How did you find out about Manga Studio?
I had heard about a program that was designed to create comics, but was bummed out because it was for Windows only. Then after a Google search, I found out about Manga Studio, and was happy-happy joy-joyed because it was for Windows and Macs!
Do you listen to music while you create art?
It depends on what I'm doing.
If I'm plotting or writing a story the music is either off or I have a playlist in my iTunes that plays instrumental and Movie soundtracks; stuff from the likes of Bernard Herrman, Phillip Glass, Mike Oldfield and (thanks to Lars DeSouza) burlesque music from the 1930's or '40's.
When I'm pencilling and inking I listen to groups like Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Horror Pops, Harvey Danger, The Replacements, The Flaming Lips, O Montreal and Raspuntina. If the art is giving me fits, then it's silence or the instrumental playlist from above.
What software did you use before Manga Studio?
Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and Corel Painter - it was quite a convoluted mess. I would script the comic on paper, then open up a template for a comic page in Painter and do my rough layouts. Then I would tighten up my pencils and export the page as a TIFF file and import it into Illustrator for Lettering.
Then I would export the Illustrator file as a layered Photoshop file and open that in Painter. I would create new layers in Painter for my inks and colors. When the page's art was finished, I would delete the Lettering Layer and any other layer that wasn't finished (such as my sketch layers, reference layers and so on). One final export as a TIFF and import that file back into the illustrator file, check that the lettering still matches and then export as a flat Photoshop file.
Rinse and repeat with each page.
One of the biggest thrills I got with Manga Studio was the ability to "do it all" in one program and have one file for my entire story instead of one file per page. And once I figured out how to use the Panel Cutter and Panel Layers, I was a very happy comic camper!
What was your first experience with Manga Studio?
It was pure fun. The interface made immediate sense to moi and it encouraged me to experiment.
What was your first impression of Manga Studio?
How well thought out it was. It is designed to work with the artist instead of having the artist conform to the program. The inking pens are the hands-down best digital ones I've ever used. I like the way the pens work with the Wacom and when I have the tool properties palette open I can change the behavior of the pen on the fly.
How did your first creations with Manga Studio go?
Very nicely. I did a series of illustrations of characters for my "Cape and Cowl Opera" series (which I'm still working on, btw) and they won the first (Action Janet) and third (Nebulae) place in the first Manga Studio contest. These are full color illustrations, done with Manga Studio EX v3.0, so each color had to be on its own layer. Thanks to a tutorial that Teyon did for Renderosity.com Comic section, I was able to do nice shading and make them look like they were painted. Now with MS EX4, it's so much simpler. :D
When you illustrated your wife's book, did you read the stories first or did she tell you what she wanted for the illustrations?
Both. I read the stories in their draft and finished form. Janet (the Spousal Unit) and I would then talk about the stories and characters. Janet even wrote up a list of characters with descriptions. I then developed a Title page sketch for each story and showed them to her for final approval.
What is one of your favorite features of Manga Studio?
It would be a toss-up between the Perspective Rulers, Curved Speed lines, Ability to "blue" out layers (i.e. change the color of grayscale layers from black to blue), the inking pens or the ability to change the page order.
If you could change one thing about Manga Studio, what would it be?
It would be the Text-Word balloons. It would be great if there was a way to have "real" thought balloons with bubbles as the "tail." And ways to easily have styles for balloons, like styles for text. I would love to have custom text styles that would be for the document itself, and not "global" styles. Also, a bit more documentation on text and balloons would be nice. I still have no idea what "Ruby" means, as far as text goes.
Can you give an example of how Manga Studio made a project go smoothly?
I used Manga Studio to storyboard a short animation (non-comic). It was great to be able to reuse layers endlessly just by moving them to the Materials. Also, it's nice to be able to easily insert new scenes and drawings in between two other drawings. By using the grayscale tones, I was able to get a nice depth to the boards and make them really sparkle in a non-twilight kind of way.
In a comic project, I used Manga Studio to lay out a graphic novel. I was able to have the chapter pages as place holders until I figured out what the "trade dress" for the book looked like. Being able to look at large-ish thumbnails of the rough pages sped up my laying out of the story. Being able to insert blank pages anywhere in the story was a big boon, as I had thought of a nice bridging-interlude motif after I had laid out the entire story. So I was able add the extra pages and since the thumbnails of the pages showed me facing pages, it was easy to maintain my double page spreads.
What other kinds of art arenas do you play in?
It would have to be the Pastel Caged Death Match. Two artists walk in, only one walks out. Unless it's a Dali Arena, in which case, only a pipe smoking salmon swims out.
Oh, not that kind of Arena.
I dabble in Watercolors and Gouache. I like doing real cartoony things with Fimo (a modeling polymer that you bake in the oven to harden).
Is there anything else you would like to tell me?
The answer to Life, Universe and Everything was to be 43, but the universe really doesn't like prime numbers. So the Universe settled for 42. The Universe doesn't talk about 44. Ever.
Ray Frenden has a few Manga Studio things on his blog. Especially worth noting are the "natural media" brushes and brush/pen settings. He also has a few tutorials/workflow thingies on his Vimeo channel that is so worth watching, especially the Electric Zombie. Go there.
Lars DeSouza has a pretty much regular Friday afternoon-evening Ustream featuring him drawing and talking. Now that he has Kitty Cam, it's so much fun. He draws two webcomics, Least I could do (which is sometimes NSFW because of language and suggestive content) and Looking for Group.
Chynna Clugston-Major is a goddess of Comics. Her Blue Monday series from Oni Press is wonderful.
Ka-Blam is a digital on-demand printer. And according to them, they've used files from Manga Studio for various comics. There's page guides on the site that you can download and then use for making your own custom pages.
Where can we find your work?
I illustratated my wife Janet's book, Tales of the Living Room Warrior. You can visit my website as well.
I have a Vimeo.com account under the name of Michael Rhodes. I have a lot of tutorials up there and a few that are about Manga Studio. If anybody has an idea for a tutorial about Manga Studio, send me a tweet @crtoonMike.
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