal through the standpoint that one is providing services for the client. Should the client have a request that causes an issue, one must approach with discussion on how that request affects delivery of a quality product. Ego has to be left at the door. Manley led the audience through the contract process and the common pitfall areas in NDA agreements, change orders, contractual information, payment, and copyright violations. Both McKenna and Manley advised to document every conversation with the client with time, date, who said it, and who it was said to. If it was a face-to-face meeting, type up an email with a quick wrap-up and double check all the details. Be sure to include a tactful time limit in a note stating that if one does not hear from them in a day that all is correct. And everyone on the panel advised that above all things, do not be late. This was a very information packed session, and I’m very glad I took the four pages of tiny print notes that I did.

"From Commission to Completion: The Basics of Freelancing"

Panelists were Irene Gallo (art director at Tor Books,) and artists Shawn Barber, Bobby Chiu and Greg Manchess. The panel advised to avoid the jack-of-all-trade approach and find a niche. This especially will meet more succes in a portfolio as it shows focus. However, a good workaround is to have several different portfolios which address particular markets. They recommended beginners should stress figural work as the human figure is a good benchmark of technical ability. Portfolios should start with the best piece, but one will be hired on the strength of their worst piece. On websites, they should be updated regularly. Gallo in particular advised against Javascript or Flash galleries as she has a hard time going back to find a specific piece in a Flash thumbnail gallery, much less show it to an editor. She would prefer to have the ability to give an editor a specific link to the image. Manchess advised that in general, it was good to create a five-year plan of where you want to go with milestones along the way. All agreed that in the process there is the need to stay diverse in cients or avenues, as market wells may dry up. Of note, they added that the current state of the games industry is undergoing a business model shift into having a core team with outsourced contractors.


At the very end of Reverie, professional artists were invited to particpate in the Artist Thunderdome where the topic picked was the organization of H.O.P.E.‘s work in Africa. H.O.P.E. stands for Helping Other People Everywhere and works to use artists and their contributions to create and support existing social charity projects around the world. Artists were given an hour to create their work while the audience watched. Unfortunately, I had to leave at this point but I’m told that the winner was Andrew Jones. We should see his work come up either in the forums or on the charity’s website soon.

View Slideshow of Reverie Here

The workshops are only a smattering of what was available. Please check out the convention website for further details on their curriculum. I strongly urge anyone in the art community to get involved with the Concept Art forums, as they have much to offer. You do not have to be a fantasy or science fiction illustrator to be a participant as it is mainly a group of people who want to improve on their technical draftmanship and art skills. Photographers and fine artists are also welcome on the boards and have their own forums. Today, you no longer have to daydream about getting to the field. It is now right at the tip of your keyboard.


Digital Lifestyles Featured Panels & Gutters & Zip Ribbons

Concept Art Reverie 2009- The Conference

I grew up in bookstores, particularly ones of the used variety and I naturally gravitated towards the science-fiction and fantasy section. In the 80s, cover artists such as Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo, and Michael Whelan caught my imagination.  As I daydreamed about their fantastic worlds, I would also wonder how did they get the get their jobs?  How did they get from painting to cover?  Could you really make a living at this?  One could research into mainstream or medical illustration in the library.  There was also postal mail queries, and good old-fashioned legwork.  But overall it was difficult, as it was to find others who either did or wereinterested in the genre. In the 90s digital technology emerged, and it changed not only artwork creation, but distribution and production.  And further on down the road, the Internet created social constructs.

a state of dreamy meditation or fanciful musing;
a daydream…

Enter Massive Black.  Massive Black is an outsourcing company, providing the services of digital artists for illustration, concept art, 3-d work, animation, storyboards, and miscellaneous creative needs for companies such as Blizzard, EA, Hasbro, Lucasarts, MTV, Nintendo, Sony and Tippett Studios.  They created, a community outside isolated studio bubbles for both up-and-coming and professional artists.  On Conceptart, artists are welcomed and encouraged to upload their work in varying states of progress for critique by their peers.  There is also a place on the forums for sketchbook threads, artist challenges, and software and industry tips. But they went a step further…with other sponsors they started creating workshops both overseas and in the U.S. where Conceptart members could gather and learn from industry professionals and each other.

This year’s conference was entitled Reverie, and held in downtown Dallas in the Fashion Industry Gallery.  The kickoff party and meet and greet on Saturday evening set the tone that this wasn’t your usual conference.  Professional artists manned digital projection stations throughout the room, where one could watch them create a piece from start to finish.  Live nude and costumed models were available in a section of the room for impromptu sketches.  A DJ was on hand for the more traditional party-goers in the room and the floor open for dancing.

View Slideshow of Reverie Here

The workshops are only a smattering of what was available. Please check out the convention website for further details on their curriculum. I strongly urge anyone in the art community to get involved with the Concept Art forums, as they have much to offer. You do not have to be a fantasy or science fiction illustrator to be a participant as it is mainly a group of people who want to improve on their technical draftmanship and art skills. Photographers and fine artists are also welcome on the boards and have their own forums. Today, you no longer have to daydream about getting to the field. It is now right at the tip of your keyboard.


1: The Conference

| Pt.
2: The Workshops



Featured Panels & Gutters & Zip Ribbons Profiles Sequential Art

Profile: Mihailo Vukelic

::: Artist(s) Name:::
Mihailo Vukelic

::: Publisher::: (self-published?)

::: Website:::

::: 1 ::: Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? What’s your favorite color? When did you first realize you were an artist? Did you draw as a kid? Color outside the lines?

I grew up in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. At 11 I moved to the U.S. with my family. My favorite color is sepia. I realized I was an artist around 3 or 4, I have memories of those early attempts at transcribing my waking reality onto paper. I never liked coloring books and did not understand kids who colored pre-made pictures. And, philosophically, I suppose I always colored outside the lines and still do.

::: 2 ::: What comic book genres interest you the most? Who is your favorite comic book artist and/or writer? How have they influenced your work

It would be fair to say that Sci-fi is my favorite genre. In a matter of speaking, science fiction is mythology of and for our times. The same archetypes that exist in the great classics and mythologies of the world continue to resonate in the sci-fi format, the main difference being that we are currently conquering other frontiers and magic has been supplanted by science.

Never-the-less, the same universal issues remain as in the Odyssey, Gilgamesh and the Upanishads. Alan Moore is probably my favorite writer, more for the mastery of the English language and narrative virtuosity than concept and originality.

My single favorite comic is Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. My favorite artist was and always will be Moebius and his fantastical Harzack series still influences my work. In fact I am about to sart a sci-fi epic named Wrom in the Blossom and its inception owes much to Moebius’ work, at least visually if not lyrically.

::: 3 ::: How did you get involved in comics? What was your first comic?
The first time I got involved in comics was 1993 when I published a couple of comics on my own called Battle Axis. It was a highly conceptualized but immaturely executed two-issue run about a post-apocalyptic/superhero world where "bad guys" and "good guys" were not what they appeared and political agendas had more to do with their identities than values and principles. I self-published it under Intrepid Comics. In 1994 I illustrated a couple of sci-fi issues for a short run called Enchanted Worlds and it was for an indy publisher named Blackmore.

::: 4 ::: What is your favorite story you’ve ever drawn? Favorite character?
I’ve only published nine comics altogether, including the five-issue mini series that’s currently out. It’s called Back to Brooklyn and it is a Sopranos-like crime drama replete with seedy characters, mobsters, hookers and corrupt cops. So far it’s been my favorite story but I hope to do more in the near future.

Back to Brooklyn was co-written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Garth Ennis. Jimmy is co-creator of Painkiller Jane (comic, tv series) and Garth has written things like Preacher and worked on the most successful Punisher series in Marvel’s history. They are both world-class and I am honored to have worked with them.

::: 5 ::: How did you come up with the concept for Worm in the Blossom? Who is your favorite character?
Worm in the Blossom, if all goes well, will be my writing debut as a serious comic creator as well as a lengthy sci-fi epic. By lenghty I mean 10 volumes but that’s up in the air until actual publication time. I am currently co-writing it with another author and hope to have something published by next year.

Most of the illustrations you see here are from Worm in the Blossom. It has a story arc and concept that has NEVER been used in any sci-fi format before and yet it retains the major characteristics of an epic. It is heavily influenced by 19th century Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I will talk about it in much more detail, including the philosophical infrastructure of the story, upon publication.

::: 6 ::: What was the hardest part of creating your comic book? What hardware (computer, scanner, printer, etc) do you use? What software?
The hardest part of working on Back to Brooklyn was creating a gritty sense of realism that included real locations and credible "New York" characters. Also, with an ensemble of "real" characters, remaining consistent with the many faces and body types is challenging. If I worked a simpler style, e.g., manga, it would be only a matter of establishing a facial and morphological typology for each character.

I chose a more naturalistic style with it all the problems. It took me a couple of issues to nail down and polish my style. Many say that what I have done for Back to Brooklyn stands apart visually. I regard this entire project as "working out the bugs" in a sense. It’s a good primer for the next project.

As far as hardware goes I use a Dell workstation, an HP printer and a Mustek scanner (10×15 bed). I also have a sizable wacom tablet without which I wouldn’t even attempt to work in Photoshop. Most of everything I do has been touched by Photoshop CS in some way and I use Studio 3dmax a lot.

::: 7 ::: How have you handled the business side of being an artist? How do you promote your book/website/comic? What’s the best and worst parts of being a full time, working artist?
The business side of being an artist is tricky. In the gallery system it is the gallery owners who take care of most business issues and for a while I had an agent. Now I’m self-promoting on-line and I’ve started making appearances at conventions. The best part of being a full time working artist is the continuous maintenance of the "zone." I have to remain creative and on the edge regardless of my mood. The downside is an uncertain income.

::: 8 ::: Has the Internet helped your career as an artist? If so, how?
The Internet has helped insofar as I’ve received a requisite amount of attention from bloggers and critics for my Back to Brooklyn work. It has definitely put me on the "map" internationally, albeit, in a very small corner of the map… I am currently wroking on a new website so there is little in the way of self-promotion directly. I also maintain an account on deviantart so there is no shortage of input from fans and fellow artists.

::: 9 ::: What is one stereotype about comic book writers/artists that is absolutely wrong?
That we are all pathetically needy egomaniacs who ONLY recreate the world after our own fashion.

::: 10 ::: What one stereotype is dead on?
That we are all pathetically needy egomaniacs who AT TIMES recreate the world after our own fashion.

Featured Panels & Gutters & Zip Ribbons Software

Comic Life Magiq: My Troubleshooting Experiences

To be honest, I was not always happy with Magiq.  When I first downloaded the 1.0.2 version, it had a problem with displaying and exporting images. The results looked fuzzy and blurred in spots, and not up to par with Comic Life Deluxe.

Deluxe image export:

Magiq 1.0.2 image export:

My experience with Macintosh software taught me that, when in doubt, check the preferences. Deluxe used to have something similiar when WYSIWYG image filtering was turned on- so originally I thought it was a variation of that issue.

There were some toggles which appeared related, such as "New Comics Image Filter" under Preferences and the drop-down menu under Format>Comic. No such luck, even when testing high at 300 and low at ye old web-ready 72 dpi.

I investigated possible solutions with my source images. I thought perhaps they were too high or too low to properly internally display. Nada. I was miffed, to say the least. Magiq was written to utilize Quartz (the core graphics framework) that was already part of Leopard. My iMac  at the time was running 10.5.3.

The next logical step was to hit the plasq forums and see if anyone else was having the same or related problem. No luck there, either.
So I posted an initial query with a description of what was going on, and the links to the above images.

An important thing to remember about user forums is that participants come from a myriad of different skill levels and experiences. Most are civil. Some act like a schoolyard bully, and some just want to appear to be the most knowledgeable in the room. It’s best to ignore those and stay professional. I generally work under the assumption that if you are rude to your waiter, you  get the "special" sauce in your meal, no extra charge!

On the other hand, if a tech responds to their users in a disrespectful or unprofessional manner, it’s a good indication that you might want to look for an alternate software title. If I feel the need to report a problem, I stick to the facts. I find it usually gets me further than if I throw flames, insult the creators or technicians of the software, even if they’re acting huffy, oblivious to my specific problem, or could be moving a little faster thank you very much.

In this instance, plasq responded right away to my forum post and asked that I contact them directly, and upload the images via their submission form. Unfortunately that form did not work, so they were instead zipped and emailed directly. In all cases I got an automated confirmation of the receipt of my initial query as well as my follow-up queries.

A month later, Magiq version 1.0.3 came out and I was contacted by plasq and asked to give it a shot. The results were outstanding. The Magiq image is equivalent and arguably, slightly better than the Deluxe version.

Not all troubleshooting experiences with software and hardware will end this well.  Sometimes one will need to dig a little deeper via Google, or in third party forums to find another solution with a different product. One of my favorites is Mac OSX Hints.

Fortunately with plasq, they are enthusiastic about their software and very pleasant to deal with, often a good sign of a healthy product and company.


Graphics Panels & Gutters & Zip Ribbons Sequential Art

Making a Comic in Comic Life Magiq

Comic Life Magiq is an unusual product in plasq’s software line, as it’s not meant to be a replacement for Comic Life Deluxe. As an avid fan of the latter, I wanted to see if Magiq addressed some of my wishlist in templating and layout for my web comic. For folks not familiar with Comic Life Deluxe by plasq, not to worry. There will be some comparisons with Deluxe throughout the article, but the article is designed to get you going from the ground up. There is an assumption that you already have some content available.  Make sure that before you start it is formatted and ready for print, web, or other.  The good news for those in the "iApps" demographic is that this product has some templates created for your snapshots and keepsake type items so you can play with your photos and create dynamic photo and scrapbook albums. These templates already have what you need in terms of a layout, fonts, and captions. All of these can be further customized.

Let’s briefly look at the GUI. The first thing I recognized as an Apple ProApps user was the "I am a serious program" gray background, which sets the tone for Magiq’s introduction. It could possibly be intimidating to those familiar with Deluxe. But once you get passed that who-rearranged-my-furniture feeling, the GUI does make sense. The top has a navigation strip for browsing pages and some general options.

The toolbar on the left contains most of your custom options for each item selected within Magiq. It also has a wonderful feature in the enigmatic button named "Focus." When something is selected within Magiq, you hit the Focus button and it will lock down everything in your document except that isolated item. From there you can safely modify it without interfering with other parts of the comic. This is a great boon for content creators who have many objects and items. In order to get back to the whole document, simply click the button. The "Front" button duplicated the "Arrange" menu item in Deluxe (an identical feature of the same name in Adobe apps.)  This allows an object to be pushed forwards and backwards in order to have the right overlapping desired.

The bottom toolbar has word balloons, captions, FX lettering, and templates. It is set as a default to "ALL" which I like to keep on. However if you don’t have as much screen real estate, you can select individual views by clicking on the icons representing the different components.

The toolbars to the right contain your templates and panel layouts, the browser, and thumbnails of the selected content of your browser.

In the middle is your workspace. Like Deluxe, most everything in Maqiq is drag and drop. Here I already selected my template, and dragged a layout over from Panel Layouts.


One important word about the browser:

It will not automatically refresh. Which means any new content added will not show up.  This can be easily remedied by clicking this icon located in the upper right corner.

Let’s make a comic!

When you open Magiq, pick a blank layout to start with.

After it loads up and you see the GUI, go to Comic Life Magiq>Preferences. I set my "New comics filter images" to 300 dpi.  I want to make sure when I do my export that the image will be of good quality. Going from 300 to 72 dpi should be a lot cleaner than going 72 to an even lossier 72 dpi.  Also from Preferences, you can turn off sounds should you not find them amusing. Also, you can customize the library browsing, and units of measurement.

Next, go to File>Page Layout. From here you can select from a plethora of media sizes which have been expanded greatly from Deluxe. The Tao of I.T. Al is a custom layout of 600×600. I created this setting by setting the size I wanted and then applied it. To make it a template, simply go to File>Save As Template.  It will then show up at startup with your other templates.

When done, go to "Panel Layouts" in the right toobar and select a layout. Start dragging images from the browser, also on the right. If your folder is not showing up, you can drag it into the browser. And good news for those who like organization…it remembers this folder whenever you relaunch the program. As you drag your layouts and pictures, don’t worry If it is not exactly right. We can further modify it.  Notice when you click once on image, you see panel editing handles.  Clicking twice creates the image handles. In either case, you get this outline with tools:

The top purple arrows allow you to rotate. The bottom green arrows move the selection. The green handles around the image resize it. 

What is most interesting is the bottom orange tool, which calls up this popup toolbar:

This toolbar allows you to edit the paths on your objects, much like a vector graphic program (like Illustrator) would.

  • The first icon is the Shape chooser, which brings up a popup menu where you can turn your object into a variety of polygons.
  • The second is the selection tool, which is pretty much like every selection arrow tool known to man.
  • The third icon is the line bending tool, which allows you to grab a point and turn it into a convex or concave curve.
  • The fourth is the Line/corner smoothing tool which smooths out paths by straightening lines and rounding corners.
  • The fifth and six icons are the Add Point and Remove Point tools respectively. The last two are the Add Part and Remove Part Tool, which will come in handy later when we get to word balloons.

When you select your image, you’ll notice this icon to the upper right of your selection: 


When clicked, this will open up a graphics palette that will allow you to manipulate your images.

The Graphics Palette contains the following choices:

  1. Colors contains various color correction and manipution tools, as well as inversion and cropping.
  2. Cut-Out contains tools for cutting out parts of the image, chroma keying, appyling shapes, and masking options.
  3. Warp adds distortion effects similiar to photoshop and liquifying tools.
  4. Skin (pictured above) is interesting as it allows you to paint some textures into a graphic. Here I took some "flames" and applied them to the background to make it look like the building caught on fire. Filter is the familiar photo filter options. Paint allows you to paint several types of brushes directly on top of your image. "Reset Layer" will reset the image back to its former status. When you are finished, click done and it will return the edited graphic back into the normal Magiq GUI.
  5. Filter, although it sounds photoshop-esque is in fact various blur tools.
  6. Paint contains paint tools, including a 3d tube brush, which allows you to draw on top of your image. Right here is where you want to paint a mustache on your cousin.

Once the images are fully tweaked, it’s time to add some dialogue and captions. Simply choose the balloon or caption desired and drag it onto the canvas.

The default font is Lint McCree Intl bb 12.0. To select a different font, simply go to the left toolbar and select the "T" icon. There is an expanded list of fonts provided by Magiq, but you can also access your System fonts by selected that option at the bottom. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a way to reset the default font. My workaround is to copy and paste balloons already have the desired font settings.

To those familiar with Deluxe, the feature of adding a connecting balloon appears missing. However, it’s been put into the popup toolbar accessed by the orange icon.

To add, simply hit the green "plus" symbol and an additional connected balloon will appear. This can be moved into a different position with a simple click and drag. To remove the additional balloon, select it and then hit the red "minus" symbol.

To make extra tails, do the same thing by clicking on the Add Part tool. To remove, click on the Remove Part and then the tail.

Note here that you can edit the balloon paths much like any other object in Magiq.

When you are done, go to File>Export. You will see a plethora of tabbed options with various configurations. You can send it to Email and Flickr (which has options for permissions on viewership.) HTML creates a webpage with thumbnails of your comic whichcan be used "as is" or be taken into your favorite HTML editor and be further manipulated. Image gives you the options to export as JPEG, GIF, PNG, or TIFF. You can also export it to iPhoto, iWeb, or as a PDF.

Congratulations. You have a comic!

If I had one gripe, it is that Magiq does present a problem to Deluxe users as you cannot open a Deluxe document within Magiq. If you have a large backlog of Deluxe documents, this creates a problem should you need to re-open Deluxe in order to back up and edit your comics to another medium.  For now you need both programs if you plan to migrate.

Featured Illustrator Panels & Gutters & Zip Ribbons Software Tutorials

Getting Started in Adobe Illustrator’s Livetrace

One gazillion years ago (I call it 1989) I used a rather nifty application called Adobe Streamline.  It had the ability to convert pixel-based bitmapped images into a vector graphic image.

But why would you need that?  It is due to the adage of while you can shrink a low-res image, you can’t enlarge it.  That’s because a bitmapped image is made up of pixels.  Blowing them up only creates larger pixel areas creating that all-too-familiar crappy Youtube video look.  With vector graphics an image is drawn through points and calculated lines.  I like to tell my classes that it is like the computer is drawing with math by playing connect-the-dots.  The downside to vector graphics is that if an image is too complex, this creates more and more areas which become clunky for the computer to redraw.  Simplistically, if it’s complicated image and you want photographic detail it is best to go with bitmap.  For images which are simpler in terms of line and color such as type, web graphics, or logos then vector-based artwork is usually the way to go.  With programs such as Illustrator, you could always export to bitmap.  With Adobe Streamline, you could take an image and convert it to a vector-graphic.  It was clunky, and the interface sometimes left much to be desired, but it did the job.  Unfortunately, it dropped off my personal radar around the mid-90s, although it’s last incarnation was 4.0 released back in 1997.  Around Adobe CS2’s release, a function in Illustrator called Livetrace turned up.  It turned out to be the same functionality of Streamline, but in a much more elegant execution.

Let’s say you want to make a logo that you just placed into Illustrator out of this stock photo for your studio "Baker Street Design."  You want the image simplified for use in black & white, grayscale, and color.  Right now in its bitmapped form it would be tedious to go in and redraw and recolor it only to have something that would be as equally tedious to re-size without it aliasing all over the place.  But, it’s got the basic elements and look you want.

Here I’ve brought the image in Illustrator CS4 (although the commands and look are basically the same in CS 2 & 3.)  It is a good strong contrast image to start with.  I select the image and hit "Livetrace" at the top: 


Below left is the original image, and below right is one with the default settings which is a "Simple Trace." 

It’s not quite the look I’m going for, so I go to the Livetrace options menu in the top left area of the menu bar at the top.   I select "Photo Low Fidelity" which knocks it into what looks like a posterized image in Photoshop: 


Right now there are still too many colors.  So I adjust the Threshold slider to reduce the amount of colors to taste. 


Here, after some experimentation, I knocked it down to 11 colors.

However, I don’t like the color of the lamp glass, and would like to play with it.  I select the image and then hit "LivePaint" at the top. 

As you can see, there are a lot of areas of color shapes, including the background.  All the individual color areas now have been converted into a vector shape which can be painted with the LivePaint Paint bucket tool in the toolbar menu.  I select a bright yellow for the color version of our logo and paint the glass areas.  Notice the red line which indicates the vector shape you are painting.

tip:  It’s worth your while to examine your image zoomed in to make sure you do not miss a tiny vectorized area.

So, it is looking pretty good, but ideally we would like just the lamp and not have this big off-white area around it getting in the way of our future logo plans. 

To do this, select the white arrow tool from the toolbar.  This allows you to select points and areas instead of the entire piece.  I draw around the spots I want to eliminate and hit delete, careful not to hit any areas that I want to keep.  To check your work, hit the black arrow selection tool and select your piece to find areas where you may have missed.  You may have to go back and forth several times. 


Voila!  After cleanup you have a finished vectorized graphic which you can further manipulate in Illustrator and/or recolor as needed with LivePaint.

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The Pixelmator Challenge: Alicia Vogel

I really love Pixelmator as a painting program.  It has Photoshop-like brushes and a Painter feel.  I popped a sketch I had started in Painter in and was able to fully block it out and have a decent detail pass in a matter of hours.  For me, its simplicity is a big plus. With Photoshop and Painter,  I get dazzled by all the options and end up forever tweaking all the tools. 

In the future I’m going to do all my pre-painting in Pixelmator and then tweak either in Photoshop or Painter.  I’ll see how December’s Al works with it.

It does lack the gazillion brushes that either program has, so I did have to rehash some old tricks back when Photoshop was 3.0.  But it’s just plain fun to work in.

I would say this piece took me around five hours, and it’s more than decent groundwork. I did a similiar type piece using a combination of Painter and Photoshop, and it took twice as long.  The traits that Pixelmator has in common with Photoshop and Painter combined with it’s simplicity makes it a joy to use and keeps me concentrated on the actual painting instead of being all fidgety with the brushes and options.  I also realized yesterday as I was putting some refining moves on it that the final results look like my non-digital acrylic paintings.

On the negative side, I really missed my palette knife tool.  And I couldn’t find a use for Pixelmator’s "starry" brush.

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San Diego Comic-Con 2008: Part 2

My professional agenda for Comic-Con was fairly simple: Soak in the visuals, get a general feel for the industry and do some basic networking.  With this in mind, here are some useful tips I learned along the way on how to take advantage of the convention:

  • Bring a highlighter. You’ll need it to track the three-ring circus of panels.  Comic-Con often has an online schedule in advance of the convention, so it’s possible to do some pre-planning.  But it does change/update daily.
  • Know exactly what you are going for, and make it a tight goal, instead of "be discovered and become famous." Research how to meet those goals, and who at Comic-Con can help make them a reality.  If you are looking for work, check out who is hiring and get information on them in advance.  Find out who is looking for the content you are trying to deliver.  Are they offering portfolio reviews?  Will they be exhibiting? This will save you a great deal of time and energy.
  • Network. It’s the obvious one, and it is really easy.  But it’s not just shaking hands after panels or in the exhibitor’s hall.  That guy waiting next to you in line for the Watchmen Trailer may be a fellow artist, filmmaker, or potential client.  Get to know your fellow attendees.
  • Self Promote:  A business card should be mandatory, a giveaway product is even better. There is a "freebie table" where both companies and individuals give out free promotional items.  They do accept drop-offs, however they are vetted for quality and appropriate content.  This is not the venue for cheap photocopies on neon paper.  Instead think of color prints on good paper/cardstock, comics, buttons, CDs/DVDs, etc.  Keep in mind this isn’t a portfolio drop-off.  Portfolio Reviews are done on site, and it would be wise to attend those and give out your portfolio through social networking.  Instead think "product."  For those into guerilla networking, there were some artists, filmmakers and even studios giving out flyers and CDs of their work to those stuck in the various lines.  Some left piles of these fliers in specific spots to be picked up.  Gutsy, but quite a few turned into litter.  Be prepared to cast a wide net.
  • Be aware of the "line-fu." In order to get to the panel you want to go to, it’s best to be in line an hour in advance, especially if you want a good seat.  For popular panels, increase that to an hour and a half to two.
  • Take notes. It feels like you are in class, but your short-term memory will thank you.
  • Take a backpack or some other large item of holding for both your purchases and giveaway promotional materials available.  Make sure it’s something that you can carry all day.

Now to the meat of the convention…the panels!  It is here that I found the wealth of industry experience and information.  Panelists were very helpful, however many times they were asked what I refer to as "what-is-zen" questions such as "how do I get published?"  "how do you write?"  "how do you make your comic a film?"   These generic questions often lead to generic answers.  Instead, do some research on your own on the generalities.  There are many resources online, for example, with the basics on how to write a novel, film a movie, or make a comic.  Come armed with a direction or specific questions to make the most of the technical expertise out there. Immediately on the Thursday panels (Entertainment Weekly’s Comic Creators, How to Write a Pitch, Graphic Novels) that I attended, the love/hate relationship between comics and movies popped up. There is no beating around the bush.  Movies have been extremely profitable for comics (just ask Mark Millar of Wanted), and Hollywood is also reaping the financial rewards of fresh visions (The Dark Knight anyone?)  As a result, there is a tendency by newcomers to tailor their graphic works for film, using cinematic conventions and subsequent visual limitations, instead of working within the looser comics framework.  The resulting hybrid becomes less than either in its totality, and editors treat it as such. Another side effect of the comics/movie relationship is the danger of how the public views your work.  Mike Mignola, at Entertainment Weekly’s Comic Creators, stated that when people think of Hellboy, they think of the movie first and not the comic which differs in plot. Underscored at both How to Write a Pitch and the So You Want to Do a Graphic Novel panels was that everyone has an idea.  But, what editors and publishers want to see is whether you can follow through and have a finished product.  Evidence of past finished work, or a full manuscript or draft will attract their notice.  Even when doing a simple Q&A at a panel, you will receive more attention.  One of my friends at an author’s panel has several unpublished novels.  When he asked how best to proceed, he was literally showered with tips from the panelists.  Also, your idea should be able to be verbalized into a short pitch slightly less than a paragraph.  When the How to Write a Pitch panelists were asked what was a good example, Rob Levin of Top Cow responded, "Snakes on a Plane".  The graphics novel panel, organized by the independent comics publisher Larry Young of AiT/Planet Lar had a very mixed panel of authors/writers of various styles.  When asked about structure, Steven Grant (Badlands) was more freeform in advising to let the story dictate the structure.  However, on the same panel were Adam Beechen and Manny Bello (Dugout, Hench), whose background was film, and they admitted that they were fans of the three-act story. Another one of the major themes in the panels is being open to diversification.  J. Michael Straczynski, whose own background runs the gamut of tv (writer/producer, Babylon 5,) comics (writer, Spider-Man, Silver Surfer and several graphic novels), and film (the upcoming Changeling), emphasizes how healthy it is to keep working and active and to not limit oneself to a particular media.  If you are a writer, mention whether it’s an article, a comic, a script, a short story or a novel.    He further added, to speak with your own voice.  Often writers try to write how they think a good writer should write, usually by imitating their favorite authors.  Instead, write like you would speak your own story. It will ring more true and make a better impact. Next time, I’m going to bring a bigger notepad.

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The Tao of Workflow

Like most webcomics on their first year, The Tao of I.T. Al has changed over the months, as the workflow has been changed and refined.

Originally I had followed the current "traditional" comics art route with pencils and inked work done with actual graphite, ink and paper.  These were then scanned, cleaned up, and then painted digitally.  Now I work entirely digitally using Corel’s Painter for pencils and Adobe Illustrator for inking and coloring. Some backgrounds are hand drawn, but I primarily rely on a growing library of scratch-made resources made in Illustrator. Workflow is important to me because it the more it speeds up the processes, the more time I can spend drawing!

October’s batch of Al is done, and he’s back in action. Much of the recent material has been concentrating on the supporting characters, but Al has reasserted himself recently. It’s good to draw him in full martial arts mode. And it comes out so easily.  It’s rather odd that one of my major skills is to draw a large armadillo in a hakama! The hakama, sometimes known as "samurai pants", is a very elegant traditional garment worn by aikido, kendo, kenjitsu, iado, and Japanese archery practitioners.  Back when I was practicing aikido, I thought it made my technique look ten times better than it did.

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Aikido Al’s Comic Con Slideshow

San Diego Comic-Con 2008: Mostly highlights of the vast Exhibitor’s Hall, with some additional shots of around the convention area.

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San Diego Comic-Con 2008

Part 1: Yikes! (an overview)

"Geek is good" said Marc Bernardin, Entertainment Weekly and Senior Editor on Friday’s Entertainment Weekly’s Filmmakers panel. 

That’s the second impression you get after the initial shock of the sheer size of the convention.  It is about 200,000 of your closest friends.  This year was the first Comic-Con that sold out entirely through pre-registration.

  The central core of Comic-Con is "comics."  In reality it’s a multimedia cross-section of pop-culture.  Picture if you will the football field-sized Exhibitor’s Hall.  Major movie studios such as Sony, Paramount, and Warner Brothers rub shoulders comfortably alongside the big two of the comics industry: DC and Marvel.  Video game companies such as NCSoft, Square Enix, and Sony Computer Entertainment also showcase their latest work, as well as television networks such as Fox, BBC America, and the Independant Film Channel giving previews of their latest shows.  Add to that a myriad of independant artists and comics companies, comics vendors, art suppliers, tabletop gaming companies, toy companies, and organized fan groups.

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Highlights of’s Comic Con 2008 Gallery

Photos by Carl Perry/