Friday, August 3, 2012

Illopedia! An Illustration Lexicon Shortlist!



I've compiled a shortlist of some common illustration terms we hear or read often in the industry. I say shortlist because some are used frequently and many are more obscure. My approach to defining things- Sum it up and go for the basics! Let me know if there are any you want added to the list. 

Illo- This is short for illustration/illustration artwork. It's a popular term within the community especially when describing work quickly in social media like on Twitter. 

Thumbnail- This is a small quickly drawn idea for an illustration or a series of illustrations. The thumbnail idea basically means its small. Once an idea is chosen, the illustrator will move on to the rough stage.

Rough- This refers to the early idea stage for an illustration. This is similar to a sketch but depicts more details and the layout is closer to what the artwork will look like. This is typically done on paper or tracing paper then either presented in person or scanned then sent to a client for approval.  

Spot- This is a small illustration used on websites, books, banners or magazines that are quite small to accompany text and larger illustrations.

Kill-fee- This means the payment that is owed after a current project that is in progress has been cancelled. This fee needs to be included in your letter of agreement with your client. It essentially pays for the work/time that has already been put into a project. Some charge 50% to 100% of what they agreed project fee stated in the letter of agreement and the termination circumstances. 

Continuity- When creating a series of images especially for a children's books and for an animation, there needs to be continuity with the images to create a flow for the viewer.  

Vector art- This is a technique to make images in a vector-based program. This vector art consists of creating paths and points in design programs such as Illustrator. The scale of these vectors helps keep the proportions and quality when sized up and down without losing any image quality.

Art work- This refers to the final illustration that will be used for a project. 

Crop- This refers to a partial section of an image. Typical reasons to crop are for websites, promotional pieces, website banners, 

CMYK- This is short for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. These are printer colours as opposed to RGB, which is known as process colour. CMYK is the format you want to use to post images online.

dpi- This is short for dots per inch. Depending on your image file needs, you may want lower dpi for images online and higher for printed work. The higher the dpi the better quality image. 

• Lo-Res- This is short for low resolution. It is measurement online to keep files small with low pixels. This is recommended for blogs, websites and other online sites for quick downloads. The lower the resolution means the lower the quality of image if someone tries to print it or use it without your permission.

Png File- This is short for portable network graphics. It is a bitmap image file. The purpose is to incorporate low-resolution images that load quickly but  look great too. 

Flattening- This refers to making your image have one layer in Photoshop and other imaging software instead of many which can be a rather large file. Once you flatten it you can save it as a jpg, tiff, eps file to name a few. It does mean you will have less flexibility when editing it. 

Encode- This means to convert information, images into code or a digital form. 

Storyboard- This is the preliminary idea process for a series of illustrations. Storyboards are typically thumbnails or rough drawings to create a sequence of work for such projects as animations, children's books, comics, to video games. The idea is create sequence and continuity to make the illustrated project flow.  

Spec work- This refers to speculative work or work on spec. This practice is typically frowned upon in the illustration industry. This term essentially means the client wants you to create art work on the idea that they may like it, may hire you and that they may pay you IF they like what you created and you might get free exposure. This process is typically a gamble for illustrators mainly due to many competing for the same project. It has gained a bad rep over the years a way to get free illustration without paying. Many times the illustration is used anyway without the illustrator receiving payment or given proper credit as the creator.

Leading- This refers to the proper space in-between type. The term originated from hand type-setting. This is a 'eye' technique in order to change the space in-between letters so it does not appear cramped or too loosely apart. Proper leading on your promotion pieces, websites and other written materials will help you look very professional. 

Pixels- These are tiny units of colour that display digital images. Pixels also measure digital resolution and file size. The greater the number of pixels per inch-the greater the image resolution. 

Pica- This a term for smaller measurement used in design.

Bleed- This is generally a printing term that refers to the image going beyond the edge of the sheet after trimming.  This is also a buffer that gives enough space for a printer to account for the movement of paper and layout changes from the computer.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Cover Letter Decoded

I was recently asked how an illustrator should write a cover letter. 

First of all, why would an illustrator need a cover letter to begin with?

We have many ways to social network and promote ourselves. Often we forget to touch base on a more personal down to earth level. A cover letter is a casual introduction written with a direct purpose. 

Reasons to write one includes: 

• A teaching position.
• A chance to do a talk or a seminar. 
• A book proposal. 
• A nice introduction to compliment a self promotion piece you sent in the mail
• A way to advertise your website.
• A Gallery show.
• A proposal to sell work in a art shop or gallery. 
• An introduction to an art agent because you are hoping to seek representation.


When it comes to cover letters you want to write from the perspective of what a client wants to read. You must also consider keeping it short, sweet and to the point. Our audience are often pressed for time. There many steps to consider in creating an effective letter. The typical cover layout generally goes like this:

• Introduction

• Who you are
• Purpose of writing
• What you do/experience/the benefits you can provide
• Summery
• How you can be contacted

• Thank them for their time and attention

This is where the cover letter gets more complicated...

It is always important to address it to someone. "To whom it may concern" is an automatic cover letter kiss of death. If you do not know who to contact look for it on their website or try calling the place of business to find out who to address it to. If that does not work address to the "art department," or just write "hello,". If you know the company name then use "To the  _____ team," 

The subject line of your email needs careful consideration. State it clearly-a short sentence is best. It's important to choose your words wisely so it does not come off as spam. If you are not sure do a subject spam check and look for trigger words.

Define why you are contacting them. State a purpose- "I'm contacting you because I'm looking to get involved in your company." or "I'd love to be considered for freelance illustration work because..." 

Throw in experience, education, self projects, spotlights and your website. Keep it friendly, check spelling and always follow up. 


The biggest thing to think about...

The biggest power that you have in a letter is to ask for what you want. If you can state this clearly, professionally in a down to earth manner then you have mastered the complicated process of writing a cover letter. 

To sum it all up- think of cover letters as a friendly introduction that is thoughtfully written by you. It promotes what you do on a casual level to help touch base with future clients. Most importantly, it's another way to advertise yourself in your own voice in a more direct way.