How to Be a Better Hand Illustrator or Pencil Artist
Whether you like the classic pen and paper, Wacom tablet or screen, or vector manipulation software, you may not always be able to produce the kind of illustrative quality that you want. Here are some methods of practice that will sharpen your consistency, range, and precision.
Understand the Aesthetics of Consistency
You may have noticed that some awfully drawn artwork still tends to grab the viewer’s attention, such as a few poorly depicted comics and funnies in the paper or on the Internet. The reason for their appeal is the consistency in the image. An image may be technical, complex, and rich with detail, but without consistency, it will suffer. Consider a simple drawing such as a cartoon character: the image is often composed of exclusively dark lines that entrap colorful solid regions (or nothing). Now consider a realistic portrait of a person: defined lines are almost non-existent in any obvious way and the colors (or shading) are blended and complex. Take one of these images and deviate from the methods used to illustrate them and you will have created an unintentional contrast that will make the viewer feel awkward. These themes of texture and style are obvious, but as your examination becomes more scrupulous, you will see that any tincture of inconsistency can be annoying to abhorrent. Mixing crosshatching with flowing gradients, confusing the sources of light and their collisions with the environment, and other breaks in consistency will stick out and ruin the effort. Take a look at any famous painting. Are the brush strokes largely consistent with each other?
Develop Good Line Quality
If you are drawing something that involves a lot of solid, linear, or defined lines, you should aim to refine the quality of each type of line. Practice drawing a straight line; use a guide on the paper if you get into trouble. Practice drawing perfect circles, other perfect shapes, and linear and curved lines in complex perspectives. Try not to lift and reposition your arm to continue long lines; instead, slide it. If you have to stop and resume, make sure the continuing line is consistent with its other half. You may also want to practice fading your lines off at the ends to eliminate abruptness. This can be hard to do at a normal drawing pace. Instead, speed up your wrist and raise it up slowly until it no longer contacts the paper. Moreover, if you can control the pressure of your wrist to the drawing surface, you can control the weight of the line at will. Even with the aid of smoothing algorithms in modern illustration software, you will appreciate the ability to produce quality lines by hand.
If you are having trouble bringing your work into the 3rd dimension and breathing life into it, consider exaggerating certain elements of the image. For a simple example, put one white dot on the upper right-hand corner of a colored circle and you have created a reasonably convincing sphere. The eye tends to notice sharp changes in contrast more than dull, similar shades. Try eliminating gray matter and intermediate shades of light; this imitates the feeling of realism in a depiction. Likewise, perspective reacts in a relatively similar manner. Try drawing a building in 3/4 perspective, one end being five times the size of the other.
If you do not have a lifetime of experience, the worst thing you can do is hurry the process along. There are some wrist operations that require speed and finesse but in general, a patient approach will produce the best results. The difference between the artist and the average person is that the artist takes time, adores detail, and cares to accurately, though not always realistically, portray his or her desired image. The time investment is directly proportional to the output.
Use Illustration Software that Supports Layers
If you are using a computer for most of your illustrations, make sure your software supports layers and be sure to know how to utilize them well. Use a layer for every new stroke you make if you can. In this way, you cannot make mistakes that will set you back, you have much more control of each added element, and you can change the opacity of each layer to compare alternative concepts.
Use diverse methods of practice such as contour drawing and gesturing. One small drawing a day is enough to keep you sharp and move you forward.