Five ways to prepare for #INKTOBER success

Are you taking part in Inktober this year? Theres just ONE WEEK left till the start of October, so I thought now would be a good time to post a few ideas to prep for Inktober success.

NOTE: Its worth noting that I have never actually COMPLETED an Inktober- however this year I am determined to complete the challenge, and I’m hoping doing these things will help achieve that. Hopefully they help you too!

1. Collect some inspiration/references
Start to collect some visual reference and look at ink artists that you admire for inspiration. Collecting in a pinterest board helps to pull together a variety of references.

Study your favourite artists ink technique and style, and see if there’s anything you’d like to try out technique-wise this year.

2. Create a theme and plan it out

  • Work out and plan what you are going to draw for the month. This could be a general theme, a specific prompt for each day of the month or using the month to work on a series of images that contribute toward a larger project.
    Having an idea of what you are going to draw each day will save time and make it easier to get started. This was a major hurdle for me in the past, so this year I am spending time planning it out well in advance. If you’d like prompts, Jake Parker has created an official list for this year!

  • I’m going an extra step and doing rough thumbnails in advance so I will have something to draw when it gets busy!! And I don’t have an excuse not to do it.
    I’m not sure if this is strictly within the ‘rules’ of Inktober, but I have decided to do this in order to stick to the challenge.

3. Gather your supplies.

This must be the easiest step! Inktober might be a good time to try out some new supplies and techniques. Prep some paper and ink supplies in advance so you are all ready to go on the 1st of October.

Current favourite pens are ZIG Mangaka flexible pen in black, a cheap Luxor fountain pen and my old secondhand technical pens (shown here is a Staedtler Marsmatic 700- a great pen!).
For paper I really like Zeta paper from Gordon Harris.

SUPPLIES_IMG_0306

4. Practice your technique:

Practice with your brush or pen, and different papers to find a combination you like and start to feel comfortable with. Inktober is a good time to perfect your technique, but having a bit of experience under your belt will help you to jump straight in to your first drawing with some confidence.

Some useful technique resources:

Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur Guptill
How to Ink, class on SVS Learn
The Technical Pen by Gary Simmons (great if you use traditional technical pens, such as Rotring or Rapidograph)
Any books by Claudia Nice, especially this one.

inktober-example
trying out ink techniques in a previous inktober challenge

5. Plan a regular daily routine where you have time to draw.

This was one of the main tips Jake Parker mentioned in this video.
I’m planning to wake up early in the morning in order to squeeze in some extra time to complete the daily drawings


+AN EXTRA TIP!

Don’t expect too much from your drawings. I think its important to not put too much into the end result of each illustration- they don’t need to be perfect and you don’t need to post them online if you don’t feel comfortable doing so (though if you do- don’t forget to tag #Inktober and #Inktober2017)

I hope these tips help you- I’d love to know if you are taking part in Inktober, and if so, have you made any plans of what you are going to be drawing?

For more info check out the official website: http://inktober.com/

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Learning by copying

I have been using pen and ink a lot more lately (and am growing to really like it), but there are still things I find difficult, especially when it comes to executing certain very precise ink ‘styles’ required for scientific illustration (loose pen and ink work is a whole ‘nother board game!!). I think that’s where copying comes in handy. Taking an image in the style you are wanting to learn, enlarging it (so the lines are approximate to the original inked size) and then taping acetate film over the photocopy and copying the original drawing is a great learning exercise. I have found that trying to get all the nuances of the line and details the same as the original illustrator did in their illustration is a huge help in learning the muscle-memory required to execute the technique (or something similar) on your own work.

Here is an illustration of a Marginella pygmaea shell from Henry Suters ‘Manual of the New Zealand Mollusca‘. The original illustration is much reduced in the published work, so that the stippling is hardly visible (and the dots tend to merge).

suter-atlas-stipple009

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how-to: make a chalkboard (for hand-lettering!)

to make all your hand lettering dreams come true! (<–or something like that).

A couple of weeks ago I made up my own chalkboard to practice with as I was lucky enough to be asked to do some chalkboard hand-lettering for an event (you may have seen some of the photos of my practice I posted on instagram). I used to do the chalkboards every week at the bakery I used to work at, but have never done anything like this before so I was super-excited but also super-nervous! Hence the practice board.

SO, without further ado, here is what I did…

Quick Guide to making a Chalkboard (for hand-lettering practice)

how-to-make

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endangered species illustration+ skillshare giveaway!!

Today I am running this blog’s first giveaway- its for a service I really enjoy using myself and can’t wait to tell you more about it- read to the end to find out more!!

I am quite a fan of skillshare– I’ve referenced it a couple of times on the blog- and have done a few classes through the website. I think its a really useful and affordable way to learn from the pros in various creative areas. Recently I did a new class by Christine Fleming called “Scientific Illustration- conveying information with charm“. I wasn’t entirely sure what the class would be about, but lets just say I was in as soon as I read “scientific illustration”!!

This class teaches you to distill information from scientific fact into fun and educational illustrations. If you check out BuzzHootRoar (which “is a graphics-driven blog that shares and/or explains a scientific concept in 300 words or less”– for which Christine is the resident illustrator) you should get a feel for the sort of style/approach of the class. I found the class really fun and it opened up some options of combining traditional and digital tools that I hadn’t really considered. I also really enjoyed the short lecture on colour theory- which is an area that I really need to learn more about. As part of the class there was a challenge to create an illustration to celebrate National Wildlife Day. I thought it would be cool to illustrate the some of the most endangered species worldwide. I made a selection of ten of the most endangered species- making sure to include at least one NZ species (hint: kakapo!).

I decided to ink the final illustration using my kuretake brush pen, and then colour it digitally in Photoshop.

Here is my entry:

Inked…

endangered-species-illustration_inked

first attempt at colouring…

endangered-species-illustration-loweropacity

Continue reading “endangered species illustration+ skillshare giveaway!!”

digital illustration techniques- what I’ve learnt so far…

Though I much prefer the look (and the process of making) art using traditional materials, it has been a goal of mine for a little while now to learn more about digital illustration techniques. Digital techniques are an indispensible skill to have today, and lend themselves quite well to many scientific illustration applications. I also love the idea of combining traditional and digital techniques so that the final work is not 100% digital- as can be seen in one of my first completed Photoshop paintings ‘Journey’ done for IF challenge.

I am very much a beginner but I thought it might be useful to post some of the simple tips and useful tutorials that I have been most helpful in my attempt to teach myself to paint digitally. Hopefully it might be useful to some of you too!

I started off with trying out pure digital painting and then moving on to colouring traditionally drawn/painted stuff that I scanned in. I have discussed ideas for both techniques below.

Pure Digital Painting

Not my favourite mode of using PS but definitely important to know!

  • Blending the paint:  While I’ve played around the photoshop before, the major issue I had trouble getting my head around to start with was how to blend colours in a digital painting?? It seems like this should be really obvious but there wasn’t too much information that I could find- nothing mentioned in any of the digital painting books I have looked at. Some less sophisticated graphics programs the paint blends as if it is wet in real life, however in PS, you have to go about blending in another (more controlled method). I would be lost without the excellent tutorials on this from Ctrl-Paint – especially this one:

Digital Painting 101- (3 of 5) – Mixing Paint from matt kohr on Vimeo.

Essentially this is all you really need to get started playing with the program! Give it a go and see what you can come up with.

dusky-dolphin
this dusky dolphin illustration was painted in Photoshop after scanning in the original sketch

The other essential I think is finding a brush you like. Though I know there are people out there who manage to use the default hard round + airbrush brushes in PS with great success, in my hands they usually end up making my digital illustrations look, well, digital! I’m not a huge fan of the digital polished look (as shown in the above dolphin illustration), so instead have enjoyed using Drew Greens gouache brush and also have just started using Kyle T Websters watercolour brush. This is an area that I’m still discovering and trying to figure out what works best.

Colouring traditional line work+washes 

This is now my preferred approach to creating illustrations with (partially) digital methods. Its something that I am definitely experimenting with a lot at the moment. I’ve tried a few methods of colouring traditional work, and this is the best I have come up with so far…

To colour traditional line work and washes…I initially started off using the method of making your line work set as ‘Multiply’ blending mode- so you can then paint in the fill areas on a layer below the lines. To colour the lines themselves, I would apply a clipping mask to the lines layer and set the mode of the clipping mask to ‘Screen’, then paint on my colour to the clipping mask. BUT I found this method gave very patchy results, with ‘screen’ colours not showing up at full vibrance and the painting beneath the line work showing through the lines, making them look messy.

migration_digital-colour_webver
I created this ‘Journey” illustration using the method described above

My new approach is one picked up from a couple of tutorials online- most helpful were these two:

 

Here’s a basic summary (total credit to the tutorials listed above- check them out for a full run-down on how to do this): to colour the line work/wash (also works really well with gradiented pencil or wash work) I remove any colours by desaturating the scanned image (make sure to convert it to RGB or CMYK mode first, if you scan in grayscale like I do, or it won’t work). Then go into channels menu (next to the layers tab) and CTRL+click the icon next to RGB channel. This selects all the white areas in your image. To invert the selection (ie select all your lines/washes etc) click Select–> Invert selection (or key board shortcut).

Next go back to the layers palette, create a new layer and fill it with your selected colour (you can use the quickly fill layers key shortcut described above). At this point you can also use your brush to paint in various colours in this layer. You will only be painting on the area selected by the marching ants.

Once you are done with colouring the linework/wash, you can deselect the linework, create a new layer and paint underneath the linework layer the fill in any white areas.

leaf-shapes-diagram_labels-incl-webproper
this little poster I made using the “new” method

This is a great method because it produces solid coloured line work that can be manipulated in many ways. The variety of options is endless once you start to realise the things you can achieve by utilising layers as well!!

Some other little tips I have picked up:

  • If your brush tip disappears it means you have CTRL lock on…oops, no need for a panic attack
  • When you start making really big files with all your painted layers, don’t be alarmed when PS tells you the file exceeds the 2gb limit to be saved, simply save the file as a .PSB (large document format).
  • To reduce the size of your document you can merge the layers into each other (but only if you’ve finished working on them), or add a white-filled layer above all the others- which is supposed to reduce the document size considerably. Also if you scan your images in as 1200dpi grayscale tiffs as I do, when you place your grayscale scan into your working document, make sure to reduce the resolution (about 400-600dpi for colour images). This makes them much easier to handle.
  • Start to think in layers. If you haven’t used PS or Illustrator much before it is really useful to learn more about layers because they allow so much flexibility when you want to work on isolated areas of a painting without potentially ruining the rest of your illustration
  • Choosing colour palettes in Photoshop: I found this REALLY DIFFICULT until I found this awesome tutorial by Zoe Piel. She says that creating harmonious/limited colour palettes in PS is actually really difficult because you have an infinite number of colours to choose from (as opposed to a number of tubes of watercolour paint). Her tutorial makes total sense and has been so useful to me. She also has an awesome tutorial on making a blender tool in PS.
  • Kyle T Websters brushes. That is all. Check them out. I have the wet’n’wild watercolour brush and can’t wait to try out more.
  • To quickly fill a layer with a colour use ctrl+backspace to fill with the foreground colour, alt+backspace to fill with the background colour (those are the colours on those two little square swatches in the tool menu [screen shot it]
  • A really cool tip I picked up from Edible Perspective (awesome vegetarian recipes!!) was that you can change the background colour (that is the colour behind your canvas- I have CS5 and it is automatically grey) by right-clicking on the background and selecting custom colour. This can be useful to know if you need to change the background for editing or colour correction purposes.

I hope you enjoyed this quick run down of the various tutorials and tips I have found useful so far in learning about digital illustration techniques.

If you have any tips that you have found useful I’d love to know- leave a comment below!

Till next time,

emma

TUTORIAL: make a custom mini sketchbook for sketching on-the-go!

If you followed along a couple of weeks ago- I did a week long sketch book challenge (all the sketches from the week are up now).  The sketches were done in my handmade sketchbook (made from recycled computer paper) with an HB pencil. Doing this challenge has made me realize how much more practice I need at using my sketchbook!! I think next I am going to try ballpoint pen sketching- check out the amazing sketchbook work of Pat Perry, for inspiration!!

This week I’m going to be showing you how I make these little pocket-sized sketchbooks so you can make one of your own. The only way to make sketching a habit is to have your paper and pencil with you at all times and then to use it (<–essential step). This little sketchbook fulfills at least one half of the equation- and is dirt cheap to boot. I think cheapness is the essential requirement in a sketchbook- as it means you are not so afraid to mess it up!

I came up with this design after trying a few bought journals as well as making a few of my own (see this post)– but this is the only little sketchbook that I really like using so far.

make-your-own-sketchbook

what-you-will-need

What you will need:

Paper: I used recycled computer paper (21 x 29.7cm- A4 size) from the bin at my work (most if it had hardly any printing on it at all)- which is lightweight (more pages) and fine for sketching (and the cheapness of it means you will be less afraid to mess it up- and therefore be more free with what you doodle). I would recommend trying this out first, but if you use a lot of watermedia for sketching, you can definitely try this same process out with watercolour paper (you will end up making less pages though as the paper is so much thicker).

You’ll need 6 A4 size pages if you follow this tutorial exactly.

Card: for cover. I used a piece of navy card stock I had lying around, probably around 300gsm at a guess? Its not very heavy-weight. You can definitely use thicker card but I quite like the flexibility of the cover on this one.

Thicker (decorative) paper for end papers- go crazy with patterns if you like! I just used some white or black card because I didn’t have anything else at the time.

A sharp needle

Strong thread (I used linen thread (this one), but heavy-duty furnishing thread will also work really well)

Sharp stanley/exacto knife

Cutting mat

Piece of foam (optional- helps in punching holes in paper signatures)

Ruler

Scissors

PVA glue+brush

a few bull clips

1. Assemble your printer paper (or other paper of choice), and mark off one sheet into thirds (make a mark at every 9.9cm) along the longest length. Cut into three sections using your exacto knife and ruler. if you are using paper of a different size to A4 the final dimensions of your pages should be 210mm x 99mm

cut-a4-paper

2. Fold each ‘page’ in half. You will end up with 18 folded pages- which you will then split into three lots of six. Stack each of the pages within one another to make three signatures of 6 folded pages each (12 leaves in each signature).

assemble-signatures

ready-to-bind

3. To mark off the points where you will be making holes for binding the signatures together, stack the three signatures on top of each other so they are well aligned. Its helpful to use a bulldog clip to hold them in position so they don’t move whilst you make your marks.

Then mark off five points along the ‘spine’- at 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9cm (I do this by centring the ruler at 5 as the middle of the stack). Make your marks along the top signature in pencil, and then use a ruler to rule across the spine (over the three signatures) so each now has a pencil mark in the same position.

mark-off-your-spine

From this point on, try and keep the signatures in the same order and orientation through the following steps to make your resulting book look as nice as possible.

4. Now make your holes in each signature at the points previously marked off, using a sharp needle. Open up each signature of 6 pages and use the needle to make an even hole at each of the five marked off points. It can be really helpful to place a soft bit of foam behind the paper stack or something else you can pin into, so your holes get to the full size of the needle and look nice and neat.

make-holes

punching-holes

5. Now its time to stitch your signatures together. Instead of doing a terrible job of explaining how to do that here- check out the wonderful tutorial by Damask Love on creating a book block- these were the same instructions I used to bind this book and its the best instructions I’ve come across for the stitching process:

Bookbinding University: How to Make a Text Block from DamaskLove on Vimeo.

stitching

stitch-2

stitch-3

6. Now your book block is all bound together- its time to glue the spine to make it more sturdy. I applied PVA glue over the bound edge (after having clamped it with a bull clip) and let it dry. I did this twice to make it nice and strong. You have now created your own book block!

glue-the-spine

7. Time to cut your cover and endpapers. Cut an A4 piece of card length-ways into a strip 10cm wide.

cut-covers-and-endpapers

Score a line approximately in the middle of the strip (at ~15cm) and fold the card neatly. Then place your bound book block with the glued spine butted up against the 90 degree angle made by the card. Take a pencil and mark off the width of the book block spine. This gives you the width required for the spine of the cover.

measure-spine

Score along this line and fold. The cover edges will now stick out way past the book block- so trim them down to the exact size by opening one cover side and using a pencil to mark the edge of the book block on that side, then repeat for the other cover. Trim them down to size with your exacto knife.

cut-down-cover

You now have a cover ready to glue!

8. Before you can glue your book together, you need to make your end papers (which are pieces of paper that sit between your cover and the book block, and help to stick the book together).

You want your endpapers to be the same width as the regular pages, so in this case 9.9cm wide. I cut an A4 piece of card in half length-ways, which gives you two long strips that when folded will stick out of your book (between the cover and the book block) when you insert them. Leave them long for now.

This is what you’ll have so far:

parts-of-your-book
endpapers

9. Assembling your sketchbook: First step is to glue the endpapers onto your book block. Apply PVA glue onto one side of your endpaper from the folded edge (spine end) outward, about 2/3rds across the endpaper, towards the outer edge. Align your endpaper so the edges are equal with the edges of the book block, and press the endpaper firmly onto block. Apply the other endpaper in the same manner to the other side of the book block. Clamp this to dry overnight.

Once it is dry you can trim the long ends of the endpapers so they are flush with the pages of the textblock.

glue-endpaper

clamp

10. Now its time to glue your text block+endpapers into the cover. Apply glue over the inside of the cover of the sketchbook- from the spine outwards across ~1/3rd of the front and back covers. Put extra glue on the spine. Place your text block into the cover so all the sides of the block are well aligned with the cover.

endpaperrs-glued-on

glueoncover

Now your book block is fully glued into the cover, clamp the book together with a bull clip or two- or even better, place under a stack of heavy books (less chance of getting marks on your cover from the clips)- and leave to dry overnight.

You’ve made your own sketchbook!!

get-sketching

Let me know what you think of this tutorial!

emma