Autodesk Sketchbook Ink Review

sbi-logoI’m not a big fan of using the IPad as a drawing tool. It’s the Styluses (Stylii?) that are the problem. I just want a drawing implement with a sharp point (Not a fat cigar-like thing). Despite this, I’m really enjoying using Autodesk Sketchbook Ink. It’s a really simple app, just seven ink brushes and two erasing brushes. It has the ability to create multiple layers. Brush customisability though, is limited to a size slider. Not a problem for me, as the two tapered brushes have exactly the line quality that I favour. It is potentially a major drawback for the user who likes to use a wide variety of brush shapes.

I’ve found myself using SBI primarily as a portable sketching tool recently and although I really only have use for the two tapered brushes, I love the line quality and the fact that there is a kind of simulated pressure sensitivity when using a basic stylus in that drawing the lines faster results in a thinner line. Something about that and the smoothness of the line just suits my drawing style. Sketchbook Ink also has the capability to export png files at a huge 101.5mp.

I don’t love everything about the App however. I like to be able to quickly clear my screen if a drawing isn’t working out. So I would like to see the “erase all” function, which is currently located in the layers submenu, instantly accessible as a top level menu item. I have to tap to open the menu, tap again on the erase button and then tap again in order to close the menu and continue drawing. Having to do that every time really interrupts my workflow, as I tend to clear my screen a lot. I’d also like to be able to increase the size of the brushes much more. A minor gripe, it took me a while to realise that the crosshairs that appear when touching the screen for while are a colour sampler tool it was nice to discover it but I didn’t find any mention of it in the user guide.

Overall I give this App 7 out of 10 for it’s simplicity and quality of line.https://itunes.apple.com/nz/app/sketchbook-ink/id526422908?mt=8

Children’s book illustration using Adobe Illustrator and Corel Painter

children's book illustration

 

Video Transcript

In my last blog post , I talked about illustrating a children’s book as a personal project that came about when I was entertaining my daughter by doodling a little teddy bear character and just inventing  a story about him. I’m just going to talk a bit more about the process of finishing the illustrations that I started in Adobe Illustrator by taking them into Photoshop and Painter.

I have an Adobe Illustrator Master file containing all the basic vector graphic elements I need for my book illustrations. Each element is grouped separately, so it’s like a big disorganised library file for all the elements I need. It might be a tree, a character a cloud shape it’s all thrown in here.

The workflow I’m using is to copy and paste the elements I need in to different layers in a Photoshop file. Then I’ll reopen that file in Corel Painter and add shading to it with a Chalk brush, what I’m going for here is to take those sharp hard edged vector graphics and give them a much softer look. So here’s the illustrator graphic that I’ve created of the bear chasing a squirrel up a tree. I want the tree, the bear, the squirrel’s tail and the background of the sky and clouds all on different layers. I could just copy and paste directly from Illustrator to Painter, so why bother to add the extra step of Photoshop? The main reason is, I just find it easier to do this step in Photoshop because I know the software so well,  but the other reason is that Photoshop allows you to paste the element in as a vector object which means I can resize each element up or down without any loss of quality before I rasterize it. Only once it’s rasterized does it then become a bitmap which can be edited and painted over.

The next step is to save my Photoshop file and open it in Painter. I have a palette of custom brushes in Painter but the brush I’m going to use is the default brush called “Blunt Chalk 30” I make a new layer above all the others and this is going to be a white border. Then I’m going to add some shading to the tree. I’ve got the checkbox for “Preserve Transparency” checked and that locks the layer so that only the only the tree can be painted on. Then I’m going to soften the hard edges of those white clouds with the chalk brush, so now I need to turn off the “Preserve transparency” setting  in order to paint around and outside the area of the cloud.

Finally I add some finishing shading  to the bear and the squirrel and I’m pretty much done. Back in Photoshop, the advantage of layers can be seen because I just want to shift some of the elements around slightly.  I prefer to do this in Photoshop because it has an autoselect layer checkbox which makes this part easier. If you’ve never used it, checking the Autoselect layer checkbox allows you to quickly select layers by clicking on the element you want to move rather than having to highlight the layer in the layers palette first, it’s just one of those little time saving things that really adds up over time plus if you’re dealing with lots of layers you don’t have to waste time naming and organising them  and then scrolling through them all to find the one you want. It’s basically a lazy person’s way of doing layer selection  and I make no apology for it. So there we have it, I’m one illustration closer to finishing my children’s book project. If you’d like to know when the book is available either as a digital download or a hard copy please feel free to send me a message. You can contact me via my website www.zengrenade.com or just post a comment on this video.

 

Eddie the bad tempered teddy:Children’s book project

This project got started in the way many children’s book ideas have got started. To keep my 2.5 year old daughter entertained one day, I started doodling a cute little character and began to make up a story about him.

In this case the character was a bad tempered teddy bear called Eddie and his character just seemed to spring into life as I drew him. Here are some of those original doodles. (Colouring added by my daughter Josie.)
teddy001

Half an hour later we were both laughing at Eddie and the story I’d just made up about his poor anger management skills. I now had a simple character design and a basic story outline. I thought, to myself, why not make a children’s book out of this? At the very least it would make a nice present to my daughter. It shouldn’t even take me long if I keep it simple, I reasoned.

Wrong.

I started roughing things out in Sketchbook Pro. SP when used in conjunction with a Wacom Cintiq gives a very natural pencil line quality, I really enjoy using it.
I thought maybe I could do the whole thing in Sketchbook Pro, just using simple pencil strokes and subtle “watercolourey” type colouring, but somehow I just never managed to find a happy balance between my loose and lively roughs and my clean but stiff looking finished drawings. The magic elusive quality that animators call “Appeal” just seemed to drain away every time.

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So I went back to my tool of choice Adobe Illustrator. This was a bit disappointing to me because part of the aim of a personal project I feel should be to experiment with new styles and to do something different. So for now I’ve settled on a compromise which I feel is still somewhat experimental for me but gives a natural look that I’m pretty happy with.

teddy005

teddy007

I’ve taken my original vector artwork as a base and added paint and chalk brush elements on layers with Corel Painter.

The main time-consuming factor has been this whole issue of working out the style. My usual trad animation influenced style is one I’m pretty comfortable with and this differs in that there is minimal linework and flat colours with very simple iconic character designs. This should in theory have made things easier but Ironically, it was this simplification of style that threw up new issues and caused problems. The main one being that when there is no linework, only colour, body parts start to become a confusion of lost edges and the character’s pose starts to become very hard to read. This meant that I needed to go back and make changes to the original character design but I didn’t want to overcomplicate the design and lose the simple cuteness of the character..
teddy008

The first thing which goes a long way to address this problem is to always make sure that the pose is readable in silhouette. However, I found that to really solve these reoccurring problems I also had to go back and add some additional elements. I made some variations in the character’s tonal values to break up the big mass of tone. So you can see I’ve put a lighter coloured patch of fur on his stomach, I’ve differentiated the tones between his paws and the rest of his arm. Adding little paw pads makes it clear which way up the paw is actually facing. I added a crease line above his legs so now you can tell where his legs end and his belly starts. I also needed to strategically place a couple of shadows here and there to really make him legible. In the image above I’m still losing the shoulder as it blends into the head but I think I’ve done just enough to make him legible.

There are several advantages to working in Adobe illustrator. There’s the issue of resolution independence and also the ability to build up a “library” of reuseable and movable elements. For instance. If I create a library with a small number of trees. By flipping and resizing them, I can quickly make a forest scene . I always create illustrations now with this library approach in mind so for instance it may not be necessary to create a whole tree or other element of an illustration but I do anyway as I may be able to reuse it in a different context.

I’m about three quarters of the way to finishing the book now and I’m not sure what I’ll do with it once it’s done. I may use an on demand printing service to get a copy for my daughter and I’m also looking into the whole digital publishing thing right now, so we’ll see.

Creating a cartoon dog character in Sketchbook Pro and Adobe Illustrator

This video illustrates the 3 stages that I go through when creating a finished cartoon character design in this case a friendly dog character based on my client’s black and white Border Collie. The 3 stages are loose sketch in Sketchbook Pro, tight sketch using construction and colouring in Adobe Illustrator.

Drawing a Pterodactyl cartoon character in Sketchbook Pro x 8 speed

This video shows me in the process of creating a colour comp of a Pterodactyl character for a client, false starts and all. The video is speeded up for clarity and you also get to see the final coloured version at the end.

Designing a cave girl pinup girl for a T-Shirt

In my latest YouTube video I go through my process of creating this piece of pinup style art for a Zazzle Tshirt. In order to do this I start off by sketching in Sketchbook Pro and refine it, then bring it into Illustrator for digital inking and flat colouring and finally some digital painting in Photoshop. cavegirl

Tooniversity at The Quarry

Due to popular demand, I ended up doing two cartooning workshops back to back at The Quarry Arts Centre in Whangarei on Monday this week. Thanks to everyone attended. There are clearly some great budding cartoonists out there. We covered a lot of topics in 2.5 hours which included using basic shapes to construct different characters, creating dynamic poses and even down to some of the finer points of proportion and anatomy.

quarry-workshop-montage

I got some great feedback afterwards, including this awesome video from one highly talented young lady.

Thanks also to all the friendly helpful staff and artists in residence at The Quarry.

I hope to do some more workshops here in the near future anyone interested in attending future workshops, or in hosting one please contact me via my contact form or add your name to my newsletter mailing list on the home page.

Caricature Sketch of the Day: Matt Smith-Doctor Who

Doctor_Who-Matt_Smith_caricatureI’ve been a fan of Doctor Who for a looooong time.  I can still vividly remember Jon Pertwee, and I may have even wept a little when he was killed by those giant rubber spiders (O.K. I admit it , I bawled) which kind of gives away my age doesn’t it?  If you have no idea what I’m talking about take a look at this link. I can’t think of any other TV program that I used to watch as a seven year old that I still watch just as avidly. I really like Matt Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor. In fact since the series has been revived each doctor has been better than the last. So here’s my tribute to Matt with my latest caricature of the day.

 

 

Caricature sketch of the day: Keith Richards

keith-richards006I’m really enjoying doing these quick character sketches/caricatures as a way of warming up and giving the cartooning muscles a workout. Todays sketch is of a youthful and significantly less gnarly, though not exactly fresh faced Keith Richards circa 1974.

Tommy Lee Jones Sketch

Tommy-Lee-Jones-001I have tended to avoid calling myself a caricaturist or to offer this as a service in the past. But I’ve come to the conclusion that a character designer who is any good should really be able to produce a half decent caricature. so with this in mind I’ve been working on a caricature a day as a warm up exercise, from time to time I’ll post the ones I like up here. The previous one I posted was Lemmy and here’s one I did today, Tommy Lee Jones.

Lemmy from Motorhead in Sketchbook Pro 6

Sketchbook Pro 6 is out and I love it! It has a new set of cutomiseable paint brushes. This new functionality makes Sketchbook Pro start to look like a real alternative to Painter It’s a low priced application but it’s drawing tools look and feel very natural to work with. The innovative and minimalist interface allows for maximum drawing area and it doesn’t suffer from the lag that other bloated applications seem to have. Anyway thats enough gushing praise, here’s a sketch of Lemmy from Motorhead done in Sketchbook Pro 6.

lemmy001

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 8

Final coloured version. A bit more tweaking in Illustrator in Photoshop and I’m finally happy with this piece. I’m particularly happy with the colour contrast between the red hair of the “Glamazon” and the blue monochrome of the background.

 

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 7

In this version I’ve taken the previous greyscale flats and tweaked it in Photoshop adding some shading with the airbrush tool and pushing the hue of he whole image to a monochromatic blue, apart of course, from the red eyes of the pursuing creatures.

Sword wielding and monsters

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 6

Flats done in Greyscale in Adobe Illustrator. A “Flat” is simply a broad area of colour or tone that has no shading or textural detail added to it. Why Greyscale? At this stage it’s important to establish that the tones have enough contrast to create a clear division between the subject  and the foreground and the background

Sword wielding girl and monsters

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 5

Digitally “Inking” the outlines in Adobe Illustrator. This process requires the creation of some custom brushes in Adobe Illustrator. A process which I discuss in some detail in this video http://youtu.be/W8KJ2Fw6lss The custom brushes that I made give nice thick and thin lines like an actual ink brush. The great thing about illustrator’s digital “Ink” is that it can be tweaked and smoothed until it’s exactly right. No whiteout, and no spilled ink on the carpet!

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 2

I’m starting to nail it down a bit more now. With a bit more drawing in Sketchbook Pro. my Glamazon girl is going to be facing some kind of demonic creature and I’ve decided to use the creature as a framing device to make her the central focus of the image.

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 2

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 1

Thought I’d post an experiment with a new digital painting workflow I’m trying out with Sketchbook Pro, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. The idea being to create a piece of work that has a painted look by sketching an idea in Sketchbook Pro then creating a flat tonal greyscale image in Adobe Illustratorand then adding colour and airbrush effects in Photoshop at the end stage. By working this way in a tightly controlled logical sequence of steps I hope to avoid some of the pitfalls involved with a looser digital painting such as getting the colour balance wrong and also losing the feel of the initial sketch with too much overpainting.

Here’s the first stage. A very rough concept sketch done in Sketchbook Pro.

Sword Girl & monsters from sketch to final pt 1

New character concept development

Here’s a couple of pics showing the development of a character from my personal comic project. He’s a crusty old miner who our heroes encounter in a bar setting the stage for the main action. Although the story is set in space, it has a lot parallels with a traditional western, so I”ve decded to go with that theme and imagined him as an old prospector type tough and wiry.

 

 

 

Rise of the Mirrorbots

Sketchbook Pro has a great function which allows you to split the drawing area vertically or horizontally and mirror on one side what is drawn on the other. Generally speaking it’s considered to be a bad thing in comics and animation to create poses which are symmetrical but for character creation this mirror tool really helps me to break out of the box.

I needed a robot character for the webcomic that I’ve been working on and using the mirror tool helped me come up with some surprisingly Japanese looking designs, well it surprised me anyway.

Here are some of the results of this experiment. I really liked the guy on the top right so I took him and developed him some more and he’s made it into the webcomic which I hope to start posting on a regular basis on this site later this year.

Audrey, the face that launched a 1000 designs…well at least 3 anyway

Back in 1994 , when I was working as an assistant animator at Amblimation studios in London. I noticed that some of the animators had pics of Audrey Hepburn pinned up alongside the usual approved model sheets and reference photos. this struck me as odd because we were working on Balto, a movie primarily about sled dogs in Alaska.

It turned out that the female lead, a Siberian husky called Jenna, was based at least in part on Audrey Hepburn. As strange as this may seem. Amongst the animation community, Audrey Hepburn is widely considered to have had THE most perfectly proportioned female face, a face that  I suspect has been used many times over the years as a model for animated heroines and yes, even animated animals.

It has been documented that Audrey was the original inspiration for Tom Oreb’s princess Aurora character design from Disney’s 1959 movie, Sleeping Beauty and again 32 years later with Mark Henn and James Baxter’s Belle from Beauty & The Beast. Therefore it does seem that there is some truth to the notion that was held by the ancient Greeks that true beauty always conforms to certain timeless proportions and as such is not subject to the vagaries of fashion.

Above: From woof to waif Jenna – Audrey comparison

Now, I don’t normally do caricatures, or portraits of  famous people, but I thought that it would be highly remiss for someone like myself  who calls himself a character designer, not to at least attempt to get on the Audrey Hepburn bandwagon so here’s my take on the gorgeous Audrey below.

audrey001

Cheesy Characters

This is something new for me but I’ve been asked to design a mural for our local cheese shop. The original inspiration was a birthday card which features mice looking longingly into the window of a cheese shop which you can see below. I wanted to do something similar while avoiding a complete rip off of the original, so I came up with the idea of a gang of “jewel thief” mice a la Mission Impossible except the jewels would be rounds of cheese rather than diamond necklaces.

So I came up with this initial rough sketch.

Keith , the owner of the cheeseshop liked the concept but thought the mice were a bit sinister looking  so I redesigned the mice and made them cuter and more generic.

Here’s the final sketch and mock up, made in Illustrator and Photoshop

So now we just need to get on and do the hard bit, actually painting  the mural, so I’ll keep you posted about that.

Free video clip: Inking and colouring a superhero character in Adobe illustrator

How to ink and colour in Adobe Illustrator video

After many requests, I finally got around to producing a video that shows in detail my method of inking and colouring using Adobe Illustrator. The video is one hour long and shows how I create the various different custom brushes I use in my artwork, how to create dynamic  colour and shade using gradients and many other tips and tricks that I use to speed up my workflow.

I’ve uploaded a free preview clip here

And the full video is available to download now from the Zen grenade shop for a mere $7.99

New 3 part video – Jungle Girl Pin Up

I posted a new 3 part video on my YouTube channel this week of me drawing a Jungle Girl Pin up. Instead of the usual time lapse videos that I’ve done before , these are in real time and I talk a bit about the process as I do it.

Here’s part one

To see parts one and  two and to subscribe to my YouTube channel please go here

 

Stuff I drew this week 4: Princess Leia

Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy fired up my youthful imagination in all sorts of ways, so as it’s Carrie’s birthday this week, what a perfect excuse to draw a Princess Leia cartoon.

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..and here’s the video of me drawing her.

 

Surf’s Up

I’ve been a keen surfer for over 15 years now. Unfortunately I’m still not all that great at it. Anyway, as a personal project, I thought it would be fun to do a series of cartoon character designs based on based on surfers and the various personality archetypes associated with surfing. Here’s the first one, Gaston the arrogant macho surfer dude arrogantly charging down the line and god help anyone who drops in on him.

Stuff I drew this week videos 1 2 & 3

blessed-col-03-fltWelcome to my new blog. I decided to discontinue my blogger posts and start up a blog that’s properly integrated into my own website. For anyone interested in looking at the old Blog you can find it here.  http://zengrenade.blogspot.com

Here are some recent videos taken from my You Tube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/lockianhound

The videos show me at my desk drawing away. Each one is speeded up a lot but shows my drawing process. All my characters start out as pencil drawings. The final coloured versions are scanned and coloured in Adobe Illustrator. The whole process can take between 4 to 10 hours or a lot longer if a client requires a lot of revisions.

The equipment I’m using is a perspex disc for resting on (This is a relic of my animation days rather than a necessary piece of kit). Blue and red Col Erase Pencils and a 3B Faber Castell graphite pencil. My process involves starting with light red rough drawings, firming up the line with a dark blue and then solidifying the character with a black pencil line.

I sharpen my pencils a lot, so I use a Dahle Automatic 00220 electric pencil sharpener, another relic from my animation days (I’ve had it since 1995 and it’s still sharpens just as well). It’s definitely a necessary piece of kit though, as I don’t want to have to stop every 5 minutes and spend 2 minutes sharpening my pencils, that adds up to 24 minutes over the course of a 2 hour drawing sesh and sometimes I’ll spend 8 hours straight drawing. Anyway as the Americans say,  “You can do the math”.