Sketching with Photoshop

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Sketching with Photoshop

Creating a Traditional Sketch with Photoshop

Photoshop is much more than a program for editing photos. It is a powerful program for developing drawings and paintings that resemble those created with traditional media. Using the right brushes, the artist can develop images that mimic those created with graphite, charcoal, pastels, pen and ink, acrylics, watercolor, and even oils.

In order to find success however, more equipment is required beyond a mouse, keyboard, and monitor. To take full advantage of what is possible, the artist will need a tablet with a stylus to create a truly refined digital drawing or painting. The good news is that this equipment is fairly inexpensive, especially compared to what may be spent on traditional media. Quality, introductory tablets start at about $70. And now that Photoshop is available as an affordable subscription, there is no longer a price barrier to prevent traditional artists from making the switch.

The following video demonstrates the process of developing a portrait sketch in Photoshop. A step by step breakdown, details of the equipment used, and more on this lesson follows further down the page...

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Equipment for Digital Drawing and Painting

Recommended Materials for This Tutorial

Adobe Photoshop
Wacom Graphics Tablet
Kyle Webster's Brush Set

There are a variety of graphics tablets available for artists. Like most things, they vary greatly in quality and price. From my experience, the best line of tablets are made by Wacom. They provide exceptional response and feel, even with the introductory tablets.

The Bamboo Tablet - The Bamboo tablet by Wacom is designed for beginners. But even at an affordable price, this tablet packs a lot of punch. I own this tablet and use it with my laptop when I'm on the go. It provides a suitable surface for drawing and fairly nice feel as well. It is quite durable as well and has survived several cross country flights. But like with all external tablets, it does take some getting used to. After years of watching your lines develop on the surface with traditional drawing, some may find it difficult to make marks and watch them appear on a screen in front of you.

Bamboo tablet for digital painting

The Intuos Tablet - The Intuos tablet, also manufactured by Wacom, feels quite a bit more natural than the Bamboo. It also includes more features and programmable buttons. Of course, all of this comes with a price. The Intuos is quite a bit more expensive than then Bamboo. It is considered a professional tablet. If you are just starting out, I personally feel that the Bamboo will do everything you need it to.

Intuos tablet for digital painting

The Cintiq - The Cintiq is the ultimate tool for digital artists. Despite having a slick screen, the marks still feel very natural. The pressure sensitivity of the stylus is unrivaled and nothing beats making marks "directly on the screen". It can be titled at multiple angles making it feel as though you are drawing or painting on an easel. It can even tilt to match the angle of your arm. Of the options presented here, it is far more expensive.  Considering what we spend on art materials over several years, the Cintiq may be worth the investment for you. I use my Cintiq every single day and it has been far worth what was paid for it. If you know that digital art is your medium, I would suggest investing in a Cintiq.

Cintiq tablet for digital painting

Traditional Photoshop Brushes

There are a variety of brushes that are standard in Photoshop that are suitable for drawing and painting. However, many artists and programmers have created additional brushes that behave and make marks like those of traditional media. These brush sets are easily added to the Photoshop brush library.

Kyle Webster, a digital artist, has created the most natural set of brushes available. His brushes are used by digital artists all over the world and can be found in the brush libraries of artists at Disney, Marvel Comics, Sony Pictures, and Dreamworks.

You can download his brush sets at kylebrush.com. They are very reasonably priced.

Drawing with a Small Line

With all drawing and painting mediums, the characteristics of the medium are exploited by the artist. For example, we can tilt a graphite pencil to produce different marks. The pencil dulls over time, which may also lead to aesthetically successful mark making. In a digital format, however, the tip of the pencil stays sharp. The line remains fine. This is much more what you'd expect when drawing with a mechanical pencil.

For this reason, the manner in which your digital drawing develops may be different than what you would expect with traditional media.

Since the lines remained fine in this example, I had to use line to define the value within the drawing. This required the use of cross hatching instead of simply adjusting the pressure placed on a semi-dulled pencil.

To develop the value and the form of the subject in the portrait, lines were crossed countless times. The more lines that were drawn, the darker the value became.

When lines are used to develop the value, like in a pen and ink drawing, we need to consider the form of the subject. Lines should flow over the contours of the form. These lines are called cross contour lines. Not only do they work to develop the value range, but when used correctly, they can also communicate the form of the subject.

Directional lines for cross hatching

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