Some of the layer masks made by students learning Photoshop can be pretty scary. And then there are some that are so good it’s… scary. Like any veteran designer will tell you, most of the software skills used in the industry require a lot of practice.

And with that, dear followers, another Inktober draws to a close. Thanks for all the likes, comments and shares for the past 31 days. It’s a real pleasure to carve out the time to do what I like to do in this way. Have a safe and Happy Halloween!


I appreciate art in most any form and have a profound respect for artists who are masters of their medium. I’m inspired daily by young creatives who are discovering new methods of expression as they develop the skills needed to ideate and execute their designs. In a world that is overwhelmingly digital, I still feel it’s important to initiate ideas in analog. A lot of my tools today may exist in the cloud, but I still find my pens and sketchbook satisfyingly grounding.

Free Typeface: Chasic New

Last night, my youngest son, Chase, had an unusual request. While reading one of his ‘Big Nate’ books, he commented on how time-consuming and difficult it was to make a comic because of all the illustration but especially – the hand lettering (he had worked on his own comic page earlier in the day, so he was talking from experience). He asked if the ‘pros’ had their own typefaces based on their handwriting to make the process easier. I told him, ‘most likely’, and he followed up with, ‘that would be cool to have my own typeface’. I told him he could.

An hour or so later, we arrived at the typeface that he named himself: Chasic. I made some modifications and added to his character set, but thought, why not offer it to anyone who wanted to use it. I asked his permission, of course. If you’d like to download it simply click on the hyperlink below. Enjoy!

Chasic New.otf


Meritorious Achievement

I probably shouldn’t consider it such a huge deal, but I do. Every year I have the unique privilege of teaching some eager graphic design students the rigors of vector drawing. Drawing primitive shapes (circles, rectangles, polygons) with geometric precision doesn’t present many challenges, but the crucible for most recruits lies with learning the notorious pen tool. I can lecture, demonstrate and share war stories, but in the end nothing will teach them how to use this indispensable tool faster than practice, practice and more practice. After drilling them on some routine vector drawing exercises I can usually assess how well they grasp the basic concepts they’ve been taught. It might be hokey, but I almost want to invest in some embroidered merit badges emblazoned with the pen tool, so that when they reach that pinnacle moment of achievement – drawing efficient vector paths with prime point placement, articulation and accuracy – I can present it to each of them as a milestone accomplishment.


I have learned a great many things in my life as both a designer and educator; some good, some bad. Among the most despicable acts one can commit as a designer or student is taking the work of someone else and passing it off as their own. Please don’t misunderstand. It’s common practice for many designers to research different styles for inspiration, but when the line between motivation and plagiarism becomes so blurry that it’s indistinguishable you’ve got to question it.

What’s more troubling is that many offenders know it’s wrong but continue to do it anyway, convincing themselves that somehow the vile act has some redemptive value. I’ve even heard faulty logic claiming that it isn’t really copying if you change at least x percent of it. I hate to break it to you, but most copyright lawyers will tell you there is no magic formula! Cheating is cheating. If you’re doing an homage or a parody that’s something different – here identification of the original is important to understanding and appreciating the work.

It’s disturbing to see a growing number of people turn a blind eye toward this type of behavior. One could almost go so far as to say that society’s general lack of ethical and moral fortitude might be the cause. Where does that start? With each of us. Can we really blame others, even if they represent the majority, for our individual lack of integrity? Is it really old-fashioned to be honest and truthful? Is it considered progressive to be more UN-like the generations before us? Does society now hold a higher view of a cheater these days than they once did? If you claim you don’t believe in statistical morality to determine the difference between right and wrong, then stop looking at what the crowd is doing. Do the right thing – be original!

Pen Peeves

I don’t claim to have a lot of peeves, but here’s one that certainly tops my list… when pens or markers are left uncapped or clicked open. Granted, ink isn’t meant to last forever, but in my opinion the premature death of a good writing utensil is simply inexcusable. If you are using a pen or marker and you choose not to cap it or click it shut you could just as well skip putting it back in the drawer or bin and toss it directly into the trash.

A lot of my pen peeve frustration stems from having my favorite pens/markers as a kid used by other family members and treated in this way. While I couldn’t break my entire family of this habit I think I’ve got my kids pretty well-trained. With any luck, my drawing pens will live a long, full life making their mark for many more months.

The Pen Was a Weapon

The old saying ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ had more literal meaning to the graphic designer 25 years ago. The Mac computer was new on the scene so analog tools like the technical pen (T-pen) were standard issue. Maintaining this integral piece of equipment was a high priority, so it didn’t take long before you had memorized its anatomy. Cleaning the T-pen was a ritual of sorts that varied little. Disassemble. Soak nib parts in alcohol. Reassemble.

Loading the cartridge with ink was its own art form and coaxing the ink into the nib required gentle lateral wrist movements (if you heard the nib click in its housing you had good ink flow). If the ink ever stopped flowing, only the prescribed lateral wrist agitation was recommended. Any violent vertical pumping almost guaranteed that ink was sprayed everywhere. If you were lucky it wasn’t all over the illustration you’d slaved over for days. As if maintaining one of these ‘weapons’ wasn’t enough, we were armed with seven of them! To this day, every time I choose a stroke thickness in an Adobe application I can’t help but think of the wretched T-pen.