Step by step
30 April 10
Recently I've been getting quite a lot of questions about drawing-related matters, especially digital drawing techniques. When I asked my twitter followers what they wanted to know, most people were interested in seeing a progression of work from beginning to end and a bit more info on the process. Below is a pretty typical progression for me. I'm not sure exactly how many hours it took beginning to end because I was working on other drawings in between, but I spaced it out over 4 days. I tend to do batches of sketching, then batches of colouring and so on to break things up, because staring at the same thing for ages makes me impatient and bored!
I use a Wacom Intous3 tablet (a5 size) and Photoshop CS4 to draw digitally. Sometimes I start with a scanned in line drawing, but lately I've been working digitally from the start, which I'm kind of loving. I've had my tablet for a couple of years, but it's only in the last 6 months that drawing, not just colouring, has really come naturally. It takes a while for your hand and your brain to start co-operating and at first it's really frustrating because your hand just doesn't do what you want it to. Practice practice practice!
I certainly don't think of myself as any kind of expert because I've just muddled my way through and worked out what works for me (so my way is possibly not even the best/easiest way), but I hope that someone finds this useful! I had a hard time finding information about digital colouring when I first started out, because so much of it seems to be targeted at comic art, cheesy photo realistic digital paintings or really mechanical looking vector tutorials for making shiny pictures of cars... So here is how I do things:
1. I wanted to do something quite busy and complex where the background is the focal point, so I start off with a really rough sketch to lay out the general composition and where I want everything to go. The document size is around A4, so that a) I can zoom in and do the fiddly bits and b) print it at that size. When I'm sketching I just zoom out to this size, so I don't get bogged down with the details yet.
2. I refine the lines of the figure on a different layer, deleting the roughs underneath.
3. Start laying down rough colours. Making the major colour decisions while it's still a sketch helps avoid a lot of changes and faffing about later on in the final colour stages.
4. Once the general shapes and colours are worked out, I apply the texture (as always, on a separate layer) which gives it a little bit more depth and makes it less slick and super digital, which is totally not my style. I just use some textured brown paper that I scanned in and overlay it on top of all the other layers.
If this was a commissioned work, this is the sketch that I would send for approval and there might be some changes that need to be made before moving on to the final drawing. I would edit or redraw as needed before moving on to the next stage.
5. Now I start the final colouring. I fill in each section of colour on a different layer, so I can edit them easily if I need to. It helps to keep the layers named and organised in folders in photoshop, because it starts to get very confusing after the first 50 or so layers!
6. Continue filling in the block colours. There are tons of different techniques to do this, but I keep it old school and literally draw the shapes on and colour them in as you would with a marker.
7. Once I'm happy with all the major shapes, I add more fine lines and details, again keeping everything on separate layers. I'm pretty neat and ridiculous so I zoom in a lot to make sure everything joins up and looks nice even though it makes very little difference to the final image (this is also why I don't really use Illustrator, the whole pen tool/paths structure makes me even more of a control freak!).
8. Finally I add the highlights, shadows (on semi transparent layers) and last small details. And I'm done!
Anything else you guys want to know? Let me know and I'll do my best!