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Old 10-03-2013, 12:10 PM   #1
lenindcruz
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Learning to draw with digital instead of traditional medium

Hi,
I have done a lot of reading across forums and articles, all of which say that a newbie in drawing should always begin with paper and pen(cil) instead of a Wacom tablet. They say that you get better control on paper.

However, I have also read that excellent traditional draftsmen end up spending time practising again when they have to move onto the digital tablet. So, what REALLY is the advantage of starting paper? Why not just start on the drawing tablet if you will have to do a lot of practice on it later on anyways?
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Old 10-04-2013, 06:22 AM   #2
Lunatique
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Well, there is a lot of misinformation on the web, because many people just regurgitate what they have heard or read instead of basing their comments on actual experience.

As a veteran artist whose career started with analog in the first half my career and then switched to digital in the second half, as well as all the various examples I've seen from my colleagues, and all the students I've taught over the years, I can tell you that it really doesn't matter which you use--the fundamental eye-to-hand coordination skill is the same.

There are some basic idiosyncratic differences that you'd have to get used to going from one to another, but the transition is relatively quick and all of your skills can be transferred over once you are done getting used to the new idiosyncrasies. For most people it takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks (depending on how much practice you do per day. Some people can draw for 12 hours a day and time just flies by, while some can only go for an hour or less before they lose focus).

Last edited by Lunatique : 10-05-2013 at 03:56 AM.
 
Old 10-04-2013, 07:55 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lunatique
... I can tell you that it really doesn't matter which you use--the fundamental eye-to-hand coordination skill is the same.....


Hey Robert,
It's an honour to hear from you directly.

Yea, that's encouraging. I guess I will save paper and just practice with my Wacom Bamboo. However, even there, one of the most important tips which I had missed all along I got from a 'Feng Zhu' video that said to turn on 'force proportions' option in the tablet settings. That, I think, is OFF by default which was actually scr*wing around with my orientation all those months when I was new with the tablet.

Workspace/flow wise it's a pain to draw and reference on a single screen. I would have to find some work around for that.
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Old 10-07-2013, 12:11 PM   #4
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Why can't you do both?

Excellent draughtsmen have to get used to a tablet, and learn how to use it, when they first start. This is the same if you switch any media - watercolor to oil, pastel to computer, pencil to acrylic. They don't have to relearn their skills in draughtmanship. They just have to learn to apply them to the medium.

If you are just starting out, chances are, your draughtsmanship is very, very bad. You can learn to paint on computer, yeah, but I think it will also serve you to know how to hold pencil to paper as well. At the very least, you should try keeping a sketchbook, to see if you like it. A sketchbook can go with you anywhere, and no one cares if you use it, much. But take out a tablet at a boring family dinner, or a church service, or a lecture, and people can get annoyed. Some artists get loads of pleasure and practice by keeping a sketchbook with them and doodling in the spare minutes they get throughout the day. I really think you should try the sketchbook thing. It's not that it's better than keeping a file of digital sketches, but just that you might really like it.

Even if you want to only paint and draw digitally, and you can learn entirely digitally if you want, yes, I don't think you should assume that traditional skills will be of no benefit to you, and that knowledge of them won't help your digital painting/drawing.
 
Old 10-07-2013, 02:08 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anaxa
Why can't you do both?

... A sketchbook can go with you anywhere, and no one cares if you use it, much....Some artists get loads of pleasure and practice by keeping a sketchbook with them and doodling in the spare minutes they get throughout the day....

I see your point. I am going to focus on digital drawing for the 'professional' hopes, but having a small notebook for the unpredictable times will be an important thing. Thanks.
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Old 10-08-2013, 02:32 PM   #6
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I guess I'll throw in my two cents. I'm in the "use each media for what it's best at and use different media to force my brain to think differently" camp, but I'll explain why I think that's the case.

I sketch with ballpoint pen and paper because pen doesn't smear in my sketchbook, it scans very well (those are the "use each media for what it's best at"), and it forces me to not be tempted to erase too much by not being able to erase at all (the "forcing your brain to think differently).

Knowing that all of your strokes are permanent makes you think differently about how you are drawing. It compels you to be more accurate, more confident, and to make fewer strokes to get your artwork done. If you are getting better at putting fewer strokes down, fewer strokes means less time, less time means more work. But you need to force yourself to draw that way, and it's easier to restrict yourself by using a restrictive tool that to discipline yourself in Photoshop where Ctrl-Z is always an option.

I learned to paint with acrylic first, which forced me to get really good at mixing colors because acrylic dries quickly. I learned to paint with oil later which forced me to learn how to paint with as few strokes on top of each other as possible because of the way oil paints work.

Once I got the knack of being able to create a painting with only a few strokes overlapping each other, and getting good at nailing colors on the first try before applying it to canvas, I was able to take that knowledge and recreate the process in Photoshop, which allowed me to create paintings very quickly. I see too many digital artists put down way too many strokes than they need to because they grew up with an infinitely forgiving media: digital media, where the canvas is always wet, always dry, where you can always undo so they draw curves by trial and error, and they spend too much time adjusting the colors after they've started painting, or worse they colorizing their black and white underpainting instead of confidentially painting with color earlier on because they didn't start with a color study. Why? Because unlike painting with canvas, you don't NEED to have a color study first, and with Photoshop colorizing after the fact is an option (which unfortunately also leads to black shadows which I see way too much in concept art but I won't go off on that rant).

But yes, do use whichever media is better for the job. I like to brainstorm and sketch in pen, do more serious character design studies in Col-Erase blue pencil because pencil is more accurate than a Cintiq (without having to zoom in, which also takes time), but all my coloring and painting work is done in Photoshop. Unfortunately with Photoshop there's no one-of-a-kind originals I can sell (which is one thing to consider), but if I don't want to make extra money off the originals, Photoshop quite simply allows me to put color down so much faster than oils ever allowed me to. And I can work 4 times as fast using the same slim oil painting process in Photoshop.

Can you learn those skills without using restrictive media? In theory, yes, but it will require a crazy amount of willpower not use all of the very powerful (and useful!) crutches available in Photoshop. If you don't HAVE to rely on it, you'll work much faster, and the powerful imaging editing tools will always be there when you screw up.
 
Old 10-08-2013, 03:10 PM   #7
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Some other thoughts.

I mentioned that I use Photoshop all the time for anything involving color, but I know that learning traditional media first gave me a huge boost in creating digital artwork. Most of that was due to helping me develop efficient painting habits, but another part of that is I much better at recreate different styles in Photoshop. I've used charcoal, pastels, acrylic washes, dry brushing, etc. etc. etc. I know how it feels to paint with it in real life, I know how it should look, and I still have all those materials stashed away in a storage box. So if I want some new textures or brush tip shapes, I can create those textures using the actual media, scan it in, and start using them as original Photoshop brush. In fact all the brushes I use were created from natural media that I scanned myself.

If you want to experiment with clothing colors for characters, or if you have a client who changes their mind a lot, Photoshop layers is the only way to go.

I also paint on top of 3D mockups all the time to make sure my perspective is perfect, and to help with my inability to draw smoothly curved vehicles well.

Some people do their line art in SketchBook Pro and paint in Photoshop because the line quality in SketchBook is way better than Photoshop's.

Again, use whatever tool works better for you, but I do believe that you can learn a lot of valuable lessons and have more artistic options if you learn traditional media too. Even if you don't end up using the media ever again, you'll be using the knowledge you gained from it every single day to make you a faster and more versatile artist.

-------------

I think the main reason why people say that newbies should start out on paper first is because a tablet and the necessary software is EXPENSIVE. But yes, it is true you get more control. Better to learn in a physical medium first where you are not struggling with the software AND the input devices.

I think the difficulty that experienced draftsman (American spelling, I know) have when transitioning to a Cintiq is that the pixels don't flow from your stylus tip, but rather where the cursor is on the screen. Because of the pane of glass between the stylus and the monitor, the two usually don't line up. I had that problem too, and that was after I had spent years painting with an Intuos. Once I started looking at the cursor instead I got over it pretty quickly.
 
Old 10-09-2013, 05:35 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glenmoyes
. . . Again, use whatever tool works better for you, but I do believe that you can learn a lot of valuable lessons and have more artistic options if you learn traditional media too. . . .

Thanks for that detailed input man. You have some good points. Greedy as I am, I am going to try making that theoretical possibility of imposing self-discipline while doing digital practice.
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Old 10-10-2013, 07:09 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glenmoyes
... or worse they colorizing their black and white underpainting instead of confidentially painting with color earlier on because they didn't start with a color study. Why? ...

Forgot to mention, that's an important thought you got there. I always took it as 'the way' when I kept seeing so many professional digital artists going the b/w to colour mode.
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Old 10-10-2013, 08:12 PM   #10
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Some artists just prefer to focus on how effective their values are, and then later deal with colors. It's really a personal preference.

I prefer to just work in color right away, after having done my thumbnail sketches and color studies. The main reason is that if I do a monochromatic painting first and then colorize it, I'll have to repaint a lot of the details a second time with color, and that's just repeating myself and wasting precious time. If my thumbnail studies already worked out the values and colors then there's no reason why I can't just paint in color. Also, if I want to check my values, I can simply add an adjustment layer that turns the whole image into B/W (or a colorize layer set to a single neutral color), and turn that layer on when I need to see how my values are being managed, and then turn it off when I don't need it. And finally, since I can add a colorize layer and change the colors anytime I want, working in B/W or working in color becomes kind of irrelevant when I can instantly turn the entire image into B/W to check my values, and add colorize layers to change colors.
 
Old 10-10-2013, 08:36 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lunatique
Some artists just prefer to focus on how effective their values are, and then later deal with colors. It's really a personal preference. . . . And finally, since I can add a colorize layer and change the colors anytime I want . . .

Thank you Robert. I will keep your workflow in mind once I reach a decent level of drawing/painting.
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Old 10-10-2013, 08:54 PM   #12
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Well, it's common nowadays to start in b/w because you can quickly get 3-dimentional form down without having to worry about anything else. It helps get passed the blank page syndrome for some people (although I think just starting out with a line drawing first fixes that, but I see a lot of concept artists completely skip the line drawing phase and go right to value). Getting the 3D form down is good from a 3D modeler's perspective because that's the information they need, not the color. Directors love it because the artist can work quickly, and produce something with a lot of detail and enough color to have a passable image.

Of course the drawback is that with a colorized b/w drawing everything often looks monochromatic—not the painting as a whole, but localized areas of the painting will be monochromatic, like the clouds will be one color instead of having the ambient and sun light hitting the clouds in different directions. Basically, the process benefits the director's productivity requirements, it benefits the modeling team, but it gives the lighting team very little to work with. I'm wondering if this trend in concept art contributed to the monochromatic look in video games. The lighting team, who are pretty far down in the production pipeline, need to get everything to look as close as possible to the key art; that's their job. And if they do their job the final product will look like the key art, which has the monochromatic lighting. This is just a theory though. I wonder if anyone else can chime in about that.

Lunatique, yes, I prefer to paint with color first after doing my value and color studies first for that reason. I don't want to repaint anything. I also like it because I can have a second window that contains the color study which I use as a palette to eyedrop the colors from. It makes mixing colors a lot easier.
 
Old 10-10-2013, 08:54 PM   #13
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