Category Archives: Digital Illustration Lessons

Layers without a computer

A while back I posted a quick tour of how you can use layers to improve your digital illustrations. But not everyone has a Wacom pen tablet, Photoshop, and Flash. Or even a computer. So how can you improve your drawings without those things?

You go old school, baby! You need a pad of tracing paper, which is thin and see-through, a pencil, and some regular paper to start off with.

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Stealing from yourself

One of the key advantages to using Flash as my illustration platform is that I can easily steal from myself. Take the example of Harry Kruger, NASA bigshot:

Harry Kruger

Harry is a character by Neil Ma from the Uberworld Play By eMail (PBeM) shared universe I'm involved with. Take special note of Harry's face, because I chopped it up and put its pieces into the HeroMachine expansion.

I created the original set of facial features in HM2 by drawing the eyes, noses, mouths, eyebrows, and ears all separately. As a result, they don't always look great put together. So with the Expansion, I took pre-existing faces (either from photo reference or from prior illustrations I'd done, like Harry) and cut up the individual features. That way, when they're put together, you come out with a pleasing whole that fits. As an added bonus, they still look good mixed and matched, too, which is always nice.

This sort of thing is much more widespread than I think most people realize. It's not a bad thing to recycle artwork you've used before, and having your originals available in a digital format (especially a lossless vector format) makes it that much easier. I've even duplicated entire figures as background elements for a different illustration, saving a ton of time and making the final result that much better.

So if you're going to steal, kids, steal from yourself!

(Harry Kruger character © Neil Ma.)

How to draw Batman quick and dirty

Batman Doodle - completeHeroMachine is meant for people who can't draw very well themselves, but I always encourage people to try! Having fun, quick little doodles you can knock out is a good way to improve your confidence and impress your friends. Well, maybe not your friends, because they probably know you too well to be impressed, but you get the idea. Like drawing Killroy or knowing how to make a barn-door farmhouse without picking up your pencil, this quick and simple Batman doodle should be something fun for you. As much as possible, I tried to make it so that anyone who can draw letters can draw the figure. Enjoy!

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Tutorial: The Power of Layers

You don't have to know how to draw to create characters with the HeroMachine, but there's still nothing like making your very own custom illustrations. So from time to time, I'll be posting suggestions on how you can use your computer to do just that.

Before I start, I wanted to say a brief word about the tools you'll need. At a basic minimum you'll need a computer (duh) and some software to draw in. I use Flash because I like its organic feel, plus the fact that it outputs vector art means I can give my client an image at literally any size they want, from a small web graphic to a giant mural, and it'll always look sharp. I also use a Wacom Graphire 4"x5" pen tablet for the actual drawing. It lets me vary the thickness of the line just like I was inking with a brush, but you can just use your mouse if that's what you have. For software, I'll be using Flash MX throughout this tutorial.

And now, on to our first lesson -- layers!

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