Current Reviews


Comic Artist's Photo Reference: Men and Boys

Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2008
By: Martijn Form

Buddy Scalera
Buddy Scalera
Impact Books
The title of this book says it all; this isn't a graphic novel with great art and an interesting story, but that doesn’t mean it isn't a great inspiration.

Men and Boys is Buddy Scalera's third photo reference book, following People and Poses and Women and Girls. Most artists use photo references one way or another. Comic artists like Tony Harris and Alex Ross use them all the time. If you check out the trade Ex Machina: The First Hundred Days, you'll see in the "extras" section how Tony Harris shows uses photographs to create his comic art.

I am not a comic artist myself, but I'm an artist who creates acrylic paintings, and lately something called a hybrid novel (a combination between a prose novel and a graphic novel). For my paintings I use not only a lot of live models but also photo references that I shot myself. For my Hybrid Novel project, I discovered Buddy Scalera's books.

The greatest asset that Scalera's books will provide you is the saving of time and money. It can take you a long time to find the right model, and when that particular model isn't in your circle of friends, it also means you have to pay them, usually around $50-$75 a session. I have to set up the room for photo shoots like lighting and background and tell the models what to do. This usually takes a whole afternoon, if not more, which means time lost creating the things that I want (besides a dent in my budget).

This book only costs 25 bucks. This fantastic reference includes over 1000 photos of four males of varying ages, ethnicities and body types in poses designed for the comic or fantasy artist. All photos are shot of the different men in their underwear, which for me is the best way, because you can clearly see how the muscles move in a particular pose. The poses themselves are typical for any comic book, like fighting, jumping or flying. Scalera created high contrast photos with workable facial expressions and (best of all) good detailed hand movement. Grabbing fingers or hands that hold an object can be tough to draw correctly. But this book lightens the burden because you can reference so many different hand postures. No hassle of taking pictures yourself.

Also there are tons of photos with props, like guns, bows, knives and swords. Very useful, since I can imagine many of us artists don't have a prop gun or sword lying around.

In the book several great comic artists demonstrate how they use photo references to create their comic panels, splash page or a cover. Very inspiring to watch these talents work.

The best part of this book though isn't the book itself but the accompanying CD-Rom, which is filled with photos showing different perspectives and positions of the models, plus short videos and other bonus material.

With no hassle at all, you can load the images you need into your favorite drawing software. I use Photoshop and Corel Painter a lot, and these images are especially great for Painter; because of the exact skin tones, you don’t have to spend hours creating them yourself. Very time efficient.

Are there any downsides to this product? Well, not much. I wish the photos on the CD-rom were a lot bigger, so when you blow them up it doesn’t pixalise that fast, especially when you want to reference a detail in a pose, like a mouth or an eye. The interface could have been better because the content of the photos is based on a simple HTML format. I would have preferred plain JPEGs instead of HTML templates, and titles instead of numbers for the used photos. With good titles for the photos, you can create a better database than just numbers, but maybe that is just nitpicking.

If you are an artist, this is a must have book. It will save you a lot of time and a lot of money.

For more info. about reviewer Martijn Form, go to or read his weekly Vertigo Spotlight column here at CB.

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