Thursday, 19 May 2011

Tools of the Trade: Digital

Digital Art is a whole other ballgame to Tradtional Art, while using a similar process for creation (at least in the case of bitmaps) - Digital art tends to be a lot crisper and cleaner looking than traditional

Art programs generally come in 2 kinds of flavours, Bitmap and Vector. Some programs speciallise in one or the other, while one or two use both in tandem.


This kind of digital art is close to traditional in terms of input, the user draws by freehand and colouring can be done in a similar manner, though, being digital, this comes with a few benefits. For example lineart can be easilly filled by the "fill" tool (assuming lines are closed) and some programs can make instant gradients and special brushes that add certain effects. However due to user input, lines can be wobbly or imperfect and due to Bitmap being based on pixels, art often suffers artifacting from resizing and low resolutions, resulting in blocky images.

Adobe Photoshop is one of the most popular bitmap art applications out there, other programs worth considering for bitmap are programs such as the GIMP and Paint.Net.


This art style is based on co-ordinates instead of pixels, therefore the line is controled by the computer, though the user can manipulate the lines through handles and manual adjustment. Vector programs can be a little tricky due the lack of control the user has compared with bitmap, though vectors generally result in much crisper images and better line control (depending on the artist). Fiddling with vectors can also lead to some fun results as well.

Adobe Illustrator is one of the most popular vector packages on the market, though Flash has a form of vector art that takes a bitmap input style approach (user can draw like tradtional, though computer still has some control over the line, so it can auto-smooth and "guess" where the user wants the line to go, sometimes the input isn't quite exact)


There are few programs that manage to do both styles very well. Photoshop has vector tools but they are very limited compaired with Illustrator and Flash in terms of vector based-features.

Artrage has some vector capabilities in it's tools, with pen and pencil tools featuring smoothing, and a number of other vector based tricks to the other tools, though Artrage dresses it all up like a tradtional easel.

Tools of the Trade: Traditional

Starting on the mediums most people will be familiar with, this post deals with traditional mediums.

Here on this blog, we're initially focused on just the drawing aspect of the medium, so pencils are always a must! Don't worry too much about the other mediums to begin with. While they will be listed here for references sake, you don't need to worry about paint or anything else in the meantime (unless your eager to hop in, by all means do so! but remember you gotta learn to walk before you can run, so to speak...)

So without further adeu, let us begin!;

(PS the example art used here generally is my own unless otherwise noted)


Pencils are the most important tool in a traditional artist's inventory, mostly due to it's easilly erasable nature. Pencil allows an artist to plan their drawing and also lends itself very well to shading (as the example above shows, I'm rather proud of that swan heh). It's a great way to get used to drawing.

Of course, make sure you get good pencils! HB is okay for sketching, but is a little too hard to really lend itself to shading, which 2B grade pencils are better suited to. You don't really need the full set (as odds of using any of the other Pencil types is rather rare) so tins like this Dewent one should have everything you need, I'ld also reccomend a kneeded putty rubber. These erase paper lines without leaving the marks that usual erasers leave on paper (or leftover pencil marks)

I'd also recommend a good paper pad, cartridge pads generally are best for drawing, though realistically, any pad will do to begin with. 

Oil and Chalk Pastels

Personally my fave colour medium, pastels provide all the joy of colouring, without the hassle of mixing colours and as a result are nice introductions to traditional . They come in two types - this example shows the chalky kind of pastel. These have nice vibrant colours and stick a lot better than usual chalk (they also mix and overlap pretty well) - though they can be VERY messy. Make sure if your going to use pastels that lay out some kind of cover beforehand!

Oil Pastels are basically a posher version of the humble crayon, only the wax is somewhat softer and (like the chalk pastels) stick better and feature better colours than their cheaper counterparts. Oil pastels tend to be a bit rougher to work with, though provide great texture. 


Markers are very good for those artists with some experience with shading, used correctly, these can make colouring a much faster and simpler process. However they can bleed easilly and colouring over dried marker can leave a darker effect, which if used unevenly can look pretty bad in a picture. Markers are also pretty expensive to boot at about £1.50 a pop for certain markers, and possibly more. If colouring by marker appeals to you, start off with the starter packs and see how you feel from there. Promarkers do some good selection sets to get you started


Paint is the trickest of all the traditional mediums, as it requires skill with a brush and you need to learn not only how to apply the paint but also how best to mix it. I haven't got the best experience with Paint, so I'll set that aside for now as it's something we'll cover a little further down the line So now we've talked about the traditional materials in art. Now onto the Digital Fronter!


Welcome to "So You Wanna Learn How to Draw!" (or SYWKHD for short)

The purpose of this blog is to encourage curious and creative people of all ages to take those tentative first steps into drawing and art. : ) Doesn't matter watch age you are or how you want to approach things, all are welcome here!

I'm of the belief that drawing is not so much a "special" talent that only a few are granted, drawing like any other subject requires study and focus, though unlike other subjects - art focuses on your visual and motor skills rather than memory. While for some that might come quite easily, for others it can take a bit more effort to understand, but that's okay! Nobody ever became Picasso in a day ; )

No artist very rarely has their art style perfected eather, I've been drawing for 17 years and I can still struggle with shapes, shading and perspective. So don't despair if your efforts are not what you were hoping for to begin with. 

This blog will start looking at inital basics:

  • Tools of the Trade: Traditional and Digital
  • Gallery and Portfolio Suggestions
  • First steps into drawing: Basics and Shape
  • Shading
If your coming along for the ride, please comment and let me know what I can do to help you. Or provide suggestions on potential tutorials or tips you might be looking for.