Introduction: Drawing a Comic-Style Portrait With Sketchbook Pro


Sketchbook Pro is my favorite drawing software. Unlike some other illustration softwares, Sketchbook is very intuitive. All I had to do is pick up my stylus and draw, very much like a real sketchbook. Of course, having some of my favorite computer tools like undo, line tool, color picker and layers is nice too.

When I started drawing, I found portraits to be the most intimidating, especially if they were of people I knew. When I draw a person, there is always a risk they will not like how I drew them. To overcome that, I would ask friends to give me their favorite selfie. This way I knew I had a reference photo/portrait they really liked. Once I had their picture, I would import it into Sketchbook Pro and do a realistic comic-style portrait.

Step 1: Materials

To do a cartoon or comic style drawing in Sketchbook Pro:

  • A desktop, laptop or tablet computer
  • Sketchbook software, the trial version is free!
  • A photo of what you want to draw. In this example I will use a photo of myself

For this tutorial, I will assume you know how to do computer basics like open a file, save a file, select, etc.

Step 2: Getting Started

On your computer launch the software, Sketchbook Pro. By default the Sketchbook will open with a blank page and some typical toolbars:

  • The Brush Palette is where you select the type of brush, pencil, pen or marker you will use. If you double click the brush you want to use, the brush properties window appears. In the brush properties you can change things like brush size, opacity, tip angle, etc.
  • The Brush Puck let's you quickly select the brush size. By clicking on it and dragging your pointer left or right to decrease or increase the brush size respectively.
  • The Color Puck lets you pick your color quickly. If you want more options, open the color wheel icon in the tool bar. The color wheel icon in the lagoon will show the last few colors you used. This can be very handy if you are going back and forth between 5-8 colors.
  • The Toolbar shows the full set of tools available to you. If you hover over each icon with your pointer, you will see what each tool is. The tools I will use the most for this are:
    • Undo and redo
    • Free
    • Polyline
    • Brush palette
    • Color editor and Copic library
    • Layer editor
  • The Layer Editor will show you the layers you are working with and how you can manipulate them by adding, deleting, locking, making visible or invisible, etc.
  • The Lagoon will remember the tool selections you made often and have them at your disposal for quick selection. Let's say you are going back and forth between a pencil and a felt tip marker, the lagoon will remember those two pens so you can switch between them quickly.

Navigate to the file menu and open the photo you want to draw.

Step 3: Creating a New Layer and Selecting the Marker

When you open the file you want to draw, you will do the following:

  • In the layer editor, you will see a thumbnail of your photo. Click on the lock icon to lock it. This is to protect your photo from being drawn over directly
  • After you lock the background layer, add a new layer by clicking the + icon in the Layer Editor. There are a few other ways to do this an depending on how comfortable you get using the software you will figure the alternative ways quickly
  • The new layer will be transparent and you will see in the layer editor a new thumbnail called "Layer 01"
  • In the Brush Palette select either a Copic marker or a Felt marker
  • Using the Brush Puck adjust the thickness of the marker
  • In the Color Puck select black as your marker color
  • Now you are ready to start outlining your picture with a black marker on the new layer

Step 4: Drawing the Outline

When I draw the outline, I might use a thicker black marker for the outline of the face, hair and general body outline. Then I will switch to a thinner marker to draw facial features like eyes, mouth, etc.

When I am ready to draw the facial features, I will zoom in on the face to make it easier to trace out the details. You can do this by hitting the space bar, and this will show the zoom/move tool. To exit the tool, press Esc. I might take a few tips from Manga and draw the eyes slightly bigger and instead of a nose, just a little curve.

When I feel like I am done with outlining the photo, I will go to the Layer Editor and hide the background layer by clicking on its Eye Icon. This will allow me to look at just the outline.

Step 5: Touching Up the Outline

Now if you look at the outline, it's not perfect. At this point, I will use the eraser and the black marker together to touch up my outline. This might be really subtle work so you can skip it if you are happy with your outline.

Then I will lock the outline layer and duplicate it. If you click the layer thumbnail, you will get options like add, delete, hide, duplicate layer. I like to duplicate the outline layer before coloring and color on a new layer.

Step 6: Coloring

Using the Copic markers and the Copic Library of colors, I will start coloring in my Layer 1-1 outline. The Copic Library of Colors has already some great skin tones so I don't have to try too hard to match up my skin tone. I will also use different shades of skin tones to shade my face.

Once I am happy with how my face is shaded, I will move on to coloring my hair. Since I drew different strands of hair, I will color them in different shades of blonde to give my hair highlights. I will also add some rouge to my lips and color in the t-shirt.

When I am happy with the drawing, I will go ahead and color in the background. I will move that locked outline layer above the colored layer so I have nice black outlines at the end of the drawing.

Lastly, I will save the file as a JPEG or PNG with merged layers so I can use it outside of Sketchbook.