One of the biggest themes for myself over the past few years, especially in 2018, has to been to recognize what I like to do and what I don’t like to do, as well as what is actually necessary for me to do and what isn’t. When it came to my illustrations, my comics made me take a good, hard look at what I liked to do and what I didn’t like to do. This further extended to my illustrations that were just one-off, non-comic illustration.
What did I like?
Sketching, using the paint bucket to fill in my lines, shading (most of the time), seeing my finished product.
What didn’t I like?
Pencil lining, doing adjustments in Photoshop to make my sketch clean for line art, line art, the length of time it took me to complete comics and some illustrations, the sub-par results despite the time spent on works.
The desire for getting my comics completed quicker resulted in me switching from traditional drawing to digital. This meant I no longer have to pencil line and do adjustments to make the sketch clean (or at least, not in the same way). It shaved off a good half hour or so. However, this was still not fast enough for my taste and I found that more often than not, I was not satisfied with the outcome of digital inking and it significantly hampered my enjoyment of my own artwork.
The combination of disliking the look of my line art (the inking) and the lack of speed resulted in me deciding to use my sketches for the comics. I started this prior to using digital lines, but have since switched over to them. I have been, in the background, using my (digital) sketches for the comics and I enjoy the results so far!
However, this left me wondering about my regular, one-off illustrations…
There’s something I’ve done often over the years with my sketches. Many times when I would scan them, but didn’t plan on digitally inking them, I would often just “splash” colour on them (which meant taking the hard brush tool in Photoshop and scribbling colour on so it looked pretty good with the layer blend set to “multiply”) to give a good colour reference.
One of the biggest issues with this is when I decided that the image was complete, I had numerous people say something along the lines of “it looks great! You should finish it!”. I once even had someone completely baffled that I would even leave the sketch as is, with no line art. I used to rant about it quite a bit on here. You can check for links down below later on in the post. Anyway, posting these splashed colour images became a bit nerve-wrecking for me because I knew people perceived them as “unfinished,” when to me, they were.
I did notice later on, when I posted some of my digital watercolour sketches, people didn’t think that way. I didn’t really think much about it, but it’s still certainly interesting. What makes the digital watercolour sketches different? If I had to say now, the lines.
The lines when I used to sketch traditionally were thick. The ones I sketch on the computer are thin, giving them a completely different look.
Then I started drawing comics for myself and I realized I wanted them out quicker and the hours I was spending on them as-is were not up to my personal standards, so I changed how I went about them. (To clarify – I enjoy the artwork process when it goes faster! An hour or less is ideal to me.)
I then started to wonder…what about my regular illustrations? Particularly the ones using my regular colouring style, “Painted Dreams”? Could that even be adapted to use with my sketches?
I hadn’t thought about it before, but my mind quickly floated to the numerous pictures I have just sitting, waiting to be completed in my files. Many of them I had sketched and splashed colour onto, but that was it. I was so wish-washy whether or not I was going to do the whole shebang: ink them, colour them. I was hesitant because most of the time, I don’t like something about my finished results. I felt the sketches already looked great.
That’s when I contemplated the possibility of using the splashing-colour-onto-sketches technique with my Painted Dreams style. Could I do it? Would it be possible?
I decided to test it out.
The Tester Image
In order to test out this idea, I decided to draw Kelly the Dreamer. I wanted her in a really fun, playful pose. This resulted in Kelly the Dreamer sticking out her tongue and winking. It also established, at least for me, what her room looks like: a bunch of semi-translucent white bars that go up and down depending on what music she is listening to, with an infinite amount of floating orbs that all carry different dreams and versions of herself that she can visit at any time.
I was FLOORED by the results. They came out BETTER than I had imagined! And no, I don’t think it’s just because of the pretty colours that it looks so amazing.
Something I had always noticed with my sketches (as well as other peoples’) was that they often contained a lot of life to them. However, when they were inked, they lost life. Sometimes it was only a bit of life; at other times, it seemed completely devoid. It’s something I never liked about my illustrations and often times, made me feel that the final product was sub-par. On a rare occasion, sure, there were illustrations that I felt looked better after I inked them, but those were so far and few in-between.
The first thing that strikes me about this picture is Kelly’s playful expression. I can tell something is different in comparison to my older pieces, but it’s not until I look towards her chin that I can really see why. If anything, just looking at her expression looks like I finally figured out how to make my lines thin instead of thick! It’s not until I start looking at the rest of the image that I get that it’s a sketch of mine.
Even though it’s a sketch, I love how it’s drawn. I love the fingers (although her left hand is too small, but oh well; this was just an experiment anyway), I love her arms, I love her face, her hair, EVERYTHING. I can almost feel how her body would be if I just hopped right into the picture and hugged her. She feels so real to me!
I feel like the thin sketch lines compliment my colouring style. They add a certain level of refinement to it. Overall, to me, it has a better and more satisfying presentation.
What about behind the scenes though? How did the process feel? Was it as cumbersome as inking normally is? Or was it different?
The process itself was definitely less cumbersome than inking, but it still left a little something to be desired. I noticed it seemed unnecessarily long and tedious to be using the pen tool in Clip Studio Paint (the ones that mimic real pens) to scribble colour onto it. However, that was my only gripe. I think overall, it didn’t take me very long. It was on my lower average of about 2.5 hours.
With this tester image, I felt a weight lift off from me. I finally liked what I was seeing. Sure, there was a tiny part of the process I didn’t like very much, but it was so small in comparison to everything else. It fit what I was always saying: I prefer my sketches. And I prefer my sketches, indeed.
I’m sure for some of my friends, especially my artist friends, there is probably a question you have after reading this post: why don’t I just change how I do line art? Why not have more variety?
My response: I don’t like line art. In general. Like, not even just my line art, but other peoples’ line art too. It always looks so wire-like (no duh, it’s clean lines on an otherwise blank canvas), regardless of the line variation. Sometimes people have line art that works very well for their colouring style, other times they don’t. I’m of the opinion mine doesn’t look all that good. Even with line variation, it doesn’t look good.
I also notice I don’t like to take a long time on my illustrations. Anything that can potentially shorten that process is a winner in my book!
I have repeatedly said before in the past (I’m not sure if on here, but I have definitely elsewhere), I prefer my sketches, so my sketches I will be going with in the future as of right now.
You may also be wondering: will I be using sketch lines for everything?
If I am doing Painted Dreams or Digital Watercolour (which goes with the comics as well), then yes, I will be.
If it is cel-shaded or chibi-style (which I usual cel-shade), then no. Line art looks better to me.
Small Gripes, No Problem
My small gripe with this style was how I was doing the base colour, however, I had an idea pop in my head when I thought about it.
You’ll hear about it in the next post.
Programs Used: Clip Studio Paint, Affinity Photo