Thursday, March 28, 2019

An Alternative to InDesign: Affinity Publisher

Way back at UNO, I wanted to make comics and kids books and needed the ability to print them out to present at critique.  As a student in a Fine Arts program that was vehemently against children's books and comics, I was on my own for most of my production and relied upon trial, error, a lot of printing mistakes, and Photoshop to manually create a booklet.  

While I was a SCAD kid, I was introduced to InDesign.  It seemed like the whole class (save for Heidi, who was already familiar with it) really struggled with it, and although I continued to use it post-graduation, it was only to layout Volume 1, sketchbooks, and zines.  Although InDesign is capable of page design, I found myself relying on Photoshop for that, creating individual pages with all the assets, then dropping those files into InDesign.  

For my Making Comics and Zines class with NCE, I've dabbled with a few free options, which you can read about here, but wasn't entirely satisfied.  Most were quite bare bones, and while I wasn't expecting something as fully fledged as InDesign, I wanted something that allowed a bit more customization.



I ended up asking Kabocha what she used, and while she admitted to also using InDesign, she recommended I check out Affinity Publisher.  At first, I balked- I didn't really want to learn another program, but now I'm honestly glad I noodled around with it and gave it a shot.

Affinity Publisher is part of a small suite of applications by Affinity-Serif.  They currently offer three applications- Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and Affinity Publisher.  Today we're taking a look at Affinity Publisher, a desktop publishing application that is still in it's beta phase, and free to download.  Beta means they're still working on developing it, so it may not be as feature rich as the full version, and it main contain bugs, so your mileage may vary.


Downloading and Installing

To download Affinity Publisher, you're going to need to create a free Affinity account.



Opening Affinity Publisher


Setting Up Your Document:



Useful Settings for Booklet/Minicomic Printing:

Assuming we're printing double sided on 8.5"x11" copier paper:
Height- 8.5"
Width- 5.5"
Number of Pages- We're aiming for multiples of 4, ideally at least 8
Select Portrait

Facing pages- this is a view setting- it lays your pages out as double page spreads.  This is particularly useful if you have double page spreads or overlap between the spreads.  This is not shown in this overview.

You may wish to go through the tabs and adjust Colour, Margins, and Bleed, but these settings will get you started!


So this is the basic layout for Affinity Publisher.  On the left is the Master- a quick overview of our document.  Changes made to the master will effect every page.


For something simple like a black and white zine with no text, select the framed picture from the toolbar- this will open a window and allow you to select your images.  If you hold shift and select all the images you want to place, Affinity Publisher will hold those images in its memory.


To place, you simply left click- in this example, we're placing one image per page, so I am clicking, then scrolling to the next page.


When first placed, images are placed at full size- you're going to need to scale them yourself.  When laying out zines and minis, I prefer to place all my images, THEN go back and resize.


Resizing is simple- for a uniform resize, just go ahead and grab one of the corners and resize it.  For a non uniform resize (lets say you want to make it taller), you would hold shift- the opposite of most Adobe programs.



Affinity provides guidelines to help with image placement.

I'm still exploring Affinity's print and publishing options- I haven't found a way to to print as a postscript file, and then convert that file into a booklet PDF using Adobe Acrobat, which is my usual course of action when using InDesign.  However, Affinity allows you to print booklets natively in the software.  You do have an option to print as a PDF, just not as a printable booklet pdf that can be printed by say, Office Max.


To print as a booklet from Affinity, go to Print, and you should see this dialogue box.

Remember how we talked about how your booklet should ideally be a multiple of 4 or 8 pages?  That's because you can print four 'pages' on a single sheet of paper- two on one side, two on the other.





The Settings You'll Want to Select:

Paper Size- Defined by driver is fine, but if that's not working:
Width: 8.5"
Height: 11"

Model:  Booklet
Double Sided:  Flip on Short Side (this will only appear if you're using a duplexing printer, otherwise, you're going to have to manually flip your pages)

NOTE:  If you laid the book out correctly, on the first view, you can see your front cover and your back cover.  If you can't see both, you're going to need to adjust your pagecount, and possibly add pages for padding.

If you're printing more than one copy, and you have a duplexing printer, select Collate to save yourself some sanity.




And that's it! 

This was a quick and dirty mockup of Lilliputian Living Volume 2, mocked up to test the suitability of Affinity Publisher for my layout needs.  I've gone on to use it for ALL my layout needs.

Pros:

  • Just like InDesign, except with a slightly different interface and larger graphics
  • Very easy to use if you know InDesign, might require a couple tutorials if you're new to desktop publishing
  • Allows me to select multiple images at once, and then drop them onto pages


Cons:

  • I haven't yet figured out how to get large images to snap to frame/snap size, so you may spend time resizing your images
  • Does not save as a PostScript File, and saving to PDF does not save as a booklet
  • Still have to include your source files with your booklet file, as files are just referenced, not actually embedded


To print as a booklet pdf:

Print- change your printer to Microsoft Print to PDF

To Print as a booklet from your printer:

If you have a duplexing printer:
Select: Doublesided-Flip Short Side
Model: Booklet


My 2017 and 2018 Volumes of Lilliputian Living.  Volume 1 was laid out in InDesign, and printed through Adobe Acrobate.  Volume 2 was laid out in Affinity Publisher, and printed through Affinity Publisher, although page designs and text were created in Photoshop. 


I use Affinity Publisher to layout and publish my Making Comics and Zines (2018) and Making Comics (2019) students'; mini comics and zines.  I really like this program- it's easy to use, lightweight, and while it does crash sometimes, it works quite well for a beta program.  This is the program I recommend to my Making Comics students.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Free(to access)/Cheap Art Education Resources

Of course, you guys know that this blog, my Youtube, and my Patreon are all helpful resources for upping your artistic game, but today I wanted to share some other great resources (some local, some online) that can help you pursue your art education affordably and at your own pace.

1. Local art stores often offer art classes and workshops-some free, some paid, all cheaper than art school. Ask at the checkout counter and check the community board! Classes usually range from watercolor to printmaking to oils, but some art stores may offer comic classes!

2. Community Education often offers very affordable art classes taught by lifelong professionals.

3. Your local library may offer classes or may host events that include workshops and educational panels. These are usually free to the public!

4. Your local library has an art section, and if they're missing a text you wish to use, you can fill out a library request form and they'll order it!

Recommended Reading Shortlist:

Glen Vilppu's Figure Drawing Manual
Andrew Loomis' Figure Drawing for All Its Worth
Jack Hamm's Drawing the Head and Figure
Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics
The Animator's Bible
Writing Words and Drawing Pictures
Mastering Comics

I have loads more recommendations in the sidebar of this blog!

5. Community colleges often offer art classes at reasonable prices, and may also offer figure drawing sessions to the general public

6. Meetup.com Can be great for meeting other people in your local area who share your interests. This is a great way to find out about drink and draw meetups, figure drawing sessions, and urban sketching groups.

7. YouTube is an amazing resource for free to view art resources, lessons, and tutorials. Many brands have channels that showcase how to use their products.

A few recommended brand channels:


8. Looking for a structured place to start? The Improvement Hell Challenge is one of my favorite art school bootcamp activities. It's designed to take a month, but if you're a beginner, you may wish to devote a week to practicing each type of exercise (so 31 weeks, a little over half a year). I highly recommend it: http://pencilcat.tumblr.com/post/27420093968/30-days-of-art-improvement-challenge

9. Youtube also hosts many amazing channels that demonstrate art techniques and explain various art materials.

A few recommended art channels:



10. Art blogs. Not everyone learns well just listening, some need visual reinforcement! Blogs predate Youtube and podcasts, and while they've fallen out of favor as the media of choice, they're still a helpful resource and a wonderful art asset.

A few recommended blogs:



11. Art and Industry Podcasts- these can be great to put on in the background, and listen and learn while you work!

A few recommended podcasts:

12. Industry organizations often host panels, workshops, and meetups that will help you learn the trade AND meet other artists. Many also help organize critique groups!

The Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators
Tennessee Watercolor Society (not in Tennessee? Your local area probably has a local art guild!)
The Society of Illustrators

13. Comic conventions often offer panels hosted by working professional artists-from watercolor to crafting autobiographical stories, all there for the cost of admission (and travel, but seriously local small cons offer these too!)

14. Patreon! Many artists share WIP, work blogs, and work vlogs to backers! This is an affordable way to gain access to their experience, their mistakes, and their process, while supporting their work. You can learn a lot from viewing work in progress!

Some great Patreons to support:

Nashi
Lean into Art
Senshi Stock
Tungles
Audra Ann Furuichi
Jesse Hamm (I highly recommend his Patreon, he shares some great blogs and awesome advice here)
Matt Cummings
Elaine Tipping

15. No figure drawing sessions in your area? Lack transportation? There are great online resources to help you practice figure drawing!

  • Croquis Cafe: Want a free place to level up your figure drawing game? Croquis Cafe offers hour+ videos that take you through an entire figure drawing session from warm ups to guided study, to long figure drawing poses
  • Senshi Stock has an amazing pose generator that you can use for timed pose sketches, as well as an amazing catalogue of photo reference on their Deviantart and Patreon
  • Quick Poses offers a similar service, with all sorts of tweakable features, from gender to amount of clothing
  • Line of Action ALSO offers a similar tool, but also has a tool for hand poses as well!
16. Maybe you just want to get into the habit of doing daily sketches, and don't necessarily want to focus on just one thing? Sketch Daily has a reference generator you can use! http://reference.sketchdaily.net/en

17. Twitter can be a wonderful resource for learning about new opportunities, keeping up to date, meeting other artists, and learning how the industry of your choice works!



What most aspiring artists, and artists upping their skill set need most often seems to be feedback from other artists, and a system that holds the accountable for learning new skills, practicing foundational skills, and making time for referenced sketches. While many of the above resources are self propelled, many artists benefit from collaborative education- structured assignments, a set place to meet, classmates going through the same experiences. That's why, even if you opt to go the self-motivated route, I highly encourage participating in at least one group activity or class. This can be something you setup online using Discord, or it can be a class through your local art supply shop, library, or community ed.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Teaching Comics Professionally

So I've taught two semesters of Making Comics with Nashville Community Education, and I thought now was a great time to share my experiences, and compare the two very different semesters.

If you're interested in taking one of my classes in the Nashville area, sign up for workshop and class notifications!

Before we dive in, I want to point out that this isn't my first time teaching- I've taught off and on in various capacities since I graduated from UNO.  From volunteering at my Alma Mater to TA'ing an undergraduate Self Publishing class, to various workshops with conventions and libraries, I have some teaching experience, and felt I was prepared to teach a longer class.

I've also tried pitching various comic classes in the Nashville area for several years now, and hadn't had much lasting success.  As an untested product, it was difficult to get organizations to take a chance.  I'd gotten to a point where if people were interested in having me teach a comics segment, they were only remained interested if the price tag was free, and I'd grown tired of doing volunteer education that did not further my career nor helped me develop my resume.  Joseph suggested I try once again with Nashville Community Education, and something told me it was worth another chance. 

My initial pitch to Nashville Community Education was for an eight week class that met up twice a week.  This idea was rejected, but I was given the go ahead for a six week class that met once weekly, giving me six classes to cover the basics.  This was a tall order, and I wasn't sure if I could condense a thorough introduction into comics into just six weeks.

I patterned my class off SCAD's graduate intensives, as I felt that was an immersive, fairly complete deep dive into comics.  Classes started at $60 for all six weeks, and I wanted to make sure my students' got their money's worth.  I also needed to prove to myself that my work and knowledge had value- I'd hit my rock bottom in 2016, and was working my way back up to the surface. 

Semester 1:
Fall 2018
This class was only available to people 18 and up



We didn't have much trouble filling the glass, promotion was fairly minimal and almost entirely online.  I did table at the NCE Open House, an outdoor event that coincided with the local farmer's market, on a beautiful Saturday in August, and I feel like presenting my work in that context made it easier to find interested students.  I also promoted the class during Handmade and Bound, a three day outdoor book event open to the public.

My first semester was a struggle.  I started off the semester sick as a dog from Handmade and Bound, this melange lingered for the first three weeks, and this really put a damper on the class.

Although I had videos, presentations, and handouts prepared for the duration of the course, I didn't design exercises to help reinforce concepts, and tended to just plow through the lecture.  The best experiences I had happened after class three (perspective), when my cold finally abated and we'd covered enough of the basics that the students were working on their own projects.  This gave me a chance to actually engage them about their projects one on one, in person, and this was when things really started to click.

For this class, I handled all of the printing- from class handouts to printing their comic work to printing the final zines.  I went through several reams of copy paper, and used several toner cartridges, making this an expensive class to teach.

The Inking Workshop was probably the best class- entirely hands on, lots of fun art supplies to play around with, and I knew that for the next class, I needed to ease back on presentations and focus more on hands-on activities.

Our zine exchange took place on class six- we really had to scramble to get to that point.  Most students submitted zines, but everyone submitted something.  Our exchange was fairly small, and only open to students.

It was a huge relief to finish this semester, and I was determined to learn from my mistakes, and give it another semester before throwing in the towel.

Interim Teaching

In between my first and second Nashville Making Comics classes, I taught three comics-focused workshops with the St Charles Parish Library System, and this really gave me a chance to revise my presentations and work in exercises

Classes Taught:







DIY Zines
Writing Comics

Inking Comics

Each class was held at a different branch of the St Charles Parish Library system- Destrehan, Luling, and Paradis, Louisiana.  Each class was supervised by a branch librarian, and all participated in the workshop to varying degrees.  For these workshops, I had my mom's assistance in setting up and engaging the attendees, although for the Inking Workshop, I put my family to work learning the basics of inking.

These classes were open to students of all ages, but the majority of students were young and active, full of ideas and ready to start drawing.  The classes had to be revised to better suit their needs and patience, and while revising these classes, I learned a lot about how to make my classes more interactive. 

DIY Zines was the first class I taught with this group, and I was surprised by how young the attendees were.  I ended up scrapping half my presentation, and just focused on assembling booklets for the kids to draw in.  Many of the attendees ended up finishing their short comics during the class session, which is really impressive!  Kids' willingness to A: Draw in class, B: show off their art, even if they feel they can't draw is very inspiring for me, and I feel having a few eager students in a class can really buoy the whole classroom.

Writing Comics was held the day after DIY Zines, and I spent a couple hours that evening revising the presentation to be much more kid friendly.  Kids love talking about their projects, so I tried to work interaction into the presentation every couple slides.  This went so well that I added that element to my NCE Making Comics presentations.  During this class, we talked about planning a comic in a very basic way, then the kids launched into working on their own projects.  St Charles Parish really needs a Comic Artists Club- all these kids need is a little encouragement and some paper, and they're ready to make comics!

Inking Comics was held a week after the Writing Comics class, right after Christmas, and was much more structured than the other two classes.  Students practiced drawing and inking their own art, or could practice techniques on some of the blueline exercises I had prepared in advance.  Everyone in the class took to inking like ducks to water, and I was really impressed by the skill shown by our first time nib users!

Semester 2:
Spring 2019





This class was open to students age 13-16 with a parent in attendance, 16 and up with parental permission.  I'm really excited about this shift, because during the Open House, many parents were interested in comics classes for their kids. 

Class was more difficult to fill, we really had to do a lot to promote it.  I think this difficulty was due to the fact that I had no physical events scheduled where I could promote the class directly.

Sponsorship with Wake Up Comics allowed us to buy additional supplies such as bone folders and a long arm stapler for class use.  It also allowed us to use their space in The Groove, a local record shop, for our Zine Exchange.  With this as an incentive, I worked really hard to promote the class, and tried a variety of methods to get the word out.

The Second semester was much better-I started this semester off with a bang- high energy, lots of passion, and snacks for students to munch on during class!  While many might find my enthusiasm a bit overwhelming in day to day situations, it's quite useful for teaching, as this enthusiasm often gets students fired up.

This semester, I recognized the importance of utilizing class time for drawing exercises, and worked many drawing and writing exercises into the first three classes of our semester.  From character design to figure drawing to environmental sketching, I tried to keep the exercises short and engaging.

Since our Zine Exchange was going to be held at an outside location after the semester ended, I used the extra class time to expand some of our classes, and give students more time to work during class.  This extra class gave many students an opportunity to have students fold and staple their own zines as well, which is a really nice way for students to add finishing touches to their work.

Since many students needed additional time, I negotiated with NCE to use the classroom for two bonus classes- the Tuesday and Thursday after class official ended.  I feel like this extra time helped us reach the finish line as a class.

NCE handled the class materials printing- so handouts and exercises were printed and collated by NCE, while I handled comic printing and printing everyone's zines.  Having NCE handle the day to day print needs saved me a lot of money, and allowed me to reclaim a lot of time.

Our Zine Exchange


Promotion was fairly minimal- small printed fliers were given to my students, distributed at the local Jerry's Artarama, and on the check out counter at The Groove.  I shared announcements on Facebook and Instagram, as did Wake Up Comics and NCE.  Students were encouraged to come, and invited to bring friends and family.  Although students from the Making Comics and Zines 2018 class were invited to come and exchange comics, none showed up.


I volunteered to bring setup materials and drinks, I also ended up using a 2 pound rice krispy sheet to make a silly stick figure comic to celebrate the event.




To prepare for the zine exchange, I printed 17 copies of every student's comic, as well as 17 fresh copies of Cicada Summer.  I also laid out Lilliputian Living Volume 2, so I would have something fresh and new for the exchange as well!

I brought a 6' table, my mesh gridwalls, a spinner rack, and book easels to display student comics.  Students were asked to bring their original pages, which I displayed on the gridwall.

The exchange took place from 5PM-7PM at The Groove, and we had a really good turnout!  Most students stayed for the entire duration of the event- I figured most would show up, grab their peers' zines, and leave- but people chatted, talked about one another's comics, and enjoyed the food.

I apologize for the lack of clear photos of the display itself- we were running a smidge late with setup, and the crowd started to show up around 5PM.  However, the lack of clear photos is a testament to the popularity of the exchange!  I would say it was a smashing success, and hope we can organize similar events for future classes.

Plans for Next Semester


My next Making Comics course with NCE is scheduled for this summer!  We've adjusted the time slot to accommodate younger comic artists who may be off during the summer, and I hope to have another group of amazing comic artists!   If you're interested in learning more about my comic classes here in Nashville, you can sign up for information here!

Talking about offering a regular Making Comics (6PM-8PM) this fall, as well as adding an Advanced Making Comics course for returning students, or students familiar with making comics.  I'm really excited about the future of this class!

Not in the Nashville area?  My Artnerds on Patreon get access to all the resources created for my Making Comics classes, as well as any other workshop I teach!  You can join the community, and gain access to these classes for just $2 a month!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Laying Out Your Minicomics and Zines

Not everyone has a subscription to Adobe Suite, and not everyone may wish to pay for InDesign.  There are other booklet printing options out there for basic booklet printing.  This can be useful for printing drafts, quickly printing out mini portfolios, ore easily making folded booklets of your work, but if you're going to regularly lay out zines, ashcans, or minis, I still recommend InDesign as my first choice for layout software.

Native to Windows: 

Creating a Booklet PDF

Make sure your files are in the order you wish them to print.

You can do this by:
Renaming your files to sequential numbers

Select all your files.  Hold control, click your first file.  Hold control again, and click it again.  Doing this ensures that your files will print in order.


Right click on the files, and select Print


This pulls up a Print Photos window.

This brings up a menu that offers several options.

We want to select Microsoft Print to PDF, and for zines, you want to select Letter sized paper, with two images per page.



You may also wish to deselect Fit Picture to Frame




 After you hit Print, it will bring up a Save As window.


And begin converting your images into a PDF!




Printing From a PDF

If you have Adobe Acrobat Reader, you're going to want to set it as your default for PDF.  It has print functionality that allows for printing zines, and print options you may not get with other PDF readers.

If you don't have Adobe Acrobat Reader, get it here.

Open your PDF in Acrobat Reader

Your window should look something like this.



Select Print


Your Print window should look something like this, and offer similar options.


Select:

Print on Both Sides of the Paper
Flip on Short Edge

(If you wish to do color printing, you may want to toggle print in grayscale off- I found that it printed my uncorrected scans very dark)

Resulting Prints







Printing from a PDF allows for double sided, booklet printing.  This is a quick and easy way to create a zine or ashcan without needing InDesign for layout!  Please note:  These files are out of order, so while this is handy for say, sketchbooks, it's not going to work for comics or sequential books.  If you wish to create a sequential book using this method, I recommend completing these steps, numbering the resulting pages, and then reordering your files to reflect this sequence so it prints in order.

Printing Without Creating a PDF

What if we skip the Print PDF step?

Select Files using method described above.


Right click, hit Print.

Change print source to your printer.


Adjust other settings accordingly- in my case, deselect Fit Picture to Frame, Select 5"x7", two images per frame, select Letter.



We have no option from this window for double sided printing, thus we can't make double sided booklets.  The print quality is improved, however.

Resulting Prints





Downloaded and Installed Software:

Note:  Your mileage may vary.

Using Booklet Creator (free trial)

Download here
Full Version: $19.95

File must already be in PDF format.  Format your files the way I demonstrated above:

Creating the Booklet:

Trial 1: 










Resulting Prints:





Notes: 

With these settings, the book printed in reverse order 

With the trial, only the first sixteen pages of your booklet are produced.  So if you have a book 16 pages or less, trial will work fine for your needs.

Trial 2:





Resulting Prints:





Still reversed, now half are upside down.

Trial 3

Technically Trial 4, as I realized halfway through my issue was selecting Collate for Duplex printers



Resulting Prints:




Notes:

Success!

If you want to print more than 4 sheets of pages (16 pages, when folded as a booklet) you'll have to pay for a license.

Settings You Want To Click

  • This Document is For a Right To Left Language


Note:  This was formulated for my printer.  You may have to dabble with your print settings to get these results.

I have an upcoming post on using Affinity Publisher for layout, so keep an eye out for that!