Monday, April 25, 2016

CLASS #2 The Key to Productivity is Organization!

All right so you're serious about this-- you want to get work done and stay productive.
We talked about goals last week-- the first and most important thing about achieving any level of success is setting up goals, because without goals how can you know which direction to move towards to succeed?

The more SPECIFIC the goal the easier it is to achieve because you can hyper focus.

There we have some prospective goals based on what you sent in, posted, as well as what I've heard from students in the past.

Goals can be connected-- in other words if you wrote in that your goals were 1. To Make Money and 2. To Work at a Major Company  the two go hand in hand, because the major companies will pay you to produce pages so goal #1 is accomplished when you accomplish goal #2.

Shall we talk pay for a second?  Why the heck not.

A former student found this on The Art Career Project and asked me how accurate it is- I can't say for sure but I think it looks low.

I can't speak for what colorists or letterers make because I've never done either, but I do know several people who are making a comfortable living doing either full time.

$100 a page strikes me first as being a little low-- although that might be for inkers which normally fall around $150/page starting out at the bigger companies.

So let's do some math here-- let's say you get hired to pencil a comic book and your starting pencil rate is $200/page.
$200 x 22 pages= $4400 x 12 issues a month = $52,800 and that's if your only penciling ONE book a month.
Most freelancers I know today are penciling AND inking their own work, doing covers (which pays $300-$700ea) not only for their own book but for any one of the hundreds of variant covers that come out every month.
So let's try that math wise:

We have the $52,800 for the penciling duties of a monthly book, we need to add in;
Covers for the book (let's assume the lower rate of $300) = $3600
Let's assume you do another 12 variant covers each year (and that's low) = $3600
and how about inking your own work?  that's lowball $100/page for inks x22x12= $26,400
which takes us to a grand total of $86,400 which is all factoring in somewhat lowball rates.

You'll also do comic book conventions, and assuming you're working for a major publisher your sales of original art and show sketches will average between $1500-$2500 per show.  If you do three shows a year (and it's a good idea to spread them out) that's conservatively another $4500

Note I included "Commissions"

Commissions are web based, people contact you to do sketches for them.   These are becoming increasingly popular thanks to more and more artists working digitally.  Since there is no original art to produce a comic book fans will get sketches.

@$50-$75 for a sketch that takes you between 15-20 mins the variable as to how many of these you do (and CAN do while still maintaining your schedule is variable) but in talking to many friends in the industry this is usually another $5-$10,000 annually.

So grand total about $100K

It's a lot of work, but at least it pays reasonably well.  And keep in mind these numbers I gave you are all on the low side.

I'm not sure why the Art Career website used the numbers they did, and I'm likely to get an angry email from someone saying my numbers are off-- I assure you they are not.  If anything I'm low.

You could also consider teaching-- Eisner himself told me our duty as comic artists is to teach the next generation.    College Professor rate is usually $5K per semester per course.

All right so let's get back to goals

All valid goals-- so what is the first step?

There seems to be a common theme.


Easy to say, sometimes easy to do, but what is the best thing you can do in reaching your goal?

How do we do that?
It needs to be like a science.

Give yourself a week or two to try an experiment.

Try finding an hour or two in a range of hours and then work.  You might find some surprises.

The typical workday in the US is 9-5 but that doesn't mean that works for everyone.    Everyone has different work schedules that increase their productivity.

Each has advantages and disadvantages some of which I outline above.

Now just because you're not an early riser, for example, doesn't mean that early morning might not work for you.

The three middle schedules are very difficult to work if you have a "real" job-- but you've still got weekends and days off to try odd ones.

When I was working in a job that was scheduled 8-6 five days a week, and with my workload usually more along the lines of 8-7 I found the two outer schedules (in green above) to work for me.

If you end up doing this full time you'll find that you work a combination of all of them.

I would find the pre-dawn hours especially productive, even though I'm not the type of person who would normally be up at 4 in the morning.  But it often worked.

To this day I sometimes still get up this early and work when a project demands it.

Same worked for late hours.  The kids would be in bed, things were settling down and I would head out to my studio and work until about midnight.

I'd either listen to music, old time radio shows, or even a police scanner while I worked and I would be extremely productive.

It was working this way for 1-2 years that led to me deciding to do this full time and to leave the comfort of a full time job.

HOW about a WORK ENVIRONMENT-- here's a look at the comic book art studios of several prominent comic artists....

Two person husband and wife comic art studio.
Studios, or your studio area should be an area that is both comfortable and inspiring to you.

Many comic artists fill their spaces with odd trinkets, posters, art, etc, some go with a more zen like studio set up-- preferring to not have a lot of stuff all around.

Whatever you prefer, your space should be used ONLY to work in.  I find that extremely helpful with productivity.  I don't use my studio for anything other than work or classes.

It helps to get your mind set for work. 

So while it should certainly be a place you want to hang out in, I personally find it works best if it's a place you save for work.

It should have tools you need, reference material, good light, a comfortable work area, etc.
Have everything you need to get to a good creative place.


No matter what level of digital you're working in you need to understand file formats and resolution.  The more organized you stay the easier your work will progress and the more productive you will be.

Even if you plan on ONLY working traditionally with pens, brushes and paper, there will be a stage where you need to scan in your pages to get them ready to be printed, since ALL printers now prefer digital files.

There are a few that will work from hard copy artwork, but they will charge you to scan and assemble the pages.


Resolution ranges from 1200dpi all the way down to 72dpi (DPI = Dots Per Inch)

The higher the resolution the crisper the image.

You need a higher resolution for any traditional printing.

Higher resolution = bigger file-- so when we're dealing with images that are going up on the web we lessen the resolution to reduce the file size and increase the load time.

It's a good idea to SCAN all your artwork at a minimum of 300dpi-- and I'd suggest higher. 

Remember you can't add to DPI-- so even though you can resize an image in Photoshop from 72dpi to 300dpi it WON'T bring the missing quality back, so scanning at a higher setting will ensure that you have a good copy for printing use.

Even if you plan on ONLY doing digital work, take the time to scan in (and save) a higher resolution image in case you later decide to go with print.

You set the initial resolution of your scanned image in your Scanning Utility when you scan it in.  Just click on the tab and choose a different resolution setting.

If you're working digitally from the start-- create your initial file between 300-450dpi.


RGB = Red Green and Blue
CMYK = Cyan Magenta Yellow and Black

It's the addition of Black which causes the image to darken.

RGB files are used for online images
CMYK files are used with four color plate printers.

You'll only need to deal with CMYK when you get to the printing stage of your project, and even then ASK you printer which format they want the files.

Back to file formats:

The chart above breaks down the file formats I use.

I only use PDF's to send large files to clients-- because they don't need any special software other than Adobe Reader to open them.

Someone who doesn't have Photoshop can't open a PSD file-- and it's never a good idea to send LAYERED files to a client or a printer-- because if they don't have the same fonts installed their computer will substitute something they do have installed.


Keeping track of what you have to do and when it needs to be done by is helpful.

This works for trying to get a project done too-- if you're going to attempt to get a 48 page book done and ready for sale at conventions a year from today that means at minimum you'll need to get 2-3 pages done PER week.

That will build in enough time to get the pages drawn and then assembled and sent to a printer or to print yourself old school.

Turnaround time with a traditional printer is usually about six weeks.  With Print on Demand more along the lines of 3-4 weeks, so count backwards to calculate out your due dates.

One thing that works for me is to only add one or two things later in the week and then start with most of the items at the beginning of the week.

If something doesn't get finished it simply gets added to the next day-- and so on.

Follow up your productivity and compare it to the goals you set yourself.

Details regarding page layouts

The layouts of a comic book page are essential if you want everything to produce "correctly".

Most artists work on 11x17 bristol.

That bristol is ruled down to 10x15 interior border which is divisible into the printed comic book size of 6.75x10.25

Your comic book can be any measure of these dimensions, but if you want them to not face marketing issues with comics not formatted to standard size you'll want to go with the 7x10 size.

The "bleed" area is that area of the page which won't be cut off by the printer-- if you want your art to go the edge of the page then you draw into the bleed area.

You want to ensure that all important images and lettering remain inside the area of the bleed.

A couple of you asked where you can get feedback-- well this is a place that a fellow pro recommended to me, I've not spent a lot of time here and I've not posted anything BUT I did see some constructive criticism of some of the work as well as a thread where the poster challenges the artists to draw a specific thing and then berates them for what they did in a really hilarious fashion.

It might be painful for some, but as of right now I'm a fan.

Because the biggest thing you want to be able to handle is criticism.

I absolutely agree with this and it made me laugh out loud.

There's a great scene from Seinfeld where Kramer decides he stinks at golf

I wish I could tell you this feeling goes away.

Maybe for some of you it's not there in the first place-- if so congratulations!

But for those that feel the Kramer way I can tell you the more pages you do the less you think about how bad they are.

Surround yourself with people who will give you honest feedback, but who will also be supportive.  It's OK to tell people to take it easy on you when you're with your friends.  Because when your work is out there live the readers won't.

LASTLY-- sending big files.

Your email client has a restriction on the size attachment of files- mine is 20MB, which is fairly small.  That means if I want to send a larger file to someone I need to use a third party system.  There are a couple of options for that.

1. WETRANSFER and sites like YOUSENDIT allow you to send large files for free.  You can also buy a premium account if you want some additional bells and whistles or the ability to send HUGE files.  Right now 2GB is the file cutoff from WETRANSFER, which suits most of my needs.

2. FTP client
A printer or publisher will allow you access to their FTP and you'll need a program to be able to access that.  FILEZILLA is the one I use.

With an FTP you enter in the client login and password they provide you and it takes you inside their website so that you can then drag and drop files into specific files they assign you with.  You can send MASSIVE files this way-- entire books.

More next week!