This post is an illustration demo featuring one of my original characters, “Geo-Scout”. I work from start to finish in Krita, the free and open-source digital painting software.
This demonstration uses the following tools for art creation:
- Krita 3.2
- Wacom Intuos Pro Pen Tablet
- Dell XPS 8700 PC running Windows 8.1
Before I do anything, I need to create a new image document. To do so, I click “File” and then select “New” (or, as you can see, I can also press “Ctrl+N”).
I then decide I want to use the standard 9” x 12” paper size at 400 PPI (pixels per inch). I use such a resolution to ensure the highest quality printout at the end of the creation process. I do not modify any of the color profile settings. It is not totally necessary to name the piece, but I do so anyway for the sake of this demonstration.
In the “Content” tab I do not modify the default settings which are what you see here. I click “Create” to initiate work.
I use a custom pencil brush that was modified and saved separately from the default “HB Pencil” brush preset. For inks, I use the ink brush with modified settings, also shown here. Note the settings shown here for reference. I access this menu from the brush icon atop the work window. (Be sure to refer to Krita’s documentation if you desire more information about the brush engines and settings)
I create a new layer, naming it “blue” since I will be using a blue pencil to do a rough sketch of our futuristic heroine thug. Details don’t matter much here, just the overall idea. I keep the canvas zoomed out, fitting the work space so I can see how each part of her body relates to the others more easily. Indeed, if this were real paper you’d have no other choice. I draw “through” her as well, to build up more convincing form. Or rather, what will be.
TIP: A useful tool in the beginning is an index card with a pen or pencil to do a quick thumbnail sketch before embarking on the composition itself. Indeed, I did so on a piece of scratch paper beforehand for this demo.
When the rough sketch is complete I lower the layer opacity of “blue” to 28%. Then, I create a new layer, naming it “gray pencil” as I switch the color of my pencil to black. A splendid contradiction. I lower the brush opacity from 16% to 12% and lower the brush size a little, to 24.04, for greater sharpness than before.
I begin using more carefully placed, yet confident, lines as I build up dear Geo-Scout’s features. I am quite light with my pen on the tablet, altering the pressure and angle as I go along. Somehow she managed to turn that frown upside down, I find, but decide that it looks better than the rough sketch in blue. As you can see, I start to zoom in for greater accuracy in drawing.
And yet I’m a little skeptical, so I select “Image” from the top menu and choose “Mirror Image Horizontally”. From this I begin to see early on things that need correcting to appear more natural. This is an effective technique to spot inconsistencies in a drawing since the brain is used to viewing things in the reverse of the reverse, generally speaking. Anyhow, I flip the canvas back and forth a little to gain a better sense of symmetry as I work.
Zooming out, I admire my progress thus far…
…and then decide to get back to work. I use “clumps” of shading here and there on and around Scout sparingly for a more dynamic-looking pencil drawing. I zoom in to target areas, such as her legs and boots at the bottom, and her gun up top.
Eventually I finish. Here’s a full visual.
There are countless ways to ink a drawing. For now, I’m going to use a simple method of first outlining the figure, then filling the inside of it. I plan to place dark spots around Geo-Scout’s figure, also, roughly in relation to the clumps of shading in the pencil drawing.
The first thing I do is create a new layer called “inks” and drop the opacity of the pencil layer to somewhere between 25-30%.
Using basic smoothing I start the inking process by drawing all around Scout. I use a variable line width to suggest a less flat-looking appearance. I work up close so that my lines are accurately placed, using the beloved “undo” (Ctrl+Z) command when needed. I ink in the details of her raised weapon early on.
I use here the straight line tool for lines I’m not confident enough to draw freehand. For perfect circles I use a shape tool, making sure to reduce the pixel width on the top of the work window so it doesn’t appear conspicuously thick. I do likewise for other regular shapes to ink.
Eventually I get all around her figure and zoom out to see how it looks. I then reduce the brush size to around 14 pixels and start working inside the outline I made. Quick yet confident lines with the pen will more likely result in smoother lines than if they were slowly, “timidly” drawn for fear of making a mistake. But mistakes are fine, as long as they’re fixed.
TIP: Inking takes confidence. Relax for better control.
I use fill-ins here and there around the drawing to add a little comic-like drama. They are placed in such a manner that there is no imbalance or area that is too full of black ink. To facilitate the process of filling in I use the paint bucket tool, limiting the extent of each fill to the “current layer” in the Tool Options menu on the side dock.
In time, I finish. Here it is in full.
Because I used neat, solid lines of moderate thickness in inking, laying out the flat colors will be a simple task. I use the paint bucket, this time removing the tick in the Tool Options for “Limit to Current Layer”. This means whenever I make a fill, it will acknowledge the existence of all layers above and below the current layer. I set each fill to grow by 2 pixels, sometimes lowering it to 1 pixel if the lines are thin enough.
I fill in the large areas with the paint bucket and use my custom ink brush to fill any areas the bucket misses. For areas I want to fill with white or a shade of white, I hide the background layer in order to see the fill itself better.
Pretty soon, this part is all finished. See the product thus far.
Shading and Finishing Touches
I create a new layer called “shading” and set the composite mode to “Multiply”. From here on out I select a low-saturation pink for shading the entire drawing. As you can see, with just a little effort this way I am able to achieve great consistency in shading tones. I use my custom ink brush still.
A few times, I decide to limit the drawing space to a selection so I can be sure I’m coloring inside the lines. For this, I go to the base colors layer, and use the “Select Opaque” option, then return to the layer I was working on. And, like magic, the strokes I add don’t escape from within the inks.
Sooner or later I finish this part…
…then get to finishing my work. I use this brush to add soft highlights. It operates much like an airbrush. Except it isn’t. Anyway, the settings for it are as shown. I use the same selection trick so that I can stay inside the lines more easily.
I use my ink brush at lowered opacity for harder highlights, like for the gold parts on her jacket.
Afterwards, I do a bit of experimentation with finishing touches, including a gradient and some glow effects (which are beyond the scope of explanation in this demonstration).
After a little while, I sign my name and call it done.