the trials of digital illustration

In the last post I talked a bit about learning to draw faces. Which is obviously important if you want to illustrate a children’s book. But, even once you’ve achieved the magical state of sketching the same character twice, that’s not quite enough. You’ve still got to turn the sketches into pictures. Which, for me, meant returning to Gimp and my wacom tablet whom I had temporarily abandoned for the sake of learning to pencil sketch. First, I outlined my sketch and coloured it in:

windowworkingI was really happy with this until I flipped it horizontally and realised something was off kilter. I became more frustrated when I came back to it because it just didn’t look… good? I didn’t like the style. But I didn’t know how to do any other style. I remembered that I like lineless art and decided to give that a go, along with fixing up her posture so she looks less smushed.

linelessOkay so her posture seems better but that only serves to highlight all the things I didn’t like about this picture. The edges are jagged and uneven where they should be smooth. The shading on her face seems unnatural. I went hunting for inspiration. I found it with Kali Ciesemier. And it became clear to me that one of the things causing me trouble was an inability to use pen pressure to control the size of my brush. I spent ages and ages trying to work out why GIMP wasn’t working with my tablet until I stumbled across:

One reason this can happen is if you plug in your tablet AFTER opening GIMP.

For real. That was my problem. Once it was fixed I set about messing with settings to create a drawing line I was happy with. In the non-smooth brushes I made my angle random, to create a more natural line, in the smooth brushes it was all about the pressure curve. And, taking inspiration from Kali Ciesemier’s blog, I started with a greyscale:

greysIt was obvious to me that this was a vast improvement. Finally, I felt this was approaching a style that seemed deliberate and complete, rather than messy and awkward. Although I liked it in greyscale, I did want to add some colour.

colourThe primary difficulty I had in this part (and it’s still a thing I don’t know how to fix) was that I’d used rough edged brushes. So then, when I select a section of the drawing to colour, it doesn’t select the edges and I get weird little patches of colour like at the bottom of her chin and along the collar line. I guess you could just colour the edges you want to get the inbetween colour first: so I could have started with the neck, rather than shirt and then gone shirt rather than chin? I don’t know. Anyway, I was just going to leave it like this but when I came back to it the next day, I wondered if, with all the other things I’ve been learning recently, I could learn to do some texture too. So I messed with my brushes again, setting the flow rate way down low, and had a go. I like it:


I added the glass marks and the border around the window because I thought it looked a little too empty. There are a few stray marks that could/will be cleaned up, but overall I’m really happy with this. I think it’s come a long way from the first attempt at colouring just a few days ago.

Now, onto the remaining seven pages 🙂

i’ve been drawing more than writing.

I am sitting at my desk with a cup of peppermint tea to my left and the rain drizzling outside. It feels like summer is over and we have returned to Perth’s other season: the AutumNotReallyWinterSpring that’s made up of a smattering of rainy days spaced out by plenty of sunshine days with cool mornings and warm afternoons. I don’t mind it. The rain is comforting.


I’ve been drawing more than writing in the last few weeks. After a furious foray into making art for Neil Gaiman’s Calendar of Tales (including the picture above), I had been wondering what to use as inspiration next when my Mum suggested a bunch of projects she could use while tutoring primary school kids.

First up I decided to take on the task of creating a (very) different piece of art for each of numbers 1-12. I’m not halfway yet but I’m having a lot of fun. My main aim, in art at the moment, is to learn as many styles as possible. This project is definitely helping by forcing me to look away from the techniques I used in the Calendar of Tales and find new ones.

withclouds                     waitingonideaslayers                       starting2

I’m feeling a little hampered by only using GIMP and Inkscape though. Does anyone have any suggestions of their favourite (preferably free) digital art programs?