There are so many different, wonderful ways to create an image. Whether that image is created by brushing paint onto a canvas, dragging a crow quill across a piece of tea stained paper, or firing up your computer and basking in the glow of the monitor while you put your digital toolbox to work. Over the last eight years I have journeyed from amateur digital artist to a full fledged professional who creates 99% (okay, at this point it might be 100%) of his illustrations on a computer. In this article I will show you some examples of my work from a time when I was more than hesitant to travel down that digital path, to present day where my work exists as pixels on the screen and a little bit of history on the tools that I have used along the way.
The First Step:
My first foray into coloring my work digitally was during my senior year of high school. Back then, I used the only tool available to me: a mouse. But in 2005 a friend of mine gave me a Wacom Graphire tablet for Christmas. The Graphire certainly leaned more towards the student end of tablets but was perfect for me and my work at the time. It might not have had all of the frills that the pro tablets of the time had, but it was the perfect tablet to get me to ditch the mouse and start coloring my work with a stylus. I pretty much used the Graphire to color my scanned line art in Photoshop. I still couldn't really wrap my head around the idea of drawing on one of these futuristic tablets but I was well on my way.
Below are a few examples of the work I was doing when I first started coloring my scanned drawings with the Graphire:
You Do What You Know...You Know?
For years I continued working in the same way. I was drawing in Col-Erase Blue, inking with Micron Pens, and coloring in Photoshop with my Graphire. My digital coloring and shading was starting to show improvement and I was taking plenty of traditional drawing and painting classes to help me with that--but even by 2010 I still just couldn't embrace the fact that I could do more with the digital format than just color my work.
A Call to Action
By 2011 I was drawing as much as I could in the evenings while I was teaching art classes at a local non-public school during the day. It was around this time that a friend of mine asked me if I was interested in doing some art for a project that he was producing for a small shoe company. He was particularly interested in the work being 100% digital so that it could be manipulated by an animator. Throughout the course of this projectI learned a lot about myself as an illustrator and pushed myself harder than ever before. I was still avoiding drawing and inking digitally if I could; the lack of control with the Graphire continued to lend to this avoidance. When the Graphire's wire eventually broke after many years of use, I decided it was time to improve my gear and up my game. In late 2011, I upgraded to the Wacom Intuos Pro and the world opened up to me in a whole new way.
It's the Future
The Intuos ended up being a game changer. The pressure sensitivity, the slight texture on the drawing surface, and moving over to more advanced sketching and drawing software like Sketchbook Pro helped me to level-up in every possible way. Adding the fact that I was now at a university studying both traditional and digital illustration, I was ready to move into the realm of pure, uncut, digital illustration.
Sealing the Deal
From 2012 to 2014 I was spending more time drawing then ever. I was penciling everything in Sketchbook Pro and inking and coloring in Photoshop. I also revived my art blog and started posting my work more regularly. It was around this time that I really started picking up some great freelance jobs and, yes, every one of them I was creating digitally. Late last year I made another upgrade to my drawing arsenal and replaced my Intuos with the Wacom Cintiq. With the Cintiq you can draw right onto the screen and it seamlessly merges the feeling of traditional drawing with the digital world. After I started working with the Cintiq, I also made a change in my software. I started penciling and inking in Manga Studio while still coloring in Photoshop. Manga Studio has a wonderful inking engine and works flawlessly with the Cintiq.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my journey into digital art. I'd love to start writing articles like this or my last one on a semi-weekly basis. If there is something you would like to see in my future articles, leave a comment below.
If you would like to see more of my work, you can follow me at any or all of the links below: