Clip Studio Paint is the New Photoshop … For Me

Although I illustrate almost exclusively in Photoshop, I’ve used Clip Studio Paint EX for lettering comics because it has useful tools designed for making that job so much easier. Otherwise, I haven’t really played with the program at all, even though I’ve been wanting to do so.

While up late into the night (because I’m a night-owl and can’t seem to get on a normal schedule), I decided to launch the program and check out its brushes. And honestly, while I’ll still be using Photoshop for a while, I have to say that inking and painting in CSP is so much more fun and its brushes are so much nicer and natural that Photoshop.

Here’s just a page of doodles done while playing with the program. Nothing fancy or “nice” because I was just enjoying getting a feel for the pen tool and brushes and wasn’t trying to create something to post.

Another nice thing about CSP that I think is better than Photoshop are (as I already mentioned) the tools available for creating comic books, not to mention tools for simple frame-by-frame animating. And best of all, you can render in vector without the STUPID, counter-intuitive techniques required by Adobe Illustrator, a program I (and many other artists who came from traditional media) simply loath.

As far as the many custom tools or blending options Photoshop offers for photo-editing which we artists utilize for illustrating, I don’t know how many such tools CSP has yet. Maybe not as many (for now). However, the advantages it has over Photoshop is still pretty impressive.

So while I won’t be switching to this program just yet, I plan to learn it and keep it as a backup program when/if my OS X no longer supports CS6 (I haven’t updated my iMac OS in years because their updates tend to take things away or mess things up. Gone are the days when I was actually excited about an Apple OS update and was willing to pay for it. Now I don’t even want it for free). The thing is, I suspect that day will eventually come, and I refuse to allow Adobe to extort a monthly tribute from me rather than sell me a copy of Photoshop, so I’ll be looking for a new program to replace Photoshop CS6 for illustrating. At first, I thought Corel Painter would be my go-to replacement program if I had to leave Photoshop behind, but now I think CSP will most likely be the software I turn to. In fact, if I can find the time to learn it, I’d like to start using it for my professional work right now, or maybe bounce between CSP and Photoshop and use the best feature of both programs.

So if you’re worried about what you’ll do when your Pre-CC copy of Photoshop is no longer supported and you want a software you can purchase and own, you may want to check out CSP.

Incidentally, Clip Studio Paint has a mobile version for the iPad, but it’s a subscription-based app, which baffles me because the only reason I’m willing to use their desktop version is because I can buy it. Hopefully they don’t do something stupid and start requiring a monthly fee for their desktop version. If they do, I’ll dump them in a heartbeat and use Corel Painter.

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Miscellaneous Ramblings About Comic-Book Stuff, Part 2

Unlike Part 1, this rambling about comics will address something I’ve seen in comics as of late that personally annoy me. The two examples provided are from titles of pulp characters that deserved a better treatment.

Disclaimer: The following is just my opinion. If you happen to like these comics, don’t let me rain on your parade.

These days many comic-book colorists handle a lot of the shading, highlighting, and special-effects decisions because of the available digital tools. With respect to effects, I’ve seen some comics where the colorist took it upon himself to add effects independent of whatever the penciller or inker intended. Here are two examples below. See if you can guess what’s wrong with the following page from a Doc Savage comic:

Did you catch it? Here’s a similar example from a Spider-Man title:

In the first example, you’ll notice the penciller drew clouds. In the second example, the penciller drew smoke. However, in both cases the colorists decided to include their own clouds and smoke over, under, or around the drawn effects using Photoshop brushes.

So what’s my beef? Well, in the first place, the penciller already designed the page by indicating precisely where they wanted clouds and/or smoke. In the second place, graphically-drawn clouds and smoke clash with realistically rendered clouds/smoke. Now, it’s not that you can’t mix styles on an illustration, but doing so requires intentional planning which doesn’t involve different styles of the same objects. For example, you can have a figure designed in one style in front of a landscape rendered in a different style and that can look just peachy. But you probably wouldn’t want to see Wilma Flinstone with realistic hair. The thing is, in the examples above, the colorist made stylistic decisions that were an afterthought, and it shows. Now I’m not knocking the talent of the colorist as far as the application of coloring goes. I’m really just commenting on the editorial decisions that were made independent of what the penciller’s design seemed to indicate.

Okay, I have one more beef with something else I’ve seen in modern comics. The thing is, there are different genres of comics and that’s fine. But comic writers really should keep comic stories in their respective genres. Now, there’s something I like to call “white wig movies.” Those are the kind of movies catering mostly to women, which usually involve people two centuries past wearing white wigs who apparently have no jobs; they usually sit around all day, overdressed, drinking tea and talking about who is or is not good enough to marry so-and-so (ya know, girly relationship stuff). It seems that the sitting or standing around and having conversations (stuff that puts the average comic fan to sleep) has crept into comics in a bad way. These talking-head comics seem to use repetitive panels that feature nearly the same thing, over and over. It’s really a waste of ink and paper, in my opinion.

Continuing along those lines, I recently picked up a Shadow comic and flipped through it. The first red flag was that the Shadow, the main character, was only on a few pages in the entire issue. What was really conspicuous, however, was that it seemed like I was looking at the same panel over and over throughout the entire issue. Here are some of the pages, which I’ll show kind of small so as to not take up too much space and also so as not to bore you to death (these are not presented in any particular order, because it really doesn’t matter for the purpose of making my point):



























Just glancing at these pages this small allows you to grasp just how repetitive the pages and panels appear. Now I realize that the writer was trying to be clever and tell a story from the patient’s point of view, but that kind of story just doesn’t fly for a medium that has limited space, is dependent on visual design and appeal, and is consumed by persons who want to have some fun enjoying intellectual junk food. Personally, it would torture me to have to read this comic story, much less have to draw it.

A final example of this repetitive-panel practice is seen below: Because the characters are very well drawn, it’s difficult to know whether the boring repetitive panel design was the artist’s idea or if it was required by the script, but I suspect it’s the latter because writers seems to have more control over what the artist must draw. Plus, I’m assuming that an artist who can draw this well is a better designer than this.

So I can only conclude that this awful trend in comic design is really the fault of writers who have no idea how to write for a constrained visual medium like comics. A great character drawing isn’t enough to overcome a poorly written story or script. The story is king, and the art is simply a means to communicate the story. (Though, if the art is really great, I’ll buy a comic just for the art, but my idea of great art includes great layouts as well.)

So there’s my rant. If you agree or disagree or if you just think grown people shouldn’t be reading comics, feel free to comment.

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Miscellaneous Ramblings About Comic-Book Stuff, Part 1

I came across some old and new comics in the last six months or so and decided to ramble a bit and share some pointless thoughts. So here goes…

I saw these two older issues of Marvel’s Amazing Adventures, both from 1973, and I would have ignored them entirely had I not noticed that the stories took place 45 years into the future, i.e., right now in 2018. Well, actually, I noticed the future date of the story and then ignored them entirely. But I kept it in mind to share these pages because it’s interesting what kind of scenarios people think might represent a believable future. Half-naked people fighting in the streets with swords and axes clearly missed the mark. The page below, however, accurately predicted one thing about 2108. Can you guess what it is?

If you guessed “man bun,” you win.

Let’s move on to the false advertising in comics to which I and countless other children were subjected. While this may sound like a complaint, those ads managed to fuel my imagination with their wildly false promises like “a bowl full of happiness” (which sounds more like an ad for a laxative). That sense of wonder remained with me for a long time, mostly because I was never able to afford a lot of that stuff and consequently never discovered it was all junk (unlike like the poor souls who pedaled their hearts out delivering newspapers to earn money, only to find out they were duped).

The most popular and well-known rip-off were Sea-Monkeys. Check out the now-familiar-to-everyone-not-living-in-a-cave ad for “instant pets” below…

This wasn’t even the most blatant misrepresentation (in later years, the company ran its ads showing a small image of how these creatures actually appear; probably an inclusion that was necessitated to fend off angry parents and their lawyers. However, I wanted to show you one of the misleading versions of the ad I saw as a kid). Some ads actually featured these critters in lab coats and, as you can see above, these critters were “so eager to please. They can even be trained” (a promise sounding like it belongs in mail-order bride catalogs). Honestly, I thought this is what they looked like and I wanted to own my own little people so bad. I dreamed about training them to do cool stuff and they could be my minions (I have kids now, so that itch has been scratched, though not really because they wont perform juggling tricks for me). This is the only product from a comic ad that I eventually was able to see in person because some friends of mine were duped into buying them. Imagine my chagrin when I saw what looked like small bits of pulp floating in watered down citrus juice rather than a collection of Lilliputians that included what would be the closest thing to an actual naked lady a ten-year-old boy would ever get to see in person (I’m kidding. That thought actually never entered my mind. No, seriously, it didn’t. No, really, I’m being serious). Anyway, that dream ended on a sour note, but there was always … the nuclear sub!

What better way to bomb those school-yard bullies back into the stone age than with a nuke from an actual submarine costing less than a sawbuck? Well, I never had the opportunity to see what this falsehood-in-advertising actually looked like, but, like the sea-monkeys, I’ll bet it was a big disappointment despite the promises of “rockets that fire” and “firing torpedoes.”


And now they’re out. Moving on to other comic ads…


And if you ordered their tablets and ate too many of them, they had you covered with what might be considered an antidote…

I wonder what you’d look like if you alternated between the two tablets? probably like someone walking through a carnival fun-house with those distorted hall-of-mirrors: “Now I’m fat, now I’m skinny, now I’m fat again. Woo-hoo, now I’m getting car-sick! Now I’m taller!” Speaking of which…


I was trying to guess how they accomplished the magical feat of making you grow taller, but those sneaky ad writers anticipated my wanting to save a quarter and eliminated my speculations as to how it’s done by listing how it’s not done. Is it done with exercise? Nope. “Drugs?” Nope. “Elevators?” Nope. “Appliances”??? I’m not sure why anyone would suspect the secret to growing taller is by being strapped to a blender or washing machine. Maybe attaching a vacuum hose to your head and hoping it’ll suck you closer to the ceiling would work for some people, but, no, that wasn’t my first guess. I suppose if I really wanted to know, I would have had to send two-bits to the “Height Increase Bureau,” probably located in the same building as the ‘Women’s Mustache Reduction Agency.’


Sure, the “gifts” are free, but the list of free gifts will cost you a buck (and it’ll turn out that in order to collect the free gifts, you had to collect them in person at a dark alley from a shady-looking guy named Rufus who keeps these gifts in his car trunk, next to the dead bodies). This is how lots of companies made money. It wasn’t the products that made them rich. It was selling catalogs or information lists. Moving on…

“Learn how to become a GAME WARDEN, GOV’T HUNTER” and you could catch “America’s favorite pet” for free, saving the cost of $29.95 (but be careful, because that “Rascal” will tear your eyes out given half a chance).


Or, you can keep your she-man voice if you like. Maybe alternate between the two when you want to have fun during a job interview.

Okay, enough silliness for now. Keep an eye out for more comic ramblings later.

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Comics – Dandelion Odyssey

For those who’ve never bothered viewing my website, here’s a cover I did some time ago for a comic called Dandelion Odyssey (actually, I illustrated the entire issue, not just the cover).

This style was a departure of what I normally do, but it was fun trying something what for me would be out of the ordinary. I hate feeling like I do the same thing all of the time, so attempting to do different styles is a good change of pace. Falling into a creative rut or settling on doing one thing over and over tends to stunt creative growth (or perhaps is a symptom of some other issue).

Dandelion Odyssey

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©2014 Frank Grau, All Rights Reserved

Sequential Storytelling

I’ve never wanted to do animation, because it seemed like one had to draw nearly the same thing over and over, with only slight changes between drawings. In all honesty, that seemed too tedious and uninteresting for my limited attention span.

Comics, on the other hand, allows for more progress from panel to panel, so it was something that appealed to me more than animating — though, if I had my druthers, I’d rather trim the fat even further and simply do an illustrated book. In any case, I’ve always found sequential storytelling an interesting enterprise.

Here’s a page from a comic I did some time ago which had very little dialogue or text and depended heavily on imagery to tell the story. Hopefully, I didn’t entirely choke in my attempt to express the story in pictures. Well, the writer was very happy with the work I did on her story, so at least someone was satisfied with my effort.