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4 reasons you SHOULDN’T buy a drawing tablet!

So you want a drawing tablet? Well here’s why you SHOULDN’T buy one!

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1. Won’t Digital Take Forever to Learn?

To learn? No. To master? Yes.

But that’s the beauty of art.

I got my first drawing tablet around 2006. I opted for the cheapest model that offered pressure sensitivity at the time (I knew this was a must, even then). I suppose it would be closest to a Wacom Bamboo but I don’t remember the model I had back then.

It was tough. For a few hours. But then it wasn’t.

All the nerves I had leading up to it were blown away when I realised it’s the same thing I’d been doing for years! You already have the skills. Head over to YouTube or Skillshare to learn the specifics of something like Photoshop, but the truth is that ever looming learning curve is much smaller than you think.

2. The Price is Too Damn High!

Without actually getting your hands on one, how can you know whether it’s worth it? The highest of the high-end will set you back a horrifying £3000+. Can you imagine spending that only to find you don’t even like using it?! Screw that! Luckily, that’s where low-end tablets come in. Tablets like the Wacom Bamboo can give you a feel for a drawing tablet without that beastly price tag. Of course, you’re compromising on quality. You’re not going to get the same product at 2% of the price but even if you’re not planning on upgrading anytime soon there are tons of fantastic creators using super low-end hardware.

As they say: It’s not the tool, it’s how you use it!

If you do pick one of these up I’d recommend sticking with either Wacom or Huion. These are the two most trusted manufacturers so you can’t go wrong.

Wacom Bamboo

Huion Equivalent

3. But Won’t Paying Less Get Me Less?

Well…yeah.

But you’re a drawing tablet newbie, right? Do you think you’re going to use all the features of something like the godly Wacom Mobilestudio Pro? I know I wouldn’t and I’ve been working digitally for nearly a decade.

You’ve got to start somewhere and there are established pros who work Wacom Bamboo tablets. So start!

4. What About Portability?!

Portability, portability, portability. Back in my day it was never even a consideration! The Wacom Intuos Large was bigger than an A3 drawing pad and while I did have a carrying case it pretty much stayed at home.

These days anyone starting up has boatload of options. I’m seriously jealous.

The Wacom Bamboo is great to pair up with a laptop and will fit in in any standard sized backpack with ease.

Or if you’ve got cash to throw around, you could pick up one of the Wacom Mobile Studio range.

Point being, there’s a world of possibilities!

But…I’m Still Not Sure…

If you’re still on the fence I’d recommend checking out some tutorials and unboxings over on YouTube. They’ll give you a sense of just what these things can do. But be warned. They’ll also get you waaaaay too excited and you just might spend some money*.

If you’ve already got an iPad Pro you could pick up an Apple Pencil and give those a shot for much less than you’d spend otherwise. Personally, I can’t stand drawing on them but fantastic artists like WhytManga have shown some fantastic work on Instagram.

If you’re not convinced by now, they’re probably not for you. If you can’t afford any of this awesome hardware, don’t sweat it. Sure, they make thing a lot easier and they can be exciting, but in the end drawing tablets are just tools. You’ll still grow and develop without them.

But if you do want to go digital, you can’t get much better.

Come back next time when I’ll probably be ranting about how terrible Crazy Baby earbuds are.

*If you’re under 18 and spending someone else’s money just make sure they’re okay with it, yeah? I’m not responsible for any whuppings you’ll earn if you don’t.

 

Air by Crazybaby Review/Rant

Those of you who read my article a couple of weeks back will now how valuable it is to have something to listen to so the silence doesn’t drive you insane.

That’s why we listen to music, podcasts, YouTube or whatever else floats your boat! And that’s why investing in a pair of good headphones is extremely important!

Which is why it was impossible to contain my disappointment at Air by Crazybaby.

The Good

The sound is excellent. There’s no denying that. Crazybaby have created wireless earbuds that can reasonably be compared to my beloved Sennheiser Momentum headphones. That’s no mean feat. And while I’m no audio professional I know quality when I hear it.

It’s clear Crazybaby put a lot of work into their earbuds…it’s just a shame they couldn’t follow through.

This concludes “The Good”

The Bad

Air by Crazybaby boasts a sleek, metallic charging tube. The earbuds can be popped in there for a while to charge, then taken out and used as required. Essentially a dedicated portable charger for your earbuds. This means they can’t be used while charging but that is the inevitable downside of choosing earbuds over headphones. I can’t hold that against them.

But this is where things start to go downhill.

The first thing you’ll notice when opening this tube is that it doesn’t actually lock. The Quick Start Guide tells the user to “Rotate the indicator line to the filled circle position” but this isn’t necessary. Despite some clicks that would seem to indicate locking and unlocking, the practical effect is non-existent. It can be opened from any angle and it makes no difference whatsoever. But don’t worry, your earbuds won’t fall out…because the tube is stiff as hell.

That’s true whether ‘locked’ or ‘unlocked’. The first indication that they dedicated all their manpower to the marketing…but not much else.

Buuut it gets worse.

The Worse

The Air earbuds boast Bluetooth 4.2 capability that can provide a reliable connection from up to 10 meters way…maybe something was lost in translation.

In reality, if you stray 2/3 metres they’ll cut in and out like you’re listening to a walkie talkie in 1983.

But here’s the big one…

The right earbud.

Technical faults fall through the gaps now and again. Of course they do. And they can be forgiven.

But that’s where non-review copies come in handy.

The product advice site highya.com sees an average user view of 1.6/5…

The anomaly that rates them at 3/5 does so despite using phrases like:

“Pairing the earbuds is easy, but it requires a lot of luck for the sound to come out perfectly on both side.”

And

“On bad days, the left side doesn’t play sound even if you paired the earbuds with the phone.”

Buy or Avoid?

Avoid. Save yourself, head to the hills etc etc!

With the rise of companies like Huion in the display tablet market it seemed possible that another company was rising to buck the stereotype of Chinese products as cheap, inferior, trash. But I guess the headphone market will have to wait.

I’ve reached out to Crazybaby for comment but as of writing they haven’t responded. Any new information will be added at the top of this page.

 

So thanks for indulging my little rant. Join me next time when I’ll be listing my top 5 favourite comic book artists working in the industry today!

What do you listen to while you create?

The life of the artist is, at times, a solitary one. Even in today’s digital age we spend an absurd amount of time hunched over a canvas, a pad, a computer, you name it. There’s an awkward silence that drives us to overthink things and kicks us out of what’s called the Flow State AKA the state of mind where you get stuff done.

So what can we do to counteract that? Well here are a few of my favourite options:

Podcasts & Audiobooks

A lot of creatives and teachers will tell you that if you’re going to listen to something, it should be wordless. That makes sense, you can’t have your focus being pulled in too many directions at once.

On the other hand there are those that argue that by allowing the linguistic elements of thought to wander, you’ll be better equipped for purely visual expression.

Now I’m not sure which side is correct, but my short attention span means I fall squarely in the latter camp.

Some favourites at the moment include the Russell Brand on Radio X Podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show and Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History (with a special shoutout to the BNI Success podcast if they ever release a second episode). I’ll flesh out the full list of recommendations for those who are interested.

My podcatcher of choice is Pocket Casts. It’s as comprehensive and user friendly as you could hope for.

As for Audiobooks The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman. It’s an engaging look at how we learn and how to optimise that process, narrated by the author himself.

Music

I’m a bit all over the place when it comes to music and I’ve largely favoured Audiobooks  for a while now but I still go back to some old favourite artists.

My playlists are often juggled between comedy and over the top rock, with some sprinkles of pop thrown in there too. I’m currently listening to The Lonely Island’s Popstar having only just seen the movie. Along with themes from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure parts 1-3, a bit of Fallout Boy and some occasional Lady Gaga.

Deezer is my streaming service of choice. Initially because I got a good deal on it with my phone contract but I’ve actually grown to prefer it to the other services I’ve used.

YouTube

YouTube might seem like an odd choice. You can’t watch videos while painting or designing, right? Well no, so I don’t.

For me YouTube essentially functions like a mini-podcast service. I’ll load my Watch Later up with a bunch of interesting videos from creators like exurb1a, CGP Grey, or Kurzgesagt and just let them run until I reach the end of the playlist or I finish work for the day.

So that’s what I listen to. I’d love to hear some of your recommendations down in the comments. Join me next week when I’ll be putting an end to the Wacom vs. Apple debate!

TOP 10 Comic Creators to follow on Instagram

Everyone loves Instagram but as far as I’m concerned there are two ways to use it.

The first is to be a passive user. A passive user initially follows their friends and colleagues but may go on to follow celebrities so they can swipe through and entertain themselves when they’re on the toilet.

The second is to be an active user. I don’t mean putting out content, we’ll go into that another time, I mean seeking out the kinds of accounts that will provide inspiration or artistic direction. Also probably on the toilet.

There’s nothing wrong with either approach but this article is for the latter. So without further ado I present the top 10 Comic Creators to follow on Instagram:

Honourable Mention: Sam Dempsey @dempsalicious1

Horror creature illustration by Sam Dempsey

Sam is a London-based artist whose work never ceases to blow me away. Dempsey has a dedication and level of skill that mean even his sketches can be invaluable in your own artistic journey. His focus on commercial art and comissions keeps him from the comic artist top 5 but he’s one to watch!

5. Jim Lee @jimleeart

https://media-exp2.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/AAEAAQAAAAAAAALGAAAAJGYzN2I5N2M3LTY3YTUtNGM3NS1iYWIwLTViODE4ZjJjOTg4OQ.jpg
Known for: Batman: Hush, Superman: For Tomorrow
Jim Lee has been a staple on the spine of the comic book industry for decades now. Since joining the industry in 1987 his work has inspired thousands of young artists to try their hand at comic books. His macho, scratchy style has become a signature of the 90-00s era of comics.

4. Ryan Ottley @ryanottley

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/ce/21/6c/ce216c739dff623cbd3fd9ffb1feb49d--comicon-book-art.jpg

Known for: Invincible, Haunt

Invincible is one of the greatest creator-owned comics ever made but that never would have been the case without Ryan Ottley. The series’ initial artist Cory Walker provided the colourful, family-friendly basis for what would become one of the most out-and-out brutal comic books outside of the 90s. Ottley ran with what Walker started and with his gruesome knowledge of anatomy created some of the most memorable scenes in modern comics history.

3. Odunze Whyte Oguguo @WhytManga

https://t00.deviantart.net/_WzgW4N8Z2wiloEtY2n8mBnkDcU=/fit-in/700x350/filters:fixed_height(100,100):origin()/pre00/f9d5/th/pre/i/2014/273/5/e/dark_lords_of_black_bottom_island_by_odunze-d8138av.jpg

Known for: Apple Black (Saturday AM)

The first artist in our top 3 is also the least widely known. WhytManga AKA Odunze Oguguo is the writer/artist of Apple Black, serialized in Saturday AM. WhytManga’s goal, along with the rest of Saturday AM, is to bring diversity to the world of manga. As both manga and web-based comics grow, this already successful creator is one to watch as the new generation takes on the industry.

2. Greg Capullo @real_greg_capullo

Batman Court of Owls Cover by Greg Capullo

Known for: Spawn, Batman

Greg Capullo is best known for his work on the Batman title of the 2011 “New 52” DC Reboot. Alongside writer Scott Snyder, he produced masterpiece after masterpiece. From The Court of Owls, to The Death of the Family and Endgame, each new storyline became an instant classic in a way few other writer/artist duos could ever hope to match. His art style is fantastic in it’s ability to combine anatomical accuracy with a personality the industry has never seen before. Capullo is largely focused on Twitter but there is an account that reuploads his work to Instagram, though at this time it’s unclear whether Capullo is involved with it.

1. Kenneth Rocafort @mitographia_kr

Known for: Superman, Red Hood and the Outlaws

There are a ton of reasons you should be following everything Kenneth Rocafort does. Like Greg Capullo, Rocafort is one of the artists breaking away from the rigid forms of the past. His use of watercolours in his work are a far cry from the traditional half-tones of the past and a nice break from the digital colouring so prevelant in the industry. But what makes Rocafort’s Instagram particularly special is the fact that he draws a new picture every day in a pocket-sized notebook which he auctions off at the end of each year. To maintain intrigue, the first page of every month is hidden, so only the holder of the book gets to see these special illustrations.

That’s why Rocafort gets the number one spot on my list! But do you agree? Who do you think should’ve won and why? Lets find out in the comments below!

I didn’t make it into the top 5 but check out my Instagram (@BenAJNillustration) and use the code GRANDOPENING to get 10% off orders over £50 on my store!

New Year New You(Tube)!

I hope you all had a great Christmas meal and are raring to push on into the New Year!

I’ve decided to kick 2018 off with a bang by starting my YouTube Channel! I’ll still keep up all the regular content over here but now you’ll be able to watch the process, ask questions, and even join in!

Once the ball gets rolling I’ll be introducing weekly critiques, competitions and collaborations so get involved and we’ll all grow together!

Check out the first video here and don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe!*

*(and click the notification bell, and click all notifications, and jump through a burning hoop, and whatever else YouTube adds to the process by the time you read this!)

The Ultimate Mangaka Starter Pack III: Show the world!

Ben here! Welcome back to The Ultimate Mangaka Starter Pack! Part 3: Show the world! If you haven’t checked out Part 1: Pencils and Inking or Part 2: Colours and Screen tones, go give them a read for how to create your manga. Today we’re focusing taking your work from page to screen and beyond!

Scanners

Canon CanoScan LiDE 220 Compact Scanner (£64.99) UKUS

Epson Perfection V550 Photo Scanner (£177.17) UKUS

Epson Perfection V550 Photo Scanner
It looks like a robot dinosaur from the 80s…in the best way!

 

Before we go anywhere we’ll need a scanner. These beasts can be pricy but you can find a respectable one for under £100. Scanners can get as pricey as £2000+ but for your purposes a Canon CanoScan LiDE 220 Compact Scanner will be perfect (and extremely convenient) if you’re working in A4. Any bigger and the Epson Perfection V550 Photo Scanner is generally better for larger images. Thanks to the included stitching software even A2 scans are a possibility!

 

Lettering Software

  • Clip Studio Paint Pro
    • Physical (£49.96) UKUS
    • Digital (£37.19) UKUS
  • Photoshop CC (£99.99) UKUS
  • Krita (Free!) Download

Both scanners come with software that should be when it comes to adjusting your scanned images. But what if you want to go further? Last week I mentioned the possibility of digital colours and screen tones. And that’s not to mention the addition of speech balloons and lettering. It’s generally a bad idea to stick with hand lettering. No matter how nice your handwriting is, your likely to get tired of doing it all manually.

That’s where Clip Studio Paint Pro comes in! Previously known as Manga Studio, this software was built from the ground up for exactly our purposes and it’s not even overly expensive!

You’ve also got the option of programs like Photoshop or Krita (a free Photoshop equivalent) that aren’t dedicated comic applications but they’ll more than do the trick.

If you opt for Photoshop you’ll have the option of paying £9.98 a month or going back to an older version and paying for it upfront*.

Personally, I scan my pencils in and take care of inks, colours and letters digitally on my gorgeous drawing tablet PC in Photoshop. But that’s just me. Try a few different options and see what works best for you.

 

You’re a Mangaka!

Congratulations! Now you’re ready to join the ranks of Hiro Mashima (Fairy Tail), Sui Ishida (Tokyo Ghoul) and Hajime Isayama (Attack on Titan)!

*Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a previous version that I could say for sure wasn’t pirated so I can’t in all good conscience provide a link. I don’t want any of you good folks getting scammed, after all!

The Ultimate Mangaka Starter Pack II: Colours and Screentones!

Ben here! Welcome back to The Ultimate Mangaka Starter Pack! If you haven’t read part one (Pencils and Inking) check it out because this week we’re jumping straight into colour!

As far as first impressions go, colour is make-or-break! If your manga looks like it’s been scribbled with a biro you’re not going to get very far (unless it’s intentional, of course). If you followed my advice last week your equipment for pencils and inks should be good to go so let’s jump right in!

Colouring pens

The Pro Route: Copic Set B Ciao Marker (£181.70)

Getting Started: Letraset ProMarker Student Designer Set (£36.99)

Ciao Markers
Just look at these beauties…I may be getting carried away.

If you’ve ever spent two minutes on Instagram you’ll have seen the words ‘copic markers’ at least twelve times. And for good reason. Even established pros are known to use copic markers. Check out some of the awesome artwork for WhytManga (Apple Black) and you’ll see why! There really isn’t a better way to go.

Unfortunately, there’s a massive range of prices for these beauties. The Ciao Markers used by the incredible WhytManga will set you back £181.70. More than worth the price for a whopping 72 markers in a range of colours that should cover everything you’re likely to need. But if you’re just starting out you’d be better off trying your hand with a cheaper package.

Letraset make great markers that will more than suffice as you’re learning the ropes. Even after you’re good with them the Student Designer Set should give you plenty of options with 24 markers and a handy carrying case.

 

Screentone

Marker toning: Letraset ProMarker Set – Neutral Tones (£9.79)

Screen tones: Deleter Manga Writing Screen Tone (£17.88)

Letraset Pro Markers 12 packs bundle

‘But what if you’re not going for colour?’ I hear you ask, ‘Most manga is black and white anyway!’

And you’d be right! If you’re sticking with black and white you probably don’t want to a massive pack of colour markers.

So, your options are:

  1. Marker toning
  2. Screen tones

Marker tones are exactly what it says on the tin. Pick up some Letraset markers and use the various shades to create shadows. Simples.

But if you want to create an authentic manga experience you’re better off going for screen tones. Unfortunately, that means shelling out a lot more of that hard-earned dosh. I must admit I’ve never taken the leap and tried screen tones but the effect is fantastic. They come in a number of varieties; as a rule, the higher the percentage, the darker the tone. There are also a number of ways to achieve this effect digitally which I’ll explore in a later post but almost every mangaka you’ve ever seen uses traditional methods. If you want to continue that proud tradition you’re a braver artist than I.Next time we show the world!

Next time we show the world!

 

So, whether you’re going for colours or tones you’re ready to go! Come back next week when we’ll be taking your manga from the page to the screen and showing the world your awesome new manga.

Don’t miss The Ultimate Mangaka Starter Pack! Part 3: Scanners and Software!