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 <<<

A Special Mother’s Day Animation From Smith Micro

Mother’s Day is this weekend, and if you’re still scrambling for gift ideas look no further! All moms love homemade art, so utilize your illustration / animation skills to create truly one-of-a-kind gifts.

• Use Manga Studio to make Mom the hero of her own Super Mom comic book or graphic novel.

• Organize your family pictures into a beautiful and unique photo slideshow with ScatterShow.

• And for the animation pros: use Anime Studio to create a short video in lieu of a boring Hallmark card.

Got any other ideas or want to share your creations for Mother’s Day? Post in the comments below or send them to @SMSIGraphics on Twitter.

Finally, check out and share this Mother’s Day Animation from Smith Micro!

Created with Anime Studio, for more information go to:

Direction, Animation and Composition
Víctor Paredes

Pablo Paredes – Víctor Paredes

Art Direction & Design
Mario Quiñones

Music & Sound Design
Pedro Santa Cruz

Violin Player
Maria Grigoryeva

Celebrate Free Comic Book Day + Make Your Own

It’s back!

This Saturday, May 3rd, comic book shops all around the world will be giving away free comic books to all who enter their store.  It’s a pretty exciting day that we look forward to every year – and we’re sure you do too.

Follow this link to find a participating shop near you:

As long as you’re celebrating comics, why not make a day of it and create your very own? With Manga Studio artists of all skill levels can turn their illustrations into comics, manga and graphic novels to share with friends and followers. With our latest program, MotionArtist, you can even create a html presentation and add motion to your favorite static comic.

Check out what others have created with Manga Studio and MotionArtist and send us your own homemade comic books! You can find even more inspiration at the Manga Studio gallery.

Made with Manga Studio:

Animal Planet Artist:  Kaz Mayeda

Animal Planet
Artist: Kaz Mayeda

Bat Girl - Teyon Alexander

Bat Girl
Artist: Teyon Alexander

 My Angel - Lincy Chan

My Angel
Artist: Lincy Chan

Made with MotionArtist:

Happy Holiday, everyone!

Artist Content Spotlight: Krishna Sadasivam

We recently asked artist Krishna Sadasivam – a steadfast Manga Studio user –  to share his experiences using the software. Read on to learn about his challenges as an independent artist, his favorite things about Manga Studio and his step-by-step process for turning sketches into amazing, full-color art.

krishna sadasivam samurai manga studioQ: Tell us about yourself.

A: My name is Krishna M. Sadasivam and I make comics. Three times a week I write and draw PC Weenies, a tech-themed comic which I have been doing for the better part of 15 years. I teach full time within the Media Arts and Animation Department at the Art Institute of Tampa. When I’m not teaching, I take on projects as a professional illustrator / cartoonist. My specialty is creating comics for companies. Some of my clients have included Microsoft, Mashable, Other World Computing and EE Times. My comics have been featured on many notable websites, including TechCrunch, Gizmodo and CNET. When I’m not teaching or drawing, I spend time with my beautiful wife and daughter. To avoid burnout, I like to get out of the house and cruise around on my longboard.

Q: Describe the general process of how you used Smith Micro Software program(s) to create your art. What software features are most helpful during your creation process?

A: I’m 100% digital these days – with Manga Studio 5 EX being my go-to program. Hardware-wise, I use a Yiynova MSP19u tablet hooked up to a 6 year old Mac Pro. In my own usage, Manga Studio is vastly superior to every other digital drawing program I’ve ever used. The program is fast, responsive, and highly customizable. It is very easy to customize commonly used commands via a custom keyboard shortcut. I also really like how easy it is to install new brushes. Another big plus: it’s compatible with programs like Photoshop, which I use for coloring and post-processing. Below is a breakdown of a samurai piece I recently worked on, as part of a SketchDailies challenge. At the early stages of an illustration, I spend a great deal of time thinking about composition. Once the composition is solid, I can then proceed to inking the drawing. Manga Studio has a wealth of useful rulers that I use when needed – like for the swords in this samurai illustration. After inks, I proceed to add colors and finish out the drawing. It generally takes me between two to four hours to complete a drawing from start to finish.

Q: What specific challenges do you face in creating your art?

A: My biggest challenge as an artist is managing multiple projects and handling the business side of the equation. Being an independent artist, I’ve had to learn business, promotion and marketing by the seat of my pants. Thankfully, there are good resources now available online and in print that have filled in some of the blanks for me.

Q: What do you consider your biggest success so far?

A: My biggest success as an artist was landing a very sizeable project for Microsoft a few years ago. I’m also particularly proud of having my first self published book, PC Weenies: Rebootus Maximus, appear on all seven continents, thanks to the aid of resourceful readers.

Q: Do you have any advice for other artists out there?

A: There’s a lot of great advice online for up and coming artists. My biggest advice boils down to one sentence: Done is better than perfect. Many artists wait and wait and wait without even starting a project. Just do it, and don’t worry about failing.

You can learn more about Krishna and check out his portfolio here.

Artist Q&A Feature: Byron Wilkins

This month, Byron Wilkins, owner of TR-1 Studios, creator of web comic 1977 The Comic and Manga Studio artist, shares his experiences in the comic industry. In his video interview, Byron provides insight into current industry trends, influential artists and career successes and challenges.

Follow Byron on Twitter @TR1Byron. Connect with us on Twitter @MangaStudio or Facebook.

Artist Q&A Feature: Liz Staley

We recently had the chance to interview Adrastus comic artist and Smith Micro Software user, Liz Staley. Check out some of her favorite artists, biggest moments, challenges and personal tips for beginning artists below.

AdrastusTell us about you: I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA and currently live in Southwestern Pennsylvania. I studied Media Arts and Animation at the Art Institute of Washington and have a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. Before starting my comic, Adrastus, I wrote and illustrated a novel that I self-published. Though I said throughout college and high school that I wasn’t going to do comics, my favorite classes in college were scripting and story-boarding, so I should have really figured out that the comic bug would hit me sooner or later.

Adrastus started posting to the web in April of 2010, though the story idea was around for a lot longer. I have a lot of fun working on my comic and it’s helping me improve my art and my story-telling skills.

I currently live with my supportive husband. When not drawing and writing, I can be found enjoying tabletop role-playing games, reading, painting, and taking care of my horse.

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

A: Like most artists, I’ve been drawing since I was little. I got serious about it around middle and high school. In high school I started to write and get into animation, and decided that I wanted to study animation. I went to college for Media Arts and Animation, and loved my Scripting and Storyboarding classes the best. From there it was a short leap to get into drawing comics!

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

A: I love web comics! It’s great to see what people can create, and how many different comics there are, when people can create and publish their own. There’s so much creativity in the web-comic community.

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

A: There are so many people who have influenced or mentored me over the years. Some of the ones that spring to mind right off the bat who I look up to the most are Phil and Kaja Foglio (Girl Genius), Paul Taylor (Wapsi Square), Julie Devin Blake (Monster Soup), Robin Childs (Leylines), Kambrea and Thom Pratt (Shadowbinders).

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

A: I’ve always been a big fan of Ralph Bakshi’s animation. I remember watching his film Wizards when I was younger and being captivated by the special effects of the monsters. Because he did a combination of traditional animation for the main characters, and rotoscope for monsters and special effects, it made the monsters truly creepy- and it stuck with me! Plus he moved his desk by himself without permission to get a better job at one of the animation studios he worked for. Guy had some serious guts to do that!

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

A: One of the hardest things about being an independent creator is learning how to do everything you need to do to be successful. I can’t just sit back and write and do my art. I have to be a marketing guru, an advertiser, an accountant, a copywriter, a PR director, an office manager, a salesperson and so much more!

Q: What has been your biggest success?

A: When I think back, I have had so many different types of successes. Even just getting two books of my comic printed and out there is success to me. One of the most awesome projects that I’ve ever worked on though was definitely the Mastering Manga Studio 5 book that I wrote, which was published by Packt Publishing in September of 2013. There is still so much I want to do with my art and my writing!

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

A: We’re already seeing this a lot, with things like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, but I think that creator owned, independent titles are going to be on the rise. More artists are going to be able to self-employ and own their work, and make a career on their own because of the resources that the internet gives us. And that’s exciting!

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

A: I’d like to say that all I have to do is sit around and write a script, then draw the comic that goes with it, publish it to my site, print books every once in awhile, and that’s it. But it’s not! I’m a writer, a character designer, a layout artist, graphic designer, storyboard artist, background artist, marketer, photographer, and salesperson. I do it all in my job right now. Including the math stuff- which is my second most hated job of all!

The part of my job that I really focus on though is the drawing. I love to sit and work on my comic pages. Inking is my favorite part of the process!

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

A: I’ve said this a lot whenever I get this question, but the best thing I can tell for young artists is to get started, and don’t stop. I didn’t start actually making my comic until 2010, despite getting the idea in 2007, because I was too scared to start. I told myself: “I need to learn how to draw robots. I need to learn how to draw motorcycles. I need to get better at drawing backgrounds.”

But then, since I wasn’t working on my comic, I wasn’t working on those things. The idea continued to plague me, not leaving me alone, until finally I had a revelation: Without starting the project, I would never improve on those areas that I wanted to work on.

Whatever it is, a comic, an animation, a series of illustrations, a tarot deck, JUST START IT. Even if you’re scared. I meet so many artists at conventions who tell me that they have an idea, but they need to get better at art. But if you aren’t working on that project, you will probably never get better. So just do it! The improvement, and getting past the fear, will come with action.

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

A: My main Smith Micro product is Manga Studio. I got started using it on EX4, and now I use EX5. Manga Studio is my favorite art software ever, in my years of doing digital art. I use Manga Studio for both my regular illustrations and my comic projects. I just can’t stop drawing in it!

Manga Studio has improved my workflow immensely. It’s so much faster and easier for me to complete my projects now. My favorite tools are the rulers- they make special effects, and doing backgrounds so much faster now. I draw everything digital, so having rulers right in my program is a big help. Plus, I’m left-handed, so being able to customize my program layout is invaluable. I can get palettes out of my way, put things where I need them the most so it’s easy to reach them, and see what I’m working on.

Those are just two of the things that I love so much about Manga Studio! I really can’t praise the program enough.

I also own Anime Studio Pro 9 and MotionArtist, both of which I am trying to learn. So hopefully some time soon, there will be some animation and motion comics from me, too!

Follow Liz Staley on Twitter @adrastuscomic

The Rise of Mixed Media in Digital Art

As digital media rises in the world of art, we see many artists engaging in mixed media. The line between traditional and interactive storytelling is beginning to blur as artists continue to incorporate 3D, 2D, audio, and animatic elements into their art. This movement has been adopted by novice and professional artists, alike. Although Anomaly and RWBY use 3D animation in Poser, they look as if they have been styled in 2D. Both Anomaly and RWBY use 3D modeling and paint over with a drawing program to get a mixed-media effect. Many artists whom use Poser to create amazing 3D figures later touch them up for a more photorealistic look. Peugeot Hybrid4’s The Hybrid Graphic Novel is a fantastic example of how a car company has taken the speed of their car and interpreted it into a motion comic with 3D elements. Car companies realize the significance of mixed digital media and its emergence into pop culture. Visuals draw viewers in and has become a prominent means of reaching audiences because of how engaging it is.

LOC.NES – The Quiet in the Chaos EP (MotionArtist & Ableton Live 9)

A plethora of examples also stem from MotionArtist. The program is versatile enough that users can import visual and audio files to give their motion comics a more interactive feel. Glenn Bledsoe, creator of Crazy Fly Comics, creates the visuals for his motion comics in Manga Studio and then imports audio and text to create amazing videos. To read more about Glenn’s experience with MotionArtist and Manga Studio, click here.
Banjo A Ghost Story Crazy Fly Comics

“MotionArtist opens the door for the uninhibited expression of artists’ imaginations. In every step of developing MotionArtist, we have evoked powerful animation capabilities that professionals need to push the boundaries of the media, while at the same time streamlining the steps that make media production time-consuming for grassroots artists,” says Jordan Bentley, Product Manager for MotionArtist. “MotionArtist users hold the key to evolving this media, because the only restriction to their vision is what they can imagine. This will become the driving doctrine in the coming evolution of MotionArtist and the communities it cultivates.”

Charlie’s Abduction by from Filippo onez Vanzo

Charlie’s Abduction from Filippo onez Vanzo on Vimeo. In this video you can see how Filippo uses some drawings he has created of Charlie, a background of space, and a variety of music and voice recordings to bring the animation to life.

In the Echo Callaway, the artists have given their viewers the option of speed. There is a “Beginning,” “Previous,” and “Next” options at the bottom of the screen and you click as you go. Some of the strips are in color while some are black and white.

ANOMALY uses a pipeline of 3D modeling, digital painting over, augmented reality, and game-like animation. Anomaly’s creator, Brian Haberlin, a long time staple in the comic industry and avid proponent of evolving mixed-media, had this to say in this Comic Book Resources blog.

“I’m setting up my characters, costumes, environment. I’m thinking of 3D as my rough pencils. I’ll strip out all the color, I’ll keep some of the shading information, I’ll really do super high contrast, almost making them inks, then I’ll draw over them. The problem people have with straight 3D in print is, it’s hard to make it look alive. 3D is great when it moves, but when it’s a still, you have to step on it with the human hand as much as possible.”

Have you created any digital mixed media lately? Share them with us on our Facebook and Twitter pages! Check out our Pinterest page and feel free to send any pins of your art our way. In the meantime, check out these 4 Amazingly Impressive HTML5 Web Comics from

Space-Mullet by Daniel Warren Johnson


“The 1 year anniversary of Space-Mullet snuck up on me and I needed to create a quick “thank you” image for the Facebook page. I made this in Manga Studio in about 15 minutes. The radial lines ruler is so amazing.”

Daniel Warren Johnson
Daniel Warren Johnson is a freelance illustrator and comic artist based in Chicago. He strives to create meaningful and fun illustrations that fit within his clients’ goals and surpass their expectations. Daniel believes in keeping an organic and natural feel to every project, while enjoying the tangible nature of creative collaboration and expression. When not working on client work, Daniel works on his self published comic, Space-Mullet, and hangs out with his awesome wife. He also loves craft beer. (taken from

We asked Daniel Warren Johnson to share a little about Space-Mullet, his sci-fi web comic, and his experience with Manga Studio.

“I had just finished playing Mass Effect 3, and I was so inspired by the story, the design, the artistic direction, that I wanted to do a sci-fi story of my own, but make it a little more intimate, and on a bit of a smaller scale. I didn’t want to have a strapping, scar over eye hero, like many sci-fi protagonists do. I wanted somebody who was a loser, dresses out of style, and is a terrible shot. So I came up with Jonah, my main character for Space-Mullet, and off I went! It’s been a real blast to create him and the galaxy he lives in. I hope other people enjoy reading it as well.”

Daniel draws and writes everything for Space-Mullet himself and has a great time creating and drawing it. He’s been to a few conventions local to Chicago, including Wizard World Chicago 2012 and 2013. Daniel was also at C2E2, Chicago’s Pop Culture event, in April where he gained some awesome new Space-Mullet fans. He’s also working on an unannounced children’s book project. He has exhibited at Wizard World Chicago and at the Chicago Cultural Center with their Right Now Exhibit in 2012. Out of all of Daniel’s awesome clients, a highlight was when he created zombie portraits for patrons at Chicago’s Navy Pier.

Manga Studio

“I found out about Manga Studio by following Cameron Stewart on Instagram and by reading Saga by Fiona Staples. I love their work, so I of course had to try the programs they were using. I’ve only been using it about 6 months, but I love it. The inking tools are a huge highlight for me, as well as the perspective rulers, the regular ruler tools, and the ability to create an entire paged out story within the program. It makes creation go so much faster!”


“I don’t do a ton of fan art, but Firefly was such a huge influence on me, I had to try out Zoe in Manga Studio!”

Until Manga Studio EX 5 came out, Daniel had been using the EX 4 version. “I’ve been loving the refined perspective tools, and the increased quality in brush control!” Daniel said about version EX 5. Manga Studio is a huge part of Daniel’s creative process for Space-Mullet. All of his concept art happens in Manga Studio, which allows him to create quick line drawings of multiple characters and vehicles. Daniel also creates all of his layouts and pre-production page planning in Manga Studio before he begins to ink traditionally.

“There have also been multiple times when I’ve had to create a page quickly (and with the same quality as a page I would have done traditionally), to fit a deadline, and Manga Studio fits the bill fantastically. I can literally make my pages look JUST like they were done on paper. I used to use Photoshop for line art, but got frustrated with it because it’s so clunky with smooth lines. So when I tried Manga Studio, I was blown away by the precision and control it gave me. I know I sound like a company rep, but I love this program so much, I can’t help it.”

Daniel has multiple corporate clients who need quality storyboards with a quick turnaround time. He recently created drawings for Trunk Club, a Chicago-based “men’s clothing service where personal stylists handpick high-end clothes”, which used his illustrations for their blog How to Survive a Heat Wave in Style. Trunk Club wanted to highlight how comfortable their business clothes could be in a hot, crowded bus or at a summer wedding. “All of these illustrations were done in Manga Studio and have brought me more work! The perspective rulers were a HUGE help here. I’m really happy with how it came out and so were they! They loved the pieces which I was able to create super quickly. All of my corporate storyboard work is now done in Manga Studio. Manga Studio has helped me score some great clients.”

“So many of my friends complain about inking in Photoshop, for the same reasons I used to. I think I’ve referred Manga Studio to at least ten different local Chicago artists, and the ones that have tried it since LOVE it. It also helps that the price tag for Manga Studio doesn’t break the bank. It’s a huge plus.”

Daniel is self-published as of now but is very excited about his 5 page mini comic coming out in an Image Comics title. The cyborg piece, shown below, is part of the concept art for the mini comic. He used Ray Frenden’s Manga Studio EX 4 brushes to create it. “Thanks, Frenden! He has some awesome tools that work great with MS.”


This was done for a boutique men’s outfitter, Trunk Club.


A piece done for Trunk Club, all in Manga Studio.


“This piece was done in Manga Studio for Mawi Learning and I think it came out great. I was able to experiment with different ideas and poses since I was doing it all digitally.”


“This piece was just a warm up piece so I could loosen up a little, but I ended up liking it so much I’m using it as some concept art for the mini comic I’m working on, created only in Manga Studio.”


This cyborg piece was some concept art done for a short mini comic DWJ is working on for Image comics.

Visit and Follow Daniel on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @boston1987.

If you’d like to create illustrations and comics like Daniel’s, Manga Studio 4 EX, 5, and 5 EX are all on sale until September 30, 2013. If you’d like to purchase Manga Studio 5 (40% off) or 5 EX (30% off), check out this link. If you’d like to buy 4 EX (only $29.99), check out this link. Don’t forget to follow Manga Studio on Facebook and Twitter.

Manga Studio, Anime Studio and Poser for just $29.99!


Until September 30, 2013 you can have your cake and eat it too. With savings this big there’s no reason why you can’t finally get your hands on the best creation software around. Cheaper than a tank of gas, you can buy the digital versions of Manga Studio EX 4, Anime Studio 8 or Poser 9 for just $29.99 each. STILL cheaper than a tank of gas is our super savings, unbelievable, O-M-G we must be crazy, over 90% off bundle. Get your hands on all three software for just $49.99! For more information on our awesome deal, check out this link. Didn’t get this e-mail in your inbox? Be the first to receive news and promotions by signing up for our e-mail list.


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