Category Archives: Learn

Tutorials, artistic advice, process, and product reviews

TutorialsTips & TricksThoughts & AdviceReviewsBook Recommendations

An Artist’s First Impressions of the iPad


You’ve heard the hype and now you want to know – what’s it really like to own an iPad?

I have been fortunate enough to be able to order one for myself and it finally arrived last weekend. Here is a super-sized blog post with all my first impressions and reviews. If you don’t want to read it, here’s a summary: It’s freakin’ awesome.

From what I’ve been hearing from you fellow artists and tech nerds lately, many of you have doubts, concerns, and criticisms and I try to address them all here. While I try not to sound like a complete Apple fangirl throughout this entire article, I do think some of the common crits that have been made about the iPad are making mountains out of molehills. Yes, the iPad is missing a few features; however, I believe the strength of this device lies in what it CAN and WILL do for creatives and their various industries. So yeah, I gush a lot. You have been warned. If you have further questions, please feel free discuss in the comments section.

Here we go…

Continue reading

Why I Share

There are artists out there who are wildly afraid of sharing their secrets. If you have been following my blog for awhile, you know I’m definitely not one of them.

I’ve written plenty of painting tutorials, made process videos, and answered many questions directly while painting live on Ustream broadcasts. Am I afraid of giving away too many secrets? Do I worry about helping my competition too much? I’ve seriously considered these questions, and I have to say, no.

Let me tell you why…

Continue reading

Ustream Questions Answered


Since I’ve started broadcasting on Ustream, I’ve received quite a few questions regarding software, hardware, and how-to of a Ustream show. If you are an artist and are curious about joining the live stream scene, here’s a quick overview of my own setup and techniques.

I hope this helps! I would love to see lots more of you start your own shows. Paste a link in the comments if you do. And let me know if you have additional questions.

What is Ustream?

Ustream is a web service that allows you to easily stream live video over the internet. The site has been used to stream a variety of content such as news broadcasts, concerts, podcasts, or sporting events. In my case, I draw and paint.

Continue reading

Photoshop: Textures and Brushes


I recently dedicated a couple Ustream shows to Photoshop brushes and textures. I love to take questions and chat during my shows, but these two episodes are the only broadcasts where I set out to actually teach specific lessons. So, I am putting them here in a blog post so they are easy to find and access.

Forgive my mumbling and bumbling; I don’t speak as well as I write. But these live shows were great because the viewers asked some really good questions that I wouldn’t have been able to think of on my own. I hope you find them extra informative to the stuff I’ve already posted here on the blog.

If you have a question or suggestion for a future Ustream lesson, go ahead and send me a note. I will post any plans for special broadcasts on the Dani Draws Live page (or you can keep track of me on Twitter). Please stop by next time and have your questions ready!

Continue reading

Artists and the Web

I recently made a guest appearance on a podcast by fellow artist Chris Oatley. Chris’s work includes freelance illustration, comics, and visual development for the animation industry. His podcast is called Chris Oatley’s ArtCast, and can be found on the web at or on iTunes. I highly recommend you take a listen.

Chris contacted me a while back and we have been having an on-again off-again conversation about artists and the web ever since. Both of us share a philosophy of teaching, learning, and sharing, and want to encourage the same throughout the artist community.

I admire Chris and the work he has done so far. He has a blog where he shares his work and art in-progress, he is open and honest while talking about art in his podcast, and he also creates video tutorials where he teaches digital painting tips. He is absolutely dedicated to creating and sharing, and I can’t help seeing a kindred spirit in him.

In the episode of his podcast, we are joined by animator and motion graphics designer Paul Caggegi of The Process Diary, and we discuss the ever-growing importance of the web in the lives of artists everywhere in the hope that we encourage other artists to get started with their own web presence and creations.

Continue reading

How to Make Your Portfolio iPhone-Compatible

Iphone 01

When speaking about artists’ websites, an art director recently made a comment that caught my attention – he is annoyed when he can’t view them on his iPhone.

The comment was half-joke, half-serious, but it brought up an important point. You never know what potential clients are out there, and what they are using to view your work.

And so I went home and made an iPhone version of my web portfolio.

Why make an iPhone website? Is it necessary?

No, I don’t think every artist should go and make an iPhone portfolio right this minute. Quite frankly, I don’t expect a lot of visitors to my mobile site. However, I DO think artists should keep these ideas in mind. The use of iPhones and other mobile phones is on the rise, and artists should always be thinking of ways to make it easier for clients to access their work. At the very least, avoid flash and multi-media rich websites that don’t work on mobile platforms.

It was a fun experiment and it didn’t take long to create at all. I know it will make at least one art director happy, so that alone is worth it.

So if you have the know-how and a little bit of time, I say it’s worth the extra bit of effort. It might not matter to most of your clients – but it might mean the world to the few who happen to be on an iPhone.

Here is an in-depth review of how I put the site together.

Continue reading

Painting a Spot Illustration, Part 2: Using Clipping Masks


This is the second part in a series of tutorials. You can read part one here.

When creating a spot illustration, I often create the overall vignette shape first, before I add any other colors or details. To do this, I make a clipping mask layer.

Also check out one of my older posts, Using Masks to Create a Spot Illustration, which reviews some similar methods and ideas I will use here.

Continue reading

How to Find an Illustrator for Your Picture Book


This article is for those of you who have a great picture book idea, and are now looking for the perfect artist to help complete your vision.

I receive illustration inquiries from writers every month or so. Many times, they have questions about the book submission process and illustrators in general, so I thought I would address many of the common issues here, for both the writers and also the artists who receive similar requests.

Continue reading

Is it time to buy a Modbook?


UPDATE: For a more recent update of my thoughts and opinions about the Modbook, go here.

During Macworld 2009 this past week Axiotron, the company that produces the Modbook, released an all new model of their product called the Modbook Pro. It has produced tons of hype and questions, so I thought I would give my thoughts and impressions as a current Modbook owner, in case you are curious or debating whether or not to get one for yourself.

The Modbook is a tablet computer built from an Apple Macbook base. I purchased mine in mid-2008 and have previously posted an extensive review. It is controlled using a pen with the help of Wacom’s digitizer technology. In short, it is great for artists because you can draw directly on the screen. It is also the only tablet computer available that uses the Mac OS, which I happen to prefer over Windows.

Continue reading

Tips for Printing Digital Paintings at Home


You work hours and hours on a digital painting. You render in tons of details, play with the values, and fuss with color until it is just right. You finally get it about perfect. And then you go to print it…

If, for you, this story ends in disaster this article is for you.

Let me start by saying that I am not an expert on this subject. Printing can get complicated and messy, and terms like ICC profiles, color spaces, and monitor calibration can really make your head spin. For the most part, I leave these things for the professional printing arena. In my own work and in this article, I try to keep things simple – creating good quality prints to display, promote, or sell without them looking stupid.

Continue reading

Artist Portfolios


Here is a question I received from reader Kyle:

What does a professional portfolio for possible employers look like? How many pieces of work should I use? How large is the physical portfolio? Do I take the physical portfolio into interviews or do I take in a resume and a disc with all of my work? Also, how did you go about shopping this portfolio around?

Truthfully, I don’t use a physical portfolio very often. My website does most of the grunt work, which is true for many freelance artists nowadays. The most an art director will usually see from me in terms of printed pieces are postcards and tearsheets. So if you haven’t already, BUILD A WEBSITE. They are extremely useful.

However… there are many occasions where you would need a physical portfolio, such as job interviews and reviews. Here is my take:

Art directors want to see ART. So do NOT make this more difficult for them than it needs to be! Keep the images neat, organized, and easy to see, and the presentation simple to browse through.

There is a tendency to over-think the physical presentation of a portfolio, as if the right amount of trickery or decoration will magically transform the the artwork. Just make it look nice and let the work speak for itself.

General Portfolio Tips

  • Follow any guidelines set by the employer to which you are applying.
  • Never use original art. Use good color copies/scans. Original art might get lost or damaged. Plus with the copies, you can make all the images a uniform size.
  • Include samples such as postcards, business cards, or tearsheets that you can leave behind for the employer to keep in their files.

Continue reading

Just Draw!


Do any of these statements apply to you?

  • I have trouble keeping my portfolio up-to-date.
  • I never have new artwork to show.
  • I’m behind in my postcard mailings.
  • I can’t paint/draw as well as I’d like.
  • I often get stuck in a rut and don’t know what to paint.
  • I haven’t created any good paintings lately.
  • Most of my sketchbooks are only half-full.
  • My blog hasn’t had a new post in weeks.
  • I am having trouble coming up with ideas and staying creative.
  • My work has stopped evolving/improving.

etc., etc…

Well, here is your solution…

Continue reading

How to Make a Textured T-Shirt Graphic


In my latest experiment, I recently opened up an account on a site called Zazzle, which allows you to order custom products featuring your own artwork. So far, I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with creating some simple, graphic characters for some t-shirts. Here is a little behind-the-scenes look into the making of this cute bat character.

Continue reading

Build a Drawing Catalog


In a recent assignment, I had to create a sketch of a cat. In my short time as a children’s illustrator, I’ve had to draw many, many cats. At this point, they seem to come almost automatically. Say “Cat,” and I can have several sketches for you in a matter of minutes, without the need to research or look up reference.

The same goes for any number of animals – dogs, chickens, pigs – I’ve drawn them so many times, it’s easy to come up with several characters on the spot.

It’s a good idea for an illustrator to have a “catalog” of subjects that he knows really well and can draw from memory, especially when working in a specific industry like children’s illustration where you are asked to draw the same type of subjects over and over again. This kind of skill will give you a head start on virtually every assignment you receive.

Continue reading

My New Modbook


Update: Some of the information in this article, particularly the known bugs and some of the specs, is outdated. There is more current info in my other blog post Is It Time to Buy a Modbook?

Update 2: My most recent thoughts about the Modbook are here.

I recently bought a Modbook. Since a lot of you readers are digital painters, I have decided to post my review here. Here is everything you need to know, and probably more than you want to know, about this device.

Continue reading