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Manga Studio tutorials

Irish Comics News has a Manga Studio tutorial by Tommie Kelly @tommiekelly on Twitter

PC Weenies has a great tutorial about making a custom brush for inking in Manga Studio Pro.

I find Manga Studio to be very nice for natural inking, but I am still getting used to the program. If you use Manga Studio, feel free to share your own tutorials in the comments below. 🙂


How to Survive the Artist’s Alley


New artists might find themselves in an Artist’s Alley at an Anime/Comic/SciFi/Fantasy/Furry/Whatever Con. The AA can be both a good and bad place to be. Today I’m going to give you a quick rundown of what to expect if you should choose to exhibit your work here. Hopefully this tutorial will keep you from feeling like a crazy monkey. 🙂

How does this work, then?

Summarization time!

In my experience, the AA can wildly differ depending on what kind of con you are talking about. There are fan-run cons and pro-run cons, as well as different genres of cons. For the sake of brevity, I am going to have to speak about this generally and focus on fan-run cons. These types of cons are much more common.

Fan-run cons often are less organized due to everyone working on a volunteer basis, but they often cost less to rent a table. They are very popular these days since anime fandom has become more mainstream. At fan-run cons, table prices can be low so it goes to follow that there is no skill or maturity level that you have to achieve to get into the AA. All you have to do is apply while there are spaces available. You usually do not get any extra setup time for your booth, or any security. You could also be sitting next to an obnoxious kid that needs a large dosage of Ritalin, or a professional working artist. Sometimes cons also put their guests in the AA.

Let’s Rock!

Survival Tip #1: Never Go Alone:

If you plan on going to one, bring a friend with you. You will need to leave your booth at some point to use the bathroom and eat, so having a table helper is necessary.

Survival Tip #2: Bring Food:

It is best to bring a lunch, snacks, and water. You may not have time for a break. The rooms are very dry so it is easy to become dehydrated.

Survival Tip #3: Bring a Jacket Even in the Summer:

It is also very cold in most convention halls and hotels, so bring a jacket even if it is 90 degrees outside. Nothing is worse than shivering all weekend because of some overactive air conditioner.

Survival Tip #4: Bring a Fort:

You may need to stack boxes around the perimeter of your booth for security. This is easy because usually your merchandise will be brought in boxes.

Very often the people setting up the logistics of the AA don’t take theft into account. I was at one con where the tables were arranged in a horseshoe shape with the artist’s facing inward. The problem with this was that while customers were walking around inside the horseshoe, nothing stopped anyone from walking around outside the horseshoe and stealing things.

Survival Tip #5: Set the Cash Up Right:

Be sure to bring a locking metal cash box to hold your money. Of course you should bring lots of change, too.

Survival Tip #6: Get Your Measurements:

Be sure to get exact measurements of your table before you get to the con. Sometimes the tables provided may be wide, but they could be abnormally thin. I was at one con where we had such skinny tables that it was tough getting all of my merchandise on the table. Do not expect that the coordinator is going to give you all of the information you need, because they may not.

Survival Tip #7: Hoist That Banner:

You should invest in a banner of some kind so that people can find you in the chaos. I find that ones that you can raise up high above your head work well and take up less “behind the table” space. You don’t want your logo to be behind where you are going to stand, anyway. Here is the banner stand that I use.

Survival Tip #8: Label Everything:

Label all of your merchandise clearly. Customers will not ask you for a price. I repeat: customers will not ask you for a price, so label everything or you will lose a sale.

Survival Tip #9: Vary that Price Point:

Make sure that the price points of your merchandise is varied enough to accommodate all budgets. I have things that cost .50, $1, $5, $10, $15 and so on. If someone likes your work they can buy something small if they don’t happen to have the $20 for the t-shirt. Very often they will come back next time for something larger. Before you know it – you have a regular customer. This is how you grow your fan base – allow people of all financial levels to get hooked on your work!

Survival Tip #10: Business Cards:

Bring lots of business cards that have your URL and email address written clearly on them. Place them on your table and label them with a sign that says that they are free. Believe it or not, people sometimes hesitate to take things…even business cards.


In closing, I want to remind you to not look at sales numbers as a measure of your success. Getting your brand exposed to new people is a longterm investment. I have gone to some cons not intending to make a profit because my goal was to put forth a great promotional effort for my brand. It builds slowly as people recognize you and then it will pay off.

Good luck, everyone!


Digital Inking with the Photoshop Pen Tool

If you want inhumanly super clean lines, you might want to use the pen tool like I do for Stupid and Insane Defenders Against Chaos. This super-simple style is excellent for teaching the basics of the pen tool:


A: Setting Up Your Workspace:

Step 1: Scan in your sketch or create a new file (CTRL-N or CMD-N on the Mac). If you will be printing this file on an 8×10, select 8×10 and 300DPI.

If you are resizing your scanned sketch you can adjust the size of your canvas by going to Image > Canvas Size.

Step 2: Click the Create a New Layer button on the layers palette in the lower right corner of the screen.


This will create a layer above the background layer. You can ink on this without messing up your sketch, and if you don’t like it you can start over by just deleting this layer. (Delete by dragging it into the trash can icon next to the New Layer icon.)

Step 3: Name this layer, “Ink 1” by double-clicking on the “Layer 1” text.

Step 4: Double-click on the lock icon on the Background layer. A menu will pop up. Click OK. This unlocks the background layer so that you can lower the opacity and see what you are doing. Name the layers whatever you like to keep them organized. Remember, double clicking on the layer name will let you rename it.

Step 5: In the upper-right of the layers palette, you see a menu for ‘Opacity’. Click it and drop the opacity down to about 70%. Now the pencil lines are dimmer so you can tell your ink and the sketch apart.


Step 6: You may want to click this box to lock your sketch layer now. The biggest mistake everyone makes is inking on the wrong layer. If you lock it then it will not take any ink. You can unlock it by simply clicking on the box again.


Step 7: If you would like a white background rather than the checkered transparency, click on the New Layer icon as we did above for the ink layer, select white as your foreground color, then hit Alt-backspace to fill the layer with white. Be sure that you have the correct layer selected and that you drag the layer to the bottom when you are done so that it does not block the layers we are working with.


Step 8: You should now have a blank ink layer on top, a light sketch in the middle, and a white background underneath that. Now it is time to use the Pen Tool on the top Ink layer.


B: WAIT! Configuring the Pen Tool for the first time in Photoshop

The first time you use Photoshop, the pen tool will be set to ‘Shape Layers’ which means it will try to fill a shape, not create a path. This is bad. We want the pen tool to instead create a path so that we can apply clean pen strokes, not try to fill itself and complete a shape. To set your pen tool up simply click the following icon, the ‘Paths’ icon in the upper left corner. The good news is that Photoshop remembers this preference, and you only have to do this once. Now you are set to start using the pen tool.

C: OK! Let’s Use the Pen Tool!

NOTE: I am using a hard brush at 8px at all times here.

Step 1: Be sure you have the Ink layer selected, and click once on the canvas and release the mouse. Now click where you want the first stroke to end, but this time drag it to the upper-left so that it creates an arc. It looks like this:


Step 2: Now click on the indicated point and drag to the lower left as shown. This will move the handle.


Step 3: Create an awesome curve by clicking where indicated (do not hold ALT) and dragging to the upper left:


Step 4: Now you can Right-Click > Stroke Path > Click OK. Make sure that “Brush” is selected like this:


Step 5: Then Right-Click > Delete Path. You will leave behind super-clean lines like this:


Step 6: You now have a smooth pen stroke that you can add more to, erase parts of, or add to to make your lines the way you want them to be. Now all that is left is for you to trace over the rest of your sketch in this way. Do not be afraid to use more layers. If you mess up, just delete the layer and there’s no harm done. If you like it, go to Layer > Merge Down to merge it with the line art underneath it.

Here is my digitally inked drawing. It is ready to be colored:



I’ll admit that the pen tool is really difficult to understand via a written tutorial. The pen tool is used to make vector paths that are later stroked to turn into the appearance of black ink. Once you get the hang of the pen tool it really makes things easier, so I will try my best to explain it in text.

If you click somewhere a dot will appear. If you keep clicking around you will keep making more dots, and these dots will be connected by straight lines. This is not always what you want. Clicking on a second spot and then dragging it will make a curve that connects these dots. If you hold ALT, then click and drag on the second point, it will move the anchor (this is the bar that pops up around the point). You want the anchor moved towards the direction you are going to make the next point of the curve. Then you can click and drag and it will make a nice line. It is best to practice for a few minutes with the Pen Tool to get it straight. This can be used for super-simple artwork like you see in this tutorial, or applied to very complicated designs. (I’ll show you that later.)


How to Set Up Photoshop for Pressure Sensitive Tablet Artwork

This tutorial will show you how to set up your machine to recognize pressure sensitivity. You can use this for digital inking, painting, and shading in Photoshop. I use this technique in my comics, mostly for dynamic expressions and (with a large brush on a very low opacity) the multicolored shading. If you own a tablet, you absolutely have to do this setup.


You can use a version as old as Photoshop 7 and still be able to use this tutorial.

Step 1: Set your your graphics tablet up as described in it’s user manual. I personally use a Wacom Intuous.

Step 2: Go to your tablet’s manufacturer’s website and download the newest driver. Most likely any driver that was packaged on CD with the tablet is totally out of date.

Step 3: Go to Start > Settings > Control Panel on the PC or System Prefs on the Mac. Here will be a tablet menu where you can adjust what the buttons on your tablet and pen do. You can also adjust the pen’s pressure sensitivity.

How you set these are based on your personal preference. I usually totally deactivate the buttons on the side of the pen because they get in my way. I also make the pressure sensitivity just a little bit softer than the default setting.

NOTE: Cheaper tablets like the Graphire/Bamboo will offer a very limited array of settings. The Intuous level and higher will offer a full array of settings that you can adjust as well as double the points of sensitivity.

Step 4: Launch Photoshop

Step 5: Open your Brush Preferences (WIndow > Brushes). Make sure that Shape Dynamics is turned on and that it is set to Pen Pressure. This allows the tablet’s pressure sensitivity to respond to how hard or soft you press on the tablet with the pen.


You can now ink by hand with your pen if your pen tool is set up properly. I recommend a hard edge brush, not the soft, fuzzy brush.


Scanning a Sketch

Step 1: Launch Photoshop.

Step 2: Go to File > Import, then select your scanner. It should be listed there. Mine is the ScanGear CS 7.2.5.x, so I click that. The Photoshop scanning menu should pop up.


Step 3: I click on “Preview” (1) so that I can see how much of the page I want to scan (2). Then I adjust the bounding box (That funny looking dotted box) around my sketch so that I am not scanning lots of blank paper.


Step 4: Please note that I have it set to Color, and 300 DPI (3). The image needs to be at least 300 DPI if you want it to look good when you print it out later.

Step 5: If your sketch is too light you can go to Image > Adjust > Auto Levels or Image > Adjust > Levels and play with the sliders to get it looking the best. I rarely do this because I am usually just going to digitally ink over it and delete the sketch layer, but if you want just a nice sketch you will probably want to adjust the levels.


Next I will show you how I digitally ink over my sketches.

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