The following method I developed while in the Eyebeam OpenLab to create drawings that are a combination of a flat, comic book style and "how to evacuate the airplane." It starts with "analog" drawing moving to the computer for color. I'll detail all the steps and you can pick and choose elements of this method to create whatever style drawings you like. This method can help you quickly achieve a realistic and accurate drawing.
This instructable is in the spirit of my past instructables - tools, methods, and workflows I have developed in my past projects, published here because I hope they are useful to others in whole or part. For examples on how I have used this particular way of working see these projects completed while at Eyebeam:
- Wish You Were Here: Postcards From Our Awesome Future
What you will need:
- Black archival ink markers with a variety of line widths. Look for Sakura Pigma Micron Pens, Staedler Pigment Liners, or Mars Professional Precision Pens. You could also use technical pens like Rapidographs, but I find the marker tips allow for more variation.
- archival paper
- tracing paper
- light table or light box (optional)
- ph balanced artists tape
Why archival? Always be prepared to make amazing work that you'll want around forever.
Software - open source:
- Inkscape - free and open source vector editor
- Potrace - Free software for converting bitmaps to scalable vector graphics
- Vector Magic - free online bitmat to vector converter
Software - $$ commercial $$
- Adobe Illustrator CS2 and higher
- access to a computer, scanner, and printer
Read on if you are a purist and think working from photographs, using light boxes, projection, or tracing paper is "cheating."
I've found that some people, mainly non-artists, think that using tools like light tables or projectors is somehow less legitimate. In fact, most artists use these tools to create their work and have for centuries. From Vermeer to Warhol, artists have used a variety of optical devices as drawing aids. There's no reason why you shouldn't. (more details below)
- Most artists use tools. If they don't use projectors and light tables, we use various other methods like cameras, lenses, slide film, mirrors, grid systems, sighting and angling, measuring devices, rulers, compasses, and triangulation. But it really doesn't matter what tools you use. Some may disagree, but in art, more important than how a work is made is what that work says. Use any tool available to make the work you want to make. Focus less on tools and methods and make sure your work means something.
- Using a projector or light table is not a shortcut. It will not make your drawing good, just different. Just like having a good thesaurus will not automatically make your writing better, er, more exquisite. It's just a tool. While it can make the work easier, you still gotta learn how to use the tools well.
- Tracing doesn't mean copying or plagiarism. See appropriation art. In fact, altering an image in your drawing process can contribute to a Fair Use argument for using copyrighted material to create new works!
- Although this instructable isn't about copying art works, copying art is an excellent learning tool used in classical art instruction. When you recreate an artists work, you gain insight into how the original work was made. Straight copying of an art work can help you build your skills.
- Read up on the Hockney-Falco thesis, watch the movie (if you can), or this Charlie Rose interview online.
If you're still not convinced, that's ok.
Now that that's done, lets get to work...
Step 1: Working with your photo
Possible places find photos:
- your own photo
- Flickr Creative Commons search and regular flickr search (if you'll be significantly altering the image)
- Wikimedia Commons
- Public Domain images
- Library of Congress Image Search
- Google Extra Large Image Search
Remember, you can use copyrighted material under the Fair Use Doctrine if you are using it for parody, commentary, or altering it significantly.
Image 1 - The photo I am using in this example is of author, Stephen Duncombe and was used in a catalog for a project I did with Packard Jennings for the San Francisco Arts Commission.
2. Crop the photo
Crop your photo to the important areas. Remember to make sure your image is still large enough to print with resolution that will show detail.
Image 2 - The original image, while great on it's own, includes part of the plastic Ronald McDonald. I want to create a portrait focused on his face, so I need to crop the photo.
3. Sharpen your image to an unusually high degree - this will help you see details through the paper when on the light table.
Image 3 - `the sharpened image
4. Print it out. I use a cheap laser printer, but use whatever you have.