Sketchy vs. Clean
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    Sketchy vs. Clean

    Hey there CA,

    i've taken a break from digital artwork altogether to focus on improving my skills with a pencil and the basics of art, and i've run into an interesting epiphany. while i can tell from my old works that i'm improving, i seem to have a tendency to sketch everything. the lines are rough, i try to flesh it out too much with shadow, when sometimes i just would like to have a clean- lined thumbnail. my question is, are there any exercises or methods of moving away from sketching and training yourself to create cleaner thumbnails, or is it all a matter of modus operandi and altering that?

    thanks for your time.

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    Dont pet your lines. Keep them broad, and confident. Work on hand eye coordination so you can make a mark exactly where you want it. Learn to control your media, master the pen or pencil.

    "Astronomy offers an aesthetic indulgence not duplicated in any other field. This is not an academic or hypothetical attraction and should require no apologies, for the beauty to be found in the skies has been universally appreciated for unrecorded centuries."
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    That's always been my problem too. When putting down line I always do it with sweeping movement of arm. It gives pretty comfident stroke but at the same time lines are rarely precise. For pencil it's fine but if I had to ink comic for someone, I would propably waste tons of pages .

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    Blind contour drawing is good way to improve line confidence.

    Draw without lift your pen/cil off the page.

    Slow down with your sketching. Really look at the subject, look at and think about the line before you put it down.

    Contrary to the previous exercise, also try drawing quickly, don't make multiple strokes over one line, try to nail the subject in as few lines as possible.

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    For smallish works, you can lay trace over it and do a clean tracing. That's often a useful exercise. (It's also a great way to transfer drawings to illustration board -- rub waste graphite on the back and trace back over it again).

    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).
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    I've recently found working in layers with tracing paper or a lightbox very useful for this. Start rough & sketchy and clean it up afterwards. That's more or less how animators do it...

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    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Think of every pencil stroke as a piece of design. Design every stroke of the pencil in your mind... before you place the pencil on the paper. Image how the pencil stroke will look on the paper, before you actually draw it. Pre-visualization is the key, in my opinion. Draw from your imagination even when you are drawing from life.

    At least Icarus tried!


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    Similar to the tracing paper concept, I tend to draw with an unfortunately heavy hand, so I'll periodically go over a sketch with a kneaded eraser. This lightens the lines without removing them completely, allowing me to ignore missteps and reinforce things that are going right.


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    dark eagle is offline i hatea the italino sterotypes ina da soc'ty Level 4 Gladiator: Meridiani
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    It depends on your situation, of you intend to render it beatifully then clean lines are almost required and if your just making thumbs or roughs skketchy is muchh better as it can open doors to more designs.

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    Additionally, you may want to try doing some sketching in ball point pen. I find the unforgiving permanancy can allow for some good practice.

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    Each mark you put down is a thought.
    Say it clear and to the point.
    If its an ambiguous thought, be precise about the ambiguity.
    Making a drawing is like making your mind up.

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    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    Oh, and use a pencil that has good "flow". Some pencils you sorta have to dig with to get the line to come out. But a sweet 8B nicely sharpened will yield very rich lines, good expressive contrast between light and dark and thick and thin, with pigment flow almost like working with ink.

    kev

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    the tracing paper technique ....yields realy neet results if you experiment with layer states and opacity settings over your original....

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    Quote Originally Posted by dose View Post
    I've recently found working in layers with tracing paper or a lightbox very useful for this. Start rough & sketchy and clean it up afterwards. That's more or less how animators do it...
    I am very interested in trying that out dose. Have you ever run across any online tutorials or know of a good resource on that process? Thanks.



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    I tend to draw with an unfortunately heavy hand
    I have the same tendency... and use a fine point eraserstick to pick out the lines a don't want, as well as to lighten the lines I do want, similar to Elwell's kneaded eraser technique.

    "Change is a virtue my friend... if you want to escape, all you have to do is make up your mind."
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    I'm a messy sketcher, so bond and tracing paper are my best friends -- even when I draw in Pshop I keep dropping new layers instead of trying to clean up initial sketches.

    I've never really felt comfortable with trying to get it right in one stroke and inisist on playing with my drawings as I make them -- that allows me to move limbs or change gesture as I work through. I usually start with a pretty strong idea of what I want, but come up with better ideas as I move the pencil.

    ~R

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    First off, let me say I'm deeply impressed with the amount of awesome answers in such a short period of time. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to help with this. I don't think I've been doing nearly enough previsualization, and my strokes definitely aren't confident enough. Thanks again to all who contributed- this helps more than you know.



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    Not entirely sure if this is what you're getting at... but I always start with sketchy lines. Be it in pen, pencil, or whatever I'll put down light sketchy lines to plot out and figure out what I want to draw. After I've got down something I want to take to completion I go over it with heavy solid lines, or shading, or what all.

    Generally the final rendering will cover up all of the sketchwork. In the cases where it doesn't I either don't care because it was just a doodle or (in the case of more important works) I was working in pencil and I just erase what shows through.

    If your final product is sketchy, that's one thing, but I for one don't much see the point of beginning with heavy bold lines. As far as I'm concerned strong linework is part of the rendering process, you don't start with it.

    Hope that helps?

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    I never tried it before but you can take some small thumbnail that looks good and make big size copy of it in photocopier (or scan it and print bigger). Then overlay the drawing with pretty transparent copy paper. While drawing don't stick too much to thumbnail's lines but just use it's proportions for final clean sketch.

    Last edited by Farvus; June 19th, 2008 at 05:02 PM.
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    What Farvus suggested is a great idea, and one of the great parts about working this way. I think there's a bit of a myth that people just sit down and bang out an image in one shot with perspective, anatomy, gesture, line weight, line quality, and tones all perfectly right. I think with some notable exceptions by the gods of art, us mere mortal artists tend to develop an image in stages and layers. Why not start with a thumbnail, where you can see the whole more clearly and can't get tied up in details. And if you've worked it out there, why throw it out and start over? Blow it up and use it as a guide.

    But at this point- again, as Farvus suggested- you can't just trace it. You use it as a guide. In some senses you're just correcting it. When I'm building up a complex image, I'll start with a thumb, then blow it up & correct/adjust until I've worked everything up to a certain level, or the paper is "saturated" with lead or I'm losing my marks in the mess of other marks. At this point, you could do like Elwell suggested and knock everything back with a kneaded eraser, which is sometimes a better way to go- especially if you're not going for line art as a final product (the "ghosted" shading that's left can be really beautiful as well as useful as a guide). When I'm going for line art though, I just throw another sheet on and repeat the process until it arrives at lines that I'm happy with. With more experience I imagine you need fewer and fewer layers.

    Really it all just comes down to the idea of working in layers, and building up an image over several iterations. A certain amount of confusion happens when you put enough graphite on a sheet of paper- you either can't erase it back out, or you lose the good lines in the mess of bad lines, or there's just too much graphite down and you can't add any more. It's good to work around this. Also, there's something great that happens in those first stages when you're not worried about getting everything right. You can always get it right later, so you're free to think about the bigger issues at hand.

    Another option besides the lightbox, tracing paper, or erasing, is to work in different color pencil leads which allows your brain to sort of visually separate layers even though they're on the same sheet of paper. The "classic" color for this kind of thing is non-photo blue, but any color will do as long as it's visually separatable from the rest of the image. I often use different color lead in conjuction with the lightbox/tracing paper method.

    Another option with ink or paint is to start really faint with a big brush. One teacher I had even suggested making your initial lines with nothing but turp or water- if you work quickly enough you can knock in the next layer and sort of get a layer for free if you're worried about putting too much paint on the canvas. On some old master drawings where the medium is "pen and bistre" you can make out some really faint preliminary washes (hard to spot in bad reproductions).

    And of course there's limitless possibilities for this kind of thing when working digitally.

    Anyway, check out these videos of animator/teacher Glen Keane doing some drawings for animation. The quality on both is terrible, but it's still helpful. If you can make out what he's saying there's some very good stuff about what he's thinking about as he refines the drawing:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=JA7Naf0RF4M
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=e5boxhntk3g

    Hope this helps

    Tim

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    Quote Originally Posted by Farvus View Post
    I never tried it before but you can take some small thumbnail that looks good and make big size copy of it in photocopier (or scan it and print bigger). Then overlay the drawing with pretty transparent copy paper. While drawing don't stick too much to thumbnail's lines but just use it's proportions for final clean sketch.
    I'll often do this, but print out the enlarged scan in pure light cyan or yellow and draw directly on it.


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    Nice ideas.
    There is also one technique I recently discovered and I think it worked well. I did one really rough self-portrait with graphite watercolor pencil which leaves very light lines. Then I took brush with water, blurred everything and merged all shadows into one uniform shape. After the water dried the sketch looked really clean and was barely visible. I could confidently draw on top of it with ink brushpen or something else and just add more detail

    Last edited by Farvus; June 19th, 2008 at 06:12 PM.
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    I have a heavy hand like Elwell and tend to keep a kneaded eraser close by and handy to keep my lines from getting to dark. my line quality has improved over the last few months with doing blind contours and really slowing down how fast I put down a line. Really good suggestions everyone.

    Last edited by Darktwin; June 19th, 2008 at 08:05 PM.
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    i bought a dozen blue and red col-erase pencils, and I think they're great for any rough sketching you might want to do. They're used heavily in traditional 2D animation, and they just work and feel great.

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    Thanks again to everyone who posted.

    BlackGuy- do the pencils have a technical name, and where can I find them?

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    Quote Originally Posted by DECYPL View Post
    Additionally, you may want to try doing some sketching in ball point pen. I find the unforgiving permanancy can allow for some good practice.
    better yet, a brush pen.
    It has the same unforgiving permanency,
    but it is also (for me) the ultimate expression instrument for Line.

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    You also have to work to your particular strengths and weaknesses.

    I'm a tight, fussy draughtsman. I had a life drawing teacher who referred to my approach contemptuously as "drawing fingernails." Well, I not only draw fingernails, I draw cuticles and those little half moon shapes in the nail beds and, if it's close enough and the angle is right, I draw the thickness of the nail, too.

    Problem is, I'm not good enough to start out that tight. I have to make myself loosen up and work on gesture and composition and proportion first. So I start with very soft, bluntish pencils on rough newsprint and make myself deal with the big shapes and the main ideas (I do the same thing digitally with what I think of as a 'scribbly layer').

    My first thumbnails are often pretty ugly, because I'm trying to deal with important things that I'm bad at. Then I lay trace over it and draw the damn fingernails.

    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).
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    My problem is I'm not comfortable using this rhytmic lines that you make with one fast stroke, I'm much better doing lines like those you get with blind contour drawings, which look more nervous, but I tend to slow down and draw better.

    Actually I'm fine with how my drawings look when I draw like that, but I'd really like being able to draw with "one movement" lines. I read something by Marko Djurdjevic talking about this, that he prefers the kind of line I say I'm more comfortable with... so do I, but I think I'd be a better artist by knowing both ways of putting down lines

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    Anid Maro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DECYPL View Post
    Additionally, you may want to try doing some sketching in ball point pen. I find the unforgiving permanancy can allow for some good practice.
    Quote Originally Posted by waranghira View Post
    better yet, a brush pen.
    It has the same unforgiving permanency,
    but it is also (for me) the ultimate expression instrument for Line.
    Or even a brush with an ink jar!

    Heh, whichever is chosen, the permanency of ink is definitely great practice. Helps you develop good habits. For one, I'd never really thumbnailed much... but recently I've tossed away my pencils and am doing all of my initial sketchwork in pen... and man now I can't get enough of thumbnailing.

    Funny how easy it was to get into that habit when all of a sudden I couldn't erase stuff anymore.

    Also makes it easier to see your mistakes instead of gloss over them. I knew I had some issues with body proportions, but I'd always corrected them and moved on. Now that I can't, I have to see my faults as they truly are. Hard to ignore these mistakes when they mean I have to start over.

    Edit: Oh yeah, and of course when you do make some mistakes, and you do have to start over again... well that's just more practice isn't it? It's like getting three or so times the use out of the same drawing... albit in an infuriating sort of way.

    Last edited by Anid Maro; July 2nd, 2008 at 12:20 PM.
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