Illustration Tips for Non-Illustrators (Kids’ Books, etc.)

I’m eyeball-deep in a project that’s requiring far more illustrative work than any book I’ve ever put out. As an indie author, though, art has become a big part of my work. Cover design, interior book formatting, even social media banners–it’s all a daily part of the working life.

For those who are trying to be more hands-on about their own book packaging, or even thinking about illustrating their own kids’ books, etc., a few tips:

A Convertible Laptop is Your Friend

I have a Wacom drawing tablet, which I’ve used for years, but can’t say enough about how much being able to draw on the screen helps. It’s not just about the pen on the screen, either. Being able to use my fingers on the screen to enlarge or shrink the image, being able to twist the image about to draw more easily, makes a big difference, too. I can also use my left hand to flick between pens and erasers and layers in my drawing software, while drawing with my right. It’s just been a godsend for workflow.

Clip Studio Paint Is the Best

I’ve written about Clip Studio Paint in the past, but every time I come back to it, I remember how much I love it. It’s affordable ($50 for a one-time download), and it has a ton of great tools–including 3D character maps as well as vector pens and erasers and line stabilizers that all make inking a far easier task.

But Don’t Expect One Program to Do It All

In order to finish my current project, I’ve been bouncing between Clip Studio, Photoshop, and InDesign. I use InDesign for all print book formatting. It’s especially important for this illustrated work. It makes easy work of formatting the final page-by-page design.

Find Joy in the Discovery

Remember how much fun it was to get a new box of crayons when you were little? Tap into that. Of course your first line isn’t going to be fantastic. If this is your first step into digital art, it will feel awkward and disorienting. But there’s also a great deal of fun to be had in learning about it. Get stuck? Watch a few YouTube videos. Go to a webinar or two. Join some digital art forums. Talk, ask, reach out. And enjoy the journey.

Got additional questions you’d like me to address? Comment here or reach out directly: hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.

CARVING OUT TIME TO WRITE, TO DRAW

I’ve always been a big proponent of making time, especially where my writing is concerned. I mean, if I were to sit around waiting for the perfect time to write–a time completely free from distractions–I’d maybe write three or four days a year. Any adult life is just fraught with responsibilities and obligations. And those responsibilities are not necessarily burdensome! We have responsibilities to friends and families and pets and side-jobs we love. We want to do right by the people in our lives…

aaand we also have lawns to mow and laundry to do and dinner to cook.

Okay, so some of those daily obligations are burdensome.

Regardless, I’ve learned to write in early mornings and late at night. I’ve brainstormed in back seats. I’ve thumbed new chapters into my phone while waiting in line at the DMV. I’ve dictated while driving. I keep little mini spiral notebooks in my purse. I have an old Alphasmart NEO that can keep me going during power outages (it’s Missouri–there are plenty of power outages, let me tell you).

I write every day, no matter what’s going on–doctor’s appointments or author visits or traveling or even mundane daily chores like grocery shopping. No matter what else has to be done, I get some writing done too. Some days, it’s eight hours of writing. Some days, it’s twenty minutes. But some sort of progress gets made.

I learned a long time ago that it’s the only way a book gets written. You just write. Even in the most imperfect of situations.

But what about ART???

This one’s far harder for me. I’ve been determined to carve out more time for it, but I fail at this one more often than not. I get started writing a new project, and suddenly, I realize days have gone by and between life, marketing, and writing, I haven’t even thought about plugging in my Wacom.

It’s no excuse, though. It can’t be. I know plenty of writers who are also artists.

IMG_1609

This is part of my Skyping corner. That blue picture of fairies? That’s a Carrie Jones. Proof that a writer can incorporate time for artwork in her day…

One thing I know for sure is that it does not work to wait until the end of the day and try to squeeze in some artwork. I’m tired. My brain doesn’t work anymore. All I want to do by the time I’m officially done with all writing-related work is read or (if I’m really fried) watch an hour of TV (I’ve just recently discovered Homeland).

But I’m going to take a page from my writing life. I’m going to put a sketchbook (or my drawing tablet) off to the side. During longer writing days, when I need to take a breather, I’m going to do a bit of sketching. There are so many things I want to work on: my line work, improving texture and use of shadow, etc., etc., etc. But those things will never improve if I don’t work on them. Ten or twenty minutes a day doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can really add up. My writing life is proof of that.

To try to keep myself honest, I also plan to post some of my work on IG. You can follow along here: instagram.com/hollyschindler

CLIP STUDIO PAINT: AN ART PROGRAM FOR WRITERS

Okay, it’s not specifically for writers, but I often get asked what programs I’ve been using to create my illustrated works for young readers. Clip Studio Paint (formerly Manga Studio) has been a godsend. Here’s why:

It’s affordable. You honestly don’t have to break the bank with high-end art software. Clip Studio’s fifty bucks, one time download. No monthly subscription.

It’s not overwhelming. Well, not that overwhelming. The first time you do anything with digital art, it has a definite pat-your-belly-while-rubbing-your-head feel. But if you’ve ever used any kind of photo editing program (say, GIMP), you can pretty much hit the ground running with this one. Sidenote: I’ve been attending webinars hosted by professional artists, and I’ve been surprised to hear many admit they rely on a fairly limited number of features, even when they’re available. Most average about five brushes, and one artist whose webinar I attended confessed she never used more than a single layer in her digital art. (Even pros find what works best and they stick with it!)

It has functions that feel word processor-y. I use the lasso, cut, and paste tools in the same way I use highlight, cut, and paste when I’m writing.

It includes character models. These are posable 3D models that you can place underneath your drawing layer. These models don’t draw your characters for you, but they can help with the proportions of figures, in order to speed your workflow. If that’s clear as mud, you can view a tutorial here.

It has some great vector tools. Specifically, line correction tools and eraser tools. (The eraser tool is especially important.) You can see more at this tutorial.

Authors who have expanded into the illustrative arena: are you using a different program than Clip Studio? I’d love to hear about your own experiences. Comment or reach me directly: hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com.