Looks like Traditional ink and watercolor right? Amazing what you can do with photoshop. It’s all a matter of using the right brushes and dropping in a scan of watercolor paper. Scroll down to read more…
Drawing into a computer is great cause it has all the editing power of imaging software and that most excellent edit>undo which we all use way too often. But for those of you drawing digitally with a stylus I’m sure you’ve experienced many frustrations. There are too many to list them all, but thanks to some research, experimentation, and inspirations I was given some very helpful resolutions to at least one of these problems. The main problem I am addressing here is how to make your digital art not look so… digital.
Inking: Giving your Lines more Variety.
Using custom brushes is great for many reasons. If you’ve been using photoshop for very long, if you’ve done any research, or if you read many tutorials online then I’m sure you’ve come across some custom brushes. They are great for painting, but what about getting a nice line weight for inking?
Don’t you guys ever get tired of seeing the same old circle brushes being used for inking? Here is an example of a digital sketch done if photoshop using the standard issue circle brushes. It’s actually one of the better sketches I’ve seen done with the this type of linework.
Most imaging software has some option for line weight calculated according to pen pressure. This is great and absolutely essential, but often it is not enough. For anyone who has ever drawn with traditional ink brushes or pen nibs then you know that this circle brush with the Shape Dynamics option is really lacking compared to most traditional inking methods. We need something more to get more variety into our line weight. To do this I usually use diagonally shaped brushes or brushes that are wider than they are tall. The illustration at the top and the following sketches were all done simply using a wide rectangle brush.
Here are some digital sketches I did using my custom ink brushes while at my laptop in Lee’s Sandwiches.
Creating a Pen Nib Styled Brush in Photoshop
If you are using Photoshop then follow these simple steps…
1. Selection Tool: Make a rectangular selection. Think about how wide you want to make your brush and make your selection that wide. I typically make mine twice as wide as it is tall.
2. Edit>Define Brush Preset: Name your new brush.
3. Brush tool: You may need to open up your brush pallette.
4.Brush Pallette: Make sure you there is a check on “Shape Dynamics”
I personally like to repeat these 4 steps to make 4 different sizes and then I can choose a bigger version or smaller version of my brush as I draw.
Below is a collection of photoshop brushes I use the most often. The last three brushes in this set are the ones I used to create the sketch at the top. It took a lot of searching, experimentation, and digging through Photoshop’s brushes to assemble this collection of brushes. Some of them are from other artists who graciously shared their favorite brushes. If you like them feel free to send me a note, especially if you have any suggestions.
A Quick Easy Way to Improve the Look of Your Digital Sketches
Custom Brushes won’t make up for your lack of draftsmanship, but they do add an entirely new dynamic to the look of your digital sketches. For me the real secret to getting a good digital sketch is to draw loosely and not so rigidly, slowly, or carefully. I also try not to get caught up in using the photoshop editing features until I have completely laid down my sketch from beginning to end. That means don’t erase, and don’t edit>undo if at all possible until the sketch is done.
Free Brushes and Paper Texture
1. To download the brushes click on the file below. Just save this file to your computer and then
2. Load the brushes into photoshop by clicking on the little triangle with the circle around it in the top right corner of your brushes pallette and
3. Click on “Load brushes” or “Replace brushes” depending on whether or not you want to keep the brushes you already have loaded as well.
Here is the Paper Texture
Which I used for the above image. It is a repeatable texture and it’s high res so you should be able to use it for any size. To colorize it go to Image>Adjustments>Hue Saturation
Check the “colorize” box and adjust the three bars to get the color you want. I usually pump up the saturation a little, change the hue until the paper becomes old and yellow looking, and you may have to darken the paper a little by adjusting the brightness.
Create the Illusion of Working on Paper
I often use this in the background or bottom layer while I’m sketching digitally with a wacom. Even if I don’t intend to use it in the final render, I like to drop it in while I’m laying down my first sketches with the wacom because it makes me feel like I’m working on paper. That may sound rediculous, but try it. Somehow it is far less intimidating than a fresh white screen with no texture.
I’m no watercolor artist and my style is fairly primitive or childlike. Better watercolor painters use “washes” to build up their color. They dillute with a significant amount of water and paint a thin transparent layer of one color. After it dries they add another “wash” with a different color on top of the first wash with the paper and light showing through both. To get more advanced digital watercolor techniques you’d have to at least learn the traditional techniques. Otherwise you could maybe play around with the layer modes to try and build up digital color “washes.” If anyone knows more than me then please share what you’ve learned
Here are some related articles I’ve written…
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