Do you love traditional graphite drawing, and want to discover how you can translate it to digital drawing? Do you love the way graphite drawings look and feel? Do you want to learn how to draw before you begin to play with color? If you said yes to any of these questions, then this might be the right blog post for you!
Right now I am going through a bit of a “graphite” drawing kick. All of my drawings have been done using variants in Sketchbook Pro that resemble traditional tools such as Pencils, Blending Stumps, Erasers, Charcoal, or Chalk. So for my post today, I am going to walk you through the steps I take to mimic traditional drawing.
I am using Sketchbook Pro on my Samsung Note 10.1 2014. Of course, if you are using a different program, you can still follow along. You may just need to find the tools that resemble the tools I am using. Most programs have pencils, blenders, erasers, and some kind of texture or chalk brush, so don’t feel like you need to go buy a new program!
If you are thinking about getting Sketchbook Pro, it is available for anyone using an Android or IOS device. I will put a link here for my basic review and rundown of the app.
If you are using Sketchbook Pro on your Desktop, I have created these exact brushes for the Desktop version, with all of the settings outlined below already built into them. Simply download the library from this post, Keri’s Sketchbook Pro Pencil Tools, and you will be ready to follow the drawing steps outlined below!
The tools we will be using for this demonstration are the Primary Pencil, the Smudge Pen, the Textured Eraser, and the Chalk Pastel. All of these brushes can be found in the Basic Brush Set. It should be the very first library when you open your brush library within the app.
I do not use the brushes how they come built stock. I always end up tweaking some of the settings, so that they behave the way I want! The settings may seem overwhelming at first, but I encourage you to play with them. Once you get into it, it is way more simple, and you can modify each brush to feel more similar to you!
I am going to give you a quick idea of what setting modifications I have made for each brush, so if you want your brush to closely resemble mine, you can. Please keep in mind that I do play with the settings while I draw, depending on how large the area is, or what the surface is that I am drawing.
Let’s start with the Primary Pencil. Overall, I really like this tool, but coming from a traditional drawing background, I wanted a pencil that reacted differently depending on how much pressure I put on my stylus. One of the first things I changed is the Opacity and Flow based on how much pressure I put onto my stylus. I set my max flow and opacity to 100%, and the minimum to 8%. Now depending on how much pressure I put on my stylus, the amount of color that will appear on the canvas will be anywhere between 8% and 100%. Next, under the nib menu, you can change the texture properties. I changed the scaling to 525%, and the depth with heavy pressure to 100%, and the depth with light pressure to 90%. Now my pencil will behave differently with the texture depending on pressure as well.
Next we will look at the Textured Eraser. For me, I love having texture in my drawings, so I chose this brush to be able to maintain the texture of the drawing. If you prefer your drawings to have a smoother, more polished finish to it, you may choose to use the Soft Eraser from the Legacy brush set. Starting in the basic settings, the size and flow change depending on what area of my drawing I am currently working on. The flow controls how much color is removed, so it depends how much color I want to lift off of the canvas. For the advanced settings, I pushed the hardness up to 100%, and played with the settings for the texture. What I will do is select the texture I want to use, and then I will play with the scale of the texture, I will usually bump up the brightness past 70%, and put the contrast anywhere between 20% and 30%. The depth pressure settings will depend on what effect I am going for.
For the smudge pen, I really only look at the size and the strength of the smudge. This will vary depending on what area I am blending, and how much I want the color to mix and move around on the canvas. Only occasionally will I apply a texture. I don’t love the way texture feels on this smudge pen, so if I do apply one, it is usually smooth, and then I will play with the depth with pressure.
For the chalk pastel, I will play with the size depending on what I am drawing. I will also change the flow percentage based on how much pressure I am putting on my stylus. The range with light pressure is 10%, and full pressure is 100%. I may also choose a different texture, but otherwise, it stays very similar to the base settings.
Now onto the fun part, drawing! To begin with, you need to get your outline or sketch done. In the coming weeks, I will be doing a blog post on how I get my initial sketch onto the canvas. Once the sketch is done, I always create a value scale map. This will allow you to focus on the direction and details of your strokes in step 2, because you won’t be focusing on your values as much! For this step, I will use either the Primary Pencil, or the Chalk Pastel, depending on the look I am aiming for, or how quickly I want to complete this step. Laying down this layer in Pencil usually creates a grainier and softer look. Using the Chalk Pastel usually creates a smoother darker look. Sometimes I will combine these two methods in one piece.
My second step is to blend out the entire first layer. I do not leave any area of my canvas white. Even areas in my finished artwork that may look white are usually just a light grey color. The finished look of this step will depend on if I used the Pencil or the Pastel on the first layer. Play with both methods, to see which you like better.
Once my entire first layer is blended, I will proceed to step three. This step includes the use of the Primary Pencil, the Textured Eraser, and the Smudge Pen. This step is all about defining your details. I will lay down more pencil strokes, start lifting out highlights with the eraser, blend it, and do this over and over until I am happy with everything.
The key thing to remember when drawing with pencils is to draw in the direction of the subjects details. What I mean by this is if you are drawing a table, then your pencil strokes should go in the direction of the wood grain. Your piece will look “off” if you are not drawing your strokes in the correct direction. This is something you should keep in mind while completing step 3.
Also keep in mind that you can blend too much. With pencil drawings, you should be able to see some of your pencil strokes. If you over blend, it may look too polished. This is okay if that is the style you are going for, but it is not typical for pencil drawings!
For the final layer, I only use the Primary Pencil and the Textured Eraser. This step is very important for creating your sharp details, and finessing the soft details. Lastly, I will go in with that Textured Eraser, and lift out the rest of the highlights. In this step, I play with the flow of the eraser a lot, so that all the highlights have a varying degree of strength.
In this picture, I did a couple examples of my pencil drawing process. The first sphere was completed with the Primary Pencil, the Smudge Pen, and the Textured Eraser. The second sphere was completed using the Chalk Pastel, the Smudge Pen, and the Textured Eraser. I like both spheres for different reasons. The top sphere took me about 30 minutes to draw, while the second sphere only took 10 minutes. They both produce very different looks in different time frames.
A the bottom of the picture, I demonstrate the 4 steps I take to complete my drawings. The tools I used in these steps are the Primary Pencil, the Smudge Pen, and the Textured Eraser. The left side demonstration is a more grainy style, like fur or water ripples, while the right side demonstration produced a smoother finish.
I hope this has helped you get an idea of how I create graphite style drawings in Sketchbook Pro. I encourage you to use these steps, and add your own elements to it as well! Play with the brush settings, and even the brushes themselves. There are a lot of great pencils in the mobile version of Sketchbook Pro, including the Fine Art Pencils.
If you have any questions, or if you would like to add one of your techniques into the mix, leave a comment below so that I can try them to!