Sketchbook: A New Way to Design
Illustrators, cartoonists, and most digital artists are always searching for the one drawing software that really clicks with them. I began playing around with a very short children’s book (really it’s just a poem) about my rabbit, which will hopefully become a series that will challenge beginning readers at multiple levels. I imagine her becoming famous, and children around the states will be buying Bunny Named Ashes stuffed animals!
Whether or not my dream is farfetched, I have to start somewhere. Sketching and painting with watercolor are some of my hobbies and has been since middle school. I’m not the most talented, but I know I can illustrate my book for sure. This Christmas I was given a fancy Huion Professional Pen Tablet so that I would be able to draw directly on my computer rather than having to scan a scratchy copy of a drawing (and with an Undo button!). I am such a novice; I have no clue how much this tablet can actually do, but I am willing to play with it for hours to find out! (I also need practice with the pen…)
Autodesk is a company involved in creating software for entertainment, as well as 3D design and engineering. From architects to media industries, designers use Autodesk 3D software to produce master pieces, including car batteries and movies winning Academy Awards for Visual Effects. They have expanded their software not only with newly-designed prosthetic limbs, but with software like Sketchbook that allows even a beginning digital artist like myself to design my own artwork with incredible versatility and ease. The Autodesk, Inc. has created apps for any Apple product, as well as Android. They are certainly a leader in the software industry, and they will continue to push the limits to create the best software that will be available to anyone anywhere.
In my hurry to illustrate, I downloaded Autodesk Sketchbook for free from the App Store before I even wanted the tablet, thinking I could just use my trackpad.
When you open Sketchbook, a blank, white canvas appears with a “color puck,” like a single color palette, and a menu bar on the left side with 16 different tools. How exciting! I have free Copic markers of so many colors at my disposal! If you aren’t familiar with these, they are expensive fancy markers that I’ve never actually used. Lots of artists use them, and they really do make artwork stand out as if it was painted. There are so many options to choose from at first that I’m not quite sure what all of them are for. Right now I am using the free version. There is also a Pro version that I am considering because there are even more options, some of which I do understand and would enjoy! It runs for $30 a year, or $5 per month.
Autodesk Inc. created this application to use as a medium of digital art. It is easy to create anything on this app because of its “fluid pencils and natural painting” (iTunes). It really feels as if I’m drawing on paper. The software works really well with my tablet, and picks up the pressure I am using on the tablet in order to change the marks that the tool is making. For example, if I start drawing pressing lightly a soft line will form, but the more pressure I use, the darker the line gets; just like it would if I were pressing down on a real pencil. The pen I’m using is supposed to do this, but Sketchbook makes it run smoothly.
One of my favorite tools to use is a mirror effect. I say this and then I had trouble finding it when I registered my brain to think “mirror.” The function is under the Image tab and is called Symmetry Y. This tool allows me to split the page so that while I’m drawing on one side, the same shape appears on the opposite side, just mirrored.
I thought a fleur-de-lis would be appropriate here. I can draw half of one, but it would never end up proportional.
The next feature that is really neat is the layering effects. The previous picture of the fleur-de-lis is the first layer. The box at the top right tells me which layers are visible as well as which one I am currently editing. (The collage below has a close-up of this layer box at the bottom right.) When I add another layer and start painting/drawing, it will be on top of my first picture. If I erase, only the second layer will be erased, leaving the first layer untouched! It’s as if they are putting transparencies on top of each one. It reminds me of the old way of making motion-picture cartoons back in the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” day.
The next part is really cool—stay tuned. Once I was happy with the shading of the fleur-de-lis, I clicked on the little eyeball button in the layer box next to “Layer 1” so that I would only see the second layer that I painted!
The last thing I want to share is helpful to anyone who is curious and wants to just dive in, as I did. There are help options in the top menu bar, as well as a link to their online blog that contains news and featured artists. Their site is very helpful, listing most of the tools that are available in both the free and pro versions. Anyone, like myself, who doesn’t go through every tutorial should find peace, knowing that the help options can actually help you.
LEAST FAVORITE THINGS
Sketchbook has so many wonderful tools that I wish I had time to mess with all day! It took me over an hour to work out the painting for this project. One thing I don’t love so much is the inconvenient sidebar with all of the tools. That’s a lot of tools all in one place. I’m happy that there are a bunch of textures to work with, but I feel like there would be a way to make them all visible, perhaps as a bar at the top of the page. In order to get to some of them, I have to scroll down to find them.
Another thing is that quarter-circle menu at the bottom. I’m not really sure what’s going on there. It seems as though there should be a way for it to turn, but I don’t think it does. I also think that there are separate menus capable of taking care of those commands entirely. I prefer working with menus than a circular menu that I have to click on and hold and drag and then make accidental scribble marks all over the place… Not only that, but the buttons aren’t even all of the way on the screen. So who knows what the icons look like?! There is an option (that cut-off button at the top of the circle) where you can move this menu or close it altogether.
I wish the free version had unlimited layers. When designing the illustrations of my rabbit, I first painted a light, solid-color background. The second layer were details in the grass and the outline of the bunny herself. Then I added the third (and last) layer of colors for the rabbit and whatever else I’d sketched out. The free version only allows 3 layers plus a background (which I didn’t use because I wanted grass and the sky in mine). The reason for this is a ploy to make me want to buy their expensive software, but hey: it’s working.
I would recommend this software to anyone interested in digital art of any age. Learning how to use your own tablet would be another story, but this app really isn’t difficult to navigate. Although the menus are somewhat annoying, and the free versions could offer a bit more, I could still illustrate my children’s book with the free version. Anything I draw comes out crystal-clear and each tool behaves the way it would as if I was using the physical tool. This program really works well for me, and I do intend on looking into the full pro-version.
Autodesk. 2016. Web. 18 February 2016. <http://www.autodesk.com/company>
Autodesk Sketchbook. 2016. Web. 16 February 2016. <https://www.sketchbook.com/?locale=en>
iTunes. “iTunes Preview: Autodesk Sketchbook.” 2015. Web. 16 February 2016. <https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/autodesk-sketchbook/id883738213?mt=8>