Zombie Painted in Sketchbook Pro on the IPad

Introduction: Zombie Painted in Sketchbook Pro on the IPad

About: I am a digital artist/ illustrator living in Colorado. I have a strong background and two years of formal training in traditional art. My interests in art vary from impressionistic plein air painting, to com...

What I am doing.
In this demonstration I will be showing you  how to draw a Halloween themed Zombie using Sketchbook Pro for the iPad. I am using the iPad 1 for this but you can easily follow along with any generation iPad. I am doing this with my finger but some of you might prefer to use a stylus and that's fine.

Keep it simple
Sketchbook Pro might look complicated at first but I will show you that without much technical knowledge you can use this app to paint creative illustrations. There are many different things you can do with brush settings and layer modes but I will not get into that this time. All the brushes I use here are in their default settings and layers will only have their opacity adjusted.

Tip: Along with Sketchbook Pro I recommend that you pick up Dropbox as well. This app allows you to easily share what you paint on your iPad with your Desktop or Mac. It links directly to Sketchbook Pro for easy exporting of both PNG and PSD file formats.

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Step 1: Getting Started

Ready, Set , Go!
First open up Sketchbook pro after downloading the app in iTunes. In the bottom right hand corner you will see a “+” touch that to create and open a new canvas.
If you are not familiar with the app then I recommend that you touch the “i” inside the white circle on the top menu bar. Here you can access an online user manual to help you navigate your way around the app easily. It will only take a couple minuets and it covers everything you need to know about the tools and where they are located as well as touch and tap shortcuts. I have tagged areas of the screenshot to help you but don't let this take the place of looking over the user manual.

Need to knows
* Touching and holding your finger on the screen will bring up the Color Picker which allows you to select any color on your painting and then paint in that color.
* Save often by touching the Gallery button in the top left hand corner. It will take you back to the gallery, but touching the back tab also in the top left corner will quickly bring you back to your painting. This is a must because the app does not save your work automatically. I like to do it every time a create or merge a layer.

Step 2: Gesture Drawing

First using the brush I draw large shapes in light blue. This allows me to compose the idea I have in mind and figure out placement of the different elements of the painting. Here you can see I have placed the horizon line, the main figure and a small pumpkin at the bottom. Do not worry about details at this point. Just quickly get in the main idea and the details will come. Note that I have a lot of negative space at the top. This is so if at some point I later decide I want to put in a banner or some text I can do so easily.

Tip: Doing this as fast as possible puts life into the final painting. If you don’t like it, redo it. It should take less than a minute to do this so don' hesitate to do a few of these. A good way to practice gesture drawing like this go to the park and draw people who are moving around

It looks good at this point so add a new layer on top and save the painting.

Step 3: Begin Refining the Drawing

After saving your work, start to refine your drawing on the second layer.  Using black, reduce your brush size and begin outlining the blue shapes as your eye sees them. Inside the outlines put in some basic details that you can build on later. Don’t build on them now. Not every stroke of your finger needs to be the final stroke.

Once you get it the way you like it merge the second layer down and reduce the opacity of the flattened layer. Save your work.

Note: The app will only support a maximum of six layers so as the painting progresses I will be merging layers pretty regularly. But we will keep the important ones separate.

When I took digital painting classes back in the mid 1990’s computers were considered high performance if they had a 40 megabyte hard drive and don’t get me started on the RAM. So, working in a minimum amount of layers back then was a must. This is reminiscent of those days to me.

Step 4: Details

Now it’s time to get to the good stuff. First, create a new layer and be sure the bottom layer has its opacity adjusted down not so far that you can't see it but so you don't lose sight of the lines you are about to do.  Next, with the pencil tool start drawing in the details of your painting. You can take your time doing this because this layer will not be getting merged down right away and will be mostly visible in the final piece.

 When you are finished do not merge this layer but do save your work.

Tip: I like to draw with the pencil tool at 30% to 50% opacity. That way it feels more like a natural pencil because you can darken the lines in by going over them again. I personally like to make the line outlining my objects darker that the ones inside the objects. 

Step 5: Put in Some Value

Next create a new layer but sandwich it between the bottom layer with the construction lines and the layer you just completed. Notice how you can barely see the bottom layer now. Some might get rid of it all together but I am going to leave it there as a place holder for my background.

Now quickly take a large low opacity brush and scribble in your figure with black paint. Don’t worry about staying in the lines they will only get in the way. I know this might be hard for most of you that graduated Kindergarten but trust me it is the best way to do it.

Step 6: Clean and Continue

Now clean up the excess with a hard edged eraser tool and create a new layer over your value layer. 

We are about to get into the real meat of how to work a painting in Sketchbook Pro with minimal layers. Everything being done will be done on a layer above the object. After which, that layer will have it's opacity adjusted and merged down. Always save after merging two layers together.

Step 7: Start to Apply Color

When you start to color your zombie, apply the color to the layer above the object, adjust the opacity of the layer, and merge the color layer down. Repeat this process multiple times as needed. For any of you familiar with traditional painting you will recognize this as a glazing technique. Again, don't worry about staying in the lines you can clean it up afterwards.

So why do it this way?
By adding multiple transparent layers on top of each other you achieve depth in your color. Also be sensitive to the textures that you will be creating spontaneously. Some of these textures can be developed into details that you may not have planned for but, that add to the total impact of the painting.

Tip: To develop the new details you see coming out use the color dropper tool to pull out the color you are seeing and adjust the value dark or light then paint in the emphasized color on top of the new detail.

Step 8: Background

You are not done with the Zombie yet but you need to start filling in all the white surrounding the figure. All that white is effecting the way your eyes see the color and value of the zombie. Remember the layer that was holding the place for the background? Start working in your colors above that layer and then merge them down on to it, saving as you go. 

Note: The zombie is not going to be fully opaque so painting behind him will effect the way he looks. This is not necessarily a bad thing but use your judgment and erase any color behind him that drastically changes the way you want him to look.

Step 9: The Pumpkin

The pumpkins should not going to get a layer of his own but worked on the same layer as the zombie. he started out very dark from the original laying in of value so painting color highlights will be the first thing to do. now after only two glazes we have all the different colors and values we need to finish him up.  Notice the reflective light added under the zombie. 

Note: Many oil painters like to lay down a thin layer of dark warm color and then paint thicker light valued color over top. This is a good technique that translates well in to the digital medium and deserves exploration. 

Step 10: Add Gradients

To add a gradient we will first paint only the areas we want to apply the gradient to. Use color that will stand out so you can be sure to have sharp edges where the horizon meets the sky.
Next lock the opacity of the layer. That means any color you paint on to that layer will only be applied to the pixels you have already painted in that layer.
Now, paint in a blended layer from light to dark of your desired color on the layer with the opacity locked.
Next, unlock the opacity and fade out the light color with a transparent eraser.
Merge the gradient down and save your work.
Now repeat this in the sky but make the sky line lighter and fade up it to the blue of the sky.

Step 11: Add Shadows

Working on a layer above the Zombie use the airbrush and spray in some dark value in the areas you want to add shadows. Now using your soft and hard erasers to carve away at the shadows and shape them the way you want them. Next, adjust the layer opacity so the right amount of value is placed in when you merge the shadow layer down.

Note; When putting in shadows pay attention to the edges. Sharp edges and soft edges can be used together in harmony with each other.
Try to avoid placing shadows directly up against the edge of an object because this makes the object look flat. Cast shadow are an exception to this rule.

Step 12: Add Photographic Texture

Now to add a little extra texture is easy. The reason to do this is to give the illustration a more natural feel.  It is as easy as inserting a photo on a layer above what you want to to texture and dropping the opacity way down. Then, using your eraser shape the texture and merge it down.

Tip: When putting in photo texture do not over do it. Less is more in this case.

Step 13: Ground the Objects Into Their Enviroment

The end is near and next we want to make sure our characters are grounded in their environment  The first photo shows you that the pumpkin is obviously floating. The eye sees this because the ground where the pumpkin should be sitting is to light. There in nothing linking the ground and the pumpkin together. So the fix is easy. Put in some shadow to tie the two together. Don't place the shadow only on the ground but overlap it on to the pumpkin as well. 

Step 14: Final Touches

Now it is time to wrap things up. Using a pencil or very fine airbrush start to put in the fine details. This is where the piece will come alive and every one does it differently. Take as much time as you need to here. Something I will do is wait till the next morning to do this step. At this point I have been looking at the painting so long I no longer see it  the way it really looks and need to take a break.

Things to do: Clean up edges you want to be in focus, give textured areas a once over, add final details like strains of hair and, show the painting to others to get a quick reaction and ask them what they would change. 

The end: This concludes the "how to" and I hope I was able to give you some valuable pointers or show you a different way to do things. Thank you for your time, now go and draw something.

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    22 Discussions


    3 years ago

    hi, this is really cool, but I'm finding it really hard to usr my finger (thumb) (i don't have a stylus).. I wanna know how you create accurate lines with your finger

    PS I use a small tablet


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is absolutely excellent tutorial! This has helped understand how to make really great pictures in sketchbook pro, rather than forcing me to pay more than I am able to actually afford a program like adobe illustrator, or real art mediums. Thank you!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I really like your style! It reminds me of Justin Hillsgroves works. You should check him out you might like it too. Fantastic job!


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. I hope to have some more ideas of what to do.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Congratz on the winning the Judges prize and Happy Halloween!!!

    Dave A
    Dave A

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice! You have my vote. I might be using this as a guide to make a dutch manual for Sketchbook pro for my students in secondary school.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you Very much. I am glad you see it as being useful.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank You John. I appreciate the deviant peek as well.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I am a huge fan of this piece. You have my vote.