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Workflow: illustrating drawings

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This tutorial is available as a PDF. Click here to view or download it



This is my first tutorial, and it's a workflow-style tutorial that discusses how to illustrate scanned drawings. It doesn't require any plugins or filters (not even built-in ones). The work is all you, and that's really great. Being able to draw your own objects without dependence on filters/plugins allows you to develop your own visual style and brings greater control in scenes, like clutter shots.

Start by scanning the original drawing. Open it in Paint.NET. We'll call it the scan layer.


Before you do anything else, decide what the color scheme is. Here's a self-describing example:


The handle is brown, the guard is yellow, and the blade is gray because it's steel. These colors are chosen with some intensity in mind. If this dagger is in a night setting with bad light, these colors will be a lot darker. This dagger is in a neutral lighting, like outside on a cloudy day.


Make a new layer to trace over the scan.


You want it on a new layer so you can remove the scan from it later. Draw with the desired colors and try to fix as many drawing issues as possible. Notice in the picture below that the guard is visible over the handle, so the edges of the guard are drawn with yellow. Try to keep the regions to be colored on different layers to make it easy to texture them later.


Fill in the colors.


Choose a light source for texturing.


Add a new layer for texture. Add another for highlights and shadows.



With Outlines

The process is a little more straightforward with outlines. You can create a scan layer as usual.


Make a new layer to trace over the scan. Draw the outline with black lines and try to fix as many drawing issues as possible. You don't need to worry about colors yet.


Alternatively, if the original image is in grayscale colors (like a pencil sketch) and doesn't need any tweaks, you can modify the scan layer directly to use it as the outline. Use the plugin Switch gray to alpha to remove the background, then use Alpha Threshold to darken the lines.


Add a layer for colors under the outline layer. Color in the lines.


Add a new layer for texture. Add another for highlights and shadows.


Additional Steps

- If it's hard to see, make a "screen" layer filled with some translucent color so you can see the difference between identical colors on two layers. That is, if you're drawing on the layer above the scan, and both have black lines, it's nice to have a translucent color on its own layer between the scan and drawing layers. That way, your crisp black lines show up in the drawing layer more vividly than the scan layer (which has a screen over it).


- Make a layer underneath the image, fill in everything with white, then merge it so there are no partially transparent pixels left.



If the image is symmetrical, draw one side of the image. Flip it horizontally / vertically. The dagger picture had symmetry, and I took advantage of it.



Images can have radial symmetry, like petals around a flower. You can copy a petal and paste it, then move the little circle to the center of the flower. It's the point the image rotates around.



For highlights, remember to take surface texture, type of material, and angle of light into account. Highlights and shadows are the same color as the object being highlighted, tinted in hue by the light source. A highlighted surface often has more saturation or intensity. Avoid the mistake of using white or yellow colors for all highlights. Remember that shadows are fainter the further the object casting the shadow is from the ground.


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