Digital Art

Information relating to my digital artwork and techniques.

How long do I take

I spend on average between 10 to 20 hours to make a detailed digital piece. Sometimes I take longer and sometimes shorter. On quicker speed sketches, I spend between 1 to 3 hours.

Learning anatomy

For me, learning how to draw anatomy was the result of practicing a lot, drawing both from memory and from reference. I frequently switched between the two so that my style would be a mix of realistic and cartoony. Unfortunately I can’t recommend any books for learning anatomy, since I never used these kinds of resources myself, but I definitely recommend doing gesture sketches from reference and from life whenever possible as a way to improve your anatomy skills. Speed sketches are a great way to learn: try to capture the overall shape and movement before going into detail, since this give your drawings more life.

Using reference

I often use reference, and it’s a really important part of any creative process! I gather reference material for the majority of my artwork, although I use it as inspiration and guidance for adding complex details that I can’t entirely pull off from memory, rather than to create direct copies. I search for reference of specific subject matter I want to convey, or if I’m struggling with the anatomy, I look for stock photos or take pictures of myself. I often use go-to websites like Google and Pinterest. For stock photos, my favorite source of reference material is SenshiStock. Using reference images for artwork is fairly essential, helping you notice things that wouldn’t otherwise occur to you if you were only using your imagination. However, for my own process, I prefer to use photo reference as a starting point or guide rather than to depend heavily on it for every detail. This is because I have difficulty achieving a stylized look when I depend too heavily on reference photos.

How often do I draw?

I draw quite regularly because art is my source of income, so it’s a requirement of my job to draw frequently. However, I think it is incredibly important to take breaks and limit drawing hours to avoid strain injuries and burning out creatively. On average, I draw every weekday for 2-5 hours and try to avoid drawing in the evenings or weekends unless I have a lot of energy and motivation for it. Each artist has their own limits and ways of working: some are able to draw every day, some aren’t. I’m only able to draw regularly if I don’t push myself past my limits. If you’re trying to figure out how often you should draw, try to find what works best for you, but do not push yourself to draw every day if it doesn’t feel right. Daily drawing is not a requirement to improve your skills or be an artist!

Resources I use

I’m not an avid user of art tutorials, since I prefer to take the self-taught route as much as I can. I do use textures from time to time, and for that I mainly use the texture site cgtextures.com. For stock photo reference, my favorite resource is SenshiStock.

Sketching

Sketching is a very important way for me to practice and improve my skills, and a way for me to have fun drawing without having to commit to creating a finished piece from it. Because of that, regular sketching is one of the main ways that I keep my creativity going as an artist. I sketch in my sketchbook as well as digitally in Photoshop or Procreate. For sketches, I try to put more emphasis on flow and expression than on anatomical precision. Shapes, movement and direction are more important than details, which I add at a later point. This is to ensure that my art has movement and energy.

Lines

I used to spend a lot of time making detailed and clean lineart, but at some point I started skipping that stage and going from the rough sketch straight into the painting phase. For me, clean linework just felt too tedious to create. When I do make lineart, I usually do the coloring on a separate layer, and then eventually merge the color and lineart layer, which allows me to paint over the lineart in some parts and really blend it into the coloring.

Choosing colors

Choosing colors, for me, is largely an intuitive process. I just put some colors onto the image and mess around with it until I like what I see. Using color editing controls plays a huge role in this process – hue/saturation, color balance, and selective color are the options I use most. I learned how to use these simply by playing around with the sliders and observing the results. When I’m happy with the colors I see in front of me, I start adding more details. A useful tip is to avoid using shadows or highlights which are simply lighter or darker versions of your base color. Try using a different color for the shadows or highlights to give more dimension and life to your picture. I made a detailed tutorial on this topic, which can be accessed exclusively through my Patreon.

Blending colors

When making digital paintings, I like to start out with a messy, rough version of the drawing. In this rough version, I’ve worked out the overall composition and colors, but just need to ‘clean it up’ to bring it to a finished level. I start by blending the colors with a technique that I call ‘sculpting with color.’ Basically, that means that the colors I need are already there, and all I need to do is use the eyedropper shortcut to smooth out and clean up the painting. A general tip for blending in a semi-realistic style is to have a mix of soft blending and hard shadows, which helps emphasize the shapes without over-blending.

Layers

I try to work on a minimal amount of layers in my digital art, to keep my process as streamlined and intuitive as possible. I usually start with my line layer and my color layers, and then merge it all together once I have settled on my color scheme. Throughout the painting process I sometimes add some tweaks or effects on separate layers, but make sure to merge them together with the base layer frequently. The reason for this is that it is very difficult for me to modify the colors and paint intuitively when I have too many layers. Searching through my layers or keeping them organized takes me out of the flow of drawing. I do use layers as a way to track the progress of the drawing, which I do by duplicating the layer and working from the new one at various points in the process. This way, the layer below shows the image at an earlier point in the process, allowing me to double check whether it’s heading in the right direction.

Software

I use Adobe Photoshop for practically everything. It’s the software I learned to make digital art with, so it feels most natural for me to use. I am currently using the latest version of Photoshop CC. I also sometimes use Procreate when I want to draw on the couch or while travelling. In the past I have used PainterOpencanvas and OekakiBBS.

Hardware

Most of my work is created on my workstation which I have assembled from various parts. It consists of:

  • A Cintiq 27QHD
  • An Asus PA329Q screen
  • A self-assembled PC with an i7 processor, running on Windows 10

Alternatively, I sometimes use:

  • A Dell XPS 15 7590
  • An iPad Pro with Procreate and 2nd generation Apple Pencil

I tend to stay in my comfort zone with hardware. I’ve been using some combination of a Cintiq and a Windows PC since 2012. I know that there are many competing tablets which work great, and lots of artists who do professional work on the iPad. There’s so many options out there these days, so if you’re looking for new hardware, take the time to research which options best fit your budget and needs!

Photoshop Brushes

I’m not very adventurous when it comes to digital brushes, and prefer to stick with one brush from the beginning to end of the drawing process. I find that switching brushes during the drawing process can really take me out of my drawing flow. I put together a free Photoshop brush set, which consists of some standard Photoshop brushes as well as a few brushes from other artists’ brushsets. You can download it from my Cubebrush account. As for Procreate brushes, my preferred brush sets are MaxPacks Gouache and RazumInc pro II.

How/where did I learn to draw

This is often the first question people ask me! The short answer is that I am a self-taught artist. I’ve been drawing my entire life, literally since before I can remember. It was always something I enjoyed doing and invested a lot of time into, which helped me to develop my skills gradually. I took a few art classes in elementary school which taught me a lot about drawing from reference, but after that my art education was limited to school electives and lots of practice in my free time. I started drawing digitally with a mouse when I was 15 and got my first tablet when I was 16, after which I spent a sizeable portion of my free time drawing digitally, teaching myself almost everything I know about digital software and using a tablet. When I was 18, I decided to study animation after high school. At these schools, I learned to animate and apply my drawing skills to a variety of school assignments, but learning to paint digitally and developing the style I have now was something I did on my own.

Inspiration

I spend a lot of time on social media, and follow a lot of artists online. Seeing their work in my feed is a constant source of inspiration. I watch a lot of movies and animated films which are sources of inspiration too. The things which most often inspire me are colors or color combinations, which usually give me ideas for a drawing and motivate the drawing process. One of my biggest sources of inspiration is nature, either in real life or through photographs. I often use pictures I take myself as a starting point for an illustration or study.

Artistic Influences

When I was 15 and first developing my style, my main influences were japanese drawing styles (animé and manga), various french comic artists (particularly the work of Aurore BlackCat) and Art Nouveau (particularly Alfonse Mucha). Another huge inspiration of mine are the disney films I grew up watching, particularly The Little Mermaid. After joining DeviantArt I became very inspired by a wide range of other artwork on the site, mostly digital paintings, and I continue to be inspired by a wide range of artists whose work I follow online. Here is an influence map that gives a general idea of the different artists and people who influenced my style.

Developing my own style

My style developed naturally from mixing different influences that I discovered when I first started drawing digitally. It wasn’t really a conscious decision I made, but rather something that appeared organically and that others noticed before I did. Looking back, drawing a lot, being self-taught, and developing my own methods of handling software helped me to find my own unique creative solutions for the art I was trying to make, and thus helped me develop my own style. For artists searching for their own style, I think it’s important to draw inspiration from the styles that inspire you most, and to draw inspiration from a variety of sources rather than just one or two. I think working intuitively is also very important: try to draw what feels good to you, instead of getting too technical or over-thinking the drawing process. This makes it easier to develop your own unique approach to drawing!

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