Refining Pencil Technique

It’s been a while.
It’s been a while indeed.

Sorry for such a prolonged delay, but I’ve had one of those months where so much is happening that you tend to dilute your habits a tad. It started out with a bit of a mental block since doing all that Screen Printing the previous month (Wow, I just realised that was a month ago…well technically 2); funny, I’ve learnt the hard way to not take breaks after a large project, because I won’t start again for a long while otherwise. I figured I’d brush up on some media skills, I’ve been working with Inking and Screen Printing all this time that I’ve become rusty.
Thankfully, I’ve learnt that wasn’t the case, which was a relief. I’d thought I’d start off with drawing a mountain range…what a great idea that was; now, I’m not the best landscape artist nor do I really enjoy drawing them (which is a bit negative to say really, but until I find a way where I can naturally freehand landscapes then it’ll always be maths to me), but I know I had to tackle my weaknesses so “start small”, said my brain at the time.
What I drew and haven’t finished is this:
There’s a few things I learnt from this drawing:
1) I don’t need to draw how a mountain should look like exactly, I’m an illustrator not a photo-realist.
2) I’m not half bad at drawing mountain ranges.
3) there is a huge difference between wooden pencils and full graphite pencils; full graphite pencils have a shinier laydown which is almost waxy thus making erasing difficult (I like wooden pencils better).
4) I could do a much better job at shading.

The 4th point is the most important thing I took from this drawing. This then became a mini pencil shading project; the idea is to update and refine my original characters (again) and shade them using only graphite pencils. Thus far I’ve only done 3 of my large array of original characters but I can happily say that I’ve gotten better using pencils.
I remember where I was at college and I sourced around to find an effective shading method using pencils, I found one that has stuck with me; it’s not exactly the fastest way to shade, but it’s has complete control over tone building, which gives a very smooth gradient between tones.
Here’s what you do:

I’ve added 3 examples: 1 – Hatching, 2 – Cross-Hatching, 3 – Tonal Range
So what you do is:
– Start with a H pencil (tight hatching/cross-hatching)
– Move on to B Pencil (with hatching you always go the same direction/cross-hatching you don’t need to worry about the direction just make sure it’s tight)
– If you need to go darker, go a higher B count
– The trick to transitioning to Image 3 to 4 is to use a blunt H pencil and go over the shading using a circular motion, doing this you can achieve a smooth tonal transition as you can see on the gradient  example; I would suggest using something like a H2 pencil but you don’t really have to use more than H, B and B4
– You’ll see on the next gallery examples of reverse smoothing, this is where you use an eraser on the lighter areas to achieve complete a white tone. You can also use the eraser to lighten heavily shaded areas whilst also achieving a smooth layout; instead of putting all your might on the eraser, lightly dab the eraser on the intended area (this is where a well used putty eraser comes in handy, if it’s too clean or too rigid you might end up taking too much out; although it’s not hard to remedy if you do).

Now that I’ve given my 2 cents on shading, I can proudly present to you what I’ve been working on:

(Note: the version number represents the following (overall revision count. this version revised count. year))

#52 (Umbra):
Of course, I had to draw #52 again (collectively this makes it the 7th time I’ve revised this character) simply because I’m still very fond of the story and effort I put into the narrative (plus the story of how it all came about is an “interesting story” too), but the previous revisions he looked too manga and very cartoon-esque. I did remedy that with more recent versions but the main problem was his impossible hair, there was no way that hair could be plausible so I had to make it “human” and more subtle. Everything else was pretty much fine (I even drew him real human sized; normally to make a character more heroic or significant you would make them about 8 – 8.5 heads high, but I drew #52 about 7 heads high which in turn makes him look a bit odd but proportionally correct), but I felt the need to change the look of his boots, this is probably because at first they were black knee length boots (I made them shorter since) and it looked plain, the other reason is I’m working with reference material based on similar boots (well not really but the 3-way stir up belt was the main key), so to make my life easier I drew them in.
This is an example of the shading depicting separate elements with different colour tones (the belts and trousers a clearly a darker colour than everything else).
(Compare to Previous Versions Here)

Hope was a tough one, I really wanted to redesign his exoskeleton, the main criteria are: look as much like a winged insect as possible and slim full armoured.
So far both previous versions of him looked very strange and the “armour” wasn’t close to being armour, so this time I did some research and tried to make shapes work and it took a long time to figure out. Not only did I need to make the shapes work they also need to be 3D, thankfully the torso consisted of shapes where I can easily add a few perpendicular lines to make it work, but the legs were a different matter. I couldn’t work with the same method as I did for the torso if I wanted the full armour look, this is where building Gundam Model kits come in handy; the trick was to break down the legs anatomically by the muscle and work from those shapes; knowing basic anatomical muscle structures is useful. At the end of it, I finally designed something that works and looks right.
This is an example of the shading defining 3D shapes, from curves to cubes.
(Compare to Version #1 and Version #2)

Now here’s a character I haven’t worked on in a while. There’s not a massive amount to say really, the design of Nathan Sigis is pretty much perfect, even the version of him used for my early illustrations I’d say there hasn’t been much to change. I suppose I just wanted to redraw him better, but it’s a pretty hard comparison between the pencil drawing and the Cel-Shaded illustrations, I think I’m on to something here.
This is an example of controlling lighter tones to create a variation of discernible light tones and to help emphasise the darker tones.
(Compare to the Cel-Shaded Illustrations)

That’s pretty much it for this post, but that’s this post.
I’ve been working on something for the past 2 weeks that’s coming to a conclusion. I’ll soon be able to share it with you all!

I have a project I’m going to start once the project I’m working on is done; I’m not sure if I’m ready for this myself but brace yourselves, because when it happens there’s no stopping.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s