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!