Monday, 2 May 2011

Setting up comic pages for printing

Setting up comic pages for printing

I asked in a poll if people would be interested in a tutorial for making pages print ready, and there was a good response to it. So here it is.
I in no way am the authority on this task, but I do print comics, and set up files for printing, and work in a place that does printing. This is how I do it, and it works.
I print through Ka-Blam printing, so I set up based on the specs paid out by Ka-blam which funny enough, are fairly standard.

To get started you need to have a bit of an understanding of what it is you are doing. Creating print files means you’re creating a high enough quality file for your printing company to print, with proper margins, and colours. Most print companies ask for a specific file type, resolution, and dimensions.
You need to know at the very least what size you are printing at(the final comic book size). the rest can come later (in regards to this walkthrough, anyway. Its good to plan ahead).

This tutorial is working around my specification for my comic, Hello,Albertosaurus.
My comic is going to be:
6x6 printed
Perfect bound
Full colour

Make a template, or download one.

You need to have the Live area, Bleed, and Trim area noted on your template. These margins are a constant on every template.
Trim area: Trim area is the edge that is extra so the machines cutting your pages have a little bit to trim off so your pages are full bleed. Your trimmed size, is your actual comic size PLUS .125” (1/8th"). In my case 6.125”x6.125”.

Make a new document in photoshop at that size with 300 DPI resolution. that .125” is what will be cut off in your final comic. Then make your trim margin 1/8th" in from the edge of the document.
I like to use the Guides in photoshop. You grab and drag the edge of the rulers on your document, and pull the line to the measurement you desire, then release the mouse button and you have a guide on your document that doesn't ever show up anywhere except photoshop. Do this for all 4 sides of your page.
I won't describe the guides, you can learn about them here.

Next is the Bleed.This is where your artwork should extend to. The bleed area is just so that if the machine trims your art will bleed right to the edge of the page perfectly, without little undesireable lines or edges. Only non-essential art should be in here. NO dialogue should ever extend past the live area border. The bleed margin is .25" IN from the trim margin. Again, grab your guides and pull them in. The space you just created i nthe middle is your live area! Live area should be

You've now created your trim, bleed and live area. should look something like this (minus the pink).
I added the shades of pink to illustrate the areas.
You now have a template ready to go. I generally delete all the layers on the file, and leave only the guides.

Now you need to have a completed comic page to make into your printed page. If you're working at a standard size, there are Canson Comic boards available that have the trim and bleed areas noted on them in blue lines, these are an awesome option! In my case, I make my art 2 inches bigger than the printed size so I can scale them, and wing it. you might want to make notes of the bleeds and trims on your page. Thats a tutorial for another day...
You need to scan your comic page.
If you're doing Full colour, scan it at 300DPI minimum. When I scan I always immediately save my scanned file raw, as a .tiff. Tiffs are great file types since they don't degrade over time like a .jpg does.
If you're scanning black and white pages, scan it in Black and white, NOT grey scale. Black and white will give you the clearest and best printing quality. Scanning in grey scale will leave you with some very undesirable blotchy and blurry results.

I do very simple colour editing on my file using the Levels.
You go to Image>Adjustment>levels...
and you will get a dialogue box pop up. make sure the preview box is checked and nudge the 3 arrows around until your file looks as close to your original as possible.
I generally pull the outside ones in a little.
Next, I copy and paste my page, into my template file.
Alternatively, you could set the guides on your page file each time, but I think that's pretty tedious.
One I paste it on, its always too big, so I simply use the transform tool (Ctrl+T) and scale it down to fit my template, being mindful of the bleed and trim areas.

As you can see, if I leave mine like that, I'm going to lose my antelope on the foreground of the bottom panel, and the front of the van. I am going to add black borders on these pages, so I can nudge them up and cover the rough edges with the black borders. Easy Peasy.
You see how simple the guides are? they're always on top, and (once locked) are fixed in place so I can work freely without making sure a layer is always on top, or fuss around.
Next, I'm going to add my gutters in.
I create a new layer, and using the select tool, make a box around one edge, as wide as I want my edge gutters.

I select the area, then go to Edit>Fill... and choose my colour (usually black) and fill the box. I then deselect it (Ctrl+d) and duplicate the layer, and move the new layer to the top. This created my top edge. I duplicate it again, rotate it 90degrees for each side, so I completely box my page in black.

Here is my layers for the 4 edges, and the page in the preview/ navigation.
Doing this this way created a very uniform edge.

I then continue this process for the internal gutters, because I like them all the be exactly uniform. If one of the gutters doesn't go the length of the page I use the select tool to select the extra black gutter and hit Delete and it clears it from the layer.
Nice and CLEAN!

After I get all my gutters laid out I merge all the gutter layers into one layer.

THEN SAVE! Save often! my files aren't gigantic, but this work is pretty tedious and I'm generally doing something else in the background like rendering film or something, and that eats a lot of computer concentration! Crashes in photoshop only happen when you HAVEN'T saved. Save often!

Next up is the dialogue boxes. My comic is largely narrative, so my Narration is captured in little square boxes, while dialogue is in talk bubble boxes.
There is a million ways you could do these, but my favourite way, is exactly how we did the gutters. I use the select tool (rectangle) for the narrative boxes, and the Ellipse select tool for dialogue.
 I use Fill to make the boxes white, and Edit> stroke... to give a little border on the boxes.
To get the little Tail on the dialogue boxes, I start by typing the text on the page using the text tool, then take the selection tool, using the ellipse setting and make an ellipse around the text. One I have the text encircled in my marching ants, I switch to the Polyagonal lasso tool.
This is the poly-lasso tool. creates straight edges.
See the steps below. Pls note, I couldn't seem to screen cap the action. :/
Step one: ellipse, step 2: using Poly lasso tool, while holding down SHIFT, draw in the tail. It will ADD to the selection.

Create a new layer below the text, then go Edit> fill ... Choose white, hit ok, then go Edit >Stroke... Choose black, and the pixels (I used 3) and hit okay. you then have a white dialogue bubble.

Once you've got all your dialogue in make sure that it is ALL within the live area! Very important! you don't want your dialogue caught in the spine, or worse, Trimmed off!
Now all that is left is saving the file. you know it's the right dimensions and resolution because you've made an awesome template, so simply save your file with your page number (IE Ch1-pg12) and save it as a .TIFF file. You're page is ready!
Lots of print places ask for Jpegs but Jpegs are awful, and should only be used as a web friendly file (example, if you make a web version of your comic, save your web page as a .jpeg. Jpegs are faster loading. I am always annoyed when I company doing printing asks for Jpegs.

Some tips:
Keep your files organized, especially if it's a long going comic. always save the PSD's of your print files. in case you notice a type at some point, its an easy fix. same if the files are printing the wrong colour or something.

If you're looking for a great place to get your comics printed, I highly recommend Ka-Blam. Not only is the quality good, it's affordable and they list your comics in their database too (you get the money for the sales), so you don't even need a store front. Great promotion! They also have the ability to list in Comics monkey for distribution to stores, and digital Planet for digital copies. Very nice!

Hope that was helpful.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

marker work, and a rant.

Cross posting this from my MarkerGuru Blog.
Scanning Marker art:
So I spend a lot of time adjusting my images once they're scanned to restore them to the original look because scanners do tend to kill some colour.
Whether you're scanning cards or illustrations the same type of problems can occur.
I just stumbled on this neat tutorial on dA and thought I'd share it with you. It follows the methods I mainly use to fix up my images.

Tutorial: My Scanner Hates Me by *Wolf-Suit on deviantART

Storing your Marker Art work:
Most everyone knows that dye based markers (all of them...) are not completely light fast. this isn't as detrimental as it sounds. No they're not light fast, but that doesn't mean they fade, and burst into flames like a (real) Vampire as soon as the light hits them. You can preserve your work with proper storage and care.
For storing my Marker Illustration I mainly use a variety of sizes of Itoya Profolio. The black paper and plastic sleeves are archival, and the book keeps the light out. There are a number of different items, these ones just happen to be available for me.
Key words you want to look for with storage products are Acid Free and Archival. I've previously created a blog post on that.
They Key is to keep them out of the light, and in an acid free environment.

There are varnishes on the market that are UV protecting. I've yet to try one on a marker drawing, but I hear they're available. I personally don't like the idea. I think if you need to do something like that, you're better off using a UV protecting class and a frame.

A little rant about blogs and misinformation:
Sometimes I google for information, and sometimes I come across something that really puts me off; Misinformation!
I do a great deal of research into what I post about in my blogs (all 5 of them) and I make sure my information is as accurate as possible by contacting the manufacturers and the reps for companies all the time.
(I seem to have a running contact with Copic LMAO). By doing this I'm getting my information from the source! Be very careful about how you speak about stuff in your blogs.
I came across one today that said "Solvent based markers are DANGEROUS to you and your art" then the post talked about markers that weren't even solvent based, and had information that was simply the person quoting something online without using the product and having a sensitivity to the product (something I come across OFTEN in my work).

Non Toxic:
Yes Non Toxic is a broad term. One thing non toxic does not mean is "you can eat and huff this forever". Very often people develop sensitivities to certain things. someone can react very badly to a non-toxic labelled product. That does not make the product necessarily "dangerous".
To someone who is allergic to shellfish for example, doesn't run around screaming about how Shellfish is "dangerous" and no one should ever have it because they almost died from eating it. That would get that person promptly labelled as a Loon by most, but a few ignorant people would run our and ban it for life. (This is of course referring only to the allergy side of shellfish, and not the mercury levels).
I guess my point is, don't take every statement at face value, especially when it isn't coming from the main source. Just let these sorts of blogs encourage you to look deeper into things!

TL;DR: Seafood is Non Toxic, but can kill people, Copics are non Toxic too, but some people get headaches because they're sensitive to it. Don't be a sheep- research!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Life Drawing Models Needed


Opus North Vancouver is looking to hire Life drawing models of all genders, shapes and sizes for un-instructed life drawing sessions to be held in 2011.

Clothed and nude models are needed, as well as props and well behaved pets.


The sessions are not instructed so the model would be self directed regarding pose lengths, props, etc. Models would be expected to provide artists with a nice variety of poses and pose lengths (we do have a pre-made schedule if you aren’t comfortable with that).

We would like the classes to be about 3-4 hours long each, and we are looking for weekend and weekday models.


We are offering 20$ per hour and we like to book our models a couple months in advance, if possible. 

If you have any questions or need more information please call:
604-904-0447 ext:2110

To speak to the Store Manager Ann, or the Coordinator Jeri 

You can also e-mail your portfolio/resume and cover letter to:

Ann Mountney
Store Manager

CC to:

Monday, 6 December 2010

In early 2011 I will be starting Online Copic marker classes on the CDAC. I will strive to make them universally applicable to all purposes not just illustration or crafting. They will be entertaining, stimulating and informative, and I think they're a pretty unique angle for markers.
For the most part classes will be affordable, 1 month long, have at least 1 assignment, free digital images, and a give away at the end of the class. you will receive a completion badge for your blog or website as well.

if you think you'll be interested in the classes please feel free to fill out this short form to be informed when enrolment begins.
You will not be emailed for anything but Copic classes hosted by myself.

Please help me by spreading the word to your friends for me, I'd really appreciate it!
I'll be cross posting this to all my blogs, so I apologize if anyone watches more than one blog, you'll be bombarded. 

Monday, 25 October 2010

Animation Layout

I'm cross posting this from dA, since I thought it would b a good addition to this blog:

As part of Pre -production month on thedevanimationsource, I'm going to be talking about Layout. I've found an old example of a layout I did in school to use as an example, so wherever it says "image example" it should link to an example image of whatever I described.
layout is one of those areas of animation that is barely talked about and it's hard to get real examples of what it actually is!
What is Layout: Essentially a layout artists takes the storyboards and translates each scene into a usable set of drawings for the animators. In the old paper and pencil days they would be kept in a folder and passed onto the animators and background artists, now they'd be stored digitally in most cases in shared folders.

Elements of a layout
The field guide and camera guide, dope sheets, The character poses, the cleaned up background, the overlays or underlays, and effects elements. Every element should be labeled - usually on the bottom right corner - with the artists name, the element name (ani1, ol4, fg1 etc) and the scene number. This way if a stack of paper gets dropped...Lets hope that never happens.

  • Camera Key: Camera Keys are used to show the TV cut off (if applicable) the aspect ratio of the film. It's very similar to the blue lines on comic board, if you're a comic artist. In many cases the poses of characters are indicated on the field guide as well as the order of the various elements in the scene to show which layer overlaps etc. It should also include any camera moves such as a truck in, shake, or pan.
  • Dope Sheets: Or x-sheets, or Exposure sheets. The section of the shows Dope sheet should be included in the layout for each scene.
  • Animation Elements that are added to a layout folder should have a rough and a clean version of each file:
  • Background: The layout artist draws the background. Of course this varies depending on the production. if the background is being done digitally, the layout artists bg would just be the base drawing of the digital background. In many cases though, it's the full ink drawing of the bg, which then would go to the bg painter.
  • Animation poses: The poses from the storyboard of the animation - this isn't necessarily the main key frames - just poses to indicate the position of their character or object in the acting, as well as in the frame.
  • Overlays and underlays: still elements that have to be separated from the background so that objects or animation can pass between them. Things like foreground bushes, or panning objects.

Setting up a layout
Once you have all these elements, you need to put them in order.
The Dope sheet is often attached to the outside of the scene folder along with a mini copy of the storyboard itself - with all the necessary labelling on it. It would also include a list of what's in this folder. Alternatively for a digital layout one could place a txt file in the folder with a list of the items included, then the storyboard could be placed in there. The other elements should be placed in there in Camera order (as outlined in your Camera Key) Clean first, then rough (separate). They could be labeled in whatever way is most comfortable. generally bg1.jpg ol1.jpg is useful enough, but for large productions with many hands a more detailed labelling including scene #'s would be good such as sc3-ol2.jpg (scene 3 overlay 2).
The layout is one of the most crucial steps of any production. It's the first step from translating storyboards into the animation process. It take a high understanding of all aspects of the production process!
I hope this was moderately useful!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Cruelty Free Art supplies

I've been a vegetarian for a very very long time now and for the most part I make an effort to buy animal free and cruelty free products, however there is a great lack of information on cruelty free products for artists.
I'm going to try to debunk some myths and bring some of my research together here.

There is the obvious - animal hair brushes - No they do not sit and give the weasels a trim then let them romp in fields of clover. Its FUR.. It's part of the FUR industry. Sable brushes are essentially a small mink coat on a stick. You'd be hard pressed to find a brush made from an animal that isn't dead - it's not profitable to cuddle them and love them. They are tormented, then killed, skinned and their fur moves along to it's various applications. Yes, to a manufacturer it does make sense to kill them, not shave or brush them. It all comes down to the dollar. Sable Brushes - not so lovely.

In some cases the brushes are the left overs of other industries (fur and food), and in some cases it is actually brushed off animals like camels and then sold, and put through a sorting machine etc... but this isn't usually the case. Be leary of animal brushes.

Myth: Synthetic brushes are inferior to animal hair brushes. Whoever told you that is a damn fool. Back in the day, when synthetics were new, yes of course they had some major flaws but as synthetics grow in popularity they have some major advantages over the natural hair brushes. For example, synthetic watercolour brushes have superior spring in them over a sable. Synthetics are manufactured with hollows along the shaft of the bristle to simulate the natural hair and increasing the water holding capacity of the brushes.
Solvents will break down any brush, buying natural hair brushes doesn't make you immune to the  damage of a solvent. The key word is the product - it is a solvent... 
Your best bet is to do away with solvents in your paint all together. It's safer for you, safer for your painting, and safer for the earth. Thin with oil, clean with soap.

As a side note, I use all synthetics in my oil paint, when i used to use solvents, and now when I don't. I've never lost a brush to solvents.

Any brush you buy will last as long as you allow it through proper care and storage.

Pigments are another area for concern for some people. There are some pigments you should avoid.
Bone black and/or Ivory black (can be labelled either way) is made from charred animal bones. avoid. If you're looking on the back, the bone/ivory black pigment code is PBk9. You'd be surprised which paints have black in it (Golden has a list on their website). There is another pigment called Cochineal is a scarlet dye made from ground up female cochineal insects, However, I've not seen this pigment anywhere on any pigments lists so it's possible it's no longer used.
If you need some information on pigments this website has some awesome information on pigments specifically used in watercolours, but in general it applies to oil, acrylic and other paints as well.

Myth: Most watercolours have an ox gall binder

Not so! Most companies have switched to using Gum Arabic as a binder, which is a tree based product. Ox gall is a product that is harvested from ox galls (no kidding?!). By the way, Gall is bile. It's pretty gross to think of it in your paint, so I don't know why anyone would use it, but it is still available to purchase, and some companies may still use it or include it as a binder in their paint. Just look on the label.

Some papers, and canvas use animal product sizing. Rabbit skin glue is a traditional sizing for canvas, and is sometimes used in Gesso. Gelatin is often used as a paper sizing. There are alternatives to these of course, as there always is. Polyvinyl acetate or PVA glue is a better sizing because it won't yellow or crack with age.
In many (if not all, actually) cases the animal products are going to yellow or crack with age where the synthetic equivalent will not. So it's best to avoid anyway.

In many cases the term "traditional" when applied to gesso, or grounds will mean animal products.

What you can do to find out more information about your products.
Find the website for the brand you like - the actual manufacturers website.
Often times they will have moderate information on the products, but usually a way of contacting them for asking questions. the good companies will get back to you. 
Most importantly, if you are contacting them, asking questions about the environmental and humane aspects of the products they manufacture, they will know that people are out there paying attention, caring and thinking about where they spend their money. They will make more efforts to provide this information publicly and to be concious of where they get their ingredients. when leaders of the industry do it, other will follow suit.

Read the labels on your products. Be aware of what you are purchasing and be aware of what those things are. If you don't know what something is on your label Google it! If google gives you half answers email the company directly, download their literature. There's always answers.
Here are some websites for some brands I could think of off the top of my head... why not ask them some tough questions ;)

Golden paints
winsor newton
Georgian Paint
Daniel Smith

Useful links
Cruelty free art supplies
Vegans list of art supplies
Vegan and Vegetarian artists group on Facebook

Monday, 21 June 2010

Live Marker Colouring

Tuesday June 22 at 12pm PST I'll be colouring an image of Abade live on my live stream. please come check it out if you have time. I'll be leaving the recording up there if I can, so you can watch the recording later if you want to :)
this will be my first time doing a live stream so even if you can't attend, let me know if you're interested in these sort of things. The response I receive now will dictate whether i take the time to do these again.
Feel free to use this time to ask me questions about using markers too.
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