Setting Goals as a Freelancer

Well, the new year is almost here and it is time to make resolutions. As a freelancer, I think it is always a good idea to set career goals for yourself for the year. It helps motivate you to improve.

Like any other job you need to evaluate how you did the previous year and find out where you need to improve. What worked for you and what didn’t? What new things do you want to try? When setting your goals, try not to set the bar too high for yourself. You want to challenge yourself, but be realistic in what you think you can achieve. Also, breaking up your goal into smaller benchmarks will help you feel you are making progress. Finally, try to make your resolutions before you get too much booze in you.

Here are my goals for the year:

Equal my income from before I quit my 9 to 5 job.
Get 1000 stock art images uploaded (this should be tricky).
Have 100 posts on this blog.

Best of luck with your goals and have a happy New Year!

This post was written on Content copyright 2007 Cory Thoman.

Wacom Tablet Review

I’m always looking for new and better ways to do things. I’ve always used a mouse to do my illustrations, so I bought a Wacom Intuos3 6 x 8 Pen Tablet several months ago to help me improve my work. I do mainly vector work in Illustrator, so that was what I bought it for. Here are my thoughts about it:

The Pros
- easy to learn & use (I picked it up and immediately did this super hero illustration)
- comfortable grip (it feels like a regular pen)
- great varied line weights (it creates these excellent dynamic varied line weights)

The Cons
- bulky pad (the pad takes up a lot of space next to the keyboard)
- not as precise (I didn’t feel I had the same precision as with a mouse)

Bottom line, I wasn’t a convert. I still use my mouse for most jobs. I just feel I have more control with it. That being said, there are a lot of things I like about the tablet (mainly the dynamic line work), so I will definitely continue to use it. My bias is probably just being used to working with the mouse.

This post was written on Content copyright 2007 Cory Thoman.

Surviving as an Illustrator and Artist

When I decided to make the leap to freelancing full time, I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. My rough plan was to live off my modest savings, get clients from Guru and sign up at Aquent and iCreatives for temporary design work. So, did my minimal plan work?

Well, three years later and I’m still freelancing. I can’t say it has been easy or extremely lucrative, but I think it has been worth it. I have definitely learned a lot and improved quite a bit along the way.

Most of the jobs I got from Guru were small one time jobs, but I also picked up some long term clients as well. The Guru system seems to work a lot like ebay. The more work you do, the better your reputation gets. As your reputation grows, more clients will trust you with their projects. I think Guru is definitely worth the small sign up fee. You should make that back with one job.

Aquent & iCreatives
It took me a while to build up a big enough client list to stay busy, so there were weeks where nobody was calling me. The temp agencies are a good backup plan. Many of the jobs for these temp agencies are under 40 hours a week and short term, so it will leave you time to drum up more freelance clients. These companies definitely saved me when the coffers were running dry. I stopped using them mainly because I started getting enough work on my own and didn’t want to work on site anymore.

My advice to anyone that wants to start freelancing is develop a broad range of skills (illustration, design, web, painting, etc.) and get multiple sources of income going. Things like passive income and temp work are good things to investigate before you dive in. Also, Don’t rely on one client or one job. I like to have a few jobs going at once, so you have something to do while you’re waiting for approval or comments.

Hopefully, this helps you one your way to freelancing full time.

This post was written on Content copyright 2007 Cory Thoman.

Color Laser Printers

I finally had to kick my old Epson inkjet printer to the curb. It served me well over the years, but it finally quit on me a few weeks ago.

I decided to look at a color laser printer to replace it. They are supposed to be cheaper to operate and less temperamental. After reading a ton of reviews, I had narrowed my decision down to the Konica Minolta MagicColor 2530DL and the Brother HL-4040CN. I also was looking at the similar priced HP and Samsung printers, but both of those seemed to have had reliability issues.

I ended up going with the Brother HL-4040CN printer, and I have been pleased so far. I don’t do any hardcore printing. Mostly, I print comps of designs and illustrations for editing. That being said, I still wanted a printer that would give me a fairly accurate representation.

Here are my thoughts on the printer:

Quick Warm Up
The printer doesn’t take very long to warm up when you turn it on. This is compared to my inkjet which had a pretty raucous and long warm up cycle.

Quick Printing
It spits out high quality print outs almost instantly.

Large Size
This thing is bestial, so if you don’t have a decent sized sturdy table or desk to hold it, then you might want to look at another printer.

Good Prints
I thought the prints were fairly sharp. You get an occasional roller line. My inkjet printed a little nicer when it was cranked up to max resolution and performing well, but it was often slow and fussy. To be fair, I haven’t bought any high quality paper for the printer, so that may make a difference. It has a setting for higher resolution prints, but I didn’t think there was a big difference between that and the normal setting. Again, that might make a difference with better paper.

Good Color
It prints color that is fairly accurate. I thought the reds and blues were pretty spot on, but it seems to wash out my greens a bit. I wouldn’t use this printer for any sort of color matching or proof, but overall, I’m pleased with the color.

Good Cost
I bought this printer for around $400 and it is supposed to be one of the better cost per print in this price range.

Bottom line is that you have to buy a printer that suits your needs. I wanted something that was Mac compatible and printed good quality print outs quickly and with little or no fuss. I think this printer definitely does that. I also recommend going to the store to see the printer and get a test print from it. I bought mine from Office Max.

If you are looking for a good resource for color laser printer reviews, I’d start at PCWorld

This post was written on Content copyright 2007 Cory Thoman.

Microstock Earnings November

I gave percentages of my microstock earnings last month, so I thought I would do it again this month. I have been uploading images for about a year, and, so far, microstock has been fairly profitable for me. I have images at several different microstock sites.

Here is the breakdown of my earnings from November 2007:

Shutterstock – 35%

iStockphoto – 31%

Dreamstime – 21%

StockXpert – 9%

Big Stock Photo – 2%

Fotolia – 2%

This month, I made the leap and added my whole portfolio to StockXpert in about the middle of the month. It seems like it was worth the time and effort. I’m thinking my monthly earnings on that site should be equivalent to Dreamstime. I haven’t bothered to do the same on BigStock or Fotolia because it doesn’t seem like my earnings increase very much when I add images.

This post was written on Content copyright 2007 Cory Thoman.

[tags]Microstock, Stock, iStock, Earnings, Passive Income, Illustration[/tags]

Graphic Design for Amateurs

I want to say that you should have a professional designer for every job, but I realize that some companies don’t. Whether it’s a budget issue or a general disdain for people in the artistic community, the reason doesn’t really matter. You’ve decided to take on the job of a graphic designer and need some advice. Well, here are a few simple tips.

Break Up Your Copy
Break up your text into smaller digestible chunks. You can separate out your text by making columns, headlines, captions or just smaller text blocks or paragraphs. It’s good to think of your text as a shape or various individual shapes. This will help you draw out your layout.

Sketch Your Layout
It’s good to create a little sketch of what you want your layout to look like. I’m not talking about anything detailed just a general blueprint with simple shapes or boxes that represent images or text. Think of your layout as a bunch of empty boxes or rectangles that need filled with images or text.

Think About Order of Information
Imagine that the viewer isn’t going to read everything on the page and organize the information accordingly. What is the most important information that you want to make sure your viewer sees? What is the least important? Do your headlines separate from the body copy? Are your captions competing for too much attention. Things that are important are usually larger than the unimportant information.

Get Great Images
Great images will help your design look professional. You can choose from thousands of great images for cheap at many of the microstock sites like It’s worth it to get the right image that fits the theme of your design. Also, getting an image at the proper resolution will make sure that your image prints properly.

Keep it Simple and Organized
Try to keep your design simple and organized. You want your design to looked planned and uniform. Limit yourself to a few colors, fonts and font sizes. Make sure things line up at the edges. Keep items of similar importance the exact same size. The best designs are often the simplest. Don’t try to overwhelm people with too much information or images.

Well, that’s all my tips for the amateur designer. Remember if you make a mess of your layout, the professionals are always eagerly waiting to clean up your disaster. Best of luck!

This post was written on Content copyright 2007 Cory Thoman.

The Best Way to Get Work … Networking

You may have heard the expression, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Well, that is the basic premise behind networking. It’s all about making contacts in your field that could lead to work in the future. But if your antisocial and curmudgeonly like me, the outside world frightens and confuses you. I don’t care what they say. Keeping those whippersnappers off my lawn is a full time job. All joking aside, here a few ways to go out and meet other artists. 

No matter what your into, there is probably a conference for it. Conferences are a great way to learn new things and meet people in your industry. The only problem is many of them are expensive and outside of town.
If you’re looking for something closer to home, then try I recently found a figure drawing group near my house that was a lot of fun. If you’re feeling real ambitious, you could probably start your own group. 

Apparently, MySpace isn’t just for kids anymore. I read that the average user was 35. That being said, MySpace is a great way to keep up with your friends that are scattered all over the country. I recently contacted a bunch of friends from art school to see what they have been up to since school. One of my friends had been working at the Cartoon Network and ended up getting me a freelance job there. Who would have guessed that being friendly would pay off. 

There are many great forums and other online communities where artist gather to show their work and talk shop. iStockphoto, a microstock site, has a pretty active forum community. They also have regular conference events. 

Hopefully, that helps you get out and make some contacts and friends. It’s nice to have other artists to talk with about your work. Best of luck!

This post was written on IllustrationInfo.comContent copyright 2007 Cory Thoman. 

Adobe Illustrator Mummy Gradient Tutorial

Gradients seem to be one of the most abused features in Adobe Illustrator. With that said, I thought I’d create a gradient demo, so you can abuse them in a whole new way. You might want to look at my 4 Step Gradient tutorial before you read this demo. Enjoy!

Before I start the tutorial, here is a detail of the finished illustration.

I start by placing my sketch in Illustrator. Go to File > Place and choose the sketch. Since I’m going to want to have easy access to the sketch as I refer back to it, I put it on its own layer.

Then I trace around the outline of the sketch and fill it with a solid dark color. I chose a dark brown because I wanted the illustration to have a old classic monster feel.

Next, I start creating the bandages from my sketch. To create the bandages, I draw a long thin curved shape that comes to a point on each end. Then, I take this shape and copy it several times with each shape slightly overlapping. I copy it by holding down option (ALT) and dragging it. I do this until it is the proper height of the individual bandage. Once it is the correct height and any minor tweaking is made, I select all the shapes that belong to the one bandage and Unite them with the pathfinder palette. To open the pathfinder palette go to Window and choose Pathfinder. The Unite is the first button on the top left. With the shapes selected, hit the Unite button and expand.

I draw the other bandage shapes the same way, then add a radial gradient to them. I use the same dark brown I used earlier for the darkest color in my gradient. I also pick a yellowish beige for the lightest color. Finally, I choose a brownish color that is in between my light and dark color. I use the gradient tool to adjust the direction of the light on each piece. The gradient tool is located on the tool bar. Once you have the gradient tool selected, select the piece you want to adjust and then click and drag in the direction you want the light to go.

Next, I draw the shapes for the cheeks and mouth. After those are drawn, I add the same gradient as I used for the bandages. I use the gradient tool to adjust the direction of the light and adjust the gradient if I think it needs to be darker or lighter.

I wanted the cheek bones to pop out a little more and the nose area to recede, so I created additional shapes for those. Again, I used the same gradient for the new shapes, but I lightened the cheek bones 2 lighter colors and darkened the noses 2 lighter colors. Also for the cheek bones, I added another color after my darkest color on my gradient slider. The color was slightly lighter than the darkest color. This gives me a nice half light.

I continue with the same process for the eyes. Again, I lightened my gradient slightly and added a half light.

I draw a circle for the irises of the eyes and create a shape that will be a drop shadow on the eyes. I went with a slightly greener gradient for the irises. For the drop shadow over the eyes I used a flat color that was darker than the eyes.

Next, I draw more circles for the pupils. The pupil gradient has two steps. The dark brown I’ve been using and a lighter color. Using the gradient tool on the pupil, I pull a very short line to get an abrupt contrast between the light and dark color. This gives me a nice highlight dot on the pupil.

Finally I add the nose hole and a few detail like facial creases and liver spots. The facial creases are drawn the same way as the bandages were and the liver spots are just different sized circles.

Well, that is basically it. Hopefully, that helps you create some better gradients.

This post was written on Content copyright 2008 Cory Thoman.

4 Step Gradient in Illustrator

Here is a simple way to create great gradients in Adobe Illustrator. It is a four step gradient consisting of a highlight, light, shadow and half light.

The sphere has a radial gradient and the cylinder uses a linear gradient. I added an extra light step on the cylinder, so it would look a little darker on the edge.

Check out my gradient tutorial to see gradients in action.

This post was written on Content copyright 2007 Cory Thoman.

Adobe Illustrator Cartoon Snail Tutorial

Below is a tutorial I’ve written for a cartoon character created in Adobe Illustrator. Feel free to check out my other tutorials here. Enjoy!

I start with placing a scanned pencil sketch in Illustrator. Go to File > Place and choose the sketch file. I usually use 72 dpi grayscale scans.

Next, I use the pen tool to trace over my scan. I like to use a color stroked line because it is easier to see. I also close all my paths, so each piece is an individual complete shape.
I remove the sketch once I’m finished tracing.
After I finish tracing, I eliminate the stroke and fill everything with black. With all my shapes still selected, I use object > offset path and set that to -1 pt. This will copy the shapes only 1 pt smaller. These new shapes I fill with white, so I can see them.
Next, I usually like to thicken up my black line by using the offset path again. I also like to scale the new black shapes to get a little line weight variation. Once I have my line weights correct, I zoom in close to make sure that none of my pieces have moved out of place.
Once my black and white lines look right, I start coloring. I start by filling my white shapes with basic flat colors.
After I’ve picked out the flat colors, I start drawing my shadow shapes with the pen tool. Remember to close the path on those too, so they are complete shapes.
Now, I use the pathfinder tools. Go to Window > Pathfinder to make sure the Pathfinder palette is open. The Pathfinder tools are used to combine or cut up two separate shapes. For this example, I’m going to use the Intersect Shape Areas.
First, I need to duplicate the the orange shell shape. I start by selecting the orange shell shape, then double click on the rotate symbol in the tool bar. This will bring up a dialogue box. I set the degrees to 0 and click COPY. This will create a duplicate orange shell shape in the exact same spot.
Next, I select my shadow shape and go to Object > Arrange > Send to Back. With the shadow shape still selected, I shift click on the orange shell. Now that I have both shapes selected, I go to the pathfinder palette and click on Intersect and then Expand. This creates a new shape where the two shapes intersected. I fill this shape with a slightly darker color to make it look like a shadow.
I repeat the last step with the yellow body, the eyes and the drop shadow under the shell.
After I finish the shadows, I can also add in highlights if necessary.
I hope this tutorial helps you create some great characters in Illustrator.

This post was written on Content copyright 2010 Cory Thoman. This post contains advertising links. Please read the About & Policies for more information.