As a huge fan of traditional art supplies, sometimes I really struggle with sketching directly on my iPad. I can really feel the difference, and I definitely prefer to hold my beloved pencil and sketch on textured paper. The passage is not easy to me; I keep telling myself that it’s just a matter of time and practice, but yeah.. I can’t get used to it almost at all. 

So, moral of the story, I had to find a solution to combine my preference in sketching traditionally and at the same time finishing my pieces in digital.

What I usually do now, in fact, is sketching traditionally on my sketchbook and then colouring and inking the drawing digitally. How? It’s easier than you think!

This may be not the best way to do it, but this procedure works perfectly for me, and I find it really fast and efficient. Also, I hve no patience to have in front of me the same drawing for more days in a row, so I try to complete them in a day or two.. A goal I can achieve using this method!

From Sketch to Final Illustration

Step 1: Sketch Traditionally

Step 1

Okay, the first step was kinda intuitive, since I already mentioned it.

I usually start my sketch with a hard pencil (2H or H are fine to me) to make the structure and the first raw sketch. Softer pencils (B, 2B) are useful to better set the shapes and refine the drawing itself, making it softer. Once your basics are ready, a tip that I always use and that I’d like to share with you is to ink the drawing. Let me explain:

The next step will cover your sketch a little bit; this inking step will help you to see the lines better. I usually use some black ink pens (Staedtler size 0,1 and Pilot size 10, for example) to go over, in a pretty messy way, my pencil sketch. You will understand soon.

Step 2: Digital Flat Colours

Before colouring the drawing digitally, we have to atually transfer it from our sketchbook to our digital tool (it could be your iPad, phone, computer etc.).

To transfer the drawing in digital (on my iPad) I mostly take two ways:

| Scanning

If you have a scanner (or a printer that can also scan), you can scan your paper drawings in a really excellent quality. All details are gonna be there and you won’t have to struggle with some annoying strange lights from your artificial or natural lighting; it depends on where you are at in that moment. Also, it’s like you’re “digitalising” your drawing (does it make sense?) + cleaning the background a little bit (the grain of the paper will be seen much less).

| Taking a picture

I personally use this method since I’m able take good enough quality pictures just with my iPhone or iPad (the quality of Apple’s cameras is really good in my opinion). I chose to take pictures because I am a fan of “paper effect” under the digital drawing + I can see a little bit of pencil sketch under, and I really enjoy it too. I feel it more “real”.

Step 2

I then open Procreate on my iPad and start throwing some random colours to find a base that I like, and to start building my ideas on it. I usually pick some colours that I feel coherent with the character and the overall mood I’d like to give to the illustration.

As you can see, we are going to lose a little bit of opacity of our previously inked lines: don’t worry, I’ll show you a way to recover them in the last steps.

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Step 3: First Shades

Step 3

This is the stage in which the character begins to come to life. I start setting the first shades and place the light points; this will give depth to the face and body, and make it feel more real. Also, I add hair, clothes and set the colour base of the details (the moon, the earring and the yellow eye, in this case).

This step’s goal is to build shades and light and also to express your style: everyone has a different style of shading, uses different brushes and blend their colours differently. That’s what makes your drawing yours.

Also, it could require more time than the other steps, but it’s not said. Some artists take days or weeks and work slowly and with minutiae. Instead, I did this drawing in a day. Take the time you need, we are all different! For example, I don’t have the patience to stay on a drawing more than a few days. 😅

Step 4: Outline Recovery

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Step 4

As promised, there’s a way to get our outline back. Our first step is not completely lost, so don’t worry! What I usually do is:

  1. Take a pencil brush on procreate and pick a dark colour prom the palette I used (in this case, the colour is a brownish prugna. I felt it was good-looking with the pink of the lady’s face!). With this brush I’m going to retrace gently my almost-lost outline. It works!
  2. Take a pencil brush with low opacity using black, to emphasise the darkest and more important points in the outline (also lashes and eyebrows). I don’t use 100% opacity black because I feel it’s too strong for a face. These are only stylistic choices and they’re are really up to you!

Ehm.. clean the edges a little bit because if you’re like me, you made a mess with base colours and shades.

Step 5: Details and Light Points!!

Step 5

This in the step that I enjoy the most, even if it feels infinite; I add “just” a detail, than two, than three… and then I find myself stuck in this stage for HOURS. I find it really funny actually.

After I have added some details on the face (such as moles, piercings, tattoos etc.), I usually put some bright objects that reflect their own light on other objects and on the face. I think it’s intriguing and I also enjoy experimenting with lights to make it more challenging. Also, I consider it as an “art trait” so… idk, I just do it!

Also, I don’t like drawing backgrounds that much(😬).. so I found a strategy to avoid it! It’s good to add some fluctuating items or some typography to not leave the spaces empty and add some more personality to my portraits.

I sometimes change my mind MANY TIMES in this last stage, because I think it can be also considered as a “revision” step: “Do I really like it? Should I change something?”. In this case, for example, I decided at the last minute to change some lights, add some items in the drawing, and also brighten more a few elements, such as the small stars and the (new) moon!

Bonus Step: Play with It!

You can then have fun with your illustration, applying it to your environment and pictures as I usually do before posting them in my social media accounts!

Instagram Post – @artgeid

Process Video

This is a short 30-seconds time-lapse to let you understand the creative process and to see our 5 steps in action. As you can see it doesn’t require lots of time, effort or particulare tech knowledge(?), but I really like how my illustrations turn out this way!

Final Result!

I really hope this guide was helpful to you, and I’d LOVE to see your results if you have tried it! If you have other ways to transform your traditional sketches into digital illustrations, and you’d like to share it with me, I’ll be glad to listen! ❤


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