Sketch Sessions: Adding Colors, Layers and Lines

"Locked" drawing and color render comparison

As the days and weeks progress there is still much experimentation happening with adding color to drawings. In this case, I recently added color to a portrait drawing created using blending techniques that was completed late in 2018. Actually applying colors are easy but the trick is to apply them in such a way that they look natural and still captures the full detail of the drawings. There are many ways to approach this so the "right" way is basically the technique that suites your project and your preference. In my case I tend to stick with Rebelle 3 for most of these projects even if the drawing is a traditional pencil drawing or even if the drawings were created in a different application such as ArtRage 5, Sketchbook Pro or Clip Studio. Rebelle 3 provides phenomenal results and has fantastic canvas and paper types that actually matter. ArtRage 5 provides excellent results when completing these types of projects as well but it can be harder to use than Rebelle 3 at times and the lack of a pen mode in ArtRage 5 can be frustrating. This sometimes causes stray marks on the canvas when the artist tries to use touch navigation to manipulate the canvas via the touch screen. Why pen mode hasn't been implemented in ArtRage 5 at this point is beyond me but I digress.

In the past I used various airbrushing techniques to create tone and texture for projects. Airbrushing can produce excellent results but as time went on, I wanted a feel that more reflected natural mediums. Airbrush looks great but it can create a synthetic feel that I didn't care for over time.

Earth Mother - Created using Sketchbook Pro for Android on a Nexus 7 (2012 version) with a Wacom Bamboo Stylus.

The "Earth Mother" project was a favorite for a long time until I grew wary of the overly smooth, synthetic look of airbrush tools. To be fair, the "Earth Mother" image is also limited by my own inexperience at the time. There are ways to produce this with greater detail and fidelity using airbrush tools and textured canvas but I wasn't at that level to experiment with them during the time when the piece was created. Over the last few years, I aim for results that reflect natural mediums and techniques even though this is all being completed digitally. There are plans to revisit airbrush tools in Rebelle 3 at some point for it's superior canvas and paper sets as well as its focus on more natural tool sets to see have far those tools can be pushed to address the concerns.

There are two key methods I've used to color render drawings in the past. With the "Earth Mother" image, colors were digitally mixed and applied underneath the sketch lines (layers are your friend). Light and shadow were applied via various layers. It works but it's not as efficient as I'd like. If we consider the great masters and other artists from centuries prior, there were no layers, no digital tools. They worked on ONE canvas/paper/surface. Knowing how to draw and paint is great but knowing how to clean up and correct on the same layer is equally important.

The current process used for recent works includes a drawing that is fully rendered either using blending techniques or crosshatching or a sketch that features more lines or has blended pencil lines for tone. This acts as a foundation obviously but offers better controls for tone and depth when applying additional layer(s) for coloring. Even after speaking of the virtues of working on one layer there is an exception to that rule based on preference or application in use. In some applications, layer effects can be assigned to the actual tool in use as opposed to being assigned to the entire layer. Clip Studio EX (and other applications) allows this but Rebelle 3 does not. What this means is instead of creating a new layer for a Soft Glow layer effect, Soft Glow can be assigned to the actual paint brush or pencil tool instead eliminating the need to create a new layer. The benefit of creating a new layer is it allows for faster cleanup and experimentation without wrecking the entire project. The benefit of assigning the layer effect to the tool is that it can be more efficient in the workflow and better manages system resources due to less layers needed to be rendered and held in RAM. Considering Rebelle 3 does not support the ability to assign a layer effect to a tool, I generally work on two layers, one layer features the drawing while the other layer features the colors regardless of whether those colors are watercolors in use or charcoal, pencils, inks or acrylics. It's this method that was used in the "Locked" project. The technique also works exceptionally well with images with heavy use of lines such as...

Tasha - drawing created using ArtFlow on a Nexus 9 tablet with a Wacom Bamboo stylus. The color version was created using the ArtFlow drawing as a basis in Rebelle 3 on a SurfaceBook 2.

Due to the black background, the texture of the canvas is lost here unfortunately. This could have been corrected but I decided to leave it as it was. The heavy density of lines create texture across the subject that also helps to create depth and variation as opposed to being overly smooth. The overly smooth or synthetic appearance with no depth is a negative of digital art that many novices tend to strive for. Adjustments were made in the "Earth Mother" project to allow the texture of the canvas to remain visible, even though the initial project featured the same overly smooth appearance described above.

The other challenge of the "Tasha" project was, the Nexus 9 tablet does not support pressure sensitivity. This means that sketch lines are all applied with the same values unless manually changed. This is one of the key reasons I gave up on Google/Android tablets. Surface Pro devices had been available for years by the time the Nexus 9 arrived. Samsung made great strides with their Note series of tablets and phablets that featured pressure sensitivity. Android creative app developers were upgrading their tools to support pressure sensitivity. But Google didn't care when they co-developed and released the Nexus 9. It seems Google doesn't care for creative tools or creative applications for actual artists. It's as if they are constantly trying to create tools that allow an engineer to fake being an artist or they push AI to fill in the creative gaps that an individual's lack of talent exposes. Even today, Google's offerings for digital creative tools laughably pales in comparison to Microsoft and Apple offerings. But this is a conversation I'll go into more depth with at a later date.

So, the experimentation continues...

#UBivtonal #Rebelle3 #SurfaceBook2 #ArtFlow #Nexus9 #SketchbookPro #Nexus7 #Crosshatching #DigitalDrawing #DigitalIllustration #Portaits #ColorRendering #Colors #Layers #Google

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