Corel Painter Master - Mike Reed

Name: Mike Reed
Occupation/Profession: Illustrator
Employer: Mike Reed Illustration, represented by Mela Bolinao at MB Artists in New York City
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Hobbies: Writing, tournament pocket billiards, books


How long have you been in this profession?
I've been an illustrator for about 28 years.

Why did you choose this profession?
I liked to draw and it was something I was good at, but I didn't want to be a starving artist, so I chose the applied arts.

How did you get started?
I was hired by an animation studio as a background painter. Then I went on to do in-betweening, character design and then character animation. After a few years at the studio, one of the other animators suggested that he and I start our own animation studio. We did pretty well, but after a couple of years I decided to concentrate on print illustration. An illustration rep saw my work and we were off and running.

What are your most important accomplishments?
The HARDEST thing I ever did was to play the Beethoven Piano Concerto #1 in C with the Detroit Youth Symphony—when I look back on it, I still think of that as my most miraculous feat.

I was high-school dropout, and because I led such a disorderly life, I was very proud of being accepted into the University of Michigan. I originally studied math and chemical engineering. I eventually gave up engineering for art for the simple reason that I was better at art than I was at engineering. Sometimes I do feel a little pang of regret because I love science and technology.

Describe a special moment in your career.
Getting awards for your work is always satisfying, so I felt a certain exhilaration when over the space of a few years I got a number of awards from Communication Arts, the New York Society of Illustrators, the American Institute for Graphic Design, the Los Angeles Society of Illustrators, and others. I don't know if this could be described as a "moment," but I was overjoyed by the reaction to a Web site I created, called The Netizens Guide to Flame Warriors (, that became a permanent fixture of Internet culture. The Flame Warriors site uses text and drawings to catalog and describe characters one commonly encounters in chat rooms, message boards, newsgroups and mailing lists. Site traffic exploded—at one point it was getting two million hits per month. After being around for almost five years, traffic has settled down to about 100,000 hits a month.

Last December, the Los Angeles Times did a feature story about me and the Flame Warriors, and the story was picked up by the Chicago Tribune as well as dozens of regional newspapers. A London and an Irish newspaper also did stories. The site was Yahoo's "Site of the Month" and it was mirrored for a time by Slashdot. It's been mirrored in Finland, Australia, Germany, France and Great Britain, and the entire site has been translated into Polish, French, Turkish and Spanish, and I've heard that a Russian translation is in the works.

Even more interestingly, people use my site to settle disagreements. For example, if a fight breaks out on a message board, one of the combatants may say that his opponent is acting like, say, Evil Clown, and then he will post a link to that Flame Warrior ( The Warriors appear on literally hundreds of boards as avatars or as adopted allies in arguments. I have over 1,600 pages of guestbook entries and I've gotten tens of thousands of e-mails about the Warriors. I add new characters as my commercial schedule allows. At the moment, the entire site is being redesigned and updated. (I hope to go live with the new site in late August or early September.)

Incidentally, I did ALL the Flame Warrior drawings with Painter, the earliest of which were done with either Painter 6.1 or Painter 7. Site visitors commonly ask how the drawings were done, and I always tell them (I endeavor to answer every e-mail—it's a task, but it seems like the right thing to do).

History with Painter

How long have you used Painter?
I've used Painter since Painter 4, but I only started using it professionally since Painter 6. I now consider Painter to be absolutely indispensable to my work. I have done several children's books using Painter:

Catching the Wild Waiyuuzee - Simon and Schuster
Bug in Teacher's Coffee - Harper Collins
A Tale of Two Dogs - Marshall Cavendish
Even Firefighters Hug their Moms - Dutton/Penguin
26 Things Small Hands Can Do - Free Spirit

Why did you choose Painter?
Painter is the only software that allows you to paint with natural-media in real time. Painter's brush technology is MILES ahead of any other software out there. Also, the user interface feels more natural than other applications, and the art produced with Painter doesn't have an artificial or digital look, though you can make images as digital-looking as you want. I prefer illustrations that don't look like they have been computer generated.

Do you have any interesting/funny/noteworthy stories?
Indeed. Many clients have asked to purchase the original paintings I've done for their projects, and it's always amusing to see the look of incredulity on their faces when I tell them that the "paintings" are digital.

What are your top five favorite Painter features?
Brushes, brushes (Painter brushes are so important I had to mention them twice), effects, paper textures and user interface. Though I use a fairly limited range of Painter brushes (10 to 12 and a few variants of each), and just a few paper textures, I do use a wide array of tools under the Layers, Selection, Shapes and Effects menus. Especially useful to me is the ability to paint with textures on different layers—and the various layer composite methods allow tremendous flexibility in tonal combinations. The Gel composite method is particularly useful for shading and modeling forms.

What are the Painter features that allow you to distinguish your art?
The use of complex textures attracts many clients to my work, but in my opinion, Painter allows me to be experimental because there is no risk of ruining the original. I am free to try really radical things, because the original can be restored at any time. This gives me a sense of freedom that traditional media doesn't allow. Experimentation also constantly leads to surprising possibilities.

Is it possible to get the same results with other digital painting software?
No. There is NOTHING out there that can imitate Painter brushes—yet. Studio Artist produces interesting textural effects, but its brush technology is primitive when compared to Painter.

How do you feel about Painter?
Well, I use it almost every day in both my professional and private work, I evangelize about it to other artists, I've been on the beta team for the last three versions, and it is a key component in the curriculum of the illustration course I teach at the College of Visual Art in St. Paul, MN. I think you can answer that question yourself…