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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.

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