Here is the process of designing this year's Halloween card! I'm also making my full-sized .psd files available for everyone! This one is a bit different from normal though, because I am using a template from moo.com where I got this year's cards printed (I recommend their business cards, high quality!). Normally, I work on much larger canvases, but this template is only 1263x1795px at 300 ppi.
Getting Ready to Draw
First, I created a nice work area for me by creating a folder for all of my art layers below the Artwork Guidelines folder. I decided I wanted to keep it all tidy that way! I also changed the template's "Your Design Here" layer to simply "White BG" and locked it. I normally create a background layer of white and draw anything else on a transparent layer above it, that way I can have a nice clean look, but I can also change the background if I want to later. Make sure you lock the background layer so you don't accidentally draw on it! I also hid the Artwork Guidelines layer as I didn't need them, collapsed the Artwork Guidelines folder, and locked it. I decided to leave the actually guides visible right now, though you don't have to if you don't want. If you don't have a lot of memory, you can merge or even delete these to help save space, but remember that you do need to have the proper bleed area in your design!
TIP: You can use any color as your background layer, or even a texture if you want something unique! If staring at a white screen hurts your eyes, try changing the background to a tan or light grey so there isn't such a contrast!
Doing the Art
This is pretty straightforward. Sketch your design, Ink, and Color! I started with a traditional sketch in my sketchbook, just because I got the urge to draw when I wasn't around my computer. Because my scanner isn't yet set up, I ended up just taking a photo of my sketch and uploading that to my computer. I then opened it up in Photoshop and copy/pasted it into my template, making sure it was in the Art folder.
To ink, simply lower the opacity of your sketch, create a new layer, then draw over your sketch with nice clean lines. For this design, I decided to try out some new brushes I've picked up over the last few months. I wanted a more grungy appearance than my usual super clean lines. During the inking stage, I also make any edits that I feel the design needs to make it look even better. Most of this was fixing the incredibly uneven right side! If you want to see the inks by themselves, I used them for my first Inktober drawing!
The next step is to do your flat colors. I like to create a new folder for the color, just to keep things organized. Color layers are normally the bulk of my layers, so putting them in their own folder allows me to close the folder to easier work on the finishing touches later. The exact number of layers you'll need will vary between pieces, depending on how many different colors you need and how much detail there is. For my Halloween card, I ended up with four layers for the flat colors, plus one for the card's background.
TIP: Plan ahead! You can use layers now to help make shading easier later. Even if two neighboring areas of your piece are going to be the same color, you still might want to put the flats on their own layers if the shadows are going to be vastly different. This allows you to not be as careful when shading!
It was at this stage that I also added in the text for my card, but it was mainly for planning purposes before I got too far along in my design. I wasn't even sure I was going to have text at this point, but I think it worked out!
For shading, I made liberal use of Clipping Masks. This is why I was very particular with the layers for my flat colors. In retrospect, I should have made a separate layer for the lower jaw flats as I was having issues keeping the shading separate from the upper part of the skull! If you don't have a lot of memory, this is a stage that may cause you issues. Instead of being able to have a bunch of layers with their clipping mask layers, you may have to work on one shading layer at a time and merge with the flats when finished with that layer. As I mentioned earlier, having many layers can make Photoshop take up a lot more of your computer's memory than it should.
Preparing for Printing
If you used the template from moo.com, you should have the correct settings for their needs. If not, or if you are using a different printing company, be sure to check their website for the settings you need. You should always check to see what a company needs first because things like color mode, resolution, and image size can all cause problems in the end if you didn't use the correct ones while drawing. For example, some companies require RGB and some require CMYK, and it is impossible to change these settings in the end without losing some of your original color quality!
If you have text, be sure to pay special attention to how they want the settings for those! Due to how my textures went over my text, I simply flattened my image and submitted it as if it were a photograph.
The Final Product!
This is the final product that I sent out this year to anyone who signed up! I couldn't be happier with how they turned out. The printed version looks exactly like my original drawing (even if my own photo washed out the colors a bit). I love doing these every year as a thank you for supporting my art throughout the year, so if you missed this year's, be sure to keep an eye out next year to get one for free.
I also have this year's edition available for sale for $5 each at my online shop. They're a numbered limited edition of 50 so don't miss out! They're professionally printed on high quality paper stock and come with brown kraft paper envelopes so you can mail them to anyone you would like! Inside is a fun Halloween poem about witches and good luck.
For the next few installments of Tips and Tricks, I’m going to walk you through making a traditional media badge. This tutorial series will also go in depth into the world of illustrating with traditional media, especially the use of Copic markers. Each blog post will cover a different section of making a badge, so you can easily go back and re-read an individual part later! While this series is geared specifically towards badges, the vast majority of the tips are applicable for any marker-based traditional illustration.
Today's blog will cover the basics of what a badge is, all the materials you will need to make one, and then just the sketch portion!
What Is a Badge?
For this tutorial series, you will need:
Step 1: Sketching Tools
Like most illustrations, you are going to start with a sketch. I personally like work on some generic cardstock when I do badges, but most thick papers will do. Smooth bristol paper is an even better choice for ink and marker work because it is designed to hold up to the wetness of markers as well as provide a nice, smooth surface for ink-work. It also holds up much better to heavy erasing than anything else. Cardstock is like the cheaper cousin to bristol paper: it’s decently smooth and holds up better than computer paper, but it will tear up much faster if you aren’t careful, especially when erasing. However, I still feel the cost of bristol paper outweighs the benefits when it comes to small art pieces such as badges. If you are going to be erasing your sketch a bunch, I suggest biting the bullet and getting the more expensive bristol. Anything larger than a badge will definitely benefit from using bristol as well! I have also used index cards, both regular sized and large, for badges, but they are even worse than cardstock, so I don’t recommend them unless you’re in a bind!
TIP: There are many, many, many different kinds of paper on the market. Try out a bunch until you find one you like! However, for badges, make sure anything you use has a smooth texture! When you go to laminate, any bumps won't seal properly and you will get these weird air pockets that look super ugly. Things like vellum brisol paper and watercolor paper are terrible for laminated badges!
Step 2: Expressions and your Character
Before you can even begin sketching, you should have an idea of what expression you’ll be doing. Because badges are supposed to showcase the character, and are generally only headshots, the expression you choose becomes paramount. I like to push most badge expressions to their extreme, but doing angry or goofy faces are my favorite. If you get stumped on what expression to choose, a simple smile is always a good fallback. While smiles do get old after a while, I can’t tell you how many clients have specifically asked for “just a smile”! Some other expressions to consider: shy, smirking, open-mouthed smile, smug (how many S expressions are there?!)
Step 3: Can I Sketch Yet?
Almost! Take a brief moment to decide how large you are going to want your final badge to be. Your drawing should probably be about an inch smaller than that size. It doesn’t really matter what size you decide on because it’s your badge, but keep in mind that these are meant to be worn. Now, I have seen jumbo badges that are a full sheet of paper, and tiny badges that are the size of a business card or smaller, but I like mine to be about the size of my hand, or a large index card. Make sure you leave enough room around your drawing to be able to put in the name though! Keep in mind that you will be cutting out your drawing as well, so make sure the character doesn’t run off the edge of the paper. It’s always good to have at least a half of a centimeter leeway between the sketch and the edge!
TIP: If you struggle with keeping your art to a reasonable size, try cutting down your paper to whatever size you want! If I’m going to a convention where I know I’ll be busy with custom badges, I’ll pre-cut my cardstock into fourths to make sure I don’t accidentally make my badges all sorts of random sizes!
Once you have decided on your expression, get to sketching your character! If you’re doing a bust, don’t worry too much over how to finish off the area beneath the shoulders because that’s where the name is going to go. The only thing you should worry about is putting the character down onto the paper.
TIP: Draw LIGHTLY. You are going to be erasing this sketch eventually, so make sure you draw as light as possible. Drawing too heavily can leave “ghost” lines after you erase, or even intentions! Unfortunately, there is no simple fix for drawing too heavily; you can only fix it by practicing!
Step 3: Names and Lettering!
Much like with the expression, how you decided to write the character’s name will affect the entire feel of the badge. For bust badges, I like to put names on either a banner of some sort, or make the letters big enough to touch each other because I use the name as an easy way to finish off the awkward edge made by the end of the shoulders/chest. If you’re doing just a headshot or a full body badge, try making the location and style of the name relate to the image (especially for full bodies!).
Another thing to consider is the “font” of the letters. While you can always just write the name in your regular handwriting, designing something unique can really pull together the entire piece. Try tying your choice of lettering into the character’s expression or interests. For example, an aggressive character will be better suited for an aggressive-looking, scratchy font than a bubbly, vintage font.
That's all for today! Next week I will be going over inking your sketch, taking you one leap forward in completing your badge!
It's the one thing all artists deal with sometime during their career. It's inescapable. Whether you're just starting out, or are professional, art block remains an issue. In this post, I am going to cover four ways to overcome the dreaded art block. These are by no means the only ways, but they are four that I persondgdgjally find helpful.
Go Back to Art School
I mean that figuratively, of course! You don't actually need to go to art school, but practically everyone could use more practice without worrying about completing a full work of art. Just do some practices reminiscent of the studies you would do in an art class, but you're the professor instead! Although it's possibly the most boring option, it's also one of the most productive, especially if you're like me and you are always forgetting just how to make a decent-looking foot. Some ways to "go back to art school" are:
Try Something New
Give your brain a rest by attempting a completely new kind of medium. If you normally draw digital, cartoon illustrations, try doing some watercolor paintings. If you have only ever worked in a 2D medium, buy some Sculpey clay and try your hand at sculpting! Hell, even doing some creative writing flexes a different creative muscle! Who knows, if you try writing a short story or poem, you might get inspired to illustrate it afterwards!
Personally, I generally work in Photoshop nowadays, but when I get worn out from staring at the screen, I like to go back to my traditional media roots. I find focusing on an acrylic painting gives me a fresh perspective and lets me literally stretch my art muscles by putting the paint on canvas. More often than not, halfway through a painting I will get so inspired to do a new digital piece that I have to stop painting and go back to Photoshop!
Trying out a new medium works because it keeps you thinking creatively. I could go in depth about how creativity works, but basically the more you do creative work, the more you will grow as a creative person and the easier it will be to come up with something creative. You won't necessarily better your technical skills with this option, but you will improve your imagination.
Follow Your Interests
If part of your art block stems from being bored of drawing your own personal characters or being worn out from commissions and gift art, try drawing other subjects in which you're interested. In other words, draw some fan art! I know, I know; it sounds silly, but it has merits, I promise. The wonderful thing about fan art is that you are using a character that is already designed, much like you would in a commission, only you don't have anyone to make happy other than yourself. You can play around with the characters' designs and you can draw these characters in any setting you want. On top of that, you already have an invested interest in the characters, so you should have an easier time getting excited about the drawing! That excitement will help push you through your art block.
With the recent popularity of Pokemon, I have been sketching some of the less popular Pokemon in my free time. I really love drawing these little guys because their designs are incredibly simple, at least in the first generation. Because they are so simple, I can focus my efforts less on getting the character correct, and more on doing my take on the character. I can go as wild as I want as long as the Pokemon is still recognizable. And, with my strong nostalgia from playing the game as a kid, I have an emotional investment in the characters so using them to practice is actually fun!
Even if Pokemon isn't your thing, consider drawing some art based on your favorite things, whether it be video games, movies, or novels!
Do A Meme
This option is going to sound even more silly than the fan art one, but it takes the excitement from the fan art option and the creativity-boosting nature of trying something new. I'm talking about art memes. If you've spent any time on DeviantArt at all, you've probably seen them. From the 100 Theme Challenge, to the 25 Essential Expressions Challenge, you can find an art meme for really anything you could possibly want. Go ahead an cringe at some of those last ones, I know I did. But if you actually stop to think about it, these memes can allow you to try out something new that you might not have done before. Take the 100 Theme Challenge that's been around for years. While a lot of the themes seem like they were thought of by that emo kid that always sat in the back corner of the classroom, have you actually drawn "No Way Out" before? What about "Innocence"? Or "67%"? I know I haven't drawn 67% before, whatever that means. But that's the cool thing about these otherwise ridiculous memes: they get you thinking in new ways. Much like how trying out a new medium can get your creative juices flowing, drawing your character how they would draw themselves is definitely a unique concept to think about. And because most of these memes are silly, you probably won't feel any pressure to draw your absolute best (though you still should try at least a little) or make sure everything is anatomically or compositionally correct. Don't take yourself too serious and just have fun!
Art block might be a pain to deal with, but it isn't an insurmountable issue! You just have to push through it. Hopefully one of these options will spark some creative thoughts that will have you back to drawing the art that you really want to do.
Requested by Oran and Crysalin! Thanks for the great idea!
While metallic textures in general have their own issues, flat, metallic items pose a bunch of unique problems. However, these problems are incredibly easily overcome through a few simple steps. I guarantee that you will be left wondering why it seemed so difficult after you read this!
This tutorial is not going to be media-specific, but I am using Photoshop CC and a drawing tablet for my examples. As always, click the images to view them bigger.
Are Flat Objects Really Flat?
One of the first things you need to determine is if the object you are coloring is actually flat. A sheet of paper is flat, a floor is generally flat, but things like a sword or a metal plate bolted on to a wall are not. What do I mean by this? I am considering something to be truly flat if it doesn’t have multiple planes, or at least not ones you can show in your drawing. AKA, two-dimensional objects. Generally, a floor is just going to be a single plane, unless it ends like on a balcony or similar structure. A standard fantasy sword however, is more like a squished rectangular prism. That metal plate bolted on the wall of your space ship is just an extremely flattened cube. They’re going to cast shadows and have highlighted planes, just like how your basic 3D shapes cast shadows and have highlights. This tutorial is going to cover items that *look* flat, but are actually three-dimensional. Some of the concepts can be easily translated into 2D objects, however.
The first thing is to do your sketch and get that inked, if you plan on using color. This entire tutorial can easily be done as just a sketch! I’ll be using a relatively flat machete from a recent commission for my example. Refer to my blog on “How I Ink with Photoshop” if you need some tips for inking your object.
While you are sketching, make sure you determine the location of your light source. For metallic objects, light sources are what determines nearly every part of how you handle coloring them. Even though you won't be able to tell how the light affects your object in the sketch stage, it's always good to have the finished piece in mind early!
TIP: If you have a habit of forgetting where your light source is, I suggest drawing a circle to represent it. You can always erase this circle after you’re done!
Got your light source sorted out? Good! Now this step is going to be incredibly simple, especially because we are working with flat planes. Think back to your basics. Remember shading a cube? We’re going to do that. Taking your light source into account, color and shade your object accordingly.
*If you are using a permanent media, or one you cannot add a lighter color on top of, such as markers, WAIT. (unless you have something like a gel pens or white pencils you can also use). Finish reading this tutorial before you begin coloring.
Your object should start looking a bit more fleshed out now, though it probably doesn’t look metallic at all.
Notice how in my example, I shaded darker towards the hilt, and allowed it to stay lighter near the tip. This is because of the angle I chose to draw the machete, as well as the placement of the light source. However, if your light source is not very strong, or it's ambiguous, I have found that shading in a gradient from hilt to tip can help make a blade look more metallic.
TIP: For an even more metallic effect, try to make your brush strokes parallel to each other. Metal often has a grain to it, that while it's not necessarily visible to the naked eye, can enhance the illusion of metallic shine. Even more so, reflections on metallic objects, especially flat ones, are often parallel lines of light and dark (unless you have a mirror or something extremely reflective!)
Now we can begin to add highlights and reflections to the object. This is why I had those of you using certain media to wait. You will color in the areas where the highlights do not hit and leave the highlights white.
Once again, remember your light source!
For my machete, I added some white highlights to the blade edge, not only because that is closest to the light source, but also because the sharpened edge is a slightly different plane than the rest of the blade and will therefore be affected by the light the same way as a cube face. I faded the highlight as the machete blade curves toward the tip because the light source is no longer hitting it the same way as the rest of the edge. I also added a thinner bright highlight to the very edge of the curve near the tip to create the illusion that the blade is extremely sharp.
TIP: If you are using markers, I like to use a white colored pencil for these highlights. If you are using a digital program, I suggest using a lower opacity for these.
In this stage we are going to add some light reflections to the object's shaded plane to even further push the metallic illusion. Remember, I shaded my machete the same way you would a cube, with the blade plane being lighter and the shaded, flat side being a different plane. You can chose to add as many reflections as you want, as your drawing dictates, but for my machete, I am only adding a couple.
Imagine if your light source has beams coming out of it like a cartoon sun. The highlights we are adding this time will be mostly parallel to those beams. In the case of my machete, they run perpendicular to the highlight on the blade edge that I added in the last step. While this might not always be the case in every drawing, it will generally work this way.
Using a very light hand, or a low opacity, add parallel lines on a shaded plane. It's generally best to add reflections like this to a plane that touches the highlighted plane, rather than the darkest plane.
TIP: Try making your reflection lines in pairs or trios of various thicknesses. I personally like to use pairs, with one line much thicker than the other one.
And now, the final touches! While we could leave the object just the way it is now, adding some bright highlights will EVEN FURTHER push the illusion of it being metallic. You can add these bright highlights anywhere that the light would create a brilliant shine, though I suggest you use them sparingly because they should POP! Think of these highlights of being that spot on a metal object where a flashlight would make a glare.
For these, you will want to make sure that your lines are thin. I would suggest treating them very similar to how you deal with inked linework, complete with tapered ends.
TIP: If you are using markers, consider using a white gel pen or white acrylic paint on a fine brush for these lines. Digital artists will want to make sure their opacity is set to 100%.
I chose to add my bright highlights to the break between the blade edge and the flat planes to better create the illusion that the blade is sharp. I also added one to reflection highlight on the flat side to suggest that the machete is both thin and sharp.
That's it! Not too difficult, right? The secret to metallic objects, especially flat ones, is creating the illusion that your object is made of metal. Unless you are doing a photo-realistic piece, all you need to do is convince your audience's mind.
If you have any questions, post in the comments on here, or hit me up on Facebook or on Twitter and I would be more than happy to answer them as best I can. And don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss the next blog!
It's probably no surprise that I love how I ink. I might be completely self-absorbed, but I love it. And because my inking style is something people ask me about rather often, I figured it would be the perfect topic for my inaugural Tips and Tricks post!
I'll start from the beginning of inking in this post and just cover the basics, and in a later post I'll get into some techniques that can help really bring your inks to life. For this tutorial, you will need to understand the layout of Photoshop and where to find some of the basic tools (Ex: Layers, Eraser, Brush)
I primarily use Photoshop CC for my digital work. I'm sure you could transfer these tips to your program of choice because I don't use many tools that are inherently PS, but you would have to figure out which tools on your program do the same. I also use Windows 10 and an ancient Wacom Bamboo tablet (at the time of writing), so keep that in mind while you read.
Start off with your sketch. You'll want to make a fresh layer for your inks, maybe a couple of layers for inks depending on how detailed the piece is. I like to put my sketch layers into a Group and then Lock that group so I don't accidentally start inking on it.
You can see in my sketch to the left, that it is pretty messy, but clear enough that I know which lines I'll be using in the final piece. Things like the characters are more developed than the backgrounds for this specific piece, but that is only because the backgrounds are so minor. In other works with larger backgrounds, I would spend more time refining that part of the sketch too.
TIP: Put your characters and background sketches on different layers and using different colors! This will help with both sketching and during the inking stages. You can hide the layers you aren't working on, making the others easier to see! Do the same with your inking layers! This will help when you need to clean up your inks, so you don't accidentally erase part of a character while cleaning up the background inks.
I use the brush tool to ink. None of that fancy vector stuff like you PaintTool SAI users can do, no stabilizers like Lazy Nezumi. Just good old-fashioned drawing and erasing, and a lot of practice. Your best friends will be the undo, rotate, and eraser shortcuts.
For my brush, I use the basic brush tool that comes stock with PS. Up that hardness to 100% and turn on Shape Dynamics (aka use your tablet pen's pressure for the size), and turn off Transfer (aka pen pressure for opacity).
TIP: Set up and memorize your keyboard shortcuts! In PS CC, the brush tool is B, undo is ctrl+Z, rotate is R (I suggest holding the key while you rotate. It allows you to use it without having to switch back to your brush when you are done), and the eraser is E.
This first pass with inking will be messy. Right now you need to be concerned with getting the lines smooth and in the correct places, not perfection. They will overlap and be longer (or a tiny bit shorter) than they will be in the final image. In the close-up below, I zoomed in to my initial inking on Melde's head to show just how messy things look. The lines are all in the right place and are nice and smooth, but I definitely have a lot of clean-up work to do!
This stage is where your undo and rotate tools are going to be used the most. I draw my lines in one swift motion, NOT in multiple sketchy ones or slow ones. You're not tracing the exact image and you're not sketching, so don't ink like it! If you struggle with drawing a curve at a certain angle, rotate your canvas so the angle becomes a more natural one that follows the arc of your wrist/arm when you draw. For example, I had to rotate the canvas about 25% clockwise to be able to draw the bottom of Melde's closest horn more easily. Sometimes you might have to rotate the image completely upside-down! If this doesn't make sense, grab a piece of paper and a pencil. Draw a curve by simply bending your wrist on it's natural axis (don't move your fingers!). See how easy that curve is to draw? Now try to draw curve in the opposite direction without rotating the paper. You most likely bent just your fingers to try to create it, which I bet was pretty difficult. Now rotate your paper upside-down and draw your curve again, this time using your wrist like the first time. When you turn your paper back right-side-up you'll see two pretty curves that go in opposite directions! This is exactly the same principle as rotating your image in Photoshop, only you're doing it on the screen rather than a physical sheet of paper (don't physically rotate your tablet; that's just silly).
If you don't draw it right the first time, undo and try again! Don't get discouraged if you have to undo and redraw your line dozens of times; I know I still redraw a lot! But I promise it does get easier to draw a correct line the first time as you practice more and get that muscle memory formed.
TIP: Use thicker lines for the outlines of objects, when an object is closer to the viewer, or deep folds. Use thinner lines for fine details, shallow folds, and things that are far away. I normally start with an "average" thickness then increase or decrease by a few pixels as needed.
Here's where my inks really start looking good. Finally, right? It takes some patience to get decent-looking inks without tools like vectors or Lazy Nezumi, but I feel like it's well worth the effort (nothing against those tools, I just personally like the more hand drawn appearance better). In this step, you will love your keyboard shortcuts even more (you do have them memorized now, right?). I know a lot of tablet pens have "erasers" on the back, but I like the ease and speed of just hitting a button on my keyboard.
My eraser has the same settings as my brush, so check above for those if you don't already have it set that way. For this stage, I normally shrink my brush size just a bit. For example, I used 15 px for the initial sketch, and now I am using 10 px. Don't feel tied down to a specific size though! Experiment!
To clean up my lines, I used my eraser to fix the messy parts of the lines, especially the parts where ends overlapped. This was necessary on the tips of Melde's mohawk, but I used it to touch up other areas as well. To the left, you can see my technique to create nice sharp points by simply using the eraser. Start off with your messy lines, then use the eraser to follow along the outside of one of your lines so you cut off the unnecessary additional length of the other. Then just repeat with the other line!
You can use this same technique to taper the lines at the tips of your points too. Simply shave off a tiny bit of the outside of your lines as you follow them to the tip so it thins as it reaches the point. This can give the appearance of your point getting even thinner, which allows you to create more interesting linework.
TIP: Taper the ends of all of your lines! Don't simply leave a line blunt and round at the end, utilize that eraser and the same technique for creating sharp points to delicately taper your individual lines to nothing. You can see this in practice on the inner lines on Melde's mohawk.
This is also the stage where I will move lines around that I dislike, completely erase things that I now deem unnecessary, or add in tiny details as I see fit. You can see in the close-up of Melde's head where I added eyelashes. Be patient with this stage, fiddle with it until it's perfect. You might have to redraw a messy line if you realize it does not actually work out in that spot, but you should be only refining your lines for the most part.
TIP: Zoom out occasionally. Sometimes you think a line looks smooth, but when you zoom out suddenly you can see all the problems. Better to fix them as you go along than zoom out, thinking you're done, and then see all a bunch of lines that need fixing!
Your final inking should look something like this! Pretty lines just ready to color! (Oops, except for that stray line! Looks like I need to fix that before I can color!) I did spend more time inking the characters than some of the background parts because I am still deciding what in the background needs to be inked and what will be a more "painterly" style, but overall you can see how I employed each step to complete the inking stage.
I hope this helps some of you! If you have any questions, post in the comments on here, or hit me up on Facebook or on Twitter and I would be more than happy to answer them as best I can. There are more inking techniques I'd like to discuss too, but I'll save those for future inking Tips and Tricks. The steps covered in this post are just the basics to get you started. And don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss the next blog!