• Art,  Smart Dummies

    Mark Mitchell Interviews Me and an Inking Video

    I have a couple of videos for you today! The first is a video of me inking an old painting. I go through the steps of first redefining certain areas of the drawing with pencil and then I go over it in inks. I like how Clip Studio has a vector layer that can be adjusted after drawing lines.
    Final Image

    Mark Mitchell interviewed me recently about Smart Dummies. I thought you might like to see the video! I always enjoy talking with Mark. He has a great class! You can find out more about Mark here: https://howtobeachildrensbookillustrator.com/ A new semester of his class “Make Your Marks and Splashes” starts in a few months and I’ll let you know about that soon.

  • Art,  Smart Dummies

    Support Me on Patreon!

    I hope you are enjoying Smart Dummies this year. I love helping out other people and I hope you are learning a lot, or at least getting a lot done this month. Smart dummies is not an easy event, so be nice to yourself and celebrate what you are able to complete.

    Today is my birthday! What better way to celebrate than to update all my reward tiers and give presents to all my patrons on Patreon? I feel like I’m winning my birthday already: https://www.patreon.com/SmartDummies I don’t have presents on Kofi, but you’ll have my love if you can only make a one time donation there. https://ko-fi.com/daniduck

    It is not free for me to run this blog and the events do take a lot of my time. If you have the money, please consider helping me out. I will be working to giving you lots more value for your donations. Check out the new tiers and know that I’m open to suggestions! 

    Smart Member
    $1 or more per month

    Basic Membership Includes

    + Monthly Art Process Videos

    + Monthly Challenges to help encourage creativity in your writing and art

    + Your name listed in a special post before Smart Dummies and  Spring into Writing!

    Smart Fiver
    $5 or more per month

    All of the previous tier benefits plus:

    + Your questions answered on a short video every month.*

    + Extra entry on all Patreon giveaways and contests.

    + Your name listed in a future Smart Dummies/Writing Challenge Booklet.

    *You ask me 1 question a month and I’ll give you a video answer of your question on Patreon. Access will be given to everyone in this level and above.

    Smart 10s
    $10 or more per month

     All of the previous tier benefits plus: 

    + 1 Hour Chat with me and other Smart 10s every month.

    + Exclusive Smart 10s only content.


    Want to make a one time donation? https://ko-fi.com/daniduck  (This will not give you access to patron rewards, but I will love you forever. Even if you don’t donate.) Feel free to contact me about other ways to donate!

  • Art,  Smart Dummies

    Art Process and Thumbnails

    Before I show you some process posts I’m going to start with a poll I posted on social media. This was a question asked by Tara Santoro (@JerseyGirlDraws on twitter).

    This is pretty reflective of the people I’ve spoken to. Most believe thumbnails are essential. There are a few that think they aren’t important. 

    Brian McLachlan (@McLachlanBrian on twitter) said as a response, “Once you’ve done enough layouts you don’t need to thumbnail everything.” Which makes sense! 

    There are some of you that hate thumbnails and think it’s silly to use them. I think not using them may be a harder path, but that path is up to you! 

    Initial thumbnails should take you no more than a few seconds on each one. It’s just to figure out proportion and where things go. More than a couple seconds makes it stressful. Too much detail in thumbnails can be stressful. Keep them simple, and if you want to do detailed thumbnails do that after!

    Some Final Art Resources

    Here are some resources you may want to look into before creating your final art! In fine art the idea is to make a beautiful piece that will last a long time. With kidlit your final art doesn’t necessarily have to last a long time (it does help, though). It does have to look good. Instead of giving you a bunch of resources for fine artists or illustrators, I’m going to show you some art projects that are mostly for kids that may inspire or inform your own art! 

    Want to find a process in your medium? Just go to Pinterest or YouTube and type in your art medium and then “projects”. You can add “for kids” if you want to find easier projects.

    Watercolor Techniques: https://www.projectswithkids.com/watercolor-techniques-for-kids/

    Blending Colored Pencils: https://www.mybluprint.com/article/blend-your-way-to-smooth-colored-pencils

    Scraping Painting with Oil Pastels: http://krokotak.com/2019/06/scraping-painting-with-oil-pastel/

    Acrylic Painting with a Fork: https://www.projectswithkids.com/palm-tree-fork-painting-for-kids/

    Painted Collage Art: https://layers-of-learning.com/painted-collage-art/

    Torn Collage Art: http://www.onecolorfulday.com/free-printable-night-sky-collage/


  • Art,  Smart Dummies

    Fun Art Videos!

    I have a fun inking video that I made today. I need to go back in and edit it a bit. 5 minutes of me having the save dialog open isn’t that much fun to watch. I will be adding sound and hopefully narrate this as well. Hopefully I can get this up for you soon! For now here are a few instructional Youtube channels that will help you with your art!

    SVS Learn — Home of the 3-point perspective podcast (video version). This podcast tells you everything you need to know about Children’s illustration! Will Terry, Jake Parker and Lee white host. Their excellent Youtube channels are also below https://www.youtube.com/user/SVSLearn/videos

    Will Terry — Kidlit Illustrator with a huge collection of videos about the craft and business of kidlit books! https://www.youtube.com/user/willterryart

    Jake Parker —  Creator of Inktober and Illustrator https://www.youtube.com/user/jakeparker44/videos

    Lee White — Kidlit illustrator and Fine Artist https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa8I_myjn8osVaEPsS7eq1Q/videos

    Rachel Armington — Her videos are watercolor, food and crafts! She just posted a video about making clay models for illustration! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQ7Eosyn2nYbNbkokKrmPcw/videos

    Chris Hong Art — Some fun illustration techniques and lots of pretty art. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGHCzXORMIUiBZmNHr1ovjw/videos

    Sheldene Fine Art — This is a nice channel that has all kinds of different techniques you can try for your own art. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_KkCbQ6ZlN0dGnT1GLdz7A/videos


    Have a Youtube channel you’d like to share? Please post the name in the comments below. I’ll be sure to share the channel in a future Smart Dummies post!

  • Art,  Smart Dummies,  Uncategorized

    Making Models and Getting Ready For Finals!

    Modeling Your Characters

    Here is a special video from Rachel Armington. You can visit Rachel’s website here: https://rachelarmington.com/ Her Youtube channel has some great videos like organizing your portfolio for an illustrator showcase, creating promotional material and lots of great watercolor painting tips and techniques. Rachel’s Youtube channel is here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQ7Eosyn2nYbNbkokKrmPcw 

    She just finished it and wanted everyone here to know how to make a clay model for illustration. This is especially helpful for complex characters. You could also make up sets and photograph your models rather than draw them (need to have a good camera and light set up)!

    5 Things to Do for Final Art

    1. Set up Your Substrate

    I have adjusted my layout page. I use to work at a print shop and it was so much easier if there was a bigger bleed. This also more accurately reflects how I set up my digital images. I create my digital images 11″ x 17″ and am aware that half an inch will be trimmed from all sides of the final image. 

    If you are working traditionally you need to place an extra 1.5″ around the image. You will want your paper to be 14″x 20″. You can work on smaller paper if you need to practice before your final. This is where the printer will touch your image.  When your digital image is printed it will have the same border, but it’s added after the art is finished. 

    2. Stepping Back 

    This is very important in the process of creating. Move a few feet back from your image an look at it. This helps for both digital and traditional artists. Another thing you can do is take a picture of the art. Seeing an image smaller can help with noticing any flaws. 

    3. Polish Your Image

    I made a post about how done is done here:  https://www.daniduck.com/how-done-is-done/ this relates to your sketches for your dummy. This does not have anything to do with your finals. You want your images as polished as possible before you take them into finals. You don’t want to both color an image and still be trying to figure out the positioning of an arm or the perfect smile for your character!

    4. Work in a Familiar Medium 

    It’s not wrong to work in an unfamiliar medium. Just know that your finals are going to take longer without having practiced the medium. You are learning how your style works in the medium. This makes it more likely that you are going to be using more pieces of final paper (if working traditionally), so it’s better to practice on a smaller sheet!

    5. When Things Don’t Work Out

    Sometimes things don’t work out. Be nice to yourself. If you have to start over that’s okay. Even when big mistakes are made, set the work aside and come back to it later. It could be that the work can be saved, but not if you crumple it up and throw it away! Also possibly not if you continue to work on something that’s had a problem. Frustration can often lead to more mistakes. 

    Be nice to yourself and take a break if you aren’t having fun!

  • Art,  Smart Dummies

    Don’t Give Up!

    I find that starting a story isn’t really that hard. Maybe the sitting down and writing or drawing it is hard, but the actual coming up with an idea isn’t that hard. Okay, if we are talking about coming up with a good idea that’s hard. Coming up with a gem that can be taken from idea to finished product? That’s really hard. 

    It’s really not the idea’s fault, because any idea can be good or bad. I’m not putting all the fault on the writer or illustrator, because there are so many obstacles that get into the way of writing and illustrating. Some of these things we can change, and some not. I’m here as a cheerleader for you to do your best when you can.

    Don't Worry About Winning

    If you are not able to finish Smart Dummies in these two months, you are not a failure. Smart Dummies was never about the winning. The idea behind it is to encourage you to work faster, make some good daily habits and get a good start on your project. Your project is something you can continue working on in the future. 

    Don't Stop Drawing

    Maybe you only get your character drawings done next month. Maybe you don’t get them finished until Christmas. You might only get ideas of what your character (or characters) look like and that’s okay. It’s still progress. If you start over you wont lose what you’ve already learned. If you just do one spread a month you’ll get your dummy done in about 12-16 months. Maybe you do one page a month, but that’s still a finished book in about 2-3 years. That’s more dummies finished than when you started!

    Don't Get Mad At Yourself

    There are times when I feel like a complete failure in life. I set out a goal to finish my work in a certain period of time and don’t come anywhere near to achieving my goals. The worst thing I do to myself is to punish myself for not achieving everything I wanted. I end up upset for days or weeks and those are days/weeks I can not work. Celebrate every milestone and always forgive yourself for making mistakes. Forgive yourself anytime you aren’t working. Some things will take priority to writing and illustrating! It’s okay to miss out on working. It’s also okay to get angry sometimes, but be sure to forgive yourself and move on. 

    Don't Give Up!

    I can not tell you that you are going to be published. I can’t tell you that any of your publishing dreams will come true. I can tell you that there is no chance of you getting published if you don’t try. 

    No one should EVER tell you that you should give up. If someone tells you to give up the problem lies with them and not you. It’s possible that your work isn’t ready yet. That does NOT give them the right to tell you to stop.

    Keep working and give yourself as much love as you can muster. This is a rough road we are on. I have a lot of friends who have been on the road 10 years or more who are just now getting published. It is possible. I’m going to give you a list of podcasts below that have helped me through some tough times. You should be able to find these wherever you get your podcasts!


    Some of these podcasts may have content not suitable for children. Please let me know if there are trigger warnings that should be included because I can’t remember anything specific, but will not say that all of these podcasts are trigger free.


    Artists Helping Artists – Fine Art, studio information and marketing/promoting your work.

    Face the Truth – Interviews with people in all kinds of art fields from Comedians to Photographers.


    Book Friends Forever – Books/Publishing – Lots of different topics covered in making children’s books.

    Literaticast –  Everything about books and publishing. Lots of great industry information

    Picturebooking Podcast – Books/Publishing – Dedicated to exploring the world of picture books with wonderful interviews with writers and illustrators.

    The Children’s Book Podcast – Books/Publishing – Interviews with those who create children’s books.

    Comics/Graphic Novels

    Comics Lab – Webcomics – Everything about making a living in comics, self publishing, some traditional publishing. 

    Graphic Novel TK – Graphic Novel -Everything about Graphic Novels from idea to making sales.

    The Comics Experience Make Comics Podcast – Comic Book -Tons of comic information with interviews with lots of comic people. 


    3 Point Perspective – Covers everything you need to know about Children’s Illustration.


    The Manuscript Academy – Writing- Covers different topics in writing through interviews with industry professionals.

    Writing for Children – Writing – Short podcast with powerful tips to improve your writing.


  • Art,  Smart Dummies

    Planning Out Pages

    Those who joined me for Pre-Smart Dummies, but I decided to go over this step just in case you’ve not done this yet! 

    1) Choose Your Story

    If you have written a story then you can choose one of your own. If you’ve written several stories, but this is your first time creating a dummy try to pick something that has simple characters or backgrounds you like drawing. Let’s make this first dummy fun!

    If you have not written a story, or if you don’t have anything edited DON’T PANIC! Use a story in the public domain. Most fairy tales are public domain. Here is a bunch of great books to choose from. I like the Andrew Lang Fairy Books: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/

    I chose Cinderella as my story. I went over my process for choosing the best parts of the story to include in my version. https://www.daniduck.com/a-new-cinderella-story/ I decided afterward that the story I wanted to do was going to be too much work for everything on my plate so I will be going with another story. I want to finish this story, so I’m choosing the easiest one for me. 

    2) Edit Your Story

    Before you start on your story you should have it edited. Here is a lot of information for editing your story. If you are rewriting a fairy tale be sure to have at least all the basics planned out like in the second link for “Choose Your Story”.  Here are some quick tips for editing along with some wonderful editing resources: https://www.daniduck.com/editing-your-story/

    3) Plan Your Story

    You’ll want to plan out which images are going on which pages, and how long your story is going to be. Marla Lesage shared a fantastic post with us for Smart Dummies about Picture Book Length.   https://marlalesage.com/2019/08/12/picture-books-length-layout/ Graphic novels start at picture book length and some can be several hundred pages. Research page lengths at your library or book store for the type of books you’d like to write!

    Here is an example of how to plan out your pages: https://www.daniduck.com/planning-out-your-pages/* If you physically want to cut up your manuscript into pages, then do it. As long as it’s not your only manuscript copy! 😉 

    *Please note that Critique Groups are now closed, but you can ask for critique partners in the Smart Dummies Facebook group! https://www.facebook.com/groups/548159692008535/

    Tomorrow I’ll be talking about Thumbnails. I may do a video. Wish me luck!

  • Art,  Smart Dummies

    Emotions and Poses


    Due to a problem with my website I’ve had to cut out the book review for this week! I’ve got a great book for next week. This is from pages 12-13 of your book

    What you’ll need for this project:

    Pencils and paper, a mirror.

    Other helpful things: camera or internet search

    I did a quick video for you today. This is all about emotions. I drew a bunch of circles before starting this video and then made faces into my phone. This can be done on a sheet of paper.

    Try making some faces of your own. After you are done try applying them to your own characters. This video has been sped up. Unfortunately there is no sound.  

    If you haven’t signed up for Smart Dummies you can do so here: https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/


    This part of the process is going to take a bit of research! First off take photos of someone who’ll pose for you, take pictures of yourself or look for poses on the internet. You can even get a video of people dancing and pause to draw beans from that! Look for poses you might use in your story. You might even find some poses you didn’t know you needed!

    If you haven’t already look at this video so you can understand the bean method of drawing this video is from Proko: https://www.proko.com/the-bean/#.XXqiL9KJKUl

    Practice drawing some beans of your own. Use the references you found and just practice drawing them in bean format. Fill up a sheet or two of beans. Once you do that then take your character and draw them in a few of those position not forgetting their facial expression for that pose.

    Here are some  of character drawing and emotions. The first one is of a character I did last year. He’s very cartoony and doesn’t have arms to express himself. It can be harder to express certain emotions with simple characters! 

    The second is a drawing I have yet to finish. It’s something I’ve just left too long so I would probably go back in and redraw if I wanted to use it for an illustration. Either way it’s good practice!

    Example of a character in a bunch of diffrent poses.
    Fairy babies in different positions.
  • Art,  Events,  Smart Dummies

    Character Turnarounds

    A character turnaround is a way to get to know your character from all angles. This is the information you’ll need to draw your character the same way every time! Even though you make these your character may evolve while you are creating your book and that’s okay, too!

    Things you might need: 
    Paper, Pencil and likely a ruler. Tracing paper or a light box is optional. Possibly a right angle ruler.

    Or a digital photo/illustration program. Must be able to work in transparent layers and have guidelines (which is most digital programs).

    If you have not signed up for Smart Dummies this year you can do so here:  https://www.daniduck.com/register-for-smart-dummies-2019/

    Full Character Drawings

    In your booklet on pages 10 -11 you’ll see some lined paper. I find this as the easiest way for me to plot out my character. Especially the easiest way to execute the Turnaround. The top is a full character turnaround and the bottom is a face. 

    When I’m doing character drawings I generally make the face large and the I like making eyes be big enough to fit on a line. It makes it easiest for me to figure out where everything should be. It’s really nice to be able to know which line the eyes, mouth and nose should rest. It’s really easy to get the character’s side, 3/4th or front view off because visually it will look okay, but if you use a ruler things will be way off.

    There are some artists who prefer to use graph paper, and that’s not wrong! It’s just not the way I do it. I find the vertical lines throw me off, but they are great for making sure the width of everything is the same throughout the drawing.

    Some turnarounds for characters. Face is front side and 3/4th view.

    I started out with a lot of scribbles and a little bit of an idea of what I was going to create for my portfolio. It was going to be a comic style illustration.  I had basic ideas for character design before I worked on some thumbnails. Most of the story I worked on in the left hand side will likely never be in an illustration. Sometimes it helps to work on what happens before a scene, even if that work isn’t seen by other people. 

    These are the characters I started with. Just a kitty and a girl. I liked the kitty, but the girl I didn’t really like. She felt too old for the story I wanted to write. She also was quite plain. I added some ears later to make her a bear character. I had a friend who asked if she was a giant mouse. She wasn’t, but I thought it was more fun for her to be a giant mouse taking care of a kitten, So things were changed!

    Tracing Paper

    One thing I adore about using Clip Studio Paint (and all other digital programs) is the ability to to make a layer more transparent. This allows you to draw your character with a light table effect. You can make sure that your character is similar from all angles! Her eyes nose and mouth all line up and the width of the character stays the same throughout. 

    If you are working traditionally I highly suggest a light table or tracing paper to create your images. This will allow you to make sure your character looks alike in all their poses.

    Guidelines Digital and Traditional

    Digital: If your digital program has a ruler, then it probably has the ability to make guidelines. Just right click on the ruler, while you are holding the right button drag the line to where you want it, and then let go of the button. You can change where the line is with an arrow button This can vary from program to program.

    I started this drawing with putting lines around the feet head and hands. I can also check the hem of her pants and all the facial features with the guidelines. They can get to be too much while drawing, so there is always a place in your program to turn these off.

    Traditional: If you are drawing a character traditionally you almost have to draw in all the lines. I said before that I minimize this by using lined paper. This helps a lot, but there is likely something else that I can’t quite line up that way. If you have a right angle ruler you can put a ruler vertically along the right or left edge of the paper (preferably the red line on lined paper) and draw a horizontal line across the paper.

    Alternatively you can use a ruler to measure out where each new line goes. This takes a lot of dots and line drawing. It’s frustrating and I hate it, but use it often.

    The third option is to just eyeball the whole thing on lined or graph paper. This option is great for all us stubborn people out there. It’s maybe not the best option, but it’s still an option.

    The Best Laid Plans

    Sometimes even the best laid plans go awry! Neither character here is what I expected them to be, but it’s closer to my final drawing than any of the previous drafts. I’ve made my cat’s head much more rounded and the girl’s features are much more animal like. Even though I worked on these characters several times the characters kept changing in the drawings. I had just finished working on a cat story and the characters in the dummy were exactly like the characters I designed for the dummy.


    Ideally, you’ll come up with a character design that you’ll just use in your drawings. Ideally, your whole story wont change while you are working on it. I do hope things wont change for you, but if they do accept the changes and have fun with your art!

    If there is anything you need explained further let me know! I could possibly do a video if there are people who would like to see it!