Interview with Big Al (Albert Gruswitz): Photorealistic and Medical Illustrator

In celebration of Poser’s 20th anniversary, we’re bringing back some historic case studies that are still timely and applicable today. These great snapshots show how Poser solved problems and still is doing so.

I first bought Poser 3 in 1998. One of the employees at a company in NYC, where I was working freelance had a copy. I decided to try it out. Today I use Poser as one of my main tools for making still images for print. I primarily use it for posing a figure.

The first time I used Poser was to pose a figure and select a camera angle so I could use the render as a reference for a 2D illustration. It quickly gave me proper proportions and action to make my 2D illustration more realistic.

It’s always cool what you can easily create with Poser. I figured that in time the figures would become more believable. Today, the figures are almost photoreal. Sometimes, you have to look at the illustration twice to see if it’s real or not. Skin textures are great and the figures available through Content Paradise, Renderosity and others are proportionately elegant, even up close.

These are the six Poser projects that I’m most proud of (in the order produced):

  1. The statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial: seated, rising, walking, and preparing to leave. This started by morphing a generic Michael 3 1
  2. “Life of the Party” was done as a sample to show clients how far Poser figures had been improved and what a range of figures could be made from just 2 Poser figures (Victoria 4 and Michael 4) with morphing and different skin textures.10052010114227
  3. Fungi Man was created morphing a Michael 4 figure into a man in his 50’s or 60’s who is slightly overweight, with a receding hairline. The models of the 3 kinds of fungi were modeled in Hexagon. Everything was brought into Vue and back lit with warm yellow light. The man and non-overlapping groupings of fungi were rendered separately and then placed on separate layers so that if the client wanted to make any positioning changes it could be done easily.10052010120608
  4. Guitar Player was an illustration for a concept for medical advertising of a knee replacement device. Here, Michael 4 is morphed into a middle aged man. I like how the lighting subdues everything except the frets, tuning keys and the knee replacement.10052010114528
  5. Thirty-three 3D dinosaur illustrations for the Discovery Channel’s “My First Dinosaur Encyclopedia.” This was a big production with a tight deadline (3.5 months). Most of the Poser dinosaurs were created by Raul Luna (Dinoraul). I posed the dinosaurs in Poser and imported them into Vue.10052010120218
  6. Declaration of War uses a morphed Michael 4 character (Falcon) as well as various other Poser wardrobe and props including the campfire logs and stones.10052010120845

All of the aforementioned projects were jobs for clients. I had a lot of freedom of composition for the Lincoln Memorial and the dinosaurs because there were no layouts, just descriptions of the scenes. Life of the Party was an ode to Reid Miles photography, which was very popular in the 80’s. Declaration of War was an experiment in lighting.

I enjoy the ease of morphing a characters age and weight. Additionally, I like controlling facial expressions beyond the presets.

I currently have 3 books that I’ve started writing, one of which is a fiction book that I’m illustrating in 3D using Poser. Hopefully I can finish all of them someday.

I don’t consider myself a Poser expert. I’m mostly self-taught in all the 3D programs I use. Every assignment I get is a new challenge with new requirements, so I learn something fresh about the various programs with each assignment.

In Poser, I only recently started getting into building bone structures in figures as I didn’t need to do previously. I’m also starting to create morphs in Z-Brush and bringing them back into Poser. I guess that’s why I remain enthusiastic after all these years, I’m always learning something new.

My strengths as an illustrator are a result of many years as an art director and associate creative director on the East Coast. My strong suits are composition, color, lighting, and production organization.

My key to making Poser figures look realistic is trying to create a personality in them. I don’t care if it’s a Poser figure or a photo of a real person, without showing personality they look like mannequins. Other important factors for realistic Poser characters are believable action, facial expression, eye contact, and lighting for starters, then having clothes fit and flow properly as if affected by gravity. Basically it’s caring about every detail.

Wanna know more?



Interview with Liam Lynch: Musician, Writer, Director, & Lynchland Creator

In celebration of Poser’s 20th anniversary, we’re bringing back some historic case studies that are still timely and applicable today. These great snapshots show how Poser solved problems and still is doing so. 

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How long have you been using Poser? 
I first started using Poser in 1999. It’s the only 3D animation software I use and it’s exciting growing and improving as the program itself has developed more and more with each addition over the last 10 years.

What software did you use before Poser?
I have used other 3D programs, including Cinema 4D and Lightwave. The first 3D animation program I used was Lightwave, but I struggled with multiple features on their program including

  • Their endless interfaces, which were overwhelming
  • The fact that Lightwave invented their own language for copyright names and copyrighting tools. When I read instructions on how to use it, I didn’t even know what they were talking about because every single option, tool, or action had its own invented word or language specific to their program.

I finally decided to go for something friendlier and easier to use. Poser was the perfect fit.

I always find myself coming back to Poser. Its interface and tools are easy to use and the renders are up to par with more complicated programs. Working in Poser is just easier and faster than other programs. I can get so much done in a shorter amount of time. Also, the process doesn’t get in the way of creativity. I come up with ideas and see them through with ease. I often will render two scenes at once by having both of them running simultaneously on my Mac.

Where does Poser fit into your production process?
I often use Poser mixed with live action. I do a lot of work where I mix live action on green screen with various backgrounds. I usually create these backgrounds in Poser, but it’s also nice to make my raw elements in Poser, build a 3D scene in After Effects and then comp in my live footage, which allows me to take advantage of the 3D camera moves and lighting in After Effects as well. This has allowed me to experiment with wonderful effects.

I like the accessibility of Poser. It’s pretty astonishing what you can create using Poser, a video camera and some editing software.

I use Final Cut Pro to do my final compositing. I’ve also enjoyed recording audio and using mimic in Poser to help speed up the animation process. In my projects I can create 3D characters that live actors can speak to and interact with in the same shot. There are lots of examples of this in my video podcast, found on iTunes (search: Lynchland) or on my website

I also use a number of other programs with Poser. I use Photoshop to make my own surfaces and sometimes After Effects to create specific sized movie surfaces for some objects. I also love rendering objects out of Poser and importing them into After Effects to be used as 3D layers in compositions. Poser is not only a part of my professional work, but it is also a VITAL part of my development.

I have used Poser countless times to create: storyboards, animatics for feature films, visual examples for pitching ideas, and also for testing shots or camera movement timing.

What do you find most useful about Poser? What are your favorite features?
I love that I can work fast without endless windows and numbers and problems. The interface is one of the greatest things about Poser. It has all the features and qualities that can be found in high-end 3D programs, but it’s simple to use.

I struggle with other high-end programs because:

  • With higher-end 3D programs, you have to learn the program’s language before you can get started.
  • The programmers invent features and then have to name them.
  • These programs invent words to make their features seem different from others, and frequently there will be different names for the same function. They try to make it their own and so they invent their own dictionary of terms. It can be confusing.
  • They also offer TOO much control over elements, which hinders my creative process. It becomes an endless process of windows that open windows that open windows… I feel so far from the actual idea or scene when I get buried in jargon and windows and numbers.

Poser allows me to get to the point and makes it easy to create without having to have a doctorate in Physics.

What are some of your time saving tips when using Poser on a project or artwork?
If you are doing a scene where the camera isn’t moving, but a character is moving around within a set or scene, it’s a good idea to render your set or background and save it as a jpeg. Then clear the scene of all background element, but keep your figure. Import the jpeg of your background and then render the scene.

Renders are faster since the computer only has to calculate and render your figure. It can render the background jpeg much faster than rendering all the objects in that picture for every frame.

Which Poser projects are you most proud of?

I’ve done many projects with Poser and have also utilized Poser as a visualization tool during pre-production. I often find my camera angles and work with my DP in Poser to experiment quickly and cheaply with shot ideas before going into storyboarding. I used this aspect of Poser to work out sequences for “Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny” as well as “Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic”. It was a vital tool in figuring out timing for musical sequences and also for conveying my ideas to my visual effects team. I created several of the scenes for these films in Poser and then used the animation to show all the departments how the scenes play out. It was great!

Besides using Poser as a pre-production tool, I have also used Poser in many final products. These include music videos for Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal, and music videos and short films with Tenacious D. I also use Poser for my own music videos and my video podcast “Lynchland.”

What advice do you have for artists starting out with Poser?

If you are starting to animate characters, it can help to video tape yourself doing a scene. Import your image into the background of your display as a QuickTime movie. You can use your video as a good guide for the character you are animating. You can turn your figure to only wire frame and see through to your video in the background. This will help give you a guide with your poses and timing. After you animate, you can remove the background footage and render your animation without the background guide.

About Liam 

Liam Lynch wears many hats in the entertainment industry. He was the creator, co-writer, musician, actor, director, and executive producer of MTV’s Sifl and Olly Show. The Daily Show ran three seasons and was ranked among MTV’s top ten shows at the time. His surreal sock puppet show is still airing in countries around the world.

Lynch also writes comedy and music for television and film (Clone High, The School of Rock), and has been releasing his own albums and DVDs on his 111 Productions label.

With a recent radio hit for his song, “United States of Whatever,” Lynch now works and records with Ringo Starr, who plays drums for Lynch on his album, “Fake Songs”. The album went top ten in both the U.K. and Australia. Liam’s homemade music video for the song was a regular on British Television and was nominated for several awards. The song was so popular that it was even spoofed by British Television shows using a George Bush impressionist singing Lynch’s track.

While working on the album, Fake Songs, Lynch also managed to find time to direct a music video for the Foo Fighters, work on DVDs for No Doubt and Tenacious D, direct several television commercials and write a few screen plays. Although he’s a nerdy insomniac that rarely leaves his home studio, he’s been featured in every magazine from Time to Rolling Stone.

Liam recently completed work directed and editing the Sarah Silverman film, “Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic”. Besides developing and directing the film, Lynch co-wrote songs with Silverman and performed, engineered and produced her soundtrack album. Lynch recently finished a surreal documentary on the band “The Eagles of Death Metal”, a homemade video for Queens of the Stone Age song “Burn the Witch” and a holiday video with Sarah Silverman entitled “Give the Jew Girl Toys”.

Learn more about Liam and check out his creative and entertaining Podcasts at You can also follow him on twitter @lynchland

Creating Hoyle Casino with Poser: a Game Developer Interview

In celebration of Poser’s 20th anniversary, we’re bringing back some historic case studies that are still timely and applicable today. These great snapshots show how Poser solved problems and still is doing so. This was one of the best-selling casino games of all time. With an easy-to-use user interface, entertaining character interaction and 14 authentic Vegas games.

866-175x280Hoyle's Casino

From Will Barker: One of the most popular features of Hoyle Casino, as well as Hoyle Card Games and Hoyle Board Games are the computer opponents. With their robust and entertaining antics, the Hoyle characters help the Hoyle line of games stand out from the rest of the casual gaming market. The characters are one of the main selling points of the titles, giving consumers a reason to buy Casino instead of simply playing blackjack for free online, or downloading shareware games.

In 2000, Hoyle Casino brought animated opponents into the 3D world for the first time. I suggested Poser for this process, but the team decided to try Maya. That year, it took three artists eight months to make eight animated characters using Maya. While the artists did an amazing job of building the characters from scratch in that time, the producer was unhappy with the time and money required for the process. Three copies of Maya and the training time required to use it effectively chewed up much of the art resources for the project. In hindsight, Maya was clearly overkill given the needs of the game and the Hoyle artists found themselves wondering if there was a better solution.

Near the end of the Hoyle Casino development cycle, it was clear that the artists wouldn’t have time to create the additional 20 shadow* characters needed to complete the character art for Hoyle Casino. Shadow characters blink, but don’t speak or have complex animations like the Hoyle characters do. I had been using Poser for a couple of years, and felt it was quite capable of quickly creating high-quality shadow characters. The producer asked me to make as many as I could with Poser before the art deadline, which loomed three weeks away.

“I made the first two characters in less than 24 hours. The development team was impressed at how quickly I created them and amazed by the fact that they looked as good, and in most cases better than the Hoyle characters which had taken months to build with Maya. On deadline, I had created 24 shadow characters using Poser. Suddenly, the Hoyle development team had a change of heart and they saw that it was clearly a viable tool for the art staff.

The more art I created, the more the art director and producer were impressed with Poser and what it could do for our product line. They could see a clear progression in art quality using Poser. I was tasked with creating 10 new characters for Hoyle Casino using Poser in only four months. This included designing, rendering, animating, lip-syncing, animation syncing, and completing post-production for all 10 characters. The pressure was on; four months to do this work alone, which had taken three artists eight months to do using Maya. One character that was being updated from Maya to Poser wore a hat and jewelry that we wanted to keep from her old version. I saved those models out of Maya, and had no problems importing them into the Poser scene files.To make the 10 characters, I used Poser, along with third party models, props and textures. I used Photoshop to create some textures, but primarily as a way to prepare the rendered files from Poser before their final stop in After Effects. Adobe After Effects was a critical tool for bringing all the renders from Poser together to make the final files. I adjusted colors, fixed problems, added shadows, and set up the animations for the characters entirely in After Effects.

Once I had all the characters designed, I created the necessary mouth movements, smiles, and eye blinks needed to lip-sync the 8,500 lines of character dialog in the game. There were also dozens of animations for each character including: yawning, face-scratching, making a funny face, and looking around. I used a combination of off-the-shelf and proprietary software, as well as hand-syncing, to sync the animations and dialog. All files where created on a G4 Power Macintosh with 448 megabytes of RAM, although some files were rendered on an older G3 Power Macintosh so I could use the G4 for the post-production creation of the final files. In the end, I didn’t make all of the animations for the characters I wanted to, because I simply ran out of time. The benefits of Poser enabled me to out-produce our Maya-based process by a wide margin, and it has redefined our approach to Hoyle character creation across our product line.

Will Barker

Why Poser Makes it Easy to Create Game Content

If you’ve been using Poser forever you might have forgotten about some of the core features that make it easy to bring characters to life. If you’re new to Poser, maybe you’ve been asking why you should add Poser Pro Game Dev to your toolkit for game and interactive content creation. In either case, or even if you’re somewhere in middle, be sure to read on.

In this article, we’ll take a quick look at some very cool Poser features and content that get forgotten, or that you might not have known about.

Something that gets everyone’s pulse running? Poser’s Walk Designer. This cool tool blends between animated walk and run cycles and allows you to tweak various parts of the animation, adding in arm movement, stride length and blending between some basic walk and run cycles, and even some crazy ones. A quick tip? There are different optimized animation sets depending on the figure you’re using, for instance Poser 10 animations work best for Rex and Roxie. Have some fun getting your character up and running!

The Walk Designer creates animated walk and run cycles in place or on an editable path.

The Walk Designer creates animated walk and run cycles in place or on an editable path.

Because no one wants a character that looks like a clone, there’s the Face Room. All stock Poser human figures aside from the kids, cartoons and the early Poser 4 legacy characters work in the Face Room. It’s like virtual putty to create custom facial features, even caricatures; click, drag, sculpt. It also will let you import facial photos to create custom characters too. Output the custom face as a morph, or generate a new texture and shape – it’s easy, fast and really cool to use. Plus, your figures won’t look box stock.

Use the Face Room to customize your characters so they won't have that box-stock look. You can save your custom characters in the Library to re-use them in all your projects.

Use the Face Room to customize your characters so they won’t have that box-stock look. You can save your custom characters in the Library to re-use them in all your projects.

Do your characters have something to say? Try the Talk Designer. It’s a very smart way to add a little sass to your 3D people and other figures. Take a spoken word file, import it, and let the Talk Designer drive a set of Visemes on the character and do its magic. Drive eye blinks, head movements and even facial expressions. You can add in text clues to help, and it even supports these languages: English, French, German & Japanese

The Talk Designer will transform your characters by adding in animated lip, teeth and tongue keyframes to synthesize speech that matches your imported sound files.

The Talk Designer will transform your characters by adding in animated lip, teeth and tongue keyframes to synthesize speech that matches your imported sound files.

Mocap data import gets your figures moving. We’ve supported BVH motion data import for years now, and it still works fantastic. Grab motion from a variety of sources, including our friends at Mixamo, import it, and get your characters dancing, fighting, swinging a bat, or jumping into a round house kick. Don’t forget that you can also grab mocap data from Poser Pro Game Dev’s Kinect plug-in (currently supporting Kinect for Windows).

Lastly, but importantly, there’s the library. The amount of content that is furnished with Poser is staggering (over 5GB). There’s far too much to list here, but this link on our website will shed some light on what’s included. The Poser Pro Game Dev license lets you distribute any included Poser content in your game, and it also covers the accessory content we offer on Content Paradise.

Over 5GB of character and 3D scene content will help you populate your game, fast!

Over 5GB of character and 3D scene content will help you populate your game, fast!

The basic idea on “why Poser” is simple. You want to build your game. Building awesome characters for that game can be in whole other league, and depending on your skills they may leave you feeling a little defeated. The content in Poser Pro Game Dev, along with the tools will jump start your character efforts and get your game populated, prototyped and playable in record time.

Get your Poser Content into the Game!

Poser Pro Game Dev includes an interactive Polygon Reduction tool to tailor high-poly Poser figures for game and interactive content in Game engines like Unity.

Poser Pro Game Dev includes an interactive Polygon Reduction tool to tailor high-poly Poser figures for game and interactive content in Game engines like Unity.

With our new Poser Pro Game Dev release, we’ve taken important steps to help produce character content that’s suitable for gaming. For third party content developers in the Poser eco-system, our new Game Dev version presents a great opportunity, but to succeed, adaptation will be advised.

From the Poser perspective, the most basic change was in our End User License Agreement (EULA) which includes language that explicitly permits our included Game Dev content to be used in Games. This change in language opens the door to game developers.

Other updates to Game Dev are on the feature side. Let’s do a quick run-down on the “why” behind these new features and then dig in a little deeper.

Out of the box, Poser’s 3D character content is great, but wasn’t optimized for interactive use. It’s high in polygon count to produce rendered images and animation, with weight mapped rigging and driven morphs to support realistic bending and swappable clothing. Game and interactive developers need content with a low-poly count and game engines generally perform better with a single figure with more basic rigging rather than Poser’s compound characters with clothes.

Game Dev’s features were designed to edit and deliver character content for game developers’ needs. These new features transform any Poser content, not just the included content, into game-ready assets. Here is the quick elevator-pitch on those features.

Polygon Reduction to reduce overall polygon counts to handle interactivity better.
– Figure Combining to merge a base figure with several clothing items into a new single figure with a single rig.
Unseen Polygon Removal to delete polygons on body parts which are under clothing and would never be seen or needed in a game
FBX Support to get converted Poser content into game engines including Unity, Unreal, Crytek and basically any other platform that has FBX support
KINECT for Windows because gamers tend to have hardware hanging out, and capturing motion data with Kinect is really fun.

Use your Kinect hardware to capture motion data.

Use your Kinect hardware to capture motion data.

All these game content prep features were designed to help game developers take stock Poser characters, props and scenery and tailor it for games or interactive content they’re developing.

For third party Poser content developers, the primary challenge is straight forward. To sell content to game developers, they will need to give permission to their buyers to use that content in a game. To hold hands on this concept a little – without that fundamental change, the opportunity to sell content to those new users won’t happen. They will need your permission to include that content in their game or interactive project.

As long as those game developers aren’t competitively reselling your proprietary content as content, then their game isn’t very different than if your content is being used in an animated film or in an illustration. If the talented third party content developers in the Poser eco-system can get past that hurdle, then Poser Pro Game Dev will be the portal to a new base of enthusiastic 3D content buyers.

As for exposure to game developers in this new vertical, we’re always looking for games, interactive projects and compelling 3D content that can inspire new game developers. If you’re tailoring a set of outfits for game deliverable figures or new structures that can be used in a gaming environment or have a cool props like armor, swords, trees or furniture we want to hear what you’re doing. Perhaps we can help open the door for your content.

The new Figure Combining and Unseen Polygon feature will merge compound clothed figures into a new single figure and remove hidden polygons that are invisible under clothing.

The new Figure Combining and Unseen Polygon feature will merge compound clothed figures into a new single figure and remove hidden polygons that are invisible under clothing.

The last challenge comes in providing content designed to fit a figure that can get into a game. Be sure the accessory content you’re creating will work on a figure that can be deployed in a game, not all can – check those restrictions carefully. As a reminder, any figure included with Poser or created by us is fair game. Pun intended.

Bottomline, we’re heading into the game developer space with great new tools, and clearer licensing and some solid partners. We encourage everyone who has been creating Poser-ready 3D content to jump into this new market with us. Game On!

Be part of the growing 3D industry – $40 billion in five years.


When we first launched Poser in the mid-90’s, the opportunities for 3D were in their infancy. 3D gaming was yet to gain much ground, 3D in films was rudimentary at best, futurists were heralding virtual reality, and multi-media was all about the CD. Fast forward to today and 3D is fully entrenched in verticals as diverse as entertainment, gaming, industrial design, engineering, hardware, and software tools. Once again, virtual reality has been lauded as a future vector.

According to this report from MarketsandMarkets, the 3D industry in total is projected to double from it’s current size today of $20+ billion to $40 billion in 2019. We’re admittedly a small slice of pie with Poser’s artist/users and with Poser’s surrounding ecosystem of content and add-ons. Regardless of the size of Poser’s footprint on the overall landscape of 3D, it’s a very good place to have staked a claim, and it’s still a very good time to be learning 3D through Poser.
Poser not only teaches 3D fundamentals and more advanced skills such as 3D animation, but it’s fun, provides abundant personal entertainment and opens up professional growth and opportunity. There’s a surprising number of 3D professionals in verticals across the board who got their start with Poser. There’s a rosey future ahead for 3D, and it’s some bright things ahead for Poser too.



Poser figure Roxie perfects her yoga poses.

World Cup Fever – Poser scores!

A few days ago, one of our favorite Poser artists, Isikol, from Athens, Greece, posted a very cool image on his Facebook page  to celebrate the kick-off of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. A quick refresher on Isikol – he’s the guy who just wrapped up an original Poser image for the cover of Heavy Metal Magazine.

Isikol gets the cover shot of Heavy Metal #268

Isikol gets the cover shot of Heavy Metal #268

And here’s the image that started this whole World Cup 2014 challenge…

Isikol's Viva World Cup 2014 Poser rendering that inspired us

Isikol’s Viva World Cup 2014 Poser rendering that inspired us

Shortly after we saw this provocative World Cup image, and noted the comments about how photo-real his rendering was, Isikol posted the original photo which inspired him to create his very convincing Poser image.

Original photo that Isikol used as his rendering reference.

Original photo that Isikol used as his rendering reference. Image: http//

This photo, in turn, inspired us to see how close we could come to replicating that same pose and details from the shoot; but we wanted to step up to the challenge by using an included figure from Poser, Roxie.

We found a freebie World Cup soccer ball for Poser here on inlitestudio, loaded the original photo that inspired Isikol from an NSFW website, and then started to precisely replicate the photo-shoot using none other than Roxie, who is both an amazing figure and indeed included with Poser 10 and Poser Pro 2014.

A few Poser scene set-up and rendering details: At rendertime, we enabled Subsurface Scattering, turned on IDL to a medium setting. For the scene, I threw in the stock photo studio backdrop prop from Poser’s primitives (find it in the library props by searching for “StudioBackdrop”) with a tweak to the material to turn it all white with a slight ambient glow to illuminate her from below. We used three spots, all set to raytrace shadows with Inverse Falloff, all pointed directly at Roxie. The hair is from Poser’s Alyson Legacy>Koz hair props, scaled and positioned to fit Roxie. I applied one of the stock Roxie makeup materials included with the app, and then dialed in the facial expression. The bikini is the stock Roxie top and bottom, with a slight tweak to the diffuse color to turn it blue for more punch on the white background.To match the pose and camera angle, the original photo from Isikol was imported as a background image. It’s a great technique to match a pose to a photo.

BTW, I did a full webinar on that process here.

Roxie in the Viva World Cup 2014 pose, based on the reference photo

Roxie in the Viva World Cup 2014 pose, based on the reference photo

And here’s how Roxie held up to the challenge!

Poser's Roxie, kicking it for World Cup 2014

Poser’s Roxie, kicking it for World Cup 2014

Our results came out great. It kicks up the challenge – what World Cup image can you create with Poser? Don’t be hemmed in to using the same old figures you always do, try someone new. May we suggest Roxie? If you have Poser 10 or Poser Pro 2014, she’s already in your content library!

Anyway – cheers to the kick-off of the World Cup on June 13th, 2014, get inspired and start posing; and may the best Poser win!

Artist Q&A Feature: Mike Norton

We recently got the chance to chat with amazing comic book author, Four Star Studios co-founder and award-winning Battlepug webcomic creator Mike Norton. Check out the Q&A below and enjoy!

Q: How did you get into illustration / animation / graphic arts?

A: Drawing is all I’ve really done with any consistency from a very early age. I’m a very lucky person in that I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to do for a living and I just pursued it relentlessly since childhood.

Q: What industry trends are you a fan of and why?

A: I’m a big fan of webcomics. They’ve come so far in the past 10 years. It’s amazing. Like so many things online, I think they were hard to categorize at first because no one knew how define them. Now, they’re a viable way of creative expression and even income for some.

Q: Who are some of your biggest art / illustration influences and / or mentors?

A: There are many childhood art heroes to me from the world of comics. John Bryne, John Romita Sr. and Mike Wieringo are a few.

Q: In your eyes, who is the most underrated artist / animator of all time?

A: Mike Wieringo would be on that list. I think he was a giant. He had a relatively short career, but I think he was a huge influence on many others in that period.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge as an artist / animator?

A: Making a living! Becoming a freelance illustrator in comics is challenging. Staying one is even tougher!

Q: What has been your biggest success?

A: I’ve been very lucky with the projects I’ve worked on, but I think recently the creator-owned books (Battlepug and Revival) have been the biggest hits both personally and career-wise for me.

Q: Where do you see the comic / animation industry in 10 years?

A: I see a lot of the younger comic artists learning how to do EVERYTHING now. There are 14 year olds that can draw, color and letter a comic now on the computer better than I could just five years ago. I imagine it will only be more so in the future.

Q: How would you describe your job as an artist / illustrator?

A: My job as an illustrator is to do the best I can to tell a moving and entertaining story while making my client and myself happy in the process. I have no higher aim than that. I just want to be happy and draw things that I like.

Q: What advice would you give to young / up-and-coming graphic artists?

A: Strive to be self-aware. Know what you can and can’t do. Be observant. Listen to, don’t argue with criticism. Know what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to reach your goals. Then never give up.

Q: What Smith Micro tools do you use, how do you use them and how have they affected your workflow?

A: I use Manga Studio 4 EX almost exclusively for all my line work. It allows me to be faster and has made drawing more fun for me by eliminating any fear or trepidation I used to have about making mistakes on paper. Also the ability for using reference in my actual file makes light boxing a thing of the past. I’m slowly getting used to Manga Studio 5 now, but there are some things I still prefer to do in 4.

Thank you to Mike Norton for taking part in our Q&A series! You can check out Mike’s work at and or follow him on Twitter @themikenorton.

{Mike Norton is the creator of the weekly webcomic, Battlepug, which won the Eisner Award in 2012 for Best Digital Comic. He is also the artist of Revival, the critically acclaimed Image Comics series with Tim Seeley and the Dark Horse series, The Answer! with Dennis Hopeless. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two pugs. He is also very, very tall.}



Deal Alert!: Artist Software Bundle Sale

Have you ever dreamed of creating interactive comics, animating your own cartoon characters or rendering three-dimensional figures? Today is the perfect day to get a jump start on your artistic ambitions!

Now until May 31, 2014, we are offering a creative software bundle sale that includes Poser Debut, Anime Studio Debut 10, Clip Studio Paint Pro (digital version of Manga Studio 5) and MotionArtist. The package provides a complete beginner’s software toolset for comic illustration and 2D / 3D animation for only $69.99.

The artistic possibilities are endless with these programs, so take advantage of this bundle sale and get your creative juices flowing!

Smith Micro Bundle Sale

>>> Smith Micro Artist Bundle Sale <<<

75 years later…the Cost of Being Batman

This month marks the 75th anniversary of Batman’s first appearance in DC Comics’ issue #27 in May 1939.

To celebrate, we wanted to share this amazing graphic from Bob Al-Greene at Mashable. Good thing Bruce Wayne is a billionaire – check out that cost comparison!

Credit: Bob Al-Greene, Mashable

Credit: Bob Al-Greene, Mashable


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