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Old 06-07-2011, 08:57 AM
Laurelin's Avatar
Laurelin Laurelin is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Oklahoma
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Default Artist's Forum

I thought this might be kind of fun to do. A place where people can chat about materials and swap suggestions/ask questions and things like that. I'd particularly LOVE to hear a bit from the digital media people. That's an area I know next to nothing about and it's not very intuitive for me so I'd love to hear some pointers they'd have for someone interested in just messing around.

I guess I'll start with just some things I've learned about charcoal that would have REALLY helped me out if I'd discovered early on. Maybe there's someone interested in trying out charcoal and they'll find it a bit useful.


Intro: I definitely recommend trying charcoal! Not many people use it compared to pencils but it's a load of fun and much quicker than pencil. Charcoal really feels more like painting than pencils and is a very fluid, sometimes messy medium to use. It has a matt finish unlike pencils which is also nice.

Recommended material: General's brand charcoal pencils and General's willow sketching vine charcoal. Recommended: at least an HB, 2B, and 4B and a white pencil. 6B is also useful but you can get away without it. Also: a kneaded eraser, blending sticks (they look like this, sandpaper and an exacto knife are also helpful for sharpening the pencils and keeping the blenders clean. And fixative too or else when you're done your picture will smudge.

Note: The sets of generals charcoal pencils they sell at stores actually DON'T have the HB included. HB is the hardest charcoal pencils and are pretty much what you'll use for most your picture. The rest are for darker areas. So make sure you get those separately. I bought my first set of charcoal pencils and didn't realize there was no HB, which was problematic.

Tips (aka things I had to learn the hard way lol):

1. Sketch everything in the vine charcoal. Make sure you get things laid out right with the vine charcoal before adding anything heavier. Vine is very light and soft and erases really well! Sketching in pencil sometimes leaves it to where you can still see the initial sketch. Since charcoal isn't shiny the pencil will sometimes stick out like a sore thumb through your final drawing. So I really lay everything in with just vine charcoal until I'm pretty satisfied with it. The HB will erase okay and the darker stuff (2B and up) not too well. I had no idea about vine charcoal at all until relatively recently and it is immensely helpful. It is also very good for laying down the first layer of everything. With the blending sticks it smooths out very nicely and you can cover an area very quickly.

2. Draw as much with your kneaded eraser as you do with your pencils! Erasers in charcoal are not just about fixing mistakes, they're also something to draw with. I don't know why this never dawned on me at first but I would try to just use the white to lighten things up. My pictures ended up way way way dark and lost a lot of depth that way. You can mold your eraser to just about any shape and draw on the charcoal with it. I tend to lay in a general shadow then come in and add detail with the eraser.

3. Use the white for just the absolute highlights. (It's also very handy if you mess up and can't erase your darks in an area. Also very useful for very fine white detail). But don't count on it for your whites. Try to keep most of your whites just the paper showing through.

4. Buy good charcoal. I have had really good luck with general's brand and that's what the professional I took the workshop with uses. I have used other brands but have run into a lot of them that have a hard spot in the middle of a stick and it will really ruin your drawing trying to draw with a bad piece of charcoal. You can get the general's brand at Hobby Lobby. If you do end up with a bad stick- toss it and buy a new one.

Um... that's about all I can think of at the moment!

I really hope to hear from other people about what they like to use!
Mia CGC - (5 year old papillon)
Summer TG3 TBAD - (10 year old papillon)

Last edited by Laurelin; 06-07-2011 at 09:10 AM.
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Old 06-07-2011, 07:04 PM
AllieMackie's Avatar
AllieMackie AllieMackie is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Ottawa, ON
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Cool! I'll jump in with what I know best.

Digital Media

Every artist should try their hand at digital media, as it can give similar results to a lot of real mediums but with its own "twist". Most folks have computers capable of running some sort of art program (I'll list my favorites below) and you can start experimenting with a mouse - drawing tablets aren't an expensive investment though. Try some first if you get the chance.

Recommended material
A PC with a decent graphics card is recommended, or else you may get some crashing or unable to work on large files.
As far as tablets go, if you're looking for affordable the Bamboo is fantastic and available in most office supply stores. I have an Intuos3 9x12 which I invested in after a few solid years of using a Graphire2 (the old Bamboo), but if I had the money to burn I'd get a Cintiq. No question.

As far as software goes, you can get your hands on a few free ones that are decent. GIMP is an open source alternative to Adobe Photoshop and is a good one to dip your digital media toes into. Sculptris is free, and can easy be played with using a mouse. Great fun with 3D media.

Some of the best art software out there is on a very affordable scale - Paint Tool SAI, the software I use to create 90% of my work, is only about $60 to buy (with a 30-day free trial to give it a shot) and Art Rage 2 is an absolutely fabulous underrated software that emulates real media beautifully, and for a $20 price tag.

The biggest buck software is Adobe Photoshop/Illustrator, quite expensive but worth it for the professional who also does photo editing and graphic design. Corel Painter is the ultimate choice of software for professional artists working digitally, and has the heftiest price tag.

1. Try to treat digital media much the same way you do real media. Don't overuse that ctrl-z undo, or rely on filters and textures too much. Allow the media to work with you as opposed to against you, just like any other media.

2. That said, take advantage of layers where it's sensible. Layers are a great tool that are exclusive to digital, great for laying down a sketch and being able to remove it later, using one layer for your "ink", separating your foreground and background, etc. Just try not to put every detail on different layers, as that can get confusing and make the painterly details difficult.

3. Work in as high a resolution as your computer can handle. I tend to work at 300dpi and 300+ pixel dimensions. It allows you a great level of detail in your work and makes your work print-ready at many sizes.

4. As with any media, don't give up if your attempts are crappy for the first LONG while. Mine sure were, and I still have so, so much to learn. I get a lot of "I wish I could do that" when people see my work, but I've been working with various digital mediums for over 12 years. Art takes time, patience and grit.

If you have any questions, I'm happy to answer!

Finnegan - Border Collie | Barrett the ferret | Stan & Fiora - the cats
RIP - Fozzy 1993-2006 Palom 2008-2010 Ysera 2008-2011 Basol 2008-2012 Freya 2008-2014 Porom 2008-2014
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Old 06-07-2011, 08:56 PM
Laurelin's Avatar
Laurelin Laurelin is offline
I'm All Ears
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Oklahoma
Posts: 29,225

That was super helpful! I've tried doing digital art before and I get frustrated with it. For some reason it's a lot less intuitive for me. I really just get frustrated very fast with digital but I'd like to give it another go.

Another media I'd LOVE to hear about is pastel (either chalk or oil). I cannot for the life of me figure those out either.
Mia CGC - (5 year old papillon)
Summer TG3 TBAD - (10 year old papillon)
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