April 30, 2019

Experimenting with Pencils

I really love the texture and line quality of traditional illustration. Digital brushes have come a long way in the past few years but personally, I still struggle to get the same grit and nuance out of a digital brush that I can get in my sketchbook using a real pencil. Because of this, I started looking into how other digital artists get that really nice pencil texture I love and I discovered something surprising.

They just use an actual pencil.

It tuned out that many of the artists I admire for their line and texture scan in their traditional pencil work before tweaking and adding color digitally. I don't know why this hadn't occurred to me before but I couldn't wait to give it a try myself.

I still start out in my sketchbook with thumbnail sketches to work out my ideas and compositions. After, I follow up with a value study. In the value study I try to make sure that the area of highest contrast is where I want the viewer to focus and that none of the background elements are going to be too distracting. You can see here that I moved the darker bird silhouette and the leaves up front to give the frog more room to breathe and make it more of a clear focal point.

From there, I make a "final" pencil drawing. I line the entire drawing and add in some rough shading and textures, focusing on the areas of the drawing that I want to appear the darkest. Watch the speed draw of my Ten in the Bed cover:

I scan in my drawing and isolate the pencil work in photoshop by using an alpha layer (check out how to do that here) and I'm ready to add color. In this speed paint for the April Character Swap Challenge I participated in on Twitch you can see how I block in the colors. Sometimes I'm bad at recording process so I don't have this step for my other two drawings.

I use the digital pencil and charcoal brushes included in photoshop to add layers of color both under and on top of my traditional line work to build up to my final drawing. A lot of times i'll use photoshop to edit parts of the pencil work. In the Ten in the Bed cover I removed some of the lines on the elephant trunk, in the frog piece I did some work in the grass behind the pond and changed the frog's eyes.

I really like how the texture is working on these images. I am going to keep playing with this technique and keep working on my understanding of color and value with a little help from SVS and see where it takes me. My goal is to make a drawing that is fun, loose, and whimsical that doesn't scream "I DREW THIS IN PHOTOSHOP!"

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