tutorials: art q and a

Tutorial 0: Art & Design Questions & Answers...

Q. How do I draw...[insert subject matter] ?
A. If there's something you're having trouble with like buildings, people, animals etc, the best thing to do is find magazines, books and reference material from the web. If you've never drawn a cat for example, I'd recommend copying out a few pictures of cats from a photo, so you get used to exactly how cats look and move, then try drawing your own cat picture based on previous doodles. The more you practice any single object, the easier it is to draw it again next time.

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Q. How can I come up with original ideas for hair, clothes etc?
A. All ideas, even original ones are based on existing information. Try looking around you for inspiration check out other comics and anime, flick through some fashion magazines, go to a museum. Also keep in mind the type of character you want to create. A pirate for example would typically have an eye patch and bandana while a rock star skater punk might have spiky hair and baggy pants. By no means stick to these traditions, but considering a character's personality or setting can really help to decide what kind of fashions you want them to adorn. After that, experiment!

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Q. I simply CAN'T draw! What can I do?
A. Drawing at a high standard takes a lot of time, patience and hard work. If you're really dedicated and determined to be good, try practising every day. Vary what you draw so you don't get bored. Draw from life. Don't be scared to draw something, even if you think it'll turn out bad - A lot of the time pictures only turn out bad if there wasn't enough thought behind what you wanted to achieve in the first place. I'd advise keeping all your old work, so after a year or two, you can look back at it and see how far you've come. Drawing should be a fun past time, so try not to let it stress you out.

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Q. Are there any good books that teach how to draw?
A. There are many good and not so good books available. If you're interested in learning to draw manga and anime style, there's plenty of "How to Draw Manga" books about to get you started. Of course I'll recommend "The Art of Drawing Manga" by Ben Krefta or "Step by Step Manga" - also be Ben Krefta! I imagine since you're reading this, you're probably a fan of my work anyway, so check 'em out! It's worth getting a life drawing/ anatomy book or two; authors such as "George Bridgman" and "Burne Hogarth" are recommended.

How to draw books aren't much of a substitute for practice, but if you're a still a beginner, it doesn't hurt to pick up a few techniques to get you started.

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Q. How long should I spend on a picture?
A. It varies depending on the size, detail and your general drawing speed. Speed is usually determined by consistent practice and experience. Also it depends on the level of detail you're aiming for- I spend extra time on my own works to get rid of the brush stokes, ink bleed and stray pencil marks, but that's just my style. Many other artists would by-pass this stage, saving themselves hours but still getting something which at first glance looks to be of a fairly similar quality.

Don't be scared to work on a drawing for more than an hour. If you want to progress, take time to make sure everything looks real and if you're adding a background, don't rush it. If you're doing manga or comic sequential pages, be prepared to spend anything from 3 - 12 hours penciling alone. Be patient with your picture. If you're getting sick of drawing, leave it for a while and come back later.

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Q. Where should I start when drawing people?
A. Almost always with the eyes - since they're the centre of the face, it's a good starting block to build around. Then I'll draw the other facial features, followed buy the head, then go from there, usually working my way down. I like to draw out roughs for my work too, then retrace them via light box, so as far as that's concerned I'll draw the whole outline to begin with, then start building up detail starting with the eyes. Sometimes I like to very lightly draw a round circle for the head as my starting point and it's always a good idea to draw in masses very lightly and sketchy just to experiment with the shape and proportion. When you're happy with the lightly sketched lines, go over them a little harder.

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Q. What makes a good portfolio?
A. It depends on exactly why you're making a portfolio. It might be to submit to a comic book studios, for a client presentation, job interview or college interview. Let's say it's for a college interview. First you need to decide which course you wish to apply for. If you're a fan of drawing anime, comics and cartoons DON'T go for a Fine Art course. I've heard many people say how their tutors gave them bad grades for drawing comic characters etc. Fine art is figure drawing, landscape painting and expressionism and depending on your tutors, they don't want to see anything else. Instead, I'd check out illustration, graphic design or animation colleges, since manga and comics are simply a style of illustration. There are also colleges which specialize in comic art or video game design, but generally they'll all have one thing in common; they want to see variety and that you can adapt. Show your general strengths with life drawing and traditional media, but also have a few pieces which you're proud of. A key element is figure drawing, so show you know anatomy and how the body works. Personally I'd have at least one third anime or comic style work in my portfolio just so the college know what I do and what I'm interested in. Good colleges should let you explore any art field you want as long as you're dedicated and can produce the goods.

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Q. What paper should I use?
A. Everyone has their own preferences on paper. Professional comic book artists tend to use Bristol board, but as long as it doesn't crumble or tear when you draw on it, it won't make a huge difference. I tend to think thicker paper is best- I use 160 gram A4 (so it fits in my scanner) high quality printer paper a lot of the time. It's almost like card! Good things are: It's very white compared to some types of cartridge / 'special' drawing paper, it's smooth and great for drawing onto with pencil or ink, it doesn't wrinkle like thin paper plus it's relatively cheap!

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Q. What kinda pencils and pens are best to draw with?
A. Like with paper, it's down to personal taste. I use a 0.5mm mechanical pencil for drawing with 2H lead. I also have a 0.5 mech pencil with HB lead, so I can darken or neaten up my 2H line work. I tend not to use B grade pencils as they can smudge and If you're doing lots of pencil detail, which you later intend on inking, it doesn't mater if the lines are lighter. In fact, it's a bonus, so your pencil work won't show up after scanning. With the wonders of modern technology it's also possible to darken line work with computer software. This is something I do often, which enables me to simulate and inked line look from my lightly penciled artwork. I sometimes use a blue lead pencil to rough out characters and proportions, then go over it with a standard graphite lead or ink pen. This way allows lots of sketching on the same sheet of paper, then these blue sketchy lines can be easily deleted with computer software leaving just the grey lead, or ink!
As far as pens go, I'd start of with cheaper fine line pens, then later progress to dib pens & india ink, which allows more freedom with variable line thicknesses or "line weight". However, I tend to stick with a selection of 0.1 - 0.5 fine line pens for inking. Also make sure the ink you use is lightfast or fade resistant.

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Q. Is it okay to copy pictures?
A. It depends what level you're at with your art. I used to copy pictures from magazines and so on when I was younger. Only problem comes when you start claiming you created the picture (which was copied) from scratch! If art is something you are serious about wanting to get good at, I'd try to avoid copying. Even fan art should be original, but obviously using existing character designs.

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Q. Is it okay to use reference material?
A. Everyone will have a different opinion on whether or not it's right to reference for other's art but if you're just drawing for fun, I have nothing major against it. If you become a serious artist you will obviously need to learn how to construct your own poses or you might want to stick to life drawing and photos. Other artists generally tend to think of referencing like this:

To copy someone's art- and call it your own = Very bad!
To copy someone else's drawn pose and call it your own = Sometimes bad
To copy a pose from a magazine photo etc. = Acceptable
To take your own photos and use them as reference = No problems
To use reference by drawing from life = No problems

You may feel inferior for having to rely on reference to get poses and proportions right. But remember, everyone is at different levels and abilities. Just enjoy YOUR art instead of concentrating on OTHER'S work and methods.

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Q. Where's the best place to draw?
A. Anywhere you feel comfortable. Some people use specified drawing rooms, some use their bedroom, others take their sketchbook to the local cafe! I usually sit around the house with a clip board and paper! I considered a slanted drawing board like many professions use. The question is, would I use it? I dunno if it's worth spending a few hundred bucks just in case I end up packing it away a few months later. Although the reduced back and neck pains would be great. I hate those times when you want to keep drawing, but are forced to stop due to strain!

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Q. I want to sell my work- what should I charge?
A. Pricing work is never straight forward. There are dozens of factors to take in to consideration when pricing work. Some of the main things to think about are:

  • What is your work worth to you? All work takes time, effort and skill.
  • How does your work compare to other professionals?
  • Who is paying and what will the work be used for? This is very important, as individuals will only pay so much for a private commission, where as companies looking to use the character in a game or as a company mascot are usually willing to pay a much higher amount.

Starting up as a freelancer or someone who draws for money is hard at first as you need to know business as much as how to draw well. Be strict with your pricing and don't undersell yourself as you'll just feel ripped off if you end up taking extra days over a picture and feel you weren't properly compensated for your time. However, overcharge and you'll never get customers! It's a tricky balancing act. Please only price at what you feel comfortable with.

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Q. How can I bring out my character's personality in a single drawing?
A. There are three things to consider: Facial expression, Gestures i.e. hands and Pose.

So, if you want to show a confident, strong character for example, try giving him/her frowning eyebrows, clenched fists and a solid "feet wide apart" stance. If you want to show a scared/ innocent personality, you might give him/her larger open eyes and put in a very venerable, defensive pose with the character's limbs hugging the body.

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Q. My character's faces look flat and boring- any ideas how to change this?
A. Try drawing your character's heads at an angle rather than straight on to help show a little depth. If it's the style that's boring, try something new! Check out other artist's stuff and try giving your characters similar hair, similar eyes and see what you come out with. If anything it might help give you an understanding of why your stuff looks boring in comparison with other's works.

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Q. What software should I use to color my artwork? Where can I get it for free?
A. You should use whatever you feel comfortable with- be it Paintshop Pro, Painter or MS Paint! I use Adobe Photoshop as it's the most comprehensive software on the market. Photoshop is by no means cheap, so some people end up getting their hands on illegal unlicensed versions through their friends or off of the internet. For the record, I don't condone piracy.

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Q. Are there any colleges that teach Manga and Anime?
A. Most countries run dozens of illustration and animation courses but as for teaching just manga style, I doubt it you'd find one here in the UK.

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Q. When should I apply for art courses?
A. As soon as possible. Different countries will have different rules regarding this. Best thing to do is contact your school, college or university careers advisor or look at the course website.

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Q. How do I draw backgrounds?
A. Despite most people considering BGs to be boring and time consuming, they can help tremendously to bring your characters to life by placing them in an environment, giving them a scenario and story.
Perspective is probably the most important thing. Don't know 1, 2 or 3 point perspective? Check out Google for some tutorials and practice some basic stuff like drawing boxes, rooms and progressing onto buildings. Once you understand basic perspective, it's just a case of drawing in details. As always, check out photos of countryside or cities for reference, perhaps takes some photos of your house or street and try drawing those in perspective too?

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Q. How do you prevent smudges, or make your line work more consistent or solid?
A. Easiest way to prevent smudges when drawing is to use a light grade pencil (I'll assume you know about pencil grades? H= light B= dark). I use a 2H for most of my initial pencil work, sometimes darkening my lines with a HB. If you used B grade pencils you're much more likely to get smudging. If you do smudge, try cleaning it up with a putty rubber / kneedable eraser.

To get consistent smooth lines, draw lines fast! You'll notice the slower you draw a line, the more likely you are to shake or leave a wonky line. After I've roughed out a messy pencil sketch lightly, I'll either go over the top of it with a darker grade pencil, or light-box trace it onto a new sheet of paper. Both ways require drawing neat, quick, accurate lines to get a smoother finish.

Getting more solid or thicker lines is simply a case of re-drawing over your existing line work and padding it out.

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Q. How do I color my work without using computer software?
A. There are loads of different media you can use to colour your line work. Paints such oils, gouache, watercolour or my preferred- acrylic. Coloured pencils are of course easy to use- just make sure to get yourself a decent set which blend well together. You could try the graphic designer's favourite- markers. They work a little like watercolour, but in pen form. Neo-Piko and Letraset do some pretty good ones. You could go with something fine-arty like pastels. Oil pastels work a little like wax crayons, while your regular pastels are like using coloured chalks. Just stay away from felt-tip pens if you're trying to create something a little more serious. If you like art and you've not tried all of the above DO SO NOW! Once you've found a favourite you might want to stick with it, or try mixing your media for different effects.

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Q. Is there any way that can help me stick with a drawing style I like?
A. The more you practice the same style, the more it will stick in your memory and will become part of you. If you're like me, you're constantly seeing other styles you like and want to imitate, so sticking with one style can be hard. Style is something that any artist will continue to develop and it also something that comes naturally. Don't try to force a style to happen. Just let it develop over time.

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Q. How can I make good comic storyboards?
A. A good comic book page is one that reads intuitively and presents you with all the relevant information to be able to understand what's happening in the sequence of drawings. First divide your story into scenes and decide approximately how many pages each scene will require. For a single page scene example- a page should roughly be around 6 panels or frames. Start by creating a thumbnail page consisting of two columns three squares. Quickly fill these thumbnail squares in with rough sketches of the relevant sequence of events. Remember that a western comic page is read from left to right, top to bottom. Ask yourself does each frame illustrate enough relevant information and does it flow into the next frame without the reader wondering where a character or prop appeared from. Use your thumbnail sheet as reference when creating the final page. If you feel a certain frame is more important than the others, make it bigger. If frame doesn't show much information, you can make it smaller. Arrange the different sized frames into shapes which fit best onto the page. Look at existing comics to see how they do it. Hopefully that's enough basic info to get you started :)

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