Improving with the Tablet and Sketchbook App

In the previous post, I discussed my purchase of a Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 and decision to try digital artwork again. My first experience with a tablet designed strictly for drawing in conjunction with a computer screen (XP-Pen Deco 01) did not go smoothly, and I pretty quickly abandoned the experiment. This time though, I felt much more comfortable using this Samsung tablet. As I mentioned in the last post, I think this is primarily due to the immediate visual feedback from pen to tablet screen.

Since I’ve already discussed the basics of my impressions on using the new tablet versus the old, I won’t go into further detail here. Instead, I want to focus on some things I learned through the Autodesk Sketchbook app. Honestly, I think most of these things are probably second nature to people who are experienced with digital painting/drawing programs. But it’s all fairly new to me! Hopefully, if anyone reading this is also new to digital artwork, this might be useful to read about some cool techniques available.

My paintings/drawings in Autodesk Sketchbook so far, all done using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S4. As you can see, both kiddos have already gotten use out of it too.

Through the first two drawings (a self-portrait and a cat named Biscuit), I started settling into using the basic pencil to do an outline, then the “Tattoo Inker” brush at varying widths for color. That has continued through the next two, along with utilizing the “Smudge Pen” tool to blend. The ability to blend was a significant revelation, and I think it helped me realize this might be something I could continue to work with. I’ve included an example from my third portrait, which is supposed to be of actress Cate Blanchett. You can see in the next image how the skin colors have been blended, while the hair is not yet blended.

On the topic of colors, there is also a neat little feature I’ll call the “Color Selector” (I’m not actually sure if it’s explicitly named within this app). Again, this is probably a feature digital experts are quite familiar with. I am used to finding a pencil, testing colors on paper, and trying to figure out a match. But this “Color Selector” allows you to hover over a previously used color and automatically match it for your current brush. This is such a great time-saver! It’s amazing how much easier this makes things. It almost feels like cheating, really. The middle image below shows where the feature is in the Autodesk Sketchbook app.

Left: An example showing distinct colors and the after-effects of blending. Middle: The Color Section tool. Right: Using Samsung SmartSelect to

Another extremely useful feature available in digital painting is the use of layers. In the rightmost example above, I’ve shown how I started using them; a layer for the outline, another for colors, and another for some shadow highlights. I’ve also played around with a separate layer for the background. This is great, because you can independently change them, and if you want to make a big change, you only have to risk a single layer rather than the entire piece. It’s also possible to paste your reference image as a layer, or use Samsung’s screen capture tool (“SmartSelect”) to position your reference above the portrait.

Now, on to the portrait itself. Although it doesn’t look like the person it’s supposed to be, I see definitely progress from the first two I did. Here’s the final result:

Again, starting with the obvious; this is not recognizable as Cate Blanchett in my opinion. So from that standpoint, I can’t claim this as a complete win. But, I am actually somewhat proud of this one for a few reasons. First, I think it’s leaps and bounds better than any of my four previous digital artwork attempts (two on the Samsung, two last year). The range of colors used and blending are greatly improved. This portrait also caused me to start thinking less of this as “digital drawing” and more as “digital painting.” After all, these don’t look much like pencil art; they really simulate some kind of paint medium.

I’ve tried to pinpoint what exactly went wrong in trying to make this look like the subject. I can definitely see how the mouth is wrong; her mouth should have more of a downward turn toward the side. Also, I should have somehow made the cheekbones more pronounced. And although I did a pretty thorough blending job for most of her face, her hand is a bit on the sloppy side. A second attempt might fix some of these issues, but it was a great learning experience.

Well, that’s all for the second post in this series! I’ve saved the best (and most recent) digital painting for last, which sort of brings together what I’ve learned to this point. I haven’t written anything yet though, so it might be a day or two before that actually gets onto the website. Until then – thanks for reading!

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