Basics, resources, and thoughts from an intermediate hobbyist focusing on line art illustration.
Want to spiff up your digital artwork with fabric prints, metal textures, and so on? Pattern overlays can easily create effects that would be tedious to paint by hand. They are simple to use, surprisingly versatile, and great fun to play around with. Read on to get started.
Whether you’re new to drawing or an aspiring pro, you can benefit from some quality reference material. This selection of drawing books will get you past sticking points while refining your knowledge of the fundamentals. Along with useful tips and examples, they explain principles of art theory at an ideal level for their audience. Theory is important to know, even for beginners, because it serves as a foundation for more advanced work. Even if you’re just trying to get some reasonable sketches down on paper, you may want to push yourself further at some point in the future. These recommended books promote a solid understanding rather than limited tricks with little potential to build upon later.
The specialty guides focus on my main subject of interest – people drawn in some flavor of realistic style. More books will be added over time as I discover new favorites. Feel free to leave your recommendations in the comments.
Bert Dodson – Keys to Drawing
Suggested for: Beginner/Intermediate
Some books preach from an Olympus far above their target audience. This one sits down with you as a friend. Keys to Drawing guides readers through a progression of exercises with a gentle learning curve and an emphasis on relaxation rather than pressure toward perfection. It emphasizes restating, or drawing new lines alongside wayward ones instead of erasing every mistake – a valuable habit for feeling out form and introducing desirable variation in one’s lines. The sample sketches tend to be loose, rough, and therefore encouraging for beginners to aspire to.
From personal experience learning these same principles in art class – and needing to relax back into that looseness when rekindling my interest in drawing – I’ll attest that they work.
JR Dunster – Drawing Portraits
Suggested for: Everyone
Faces are a real challenge for many. They’re all about placing features on a roundish skull, and the intermediate steps of drawing those features can be non-obvious and baffling. The author’s website is a great resource of its own, featuring a crosshatched style of drawing that promotes an understanding of form. It also sells a companion book with some extra material.
William Maughan – The Artist’s Complete Guide to Drawing the Head
Suggested for: Intermediate/Advanced
In addition to teaching some anatomy, Drawing the Head demonstrates how to capture form by refining shadow shapes which are easier to lay down and adjust than lines that an artist may not know where to place. It demystifies the process by showing intermediate steps in great detail. Even if you’re not into the charcoal-based chiaroscuro technique described in this book, the principles can be simulated well enough with other media.
This book also includes talk about color and some amusing monstrous creatures rendered by combining references.
Andrew Loomis – Various Works
Suggested for: Intermediate/Advanced
Providing a comprehensive and thorough view of drawing the human body, Andrew Loomis’ books are classics for a reason. They’re also out of print. Luckily, you can read them online.
Drawing on the computer is fun and awesome. Here’s how to get started.
Software. Photoshop, Painter, GIMP – anything that takes tablet input. Choice depends on your budget and operating system. I like Photoshop, though I admittedly have no experience with the more drawing-specific alternatives.
Pressure sensitive drawing tablet. I’m a fan of Wacom hardware, which is popular among the pros for good reason – it works. A Bamboo or Graphire will suffice for those on a budget. I personally sprung for an Intuos. Bigger is not necessarily better. My 6″x8″ tablet feels just about perfect.
Scanner. For those who prefer to sketch on paper and finish up digitally. Look here for a primer on scanning into Photoshop.
Now that you have your shiny new tablet, refer to this excellent guide for suggested button customization and tips on working within a drawing program. Though geared toward Photoshop, it has enough general purpose advice and a few specific pointers for other software.
I work at 240 dpi with an image size 4x that of the finished drawing. This lets me make a wide variety of line widths with a brush large enough to draw smoothly without the jagged interpolation that happens with tiny brush sizes. You may need to go bigger for an especially detailed piece.
I sketch and ink with the same customized Photoshop brush. To use it as a marker, turn off the opacity control by unchecking Other Dynamics. Download the brush, or just set it up yourself.
- Brush Tip Shape – Soft round 5 pixel, Hardness 0%, Spacing 25%
- Shape Dynamics – Size Jitter: Pen Pressure, Minimum Diameter 11%
- Dual Brush – Soft Round 4 pixel, Spacing 25%, Scatter 0%, Count 1
- Other Dynamics – Opacity Jitter and Flow Jitter: both set to Pen Pressure
- Smoothing – Enabled