Skip to main content

From Traditional to Digital Sketching - My Journey.

TET. Mobile Phone Sketch.
There was a time when I would sit in front of the TV on an evening, sketch book in my lap, doodling away turning lines and shapes into all manner of characters and quite a few dragons too. With the rise of social media and advances in mobile phone technology my sketch pad has been replaced with Facebook, email and other social app checking.

So my lack of creativity is basically your collective fault for distracting me with Likes, comments and other blips of information that really don't need to be checked every few minutes... well not really. I could just put away my phone and pick up a sketchbook again but...


I've never been a big fan of flatbed scanners. For me they're an unnecessary hurdle for getting my art from sketchbook to computer where so much of my work ends up these days.

Back in the day, before scanners I used to draw directly into the computer with the mouse - reproducing my hand drawn sketches on paper on the screen. Whilst I got fairly good at it (cut and paste becomes your best friend to save time) it wasn't the most intuitive way to get my art into a computer. It was just the only option I had at the time.

JAC. Mobile Phone Sketch.
Flatbed scanners were great, initially, I could scan my sketches directly and then work on them further using software and the mouse. However I always felt scanners were better for scanning finished art for display in an online gallery or some other production. Scanning sketches was too labor intensive to do for every sketch and if I did scan something it needed to be for a purpose.

Once I got my WACOM graphics tablet I thought it would solve my issues. For the first time I could sketch directly into my computer exactly the way I'd sketch in my sketchbooks. As I've gotten better at using a graphics tablet I'm pretty close to being able to draw as good as I can with paper and pencil, but I have to sit in front of my computer, with a purpose, to use it. I can't mindlessly sketch in front of the TV.

Creepy Clown. Mobile Phone Sketch
I recently bought a cheaper graphics tablet that I plug into my laptop computer for the purpose of being able to sketch anywhere within the confines of my home - such as in the lounge room in front of the TV. However it doesn't really work. Though my laptop is relatively small it's still quite bulky with the graphics tablet and it's not easily moved out of the way if you want to take a break - even on a stable table. (For the initiated a Stable table is a tray with a bean bag base that sits on your lap).

So I got to thinking, mobile tech has moved along quite a bit by now. I've been aware that phones and tablets have had drawing, painting and even animation apps for a while but drawing with your finger, or even one of them rubber styluses is rather like drawing with crayons. Plus the response times between the stylus and the tablet is not always great.

Everybody Wants to be a Cat.
Mobile Phone Sketch.
However tablet makers are starting to realize that there is a market for artists who want to use their tablets for creating art. As such, styluses for tablets are improving, as is the quality of the art based apps.

A while back I purchased an Adonit Jot Pro Stylus, quite possibly the best all purpose stylus for all mobile devices with capacitive touch screens (e.g. iPad, iPhone etc.). I say that because it just works. No software to install, won't rip up your screen protector and you can see exactly where you're drawing through the clear disk tip. Plus it has some weight to it so it feels like an actual pen or pencil in your hand and not a hollow tube.

Unfortunately when I purchased the stylus there weren't that many good drawing programs for Android (I had a 5" Android tablet at the time) so I kind of put it to one side.

Thoughtful Man.
Mobile Phone Sketch.
Since mobile and tablet technology has advanced since then I decided to dig my Jot Pro stylus out again and discovered it works great with my Windows phone (Nokia's Lumia 720) where 'palm rejection' isn't an issue. (For the uninitiated, palm rejection is a feature of stylus software/hardware that can tell the difference between the stylus tip and your palm resting on the drawing surface).

I'm using it with a free Windows sketching app called Sketch It. Sketch It is a very basic app with few bells and whistles. It doesn't need them. I'm not trying to create finished art I'm just drawing for the fun of seeing what I come up with.

As you can see from the images that accompany this article you'd be hard pressed to tell some of them weren't traditional sketches drawn with a pencil on actual paper.

All of these sketches were drawn in the evening just for no real purpose at all. Just like I used to with my sketch book.

I even turned one into a short animation that I posted to Facebook for fun below:



Drawing Technique


If you're interested in sketching on your mobile device and are wondering how I make my sketches look so much like actual pencil drawn sketches, the secret is to use software that has the ability to change the opacity of your brush.

Make sure you're using a pen or pencil tool. Set the color to full 100% black and the opacity to 20% for your initial sketch lines. Refine your lines and other details with the opacity set to 40%. Add further detail and refinement on 60% opacity. Finally set the opacity back to 100% and use full black on areas you particularly want to draw attention to (such as eye pupils if you're drawing a character).

Also, draw like you would in your sketchbook. Forget about layers and make use of the eraser tool the same way you might use an actual eraser. Forget about clean, crisp lines too. Scribble your lines. It's much easier and less frustrating to scribble if the response time between your stylus and the software is a bit laggy.

Once you have your sketches it's then easy enough to open them in more advanced drawing software if you want to take them up to finished art.

Popular posts from this blog

Featured Animator: Christian Haynes - 'Zack In Time' An Original, Independent, Animated Series on the Rise

Christian Haynes - Zack In Time.  If you've ever wanted to create an animated TV series staring your own original characters and stories then Los Angeles based writer, director, and animator, Christian Haynes is taking those next steps of putting together a team, developing a pitch/trailer for their series, Zack In Time. Featuring professional studio quality animation, they hope the show will get picked up by an animation studio for an official series. The path he and his team are taking is one you could easily follow as they deal with real life commitments, and building a following on Instagram and Tik-Tok showcasing their work behind the scenes. TET: Tell me a little about yourself. Who you are, and why you started animating? My name is Christian Haynes and I've loved animation ever since I was a kid. I would constantly be drawing cartoon characters from TV shows and movies and making my own little homemade comic strips.  As I got older, I became a lot more interested in st

Reallusion Releases Cartoon Animator 5 - One Version, More Features, Lower Price!

If you're serious about producing 2D animation as quickly as possible, while still achieving professional results, Reallusion's Cartoon Animator 5 makes the most compelling case yet as your animation studio/tool of choice. Cartoon Animator's point of difference has always been its ease of use and accelerated workflow. Creating fast, 2D animation using puppet, bone rigged based characters and props, on a stage with 3D depth for easy scene parallax effects. As it has developed Reallusion has incorporated more advanced features like motion capture for both face and body as well as being able to export scenes to post production tools like After Effects with the addition of plugins. After moving away from Flash based vector image support for a few years, Reallusion is back with full .SVG (scalable vector graphics) support for resolution independent graphics. They've also added Spring Dynamic physics and Full Form Deformation tools, both of which make it ridiculously easy t

Shotcut - Free Open Source Video Editor for Windows, Mac, and Linux

Shotcut Open Source Video Editor. I've been on the hunt for a while now for the best, free, open source, video editing application out there. In Shotcut , by Meltytech , which has versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux, I think I may have found a real front runner. This won't be a feature filled review, rather it will be my first impressions after having used Shotcut on a few of my YouTube videos so far. One of my key criteria for a video editor is the ability to import any video format directly into the project. This may seem like an odd focus initially but having convert video to something your video editor can use is annoyingly time consuming, and it creates a new generation of footage, potentially with a loss in quality if you don't really know much about video format specs (that's this guy right here!). Shotcut will happily work with my OBS recordings (.FLV), and .MOV, .MP4 files that I get from two different cameras. Not only that but Shotcut doesn't hold me up

Make Disney/Pixar Style Characters with Reallusion's Character Creator and Toon Figure Bases

The Extraordinary Tourist Classic Coat outfit created using Reallusion's Toon Designer for CC3. I've talked before how I've wanted to get into 3D Disney/Pixar style character animation since I first saw the animated cutscenes for the very first Tomb Raider game back in 1996. It's why I initially bought Reallusion's iClone 3D studio app as soon as I could afford a computer that would run it. But then Reallusion released their 3D Character Creator (CC) for iClone and I wanted to create my characters with that (and I did try with Bat Storm ). But the focus of CC was realism, even with ToKoMotion's stylised body morphs . Now with Reallusion's Cartoon Designer bundle for CC3 which features two packs, Toon Figures , and Toon Hair , designing Disney/Pixar style 3D characters just got a whole lot quicker. The two packs are the bare essentials for creating Toon style characters. Five body morphs (2 male, 2 female, and one adolescent body morph that w

Eric W. Schwartz: Cartoonist, Animator and Amiga Die Hard

July 1992 Edition, CU Amiga Featuring Amy the Squirrel. American Cartoonist, Eric W. Schwartz , (whose unofficial Amiga Icon, Amy the Squirrel, is pictured on the July 92 edition of CU Amiga cover on the right) is my only real animation hero. Sure there are the big names like Disney , Chuck Jones , Tex Avery and even Preston Blair whose influences can all be seen in my own cartoons but Eric did what none of the others could. He showed that really great 2D computer animation was within my reach with little more than an Amiga Computer , a copy of Deluxe Paint and Moviesetter . This was at a time when computer based animation was in its infancy (outside of computer game animation) and Flash was something that lights did. There were many great Amiga artists but Eric was really the only one consistently making very funny, traditional style animations. His humor and drawing style is heavily influenced by classic Warner Brothers and Disney cartoons but he managed to build on this,

TimeBolt: Fast Video Editing for Anyone Creating Online Courses, Podcasts, or Vlogs.

I resisted making tutorial videos for a long time because I don't like editing. Specifically I don't like editing me teaching as I step students through a process during a screen record. I have a tendency to insert long pauses not just in the middle of sentences but between multiple words in the middle of sentences as my pace matches what I'm doing onscreen. This makes for very long and very slow paced video tutorials. To counteract this I have to edit out all the pauses. This can take hours, or even days on particularly long tutorials. For example, when I created my main course, The Lazy Animator Beginner's Guide to Cartoon Animator , I literally injured the thumb on my right hand, operating my mouse, as I spent weeks taking out all my pauses (seriously, I had to wear a thumb brace for a few weeks to fix the pain). Recently I came across TimeBolt , a very affordable, fast editing application with the featured purpose of removing all the pauses from your video (and even

Review: Headshot Plugin for Reallusion's Character Creator 3

Headshot for CC3. Quite possibly the best 3D Avatar I've made of myself in any 3D application. Creating a realistic 3D human avatar is a whole lot easier with Reallusion's new Headshot Plugin for Character Creator 3. The plugin is an AI powered extension that can generate 3D digital humans from one photo. Which sounds like an amazing proposition but, in practice, if you're trying to achieve a specific likeness to an actual person, Headshot will give you an excellent base to work from. Headshot has two modes, Auto and Pro. Auto Mode Auto is well worth a try if you have an ideal photo of a front facing person that is properly lit and posed to Headshot's optimum requirements. It's also the only mode that will take a crack at generating a hair model. I grabbed an image of Harrison Ford, dragged it into Headshot without changing any of the default settings (other than specifying 'male' and selecting an 'old male' setting) and this is what I