Tutorials & Learning

Best Tutorials for Procreate by J. Logan Carey

Procreate and the iPad Pro are a powerful and affordable combination for artists to stretch their digital muscles. If you just picked these up, then congratulations! You are about to have a lot of fun.

But where to begin?

Luckily Procreate’s minimalist and intuitive design makes the barrier of entry fairly nonexistent for artists learning the app. Even so, here are some great free (and a few inexpensive) resources to learn about all the vast capabilities of Procreate…


Procreate’s Official YouTube Channel

If you’re looking for the most clearly explained and demonstrated tips and tutorials for how to use every function in Procreate, look no further than Procreate’s Official YouTube Channel. Videos are very short and to the point. They use clear examples of the concept or tool they are discussing. This channel should be bookmarked for every beginning Procreate artist.

Here are a few of the most useful videos:

To see more official Procreate videos, click here.


Procreate Site.JPG

Procreate’s own website has been slowly evolving into quite the resource for Procreate artists. Did you know they have their own image sharing area called Showcase? It’s in beta (has been for a while), but you can sign up for a free account to upload and share your artwork along with other amazing Procreate artists.

Well the site also has a nifty section called Discussions where you can find a treasure trove of helpful areas such as Artist's’ Advice to share or learn tips and tricks, Resources which has a lot of free brushes (of dubious quality) and tutorials, and Marketplace where other artists list their paid brush sets.

I’ve made my own list of fantastic brushes you can find at Best Brushes for Procreate, check those out after you read this post.


James Julier Art Tutorials

YouTube | Facebook | Patreon

James Julier’s art tutorials are an amazing resource. They are simple, overhead views of him working on pieces in Procreate accompanied by his quiet, calming British narration. They can actually be quite relaxing and often focus on quiet, pleasing scenes of nature which is why I refer to James as the Bob Ross of Procreate.

These videos allow you to see exactly how James is using the app, brush adjustments, and applying his marks. Most often, he uses only a handful of the default brushes which shows you the capabilities of Procreate with the built-in tools. While many of the pieces James does are environmental, the techniques can be applied towards many different forms and subjects. His tutorials are a combination of Procreate and fundamental art instruction with a pinch of meditation.

To see more of James’ tutorials on YouTube, click here.


Austin Batchelor

YouTube | Udemy | Website

Austin Batchelor is a talented creature designer and concept artist who works strictly in Procreate. He’s one of my go-to’s for art instruction on the app. I would say that when you’ve gotten a feel for Procreate’s features and are feeling a little bit more comfortable with the app then just starting out, give some of Austin’s tutorials a try.

He has created TONS of quality videos, here’s a sampling of some standouts…

If you enjoy his many free YouTube tutorial videos, you an also support him by taking one of his excellent Udemy courses which feature longer instruction and file downloads to practice with.


Gal Shir

YouTube | Twitter | Instagram

Gal’s videos are not tutorials in the traditional sense (although he does publish those as well), that is, they’re quite short and they aren’t narrated. The reason I include him in this list is the specific way in which he presents each video.

For each of his pieces, you’ll get a nice overheard view to see exactly how he is drawing everything. You’ll see how each and every shape is drawn, how he transitions to different layers, and how he uses simple brushes to give texture and dimension to each work. I’ve learned a hell of a lot just watching Gal create a simple illustration and have been able to apply those same techniques to my own work.

Huion Artist Glove

Huion Artist Glove

Also, if you’re wondering if wearing an artist glove to use with your iPad makes a difference, IT DOES. Mainly it helps the side of your hand slide more easily across the screen and prevents smudge marks from the natural oil of your skin which saves you time wiping it off.

They’re all kind of flimsy, but personally I recommend the Huion Artist Glove as they’re a good name and it’s a simple, inexpensive glove.


Art Study Online

Art Study Online is a site run in part by Procreate superstar Nikolai (Nikko) Lockertsen which alone justifies its addition to this list. ASO offers a small, but quality selection of inexpensive ($5 to $15) iPad art courses specifically created for Procreate. These courses are excellent for the intermediate user who wants to practice some more advanced concepts and compositions. Nikko is known for his incredibly complex and rich illustrations which he makes solely in Procreate. Here’s his portfolio on Procreate.art. It’s crazy.

Here are teaser videos for some of the courses…


K. Michael Russell

YouTube | Twitch | Patreon | Skillshare

If you’re looking for more advanced techniques in Procreate, look no further than the teachings of K. Michael Russell, Pro Comic Colorist and Art Instructor. Russell is on the forefront of the movement of professional artists making the switch from Photoshop to Procreate on the iPad Pro. You can find is growing playlist of Procreate-focused YouTube videos here.

Russell streams live coloring sessions on Twitch and if you’re ready to jump into more in-depth coursework, he offers several courses on Skillshare such as The Beginner's Guide to Digital Art with Procreate for iPad!


Those are the standouts for right now. Be sure to bookmark this post as I’ll add more quality tutorials as I come across them!

Comics Academy: Digital Publishing by J. Logan Carey

Continuing my series of Comics Academy posts where I write about the process of making comics (most of the stuff I’m learning right along with you), I put together a few reviews of some common places to publish your comics once it’s ready to make a public debut.

So, once a comic book has been created, where does it go?


 
 

Comixology 

iOS | Android | Kindle Fire | Web

If you're talking about digital comics, it doesn't get any bigger than Amazon-owned Comixology. They're the name in digital comics and probably the largest retailer of comics out there. Because of how monstrous the platform actually is, getting on Comixology can get your work in front of a lot of readers. A LOT. Titles that perform well there can even lead to getting published by traditional comic publishers.

The Comixology submission and acceptance / rejection process from what I can tell is just as shrouded in secrecy as most other tech company platforms. They have specific guidelines and rules that need to be adhered to in order to be accepted and they also appear to have their own view of "quality". Now, I haven't personally submitted to Comixology yet, although I plan to and when I do I'll write a detailed review of the process, but Comixology is the final judge of whether your comic is worthy of publishing on their platform. All I'm saying here is that indie creators who may not necessarily adhere to the "traditional" art forms or formats and methods of comic creation might run into an issue here as opposed to other platforms. Comixology has a specific kind of image that they want to uphold and I can understand why that is and I certainly think they know what they are doing when it comes to publishing comics because look at what they've built. I think what they've done for the comic book industry by dramatically increasing the reach to all kinds of readers is fantastic, however…

There are some pain points in dealing with Comixology. For one, the sales reports…

From what I can tell, there aren't any, so you don't really know how well your book is selling. The seller payment system also can be difficult. As opposed to other platforms, Comixology pays on a quarterly basis, 45 days after the quarter has ended, if you've reached the $100 threshold, in the form of a mailed check. So for all it's advantages of exposure and reach, depending on Comixology as an income stream can be very challenging for independent creators.

The fees for selling on Comixology are also not insignificant. While free to publish your work on the platform (provided your book is accepted) you'll get 50% of the cut after transaction fees and taxes. Oof.

Formatting for Comixology, by that I mean size, image quality, layout, and lettering should be something you consider as you create your comic. There's nothing worse than working for weeks and months or even years to finish your book and then realizing the panels are going to get cut off or your DPI is screwed up. Doing a simple internet search for comic book formats or templates is like having one thousand people screaming back at you their own opinion and telling you how they're the ones who are right. I've been hard-pressed, to find a format and layout requirements that are agreed upon by everyone. With that said, Comixology has their own recommendations for formatting and layout and I think indie creators with an eye towards eventually publishing on Comixology should get used to using them as a standard so that when you do make the eventual jump to submitting, you'll avoid as many headaches as possible.

Standard US Comic Book Page Print Dimensions (According to Comixology)

File type: PDF

Single Page:

BLEED SIZE: 6.875” x 10.437”
This is the TOTAL SIZE of your page files including a 0.125” bleed on all sides. The bleed will be trimmed off so artwork that goes to the edge of trim should bleed off the page. Make sure all artwork fills the bleed area.

TRIM SIZE: 6.625” x 10.187”
This is the actual page size of the book when trimmed, folded & stapled.

LIVE AREA: 6.125” x 9.687”
Also known as “safe zone.” This is the area that your lettering should be contained within, to ensure it’s not too close to the trim.

Double Page Spread:
 
BLEED SIZE: 13.5” x 10.437”

TRIM SIZE: 13.25” x 10.187”
 
LIVE AREA: 12.75” x 9.687”
To ensure your art/lettering doesn’t get lost in the gutter, leave a 0.5” type gutter down the middle. This is especially necessary for thick collections.

Lettering: Comixology recommends using industry standard lettering fonts for your comic such as those made by ComicCraft of Blambot.

Fees: After processing fees, 50%.

Publishing on Comixology for indie comic book creators can definitely be seen as the "end game." That is, it should definitely be where you see your work eventually being published, but not necessarily right out of the gate. There's just too many gatekeepers and requirements for me to endorse aiming for this at the beginning of your comic making career. For those who have had a few projects under their belts and are looking for the next plateau, definitely start investing your time in the platform.

Submission Guidelines on Comixology

 
 
 

Madefire

iOS & Apple TV | Android & Android TV | Windows | Oculus | Magic Leap | Web

Madefire has a special place in my heart. They're the plucky digital comic book startup that have kept going while the talking heads of comic book-dom have doubted their staying power pretty much since the get-go…if they mention them at all. While Comixology has been soaking up the limelight, Madefire has quietly been busy building a digital comic book platform with all the potential to rival them. While they were lacking the big name publishers for several years, recently they've added DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and Image to their roster bulking up their offerings. They're also platform ubiquitous which even includes virtual reality. If you want to know what the future of comics looks like, you'll want to keep an eye on Madefire.

Their standout feature? Motion. Comics on Madefire can take advantage of their unique platform to make books where panels jump out at you with music, movement, and sound effects to create an immersive reading experience. They have a ton of free motion comics to download so I definitely recommend seeing this for yourself and imagining the potential of your own work in a motion comic format.

Now, publishing with Madefire...is a different story.

I'm honestly a little perplexed by the whole process and I think it's a barrier they should work on going forward if they want to provide a viable platform for indie creators.

Firstly, you'll need to use their Motion Book Tool to create your book whether it's motion or not. This runs in a browser using Flash (yuck) and is generally hard to understand how to use. You'll need to upload your image files and if you do a motion comic; text bubbles, sounds, FX, etc that they refer to as assets. They provide a handful of premade assets in a quick start guide that you can use, but you're pretty much on your own after that. I've found the Motion Book Tool to be a bit buggy and dated-looking (like much of their website). Using their 41 PAGE "JUMP START GUIDE" (p.s. 41 pages is NOT a jump start) I attempted to create a motion comic of my short comic, Gemini. After an hour or so of frustration, I gave up. Either I don't possess the design chops to sit through the laborious task of motion comic creation (quite plausible) or the tools provided just need some work, simple as that.

I love what Madefire is trying to do and I think they certainly have a place in the world of digital comics. They're also the non-Amazon choice that lets you buy all the big name comics in-app, if those things are important to you. For those reasons I've included them, but they may not be your first choice for where to publish your comics. At least until they've streamlined the submission process. Here's to hoping.

Submission Guidelines on Madefire

 
 
 

Gumroad

iOS | Android | Web

Gumroad is one of my favorite online marketplaces to sell your goods. For one, it's very simple to use, both for sellers and for buyers. You don't actually even need to make a Gumroad account to purchase something, you just need an email address. You can even offer your digital products for free. One of the biggest features of Gumroad is that it can also function as your email funnel. Every purchase (even free ones) collects the emails of your customers which you can then update via Gumroad itself in a simple interface or export your list for use on another platform. I can't overstate it enough that this is INCREDIBLY valuable to creatives for growing your business. I can't think of any other platform that allows you to directly contact your customers about new or updated products.

Your PDF or eBook can be downloaded directly, read online at Gumroad.com, or even on their app called Gumroad Library for iOS and Android.

Fees: (Free Version) 8.5% + $0.30 (USD) per sale, (Paid Version / $10 per month) 3.5% + $0.30 (USD) per sale.

Since Gumroad sells your work, however you make it, there are no restrictions about formatting dimensions or anything like that. It’s incredibly open. Which may mean that yes, the comic reading experience may be inconsistent between different creators, but I think as an entry point to putting your work out there, Gumroad is the way to go.

 

Self-hosted

Hosting your comics on your own website gives you the most control over how your comic is presented and will probably let you keep the most profit of a sale than any of the other publishing options. For most websites though, you'll have to know at least a little bit about how to set one up.

I personally use Squarespace for my hosting and as user-friendly as it is, there's still a learning curve. The other hurdle is getting people to find your comic. While the main marketplaces have name recognition and a wide user-base, you will be doing the heavy lifting on your own site of pulling in eyeballs. For this reason I recommend using your own site as a good jumping-off point to your creative projects, but not the sole location of where they reside. Unless you're one of a handful of well known webcomics, you just don't have the web traffic to be successful. Let someone else who already has created an infrastructure to offer, sell, and deliver your comic do the dirty work so you can back to the job of actual comic book creating.

Those are the main avenues I have to suggest for putting your comic out into the great wide world. Now get to creating so you can start publishing!

Have any other suggestions? Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know!

Comics Academy: Scriptwriting Apps by J. Logan Carey

For our next Comics Academy lesson, let’s talk about apps we can use to work on comic scripts. While you can use any word processing program out there to a plain old notebook to write your story, I've selected a few platforms that are focused on script formats. I've found that for beginning writers, the nuances of writing in script style can sometimes be more overwhelming then creating the story itself. So here are a handful of options you may want to check out for a quick way to dive right into your work.

Here they are in alphabetical order…

Amazon Storywriter (Web)

Amazon Storywriter is essentially a free cloud-based app that provides automatic formatting for screenplays on the Master Scene Standard.

That's fancy talk for it makes writing scripts REALLY easy.

It might not be your permanent solution for what platform you use to write your scripts, but it can be a great learning tool to practice how a script is written. Files can be exported as a PDF, FDX, and Fountain formats. They used to let you submit any scripts written with it directly to Amazon Studios, as of April 2018 this function has been shut down.

Final Draft (macOS / iOS)

Final Draft looks to be a really nice app for script-writing. Files sync via iCloud or Dropbox. At $9.99, it looks like a very affordable option, the desktop version however is priced at a mind-boggling $249.99. So if you were set on using a desktop, I’d use either Pages or Google Docs to save yourself some money.

Highland (macOS)

Highland (now Highland 2) is a very sophisticated looking app that really aims to be a one-stop solution for all your script and screenplay writing needs. The layout is clean and easy to use themes make it comfortable on the eyes for anyone. The built-in goal and stats tracker may be a revelation for those who benefit from a little bit of gamifying in their productive pursuits.

It’s free to download and unlocking the full version is $49.99.

iA Writer (macOS / iOS / Android / Windows)

iA Writer is the definition of simplicity in a writing app. It’s Focus Mode allows you to turn your entire device into a current document view and nothing else. This is really good for those of us who get distracted by browser tabs, notifications, and everything else trying to get your attention. It has it’s own built-in library so you can see all your documents from the app. Your work is stored either in iCloud or Dropbox so you can access it from every device. Night mode is also included. NIGHT MODE EVERYTHING! PDF export is available in all options which is very handy as well as Word format. Text editing functions such as Bold and Italicize appear if you mouse down, very similar to a lot of well-designed web apps.

The iOS and Android versions both run $8.99, however the Android version can be downloaded for free before paying to unlock the full app. The macOS is $29.99 and the Windows version is $19.99.

Screenplay Formatter plugin for Google Docs (Web)

Google Docs is, of course, a free alternative to other word processing apps, but it’s only a blank document. With the Screenplay Formatter plugin for Google Chrome, you can create a script easily with this helpful add-on. It’s free too. Simple enough.

Slugline (macOS / iOS)

An Apple-only app, Slugline is a minimalist platform focus on scriptwriting. One of the key features of Slugline is the ability to simultaneously look at your story outline AND your script. It has an "omit" feature which allows you omit sections of your script without deleting them so you don't have to completely remove those bits you're on the fence about. The omitted sections won't appear in previews or printed versions. It also has a dark mode, something that makes looking at a screen for long periods of time less straining on the eyes. It also comes with templates you can build your script off of. Syncing is done via iCloud or Dropbox.

The macOS version is $39.99 and iOS is $19.99.

Let me know in the comments what your pick for best writing app is! If you have a suggestion that I don’t have listed here, feel free to mention it and I’ll add it to the list!

Comics Academy: Writing the Script by J. Logan Carey

So a while ago I decided to start compiling resources for aspiring comic creators like myself and share them here on the blog. My philosophy on learning is that you don’t need any pricey subscriptions or giant payments. You don't need to spend wads of cash on school, courses, or even materials. You just need the will to learn. 

Now, the backbone of any comic book is the script.

This script is made up of character dialog and scene description to be used as the basis for the artist to create the imagery. How scenes are described is largely up to the understanding between writer and artist over how to convey this information to each other. Some writers may describe each panel in painstaking detail, while others may only mention a general idea of what they picture the image to look like. And many writers use both methods throughout their scripts, spending more time describing key images and less time on nonessential imagery.

There are millions of stories out there waiting to be told, I can’t tell you what to write, but here are a couple of helpful resources to see how others have put together their scripts. One of the best ways to learn is to see how others have done something and then adapt it to suit your tastes.

How to Write a Comic Book Script and Other More Important Things - Chris Oatley

Chris Oatley of The Oatley Academy has created one of the best guides around on how to write a comic book script from conception to execution. An incredibly helpful resource for writers just starting to write for comics and looking for an in-depth view on a writing philosophy that really works.

Comic Book Script Archive - ComicsExperience

A great way to learn how to script a comic is to read a bunch of comic scripts. Read through these real deal comic scripts from comic books that have actually seen the light of day.

I’ve also seen some honest advice out there for aspiring comic writers…that it doesn’t hurt to learn to draw.

Hey! Don’t shoot the messenger here! I think that’s some practical advice. There are a lot of people out there with stories they want to tell and only so many artists to tell them. Art style and technique is largely subjective and brilliant stories are told all the time through very simplistic styles and means. Give it a thought before dropping loads of scripts on artists out there on the interwebs who are probably already dodging a lot of these kinds of requests.

Am I Too Old For Art School? by J. Logan Carey

When I was studying for my Anthropology degree, because I was totally convinced I could easily find a job in a museum or something (HA!), I decided that I wanted to take drawing classes for my electives. Electives were supposed to be those things that you were also interested in, but might be outside your chosen field of study.

Unfortunately for me, at Michigan State University, unless you were an Art major you couldn't take even the most basic of art classes. All I was able to get into was a single, solitary History of Art class.

I remember it pretty vividly actually. We learned about different styles of art, painters, and artistic movements. We learned how some pieces might be interpreted, what symbolism might be peering from the edges. It was enticing, but it was lip service. Here's all these wonder forms of art that exist, but we just observed and commented. That was all. I couldn't touch any of it, couldn't get my hands on it.

I wanted to get my hands dirty. I wanted to learn the skills that art students were learning so I could take my doodling to the next level. But I couldn't, so I studied maps and meteorology instead. Never ended up getting job in any of those fields. Sadly, I also never became Indiana Jones either. You lied to me, Steven Spielberg!

Fast forward a bunch of years to now. I'm a bit more settled down now, as things go. I've got a full-time job and a full-time relationship, two maddeningly lovable cats and a home that feels like a sanctuary. I've gotten very serious about studying and learning art over the past year or so. I've always loved to draw, but I never had the fire under me I feel like I do now to do it. But I'm also, sort of middle-aged I guess. YUCK, I hate that phrase. I'm 38. Too old to be young, too young to be old. Right? RIGHT?! 

There are lots of great places to learn art online. I just wrote a post about them called Best Places to Learn Art Online. Most of them are very much affordable alternatives to traditional art school, especially when compared to traditional art school. And I am taking courses through several of them, but sometimes I have to admit that I kind of crave that traditional college course structure when it comes to learning. I need the proverbial whip behind me, I need some deadlines and clear path. Now, this really can't be an expectation throughout my art career, but right now it felt like something I needed so I got an idea.

Essentially what I did boils down to this: I searched online for publicly posted syllabi of traditional art classes.

After finding and reading through many different options, I chose one program in particular that provided a detailed syllabus for Drawing I, Drawing II, and Drawing III level courses. The syllabus broke down the reading list, assignments, and in-class projects in great detail so I could see what the professor wanted the students to read, study, and draw for each and every week throughout the semester.

I had a complete guide for what reading material to acquire and the order in which to study it for the type of art classes I was never able to attend in college. It would be just like taking a traditional college art course...

...with three HUGE differences:

One, this would be a self-guided course of study, which is perfect for me being able to fit it in around my schedule that is a lot busier than it was when I was in college.

Two, that I was not bound to the racket of purchasing the newest edition of college textbooks.

And Three, NO TUITION.

Here's how the book pricing went:

  • Book 1: Current edition price: $116, mine was $4 on eBay

  • Book 2: Current edition price: $90, mine was $7 on eBay

  • Book 3: Current edition price: $41, mine was $4 on eBay

  • Book 4: Current edition price: $40, mine was $7 on eBay

You couldn't even buy the eBook versions of these textbooks for these kinds of prices.

You couldn't even buy the eBook versions of these textbooks for these kinds of prices.

So my first foray into the world of a traditional art class cost me $22.

The next two courses, Drawing II and III will be cheaper because they use some of the same textbooks I bought for Drawing I.

Now I know some of you are saying: "but what about the group interaction wahhhhhh."

I think anything skill or knowledge in life that you want to learn boils down to this simple truth: YOU are the one who has to do the work.

You could be in a room of the most talented artists ever to pick up a pencil or paintbrush, and it would improve your artistic ability absolutely ZERO because we don't learn through osmosis, we learn through doing and then doing again.

Again and again and again and again and again. That's it. There's no ultimate secret. No mastermind program is going to show you an amazing shortcut to mastery or even competency. It will always come down to you and the level of work and effort and study you are willing to put into your thing.

And who says group collaboration has to take place in a classroom? Have you heard of the internet? If you want to find a group of people in real life, then check sites like Reddit or ask your creative friends if they're interested in a meetup to compare and critique your work. That type of outside-the-classroom thinking is what it's all about in the long run.

A college or university does not control your ability to observe and learn and become skillful in anything, they just get you to pay them to tell you that they do. Art schools seem to be particularly unscrupulous when it comes to this. So do some research and then develop your own learning plan to guide you on your way.

What Project Should I Work On? by J. Logan Carey

 
 

Here's the scenario: you know you should be working on your creative stuff, but you are totally perplexed and overwhelmed and can't decide what to focus on. I think about this problem...a LOT. I'm never quite sure what is the most important thing I should be working on. So of course I procrastinate and spend hours on Instagram and Twitter instead of working.

I think this is so tough for us to nail down because the answer is not that simple, it's not just one thing. I mean, the over-arching idea is, in fact, one thing, but that's too general. In my case it is visual art/story-telling. But that's a pretty big bucket, how can we break down the larger idea into something smaller that you can actually take a bite out of?

My idea for this is to take the creative idea you are aiming for and break it down into "The Three P's" or three project buckets that you can pull from whenever you are indecisive about what to do next. The percentages are how much of your time you should be spending working on each of these areas.

They are...

  1. Passion (25%)

  2. Practice (50%)

  3. Product (25%)

 

PASSION is the thing that you are taking out of your soul and putting into the world. For me, it's working on my comics. But what you and thousands of other creatives before you have discovered, it's hard to make a living from a passion. For almost everyone, it just never happens. I don't necessarily think that should be your goal either. Mostly because it's so damned hard for the vast majority of people to obtain and you can lose your inner fire trying to make something that is uniquely you into a money-making thing. I think this is why most musician's first albums are fantastic and then the next ones are never quite as good. The first one was 100% from someone's soul, the follow-ups were made to satisfy recording contracts. They got the recording deals from how truthful those first songs were. That should be your goalpost, make something that is pure you. You should be working on this about a quarter of your time.

PRACTICE is honing our craft. Simply put, it's learning. This means studying the masters in your field and creating for the sake of creating, not to share to the world. It's creative exercise, pure and simple.

Although this ends up being the most important of our project buckets because it leads to mastery in the other two, most people focus on this one the least. That's a mistake. If you don't learn, you don't grow, you don't gain mastery, you never achieve your potential. Any practice is good practice, for the most part. It's easily ignored, however, and it's absence leads to creative stagnation. The proverbial "well has run dry". If you hit a creative plateau, it's almost always a sure sign that you need to become a student again to fill the well back up. You cannot grow towards your ultimate potential without focusing on this part of yourself. It simply won't ever happen. The good news is this can take a lot of different forms. You can squeeze practice into many parts of your life that you haven't even realized. Experiment, try different things, try something you would normally think was silly. You may be surprised how much you can learn and get done in short bursts rather than waiting for huge, uninterrupted lengths of time that are harder and harder to come by pretty much as soon as you are done with grade school.

PRODUCT is something you use your skill to create that is...what's the word...sellable. Something that would be in demand, something that people would love to show off, something that you could sell for money for pete's sake and pay a bill or two. There's nothing wrong or evil or bad about being able to provide for yourself through your creative skill. For many people, that's the dream in itself. But this almost never aligns with what we consider our PASSION that most people spend their lives trying to mash the two together with little to no success. For this project bucket you need to be in tune with the trends, so to speak. This is where social media can actually be useful for once. See what's trending, what are people talking about, and then figure out how you can use your unique skill to add something of value. That's the key, it has to be of value...to someone who isn't you.

That's a hard lesson for most creatives and if you can swallow that bitter pill, you're halfway to the finish line. Spend about a quarter of your project time on this area. It may not be the kind of stuff that sings to your soul, but it could sing to your grocery story and put some Pop-Tarts in your pantry.

Try to rotate each project bucket you are pulling from so you don't get bored and then start putting things off. This should keep things fresh and keep you more engaged in your creative work.

Let me know how this goes for you!

Best Places to Learn Art Online by J. Logan Carey

The internet is seemingly endless with opportunities for those who want to learn more when it comes to art. This post is for those looking for information rich resources in the lifelong journey to become better artists without forking over the huge time and money commitment to enroll in a traditional art school.

Art is not something that is or should be kept above a certain income level.

It can be learned for practically nothing by going to your local library or YouTube or just picking up a drawing tool. The resources listed here are structured more like traditional learning courses for those who learn better with this type of method.

A word of warning: don't be talked into spending huge sums of money for any learning program because some marketing material tells you that you should.

YOU have to decide when it's time to spend money on your art education. If you read the line, "you're investing in yourself" on some art school promo material, just know that it's a standard and successful marketing line used everywhere to get you to spend your hard-earned money.

My goal here is to present what I think are the best options out there that are also very affordable. Affordable to me is about the cost of eating out one or two nights a month at a sit down restaurant. Anything much more than that and it's hard for most people to swing, so I'm not including it. There are more options popping up all the time, these are the most standout resources I've seen so far.

Nothing in this post is sponsored, I just really enjoy checking out and telling people about the opportunities there are for learning art online. 

In no particular order...


Schoolism

THE DETAILS:

Schoolism is a behemoth in the online art education frontier. Not only do they offer a wide breadth of art classes, but they also host public and private workshops in several countries throughout the year. The online portion can also be complimented (but doesn't have to be) by personalized video feedback from the instructor, although there are limited slots and they are very pricey at $998 PER course.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

There's a LOT to work with here: drawing, sculpting, digital painting, watercolor, portraiture, ZBrush, storyboarding, landscapes, lighting, character design, oil painting, and more.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

Schoolism courses are taught by a large variety of industry insiders meaning you will get instruction from the professionals you are trying to be. Name the biggest companies and studios out there and at least one instructor at Schoolism will have worked there. The courses are also VERY large and in depth. They're organized as closely as I've seen to traditionally weekly structured classes. They should feel quite familiar to those who have taken even just one college course.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming

  • Subscriptions (allows access to EVERY course): $29.95 per Month or $299.40 per Year

  • Personalized video feedback critique by the course instructor: $998 per course


Society of Visual Storytelling

THE DETAILS:

SVS is seriously impressive. Headed by well known illustrators; Jake Parker, Will Terry, and Lee White, while supported by a large team of professional artists, SVS offers a huge variety of courses. It features a curriculum of 80+ (and growing) video classes taught by industry professionals.

You can subscribe monthly or yearly price and use the video classes and associated resources or you can also enroll in live classes (for a few hundred dollars per course) for an interactive experience including critiques from the instructors. Subscribers can get discounts on live classes.

A large portion of the curriculum appears to be Photoshop-centric. While that's understandable as Photoshop is currently the standard for the digital art community...it's not the only product out there. So if you were to use a different program, you would need to be able to work similarly to Photoshop and know how to get around the app on your own. It's not the biggest hurdle there is, but you should keep it in mind.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

Pretty much everything related to creating digital art and becoming a professional visual storyteller; drawing, digital painting, composition, lighting, perspective, character design, creature design, environments, writing stories, making graphic novels, and more.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

They have a lot of courses focused on not just technical skills, but other extremely valuable subjects such as: selling your art, branding, beating creative block, finding your art style, visual storytelling techniques, and making money in illustration. These are skills that many art curricula ignore and I think you could safely say they are completely left out of traditional university art educations.

Jake, Will, Lee also have an excellent podcast for illustrators called 3 Point Perspective which is great, so check it out.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming, Download, and Live Interactive Classes

  • Individual Lessons: $10 to $150

  • Live Classes: a few hundred dollars per course (depends on the course)

  • Subscriptions: $24.99 per Month or $198 per Year ($16.50 per Month)


Proko

THE DETAILS:

Proko is the work of Stan Prokopenko, an accomplished and pretty hilarious fine artist and veteran of the acclaimed Watts Atelier. Stan has organized some extremely well taught courses focused specifically on foundational drawing skills.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

The coursework at Proko looks deceptively small, but is made up of four large courses:

  • Anatomy

  • Figure Drawing Fundamentals

  • Portrait Drawing Fundamentals

  • Caricature

They also offer model reference videos and pose sets for sale and there's even a mobile Skelly app of the unofficial comedic mascot of Proko.com to use as a digital posable skeleton.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

While there are a lot of well done art courses available online, I would say Proko has the most...heart. The videos are approachable and usually very funny. Between Stan's sense of humor and the editing and special effects, they are just damned enjoyable.

I also am a HUGE fan of the free videos that Stan puts out on YouTube. An exhaustive list of all the free videos is available on Proko here. They are practically a full art education in themselves. While they are much shorter versions of the premium videos for sale on Proko, they still have a lot of value in them and are great looks into the larger premium videos you can purchase.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming, Download, and DVD

Pricing is per course:

  • Anatomy of the Human Body (Torso | Arms | Legs): $225 or $89 per section

  • Figure Drawing Fundamentals: $89

  • Portrait Drawing Fundamentals: $59

  • Caricature (2 Parts): $153 or $89 per part


Art of Aaron Blaise

THE DETAILS:

The Art of Aaron Blaise is the product of...you guessed it, Aaron Blaise. Aaron is an accomplished artist focusing on animals and all types of wildlife and is a 21 year veteran of Disney having worked on such films as "The Rescuers Down Under”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Aladdin”, “The Lion King”, “Pocahontas”, “Mulan” and “Brother Bear". So a fairly impressive resume there to say the least. He now focuses on creating lessons for the Art of Aaron Blaise website as well as collaborating with other industry professionals to create learning materials for aspiring artists.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

Courses mainly focus on animals, imaginary creatures, environments, and animation.

Custom brushes and texture sets with wildlife in mind for Adobe Photoshop are also available.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

If you have an inclination towards the field of animation, the Art of Aaron Blaise is an amazing resource that shouldn't be missed.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Download


The Oatley Academy

THE DETAILS:

The Oatley Academy of Visual Storytelling was created by Chris Oatley, a veteran of Disney as well as Universal, Hasbro, EA, Activision, and others. Oatley Academy is a bit different than many other art education sites in that it focuses it's curriculum in two major areas: writing stories and drawing stories. Access to the courses are done through either subscriptions or Master Classes. The Master Classes are offered only periodically and look to have limited enrollment so we can probably assume more interaction with the course provider. There don't look to be any Master Classes available until 2019 at the earliest.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

The material at Oatley Academy is organized into the story writing portion called The Storytellers' Summit and The Magic Box focused on the art. You can't see the Storyteller's Summit curriculum so I couldn't tell you what all is available. The course page lists a lot of testimonials and nothing else.

Interestingly the lauded Magic Box course focused on digital painting is currently closed with a message that says they're working on something new and a sign up form for updates.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

The Oatley Academy's approach of also focusing on the storytelling aspect of illustration as well as the visual art is unique in all the art learning sites I've seen. For those looking to add storytelling chops to their roster of skills, this might be a great place to learn. 

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming

  • Subscriptions: $19 per Month or $209 per Year ($17.42 per Month)


Force Drawing

THE DETAILS:

Force Drawing or Drawing Force (apparently interchangeable) was started by Mike Mattesi, a 20+ year veteran of animation, video games, advertising, and art education who also taught drawing at Pixar for almost 10 years and is the author of the Force Drawing method books. The books, incidentally, compliment the courses very well, so keep that in mind.

Force Drawing has two main access tiers: Basic and Premium. Basic will get you access to all the video lessons and portfolio project exercises. Premium has all the same stuff as Basic but you'll also get video critiques of your work. At $33.33 a month for the Premium (paid annually) Membership, this is a pretty comparatively cheap way to get some professional art critiques. You can also buy one-on-one mentorships in packages of one, ten, and thirty sessions.

The premium membership also offers "Certificates of Understanding" for each subject. If you earn one in each subject, you get a lifetime membership to Force Drawing and could potentially become a Force drawing instructor.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

Courses start from fundamental areas like basics, form, and shape, then graduates to anatomy, character design, and animals.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

The two levels of membership are pretty compelling as Basic is very affordable and Premium offers a relatively inexpensive way to have your art critiqued by an instructor.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming

  • Basic: $20 per Month or $200 per Year ($16.67 per Month)

  • Premium: $40 per Month or $400 per Year ($33.33 per Month)


Pencil Kings

THE DETAILS:

Courses are taught by a variety of professional illustrators and art instructors from around the world. The site looks very professionally done. There are scheduled monthly challenges with a private Facebook group to see what share with others your work. They have purportedly have a large community of students that you can interact with, though without paying, it's hard to see how much of this is actually going on.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

100+ courses. drawing, anatomy, composition, digital painting, Photoshop, storyboarding, animation, portraits, caricature, anime, and more.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

No questions asked, money back guarantee with the first 30 days if you aren't satisfied. No one else does this.

You can do a $1 trial for 3 days to see if you like the site.

They also run an artist-focused podcast called Pencil Kings Podcast.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming

  • Individual Lessons: $15+

  • Subscriptions: $29.95 per Month or $299 per Year ($24.92 per Month)


Art Study Online

THE DETAILS:

Art Study Online is a small, but well made art learning site primarily teaching courses in Procreate for the iPad.

The courses are presented in a real-time format, are typically an hour or longer, and many come with custom Procreate brushes or full-size artwork from the course for reference.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

The course offering list is relatively small, but focuses on character design, perspective, and studies on creating specific illustrations.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

Courses that focus almost solely on creating artwork in Procreate on the iPad. This is a great resource for a new generation of artists interested in learning the powerful tools available on the iPad Pro in a time when the vast majority of art schools are still focusing on teaching the expensive and clunky Adobe Photoshop for their digital art curriculum. Yeah, I said it.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming, DVD, or both.

Pricing is per course:

  • $9 - $14 for unlimited streaming access to that course

  • $40 for a DVD

  • $40 for streaming access and DVD.


Ctrl+Paint

THE DETAILS:

Ctrl+Paint is at it's heart a huge library of well-organized free videos. It was created by Matt Kohr, an art industry professional and master digital painter. Ctrl+Paint is largely known as "the free art learning site" for having so many free videos available. Each video is relatively short, but there's so many they are able to cover a wide breadth of vital art creation topics.

For those wanting deeper dives into the skills Matt teaches, there are 18 hour-long courses available for only $10 each, or even cheaper if you purchase them in bundles. They range from basic rendering to digital sketching to color and perspective.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

Focuses primarily on digital painting, from the very beginning artist all the way to 3D design in Google SketchUp.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

It is largely FREE, you can also purchase all of the courses Ctrl+Paint has to offer for about $165. That makes it an excellent jumping off point for art students without putting down any money beforehand. And all the courses for $165? That's a very good deal for over 18 hours or professional videos.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

Streaming and Download (for purchased courses)

The main library of Ctrl+Paint is free, courses are $10 a piece or can be bought in bundles of 6 for $55.


Gumroad

THE DETAILS:

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Gumroad for a burgeoning field of art tutorials and lessons. While Gumroad is a platform for anyone wanting to upload and sell digital content, it has recently drawn a ton of professional artists who are looking to sell very reasonably priced lessons and courses. 

Anything that you purchase on Gumroad you will be able to access forever on their site or also their mobile app.

WHAT TYPES OF COURSES ARE AVAILABLE:

Any and all types of courses, you really have to see for yourself. The site is not really designed very well for product discovery however, it may take you some searching to find artists creating the types of lessons you want. I suggest looking for those artists and then reviewing their entire catalog of offerings.

Here are some of my personal favorite artists from the site I recommend checking out:

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL:

Gumroad does all the work of creating a storefront for it's users, therefore the artists can focus on creating their art lessons and selling them to you for very affordable prices.

FORMAT AND PRICING:

They are all over the board. Can be anything from free to $50.


Summary

Clearly there are lots of options out there that are high quality and affordable for the aspiring professional artist. Which one is right for you depends on how what kind of curriculum you are looking for and how you want your education structured. I would recommend experimenting with as many of these sites as you can to get a feel for the material, the instructors, and how you learn best.

In regards to results of these platforms, many of these include testimonial pages that their detail how students have gone onto working with the biggest names out there; Disney, Marvel, DC, Blizzard, Pixar, you name it. Keep in mind that no art education is complete without an impressive portfolio and a key eye on networking opportunities. One can still find many of those opportunities online, but you first have to put your work out for anyone to find it. You can do it.

If you know of any resources that I missed that you think should be included, drop me a line in the comments and I'll add them here or in a future post.

How to Draw Outer Space by J. Logan Carey

Outer space in illustrations is full of stars, planets, galaxies, moons, asteroids, spaceships, wormholes, and the occasional elder god on his way to work. So I've gathered a variety of tutorials and tips for drawing everything cosmic for this post.

Don't worry about the specific app or medium used to create these drawings. Observe and learn the technique and you can recreate it on anything. Watching a tutorial about an app you don't have? You can probably find an equivalent brush in whatever you're using. Same goes for digitally emulating traditional art mediums. Whatever app you're in, chances are, there's a brush for that. The technique and philosophy behind any piece of art is universal and translating it with your chosen tool is what makes your art yours.

Delta Cancri 4, the fourth planet in orbit around the double star known as Delta Cancri in the constellation of Cancer from Zodiac. Done in Procreate.

A dead astronaut splash page I did in Autodesk Sketchbook that will appear in the Cancer chapter of Zodiac.


Video Tutorials

I've combed the internet to find some of the most useful video tutorials out there on creating space artwork. The mediums are different, but all could be adapted to your own needs and tools.

James Julier uses Procreate to show us how to easily create a random field of stars and some glowing galaxies and nebulae.

The videos below show how to make a flowing space scene using your fingers in the app Paper, but the techniques are simple enough to be able to apply to any digitally drawn outer space scene so don't be afraid to try it out.

Now let's learn to make an outer space scene with planets and stars and even an asteroid with Alphonso Dunn.

Every solar system needs a sun and a moon or two. Here's a digitally drawn sun and a moon drawn in pastel.

Okay, we've got our space background, let's try out some spaceships to travel our little piece of the universe.

Here's a couple of valuable techniques for drawing spacecraft. The first is using a 1-point perspective to give your ship a sense of depth and distance. The second is using a copy / paste / flip technique (symmetry if your app has the ability) to give your ship a nice sense of symmetrical construction.


Inspiration Gallery

Here's a small gallery of some great interstellar illustrators of the 20th century to inspire you and your own extrasolar artwork. 

Peter Elson (Gallery)

© Peter Elson

© Peter Elson

© Peter Elson

© Peter Elson

Luděk Pešek (Gallery)

© Beatrice Pesek

© Beatrice Pesek

Lucien Rudaux (Gallery)

Chesley Bonestell (Gallery)


Reference Sources

Cassini Legacy - 20 years of exploration and an in-depth look at the solar system we call home

HubbleSite - Image gallery from the Hubble

NASA Image and Video Library - Official image site of NASA

Space.com - Space exploration and astronomy news

SpaceX - Official gallery of SpaceX's missions and spacecraft


Practice Exercises

What good are some lessons without some good old-fashioned practice? Not much! So draw these subjects below to build up your cosmic skills!

  • A field of stars

  • A far off galaxy

  • An exoplanet

  • A star unlike our own

  • A cloud-like nebula

  • A crater-covered moon

  • A spacecraft made in the distant future