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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: tutorial, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 58
1. Tutorial - Background Color Around A Subject

Laying in a background color around a subject can be tricky, and it can be very frustrating, especially after taking the careful time to draw out all of your details. It can be approached loosely, or with a tight hand. I will demonstrate both.

Keep in mind, these are my methods, and by no means the ONLY way to go about it. Watercolor painting is a very personal in application. Trial and error are the best ways to learn the medium. The worst thing you can do for your painting is get furious and give up. Give yourself grace and have patience.

Okay, here we go.

Set Up

Place your water, paper towel, and paints on the side you write with, keeping your painting in the middle. Grouping your supplies will help you grab what you need more efficiently.

Choose your brushes. I usually have three different sizes on hand. They are #2, #5, and a #12 (or around that). These are not my BEST kept brushes, and are typically used for events such as this.

Prepare enough paint to fill the space you're going to cover. Choose a transparent color, like my Sap Green here. It will allow light go travel through down to the white of the paper and back. Trust me. I have also chosen a color that will work well with the other colors I'm going to lay down, such as blues, yellows, and reds.

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Painting Around the Subject
The Tight Hand Approach

Choose the smallest of your brushes to start, but keep that medium size close by. You want it to be small enough to get into the tight spots, but large enough to hold a decent amount of paint/water mix. You can see I have placed it close to the face (most important to me) to ensure I'll be able to get in around the nose and lips with the point of the brush. 

Scary part, start laying in the color. Charge (meaning fill the brush) with your color making sure it's full. Lay down next to the subject, but NOT along your line. Give yourself wiggle room. Make a little 'puddle' of paint, but don't over extend it. The idea is to keep plenty of wet paint sitting there, hence the 'puddle'.

Now pull from the puddle to your line with the color. Slow down here...it should all be wet enough to give you at least a moment to do this. It will take practice to find your sweet speed spot. Remember, give yourself grace. 

To prevent unwanted lines, RIGHT after you do some of the face move to the other side of your puddle with a rinsed brush. Fade it out, this way, if it dries, you'll be able to paint and fade over it giving the illusion that you painted it all at once. ;) NOTICE I didn't do the entire face all the way down. 

Work in little puddles/spots and work your way down and around, using the same method over and over again.

Again, fading out with a rinsed brush and clean water, getting rid of any unwanted crisp edges.

With this method I can confidently move away from my subject and begin to venture out. You may need to switch to your medium sized brush to have enough paint and water.

I will begin to add droplets of clean water in to help give my background texture, depth, and this will give the eye something to look at other than what I may have missed. Naturally, in my opinion, this is the most beautiful characteristic of watercolor, they're called blooms.

You can continue the entire painting with this approach. 

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Painting Around the Subject
The Loose Approach

Grab your big brush and charge it up. Lay down a good size puddle, but small enough that you still have a puddle (remember, don't over extend your paint). Also, don't go to your lines, you need the space between.

Rinse out your brush and return to the edge of your puddle, pulling the paint towards and OVER your line art. You are fading out the color on top of your subject. 

Like with the tight approach, take your rinsed brush and fade out the back end of the puddle. Repeat.

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Touching Up

In the tiniest of spots, take your smallest brush and pull the wet paint in. If it's dry charge your brush, but first dab it on your paper towel so that it won't over flow or bubble in the tight space you're painting. Try to match the intensity of the color.

If there are crisp edges you don't want...

...go back in with a rinsed brush and clean water, gently scrub and fade them out.

There are tiny little white spots left around the forehead and nose...see them?

Very lightly, and very gently, with your small brush, pull the paint left in the crisp edge onto the white. Go in, lightly do this, and get out. Too much scrubbing too aggressively will leave inconsistent marks you don't want.

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Fading Color on top of Faded Color

Just to show I know what I'm talking about, once your first faded section is dry, go in to a new section and start again with a puddle.

Keep making puddles and scooting/painting them over the dry faded area. Once you've overlapped start to fade out your puddle with a rinsed brush. Again, might take some practice, so use light water droplets if you need to. ;)

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Finishing It Up

Good Luck!
And feel free to ask me any questions or if there is something you need a tutorial in I'd be happy to help out if I can. 

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2. Studio Tip - Hot Pressed Prep

Prep your hot pressed watercolor paper while it is still attached to the watercolor block. 

Although watercolor blocks lean more on the expensive end, they are far more easier to work with. You don't have to stretch your paper with tape or a staple gun. 

Simply spray your paper so it is saturated with a spray bottle. Next, take a flat brush and even out the water on the paper's surface. Lastly pick up any water that drips on the sides of your block or table surface with a paper towel.

Let it dry completely before you transfer your image or begin painting.

By doing this it will loosen the sizing in the paper and allow the fibers to relax, which in turn will let the watercolor absorb easier into the paper. If you don't prep the paper with water on hot press, you tend to get a more wax resist reaction. 

Happy painting!

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3. How To Sell On ETSY - Introduction

Now Playing -  Girl Is On My Mind by The Black Keys   For the last few years my wife and I have been selling our handmade décor and geeky stuff on Etsy, an online marketplace. What is the first thing people ask us when they find out that’s what we do for a living? Not “What’s the shop?” or “Ooh, what do you sell?” No, it’s almost invariably something like “I make things too… I

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4. Tip: Doodling on Art

How scary is it to you to just begin doodling onto a piece you admire and have 'finished'? 

What if I told you is healthy and wise to do this from time to time? 

I believe it is. As an instructor I always look for ways to push my students ever so slightly out of their comfort zone (or sometimes, way out of their comfort zone...but more on that a different time).

Doodling straight onto the watercolor, around or on an already exisiting piece, demands several thoughts at once. You thinking about composition, you make your marks with more meaning and intent, but at the same time you're doodling!

What is doodling?

verb (used with object), verb (used without object), doo·dled, doo·dling.1.to draw or scribble idly: He doodled during the whole lecture.2.to waste (time) in aimless or foolish activity.3.Dialect to deceive; cheat.noun4.a design, figure, or the like, made by idle scribbling.5.Archaic. a foolish or silly person.

So let's focus on the art part. In all seriousness, it's to not think, yet to just do idly.  When you doodle on a piece that you've already invested in you're using both your right brain and your left. A great exercise!

I encourage you to find a piece, one that MATTERS to you, one you've INVESTED in, and do some doodling upon it. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece, just something you ENJOY.

Look up Zentangles if you haven't before, they're great inspiration. ;)

What does it do for the art?

It's great for the mind and practice, but what does it really do for the art? How is this a tip for drawing?

Doodles are loose, highly creative, and usually detailed. They can add a great layer of interest and some of the best ideas, ones that can compliment your subject, will come through. It will keep the viewer's eyes moving and interested. I find some of my best backgrounds come when I don't plan them. 

I'm interested in seeing what you've done. Please post in the comments below and share your work!

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5. Sisters - A Painting Step by Step

Step one: Finish the sketch. 

Step two: Scan and trace using light box,  from print out onto watercolor paper. Using hot press 140lbs. 

Step three: Tape down prepared drawing and spray with clean water, patting down gently with paper towel. Let dry and blog steps. ;)

Onto step four: Lay in under painting....

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6. Tips for Drawing Child Characters

I think we've all seen illustration where the children or babies look like miniature adults? Of course sometimes, like in this medieval painting, that can be a stylistic choice but other times it can just look downright creepy.

I have definitely had times where I have had characters look 10 when they needed to be look 5.  Sometimes it can be hard to figure out why a character looks the wrong age and even harder to fix it.  Here are some pointers and things to keep in mind when changing the age of your child characters.

First of all, you need to consider the size of the face.  Look at photos of babies or, even better, draw babies from life (you'd better be quick - they are squirmy little suckers!)  But you will soon notice, that compared to adults, their chins and noses are quite small.

So, one of the easiest things you can do is move the face lower on the head.  Even a smiley face can look younger when you shift the eyes down and make the chin and mouth smaller.

The smaller you make the chin, the pudgier the cheeks will appear. If you look at the profile of a real baby sometimes you can't see their mouth or chin because their cheeks are so round.

Another thing you can do to make your characters younger is change the size of the head compared to the body.  A real adult is approximately 7 1/2 heads tall, a real 5 year old is about 6 heads tall and a real infant is about 4 heads tall, but depending on your drawing style those proportions might not look right.  When I draw kindergartners they are usually about 4 heads tall, the same proportions as a real life infant!

In the above diagram, all the figures have the same head placed on the same body.  The body is just smaller each time (I also made the neck a little shorter each time.)  By the 3rd figure, the body was getting too narrow, so I widened it a bit. But you can see by just changing the head/body proportions you can go a long way to changing the age of a character.

When you pair that with the facial changes discussed above, you can really alter the age of characters. I hope this helps.

Good luck and happy drawing!

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7. Love Birds Tutorial

I haven't done a tutorial in a long time so I thought I'd share some of the newer Photoshop tricks and techniques that I've learned lately.  Here's a piece that I did for the Illustration for Kids February promotional mailer. 

For this image, I knew I wanted to make two love birds so I downloaded a bunch of reference photos of love birds and created a rough pencil drawing.

It was pretty messy, so I redrew it on tracing paper.

I scanned the pencil drawing of the birds into Photoshop and cut and pasted it into a new photoshop document, making sure this new file was the size of the final artwork and in RGB color mode.  I made sure I included all the necessary bleeds, so there weren't any surprises later.

Then I created the heart shape in Adobe Illustrator and cut and pasted (paste as pixels) into the Photoshop file. Then I erased the parts of the heart that should be hidden by the birds. I also sketched in the rest of the leaves on the end of the branch.

For this illustration, I wanted everything in the image outlined in a grainy pencil line.  To do that I could have created a new layer in Photoshop and traced the image using the brush tool, but I haven't found a pencil brush in Photoshop that I'm completely happy with. So I decided to print the image out on drawing paper and trace it with a soft graphite pencil.  But before I did that, I made some modifications to the image.

I selected the layer with the birds and clicked on Image->Adjustment->Levels.  I then adjusted the level sliders in order to make the whites whiter and the pencil lines darker.

Next, I wanted to make the whole image a pale blue color, sort of like a non-photo blue pencil.  To do this I made sure I was on the topmost layer of the file and I created a new "Hue/Saturation" adjustment layer.  In the Adjustments window I checked the "Colorize" check box and moved the hue slider to a cyan blue color and increased the Saturation and Lightness until I was happy with the results.

Next I stuck a sheet of Strathmore drawing paper in my inkjet printer and printed the image.  I then traced over it with at 4B pencil.

Then I scanned it back into Photoshop, adjusting the Levels as needed to make the whites white and the darks dark.  It wasn't bad, but I had a few places where I didn't follow the lines exactly so I had some light blue lines showing through.  

In order to get rid of these blue lines I went the the "Channels" window.  By default Photoshop makes all three color channels visible (red, green and blue)  By clicking on the little eyeballs next to each channel I could turn each one on and off.  I could see that the blue lines show up much more on the red channel but not so much on the green and blue channels.  I took advantage of that to get rid of those pesky blue lines.

To do so, I clicked on the blue channel while holding down the CTRL key.  This selected everything in the blue channel, actually this selected all the white areas in the blue channel. By clicking on Select->Inverse I was able to select all the dark parts.  Then I created a new layer in my file, made sure my foreground color was black and press ALT-Backspace to fill the selection. Tada! now I have a new layer that is just my pencils lines an nothing else.  

Phew! I think this is a good place to stop for now. Next time I'll go over how I colored the artwork.


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8. Mark Your Place


Because everyone and their brother makes a New Year's resolution to read more (yours truly included), here's something to help you out: a bookmark tutorial.


You'll need cardboard (I used a leftover mailer), paint, a paintbrush, a pen and scissors.

Trace the template onto your cardboard (full size = about 1 3/4 by 4 inches). Cut out, then carefully make a slit for both arms, slightly rounding out the hands once free. After you've cut out the figure, fill in features with a pen and add accents with paint. Let dry.

To use, place arms over the page you want to mark, slipping the body a few pages behind. Happy Reading!

3 Comments on Mark Your Place, last added: 1/19/2013
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9. 5 Uses for a Lull in Writing

I am in a lull.
A quiet spot.
No deadlines. Yet. Oh, they are coming, just as soon as contracts get signed and I could start acting like I have a deadline. But I know the deadlines are fake and can’t quite commit to them.

So, I am in a lull.
What am I doing?

  1. Build Platform. I am doing the behind the scenes work on my blog, and enjoying the luxury of reading other blogs and commenting on them. It’s always good to participate in the online community of writers, but deadlines mean it is more restricted. So–point me to one of your best blog posts in the last 30 days and I’ll read it!
  2. Read or study tutorials.
    On the topic of Facebook, I’ve been fascinated by THE LIKE ECONOMY: How Businesses Make Money with Facebook by Brian Carter. Did you know that there’s such a thing as the EdgeRank Algorithm? When you have a Fan Page, only about 17% of your fans see your posts because of this Algorithm. Basically, Facebook decides how to prioritize what a person sees on FB by using a complicated math formula that takes into account the type of post (text, photo, video), the frequency of interactions with that page or person before (you see your BFF’s posts on top always, but others drop off because you don’t care about them as much) and how long it’s been since you interacted with them on Facebook. See more from Brian Carter about EdgeRanks here. After reading through his book, I am thinking and evaluating where to put my efforts for the next year.
  3. Plan Ahead. I am trying to read the crystal ball and decide where to put efforts right now. There are always blog posts to write, new manuscripts to write. What should I be doing TODAY? By anticipating deadlines, I can work now to get blog posts written, formatted and scheduled for publishing. So often, planning events, school visits, etc. mean lots of emailing, calling, reading material and making decisions, etc.–trying to take care of the details of future events.
  4. Try something new. It’s also important for me to try something new and fresh and different during this time period. I want to visit the local art center, try some online advertising, visit a friend who just needs a warm body to listen.
  5. Bug those involved with the forthcoming projects with endless emails demanding attention.. Work on my work and Be Patient. Work on projects that I like, whether they have commercial possibilities or not. And check my email every other minute for emails about those forthcoming projects. And wait patiently for the forthcoming projects to mature.

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10. Creature time at Awesome Horse


This Saturday on Awesome Horse Studios, Aaron will do a live critique, and Cynthia will be doing a creature design from scratch with help from the viewers!

Come join in the live chat, ask questions, and paint along at 2PM EST.

View this episode live, or old episodes anytime on our website.

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11. Free Art Education from Awesome Horse Studios


What happens when four illustrators share a passion for their work and sharing what they know with others? Awesome Horse Studios is Marc Scheff, Cynthia Sheppard, Noah Bradley, and Aaron Miller. They do a weekly Livestream on Saturdays at 2pm EST. Each episode consists of 1-2 critiques of art submitted from the audience, and a demonstration.

You can tune in and chat live with the four horsemen on Saturdays, or watch past episodes at: http://www.awesomehorsestudios.com/watch-now

3 Comments on Free Art Education from Awesome Horse Studios, last added: 2/4/2012
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12. DUNNING-KRUGERDAR: The Schweizer Guide to Spotting Tangents

DUNNING-KRUGERDAR: The Schweizer Guide to Spotting Tangents:


The Schweizer Guide to Spotting Tangents


I do compositional lectures a lot in my classes, as well as at the occasional convention.  I’ve been asked to post them, so here’s part one: The Schweizer Guide to Spotting Tangents!

Comic art is, as a general rule, a line-based medium.  I know, I know, there are plenty of artists whose work is painted, or who depict their subject in ink using solely light and shadow.   But these folks are unquestioningly in the minority, as the history of printing technology originally dictated the use of line to depict form in the early days of comics.  This became a stylistic expectation, and it’s an expectation that I enthusiastically embrace, as have many others.  But using line to draw the world invites chances for that cardinal sin of composition: the tangent.

A tangent is when two or more lines interact in a way that insinuates a relationship between them that the artist did not intend.

It can create confusion on the part of the audience as to what it is that they’re looking at.  It can cause the spatial depth that one attempts to cultivate through the use of planes to become flattened.  Most of all, it creates a decidedly unwelcome aesthetic response: tangents are just plain ugly.

There are a lot of different types of tangents, as least according to the way I define them.  In order to make it easier on my students when giving critiques, I’ve categorized them and named them.  This may have been done before, but I’ve not encountered it.  My hope is that, by making this “spot-the-enemy” guide, fewer artists will fall into the tangent trap by knowing what to look for.
1. The Long Line

The long line is when a line from one object runs directly into the line of another
This is the tangent that everybody knows.  The one that’s easiest to spot, easiest to avoid.  For a lot of folks, this is the only thing meant when one refers to a “tangent.”
Even in the work of the very best comic artists, a vigilant eye can find the occasional tangent.  Even when a cartoonist is constantly on the lookout, a tangent can slip through.  But, as each of strive to better ourselves and the quality of our work and our medium,

2. The Parallel

The parallel tangent is when the containing lines of two objects run alongside each other.  This causes one of two negative outcomes.  Either one object becomes “lost,” as the other overpowers it (figure 1), or one object feels strangely contained by another (figure 2).
This can be avoided by ensuring that any object that COULD run alongside another is angled at least 45 degrees from the first.
The next two are REALLY tough to spot, and most artists have fallen victim to them before.

3. The Corner

The corner tangent is when two lines in an object meet in a way intended by the artist, but another (accidental) line runs directly into the place where they meet.

4. The Bump-Up

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13. More gesture funs (Delsarte prt 2)

Time for round two!  You lucky kids.

So the last blog post had the body split up the Delsarte way.  Head, heart, & body  (or, as a commenter before had mentioned, mental, moral, & vital.)  Head, torso, limbs--each with three more splits of the same.  And, in those  sections, there are even more divisions!

The eyes, for example, are split: head in pupil, iris is heart, and white is body.
 (There are also divisions for the nose, mouth, around the eyes, etc...it's a crash course so we can't get in to all of that.  But you can always read the google book.)

Hands (the head part of the body section) also have three parts:  palm = body, back = heart, side = head.

 So, it makes sense why holding the back of your hand to your forehead = romantic faint (heart to head) vs. palm of hand to head (more logical--do you have a fever?)

The power & movement behind the head/heart/body divisions also had those three parts.  The more powerful and convex  is body, the least powerful, more head = concave, and the happy middle is the heart.
 Delsarte took all these movements & pieces and created exercises and gestures that symbolized the characters' emotions & desires.

Here's a (rough) Delsarte gesture lineup:
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14. How to Draw Mr. Men & Little Miss Characters

Have you ever wanted to draw your own characters from the Mr. Men and Little Miss series?

In the video embedded above, Roger Hargreaves‘ son, Adam Hargreaves, shows you how to draw Mr. Tickle, Mr. Grumpy, Mr. Funny, Little Miss Sunshin, Mr. Bump and Little Miss Naughty.

Six-year-old Adam inspired his father to create the Mr. Men series when he asked: “What does a tickle look like?” After Roger’s passing in 1988, Adam took over and continued his father’s work. What character is your favorite?

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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15. Tutorial: Basic Repeating Pattern

Repeating pattern from Scott Franson on Vimeo.

This Tutorial shows how to create a basic repeating pattern.

  1. Choose a pattern size and create a new document. (The resolution matters. My default is 3x3 inches at 300 pixels per inch)
  2. Draw in the center of the defined area. It is important to avoid the edges.
  3. Filter > Other > Offset, check Wrap Around.
  4. Draw
  5. Offset [command F will redo the last filter]
  6. Edit > Define Pattern
  7. Name the pattern

Now you have a repeating pattern that can be used in many different ways.

  • Apply pattern to a brush [tutorial coming soon]
  • Fill with pattern [tutorial coming soon]
  • Paint with pattern [tutorial coming soon]

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16. Tutorial | Basic Color Harmony

Harmony in a Color Pallet from Scott Franson on Vimeo.

This Tutorial shows one way to use Adobe Photoshop to create color harmony.

(A pressure sensitive tablet required)

Mixing a bit of one color into the other colors in your pallet will give the colors a family resemblance.

  1. Change the background color swatch to the color you want in common
  2. Select the brush tool.
  3. Open the Brush window.
  4. Select Color Dynamics > Foreground/Background jitter > Pen Pressure (this setting requires a pressure sensitive tablet. I use Wacom tablets.)
  5. Choose a color and begin to paint varying the pressure.
  6. Choose a new color and repeat as desired.

The result is a series of colors that are harmonized with the addition of a common color to achieve a family resemblance.

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17. Photoshop - Using Photos to Create Texture Brushes

I like creating my own texture brushes from all sorts of things. This tutorial will show you how to create texture brushes from your own photos.

Texture hunting makes for a fun afternoon. If you have little kids, it can be a fun family project. With digital camera in hand, and start looking for interesting patterns and textures. Rocks, trees, carpets, clouds are just a few things that can make neat texture brushes.

Once you have a some photos,upload them and open in Photoshop. This is a photo I took on vacation of a rock outcropping in Central Park...

This photo was already fairly monochromatic but that's not always the case, so the first thing I like to do is desaturate the image (Images->Adjustments->Desaturate). Then I create a levels adjustment layer. I want to boost the contrast in my image to make the texture more noticeable in the final brush.

Altering the levels isn't mandatory, you can leave more gray tones in your image, it will just mean that the textures will be more subtle. Experiment and see what works for you.

Next I use the round marquee tool to select a circle out of the middle of my photo. I then click Select->Modify->Feather and feather the edges of my selection about 10 or 15 pixels.

I then copy and paste my selection to a new file. So I have something like this...

Now I can create a new brush by clicking Edit->Define Brush Preset. This is what it looks like when I try and paint with it.

It's okay but I think modifying the brushes characteristics will make it a lot better. So I open the Brushes Palette and make a few modifications. First I increase the spacing. Right now some of the texture is getting lost in the overlay of the individual brush strokes. By increasing the spacing a little the texture will show through better.
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18. diModule | Adding texture to a brush

Adding texture to a brush | This process simulates how a textures surface such as canvas or gesso influence the texture.

diModule Contents page

Applying a texture to the brush

  1. add a texture [diModule | Creating texture]
  2. open the brushes pallett  | Menu Bar > Window > Brushes
  3. select texture options | Brushes Pallett > Textures
  4. choose a texture | Brushes Pallett
  5. select a mode | Brushes pallett > Multiply
  6. paint

Experiment with the brush mode


diModule Contents page

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19. How to Draw a Dog

I just finished my latest video shoot and will have a bunch of new free videos coming out very soon. I can’t wait to share them with you. In the meantime here’s a little video tutorial I did a while back about drawing a dog. Have fun. When you are done with your drawing and would like to see it on the fan art page just send me a copy.

For this lesson you will need:

  • Some paper
  • A marker or a pencil
  • Optional- markers, crayons, or paint to color in you dog.


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20. The Making of a Picture Book 4

Don’t Forget the Text

Though I can’t show you the text I can show you were it is going to go. One of the tricks in illustrating a picture book is the leave space for the text without leaving a gaping whole in your illustration.

Spread 6

When I plan out an story illustration I always have a layer with the text on it in the size the publisher has said it will be. This way I don’t have to guess and hope it will fit in the end. This also goes for book covers. Where the text is going to appear you also want the colors to be low contrastThis means that the value of the colors in a particular area are relatively the same value so either dark with light text or vice versa.

Zooming in for Effect

When illustrating a picture book you don’t always have to have crazy angles for every shot. Take a queue from the film industry and go in for some close ups. If your working on a computer you don’t even have to re-sketch your scene just use a free-transform tool to expand your image. I wouldn’t advise doing this with a painted image in most cases because of pixelationPixelation is when you blow up or expand an image and the pixels, the bits of color information that make up your image, become jagged and much more visible..

Spread 5

Digital Tool Tip

When using the free-transform tool in Painter or Photoshop remember to hold down shift while moving the arrows on the box the tool creates. This will ensure your image scales proportionally.

Free-transform tool in action

This concludes the fourth segment of The Making of a Picture Book. Thank you for joining me on this journey and I hope you will join me again for further installments.

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21. How to Turn Your Photos Into a Graphic Novel

Ever wish your life was more like a comic book? With Photoshop, you can turn your photo album into a graphic novel.

Using the YouTube tutorial embedded above, you can use Photoshop to turn your digital photos into black and white images that look like comic book sketches.

What type of stories would you tell with your graphic novel?

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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22. Coloring Pencil Drawings - Arthur Rackham Style

I thought it was time for another Photoshop tutorial. This tutorial will show how to color a drawing to give it an Arthur Rackham type feel. Now, before you say it, I know, I'm no Arthur Rackham. I just want to show how to give a drawing that aged sepia tone sort of look that he was known for.

The technique I'm going to use is very similar to the one I showed a while ago with Coloring Line Drawings in Photoshop, but with a few extra steps. So you might want to go back and take at look at that tutorial first if you are a Photoshop newbie.

This image started out as as a pencil drawing that I scanned into Photoshop. You could also start with a pen and ink drawing, charcoal, whatever you want. Below is exactly how it was scanned in, and I don't know if you can see it, but the whole image has a pinkish cast and lots of pencils smudges.

The smudges I'm going to leave, I think they will add to the feeling that I'm going for. But I want to get rid of that pinkish tint to the paper. So I click Image->Adjustments->Desaturate (or SHIFT-CTRL-U) That converts the image to greyscale.

For this technique you need to have the line drawing on a layer above the background layer. The way I do that is to create a copy of the background layer. You can either right click on the background layer and select "duplicate layer..." or you can drag the layer down to the little "new layer" icon right next to the trash bin. Rename this new layer, "Line Drawing". Now, go back to the Background level and select all (CTRL-A) and fill with a solid tan color. Your image won't look any different yet, but your layers window will look like this...

Click again on the "Line Drawing" layer and create a new adjustment layer (the little icon at the bottom of the layer window that looks like a black and white cookie.) We're going to create a "gradient map." Experiment a little with the gradients, you'll find that you can tinker with it in all sorts of ways to get lots of neat effects. You can see that I chose a gradient that goes from dark brown to

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23. The Making of a Picture Book 5

Art Eating Bindings

Don’t forget you illustration’s end result will be a bound book and thus some of the image in the center of the spread where the binding is is going to get lost. If an item goes into the binding it should also come out the other side. It’s more than a little unnerving to readers when the page seems to swallow things. So it’s a good idea not place anything important (ie. characters, text or objects important to the story) in the center inches of the spread. This makes for better compositions and makes sure your reader doesn’t miss anything important.

If the pages for the book are going to be full bleedFull bleed is a printing term that refers to printing that goes beyond the edge of the sheet after trimming. The bleed is the part of your illustration that extends out from the image cut line and allows the printer that small amount of space to move around paper so no white appears by accident. adding 1/2 an inch bleed all the way around image is a good idea. Don’t put anything important there since it’s going to be cut off but also don’t leave it highly unfinished or blank either.

Bleed and Binding Guides

Breaking Perspective

Sometimes you have to break the rules to show all that’s needed in a scene. Like this dual two-point panoramic shot

Panoramic 2-point

or this dramatic warped perspective shot.

Dramatic Warped Perspective
When making a story with true to life environments its a good idea to stick to the rules of linear perspective and only break them when it will further the story in some way. Good examples for breaking the rules of perspective are:

  • To express heightened emotions like fear, anxiety or wonderment.
  • To show multiple locations or angles not normally scene in true linear perspective.
  • To add interest to an otherwise uninteresting scene or location.

Painter Tool Tip

Under Edit > Preferences > Brush Tracking is a handy little customization tool. Each time you turn on Painter you should open up this tool and drag your style across your tablet. The Brush Tracking will record the way you in particular use a stylus and adjust your brushes accordingly. When I switch from pencil, to ink, to paint I redo my tracking. It only takes a second and can make a world of different in your artwork.

This concludes the fourth segment of The Making of a Picture Book. Thank you for joining me on this journey and I hope you will join me again for further installments.

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24. Photoshop Tutorial - Watercolors (sort of)

When it comes to digital art, there is a school of thought that feels that the more digital artwork mimics traditional mediums the better. Unfortunately, anyone who has tried to replicate watercolors knows that a computer tends to fall short when it comes to copying those "happy accidents" that are inherent in watercolor painting. So I say, why try? Instead of slavishly trying to replicate watercolors, this technique takes inspiration from a loose airy style of watercolor painting and incorporates it into something new and a little different.

This illustration started off by scanning in a finished pencil drawing. I sometimes do my final line work in Photoshop using various grainy brushes, but sometimes it just feels good to pick up a pencil and paper.

After I scanned in the drawing, I selected Image/Adjustments/Desaturate to convert the image to black and white. The paper I was using had a slight yellow cast to it and I didn't want that showing up in the final art. Next, I selected Image/Adjustments/Levels. I clicked on the white eyedropper and then clicked on the white of the paper to make paper really white. Next I selected the middle slider under the Input Levels graph and slid it slightly to the right to darken the pencil lines just a bit.

Once the pencil drawing was adjusted and looking right, I moved it to a layer above the background layer. The way I do that is to open the Layers windows and click and drag the background layer down to the "new layer" icon at the bottom of the layer window, it's the icon next to the trash can. This creates a duplicate of the background. Name this new layer, "outlines." Set the blend mode of this new "outlines" Layer to "Multiply" Next I select the background layer and click Select/All and fill the whole background with white. So now my image looks like this...

And my Layers window looks something like this...

Next I create a new layer between the background layer and the outlines layer and name this new layer "colors".

On the new "colors" layer I select the paintbrush tool and using a hard round brush and 100% opacity I start coloring in the picture. I purposely leave gaps here and there to leave bits of white showing between the colors just as if I was painting wet watercolors next to each other. If you aren't seeing the colors, make sure you have the outlines layer blend mode set to "multiply."

So now the image looks like this...

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25. Photoshop Brushes - Flow Vs Opacity

I'm giving a presentation next month with my friend Carlyn Beccia at the New England SCBWI conference. I get to speak about Photoshop painting techniques. And I thought this would be a perfect time for me to really look at some of the features of the Photoshop brush tool.

When you click on the brush tool you have an option to set the flow and opacity of your brush. This is one of those things that I found very confusing in Photoshop. What the heck is the difference between Flow and Opacity? They both have to do with the transparency of the brush strokes, but depending on the brush you are using they can seem to do pretty much the same thing. But there are some difference between the two.

According to the Photoshop help file, flow sets the rate at which color is applied as you move the pointer over an area, where as opacity sets the transparency of color you apply. Umm, I don't know about you, but that really didn't help me a whole lot.

So let's take a closer look at each options. Let's select the hard round default brush. If we draw with this brush it looks like a think solid line but when we open the brush palette and increase the spacing we notice that this brush is lots of circles being laid down really close to one another, if you lay them down close enough together they look like one continuous line.

So for now let's leave the spacing kind of wide so the individual circles are touching slightly, somewhere around 70%. Now if I set the opacity to 100% and the flow to 100% and draw a line with this brush I get a sort of rippled solid blue line. No surprise there. If I leave the flow at 100% but reduce the opacity to 50%, I get the exact same ripply line only 50% lighter. But if I reverse it and leave the opacity at 100% and reduce the flow to 50% I get something a little different. Now, each little dab of the brush is reduced to 50% but where those little dabs overlap the paint coverage is actually darker than 50%.

Okay so that's not too confusing. Now what happens if I start reducing both the opacity AND the flow? This is where is can start hurting your head.

I like to think of opacity as being the main transparency governor. If I set the opacity to 75% then no part of my stroke will ever be stronger than 75% transparency. Within that 75% range I can decide how transparent each dab of the brush will be from 1 to 100%. So let's say my opacity is set at 75%, even if I set my flow to 100% my stroke will still only be 75% of the original color.

Right now you might be saying, well, that's great, but how is that going to help me with my painting? Look at these four samples. In each one, I scribbled around and around in circle until I could go no darker. As you can see the center of each dot is the same color (75% opacity) but you can see when I used a lower flow rate, I needed more little dabs of paint to get to that color. At 5% flow I was scribbling quite a lot longer than I was at 100% flow. So flow gives you a way to gradu

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