Beginners Digital Painting Course – Lesson 1
Lesson 1 – using only a pen and spray tool, perspective, shadows and depth to create realism in your drawing.
What you need: Your Android tablet or Phone, ‘Paintology with Fred’ app installed and running.
Before we embark on the first lesson, I would recommend that you use a pen rather than your finger as it will allow you more precise control over the drawing area than just using your finger.
You can get hold of a stylus for your phone or tablet by visiting your nearest phone or electronics store. For all my artwork, I have a Galaxy Note and a separate stylus. The stylus that comes with the Note is a bit too thin and small for me and I managed to salvage an HP stylus from an old tablet laptop that was lying around (see picture pens-stylus-hp-samsung). It’s not that long but it has a bigger body for me to have an easier grasp on the barrel, maybe in the future I will buy something more beefier. However, for current needs a stylus of any kind will do the job.
The picture we are going to paint is one I did in charcoal a while ago (fig. 1) and you can find this in the gallery. I picked this one for the first lesson, because the subject matter is simple and more importantly I want to get you practicing with perspective. This is very important for landscape drawing since a sense of perspective will make your painting more realistic. On this picture, the tree is the highlight of the picture and it just so happens that the center of the perspective is located there.
In fig. 2 you will see the yellow perspective lines which will be used to create the painting in their correct proportions. This is the way your painting will look real and in proportion to the entire landscape. As you have sufficient experience you will not need to worry about the perspective, it will come naturally to you. However, getting the perspective right is a very common problem with beginners.
Open up the ‘Paintologoy with Fred’ app and create a new canvas color which is slightly off-white. Using a pen tool with the right size sketch the outline of the main parts of the landscape as shown in fig. 3. Don’t worry about the exact measurements, just mark where the tree is going to be and draw the lines coming out as shown. This will represent the trees coming to the foreground from a far distance on both the left and right hand side of the drawing.
Select the ‘spray’ tool with a black color and fill in the areas as shown in fig 4. Notice my pen strokes going up and down and as before do not worry about getting it exactly right. The spray is a great tool as it leaves different ‘shades’ over the area you are covering giving it a sense of depth with alternate shades of the color. I often use this tool for most of my paintings. We won’t worry about the details of the trees and how it will appear just yet, this will come later. Remember, what I said in my introduction that you should not focus on the details but look at aiming the whole picture towards something meaningful.
For the clouds, we pick up the spray tool and increase its size and reduce the black color so there is some transparency when you apply it to the canvas (fig. 5). Again, do not worry about the exact size and color, just experiment and see if it works for you. I used a circular motion for the topmost clouds with the largest spray size and reduced the size as I went to the bottom near the horizon. Notice that I did this deliberately in order to add more depth since you probably know that far distance clouds hang lower into the horizon. If it doesn’t come out like the way you want it, don’t worry, we can always add perspective and depth in other ways.
Next, we will draw the main tree (fig. 6) by selecting the pen tool and applying some opaqueness to the trunk and tree branches. Notice that I reduced the pen size and played with the opaqueness to make the smaller branches. Again, I am not too bothered how the branches are drawn as long as it’s going to appear like the basics of the tree.
For the leaves (fig. 7), I used the spray tool, by first selecting a wider brush stroke, then a medium and finally a smaller size to add the details around the edges. The tree is at a far distance so I am not too worried about the minute details of the leaves and the assortment of leaves. Doing this has several effects, we create dark and lighter areas and by continuously overlapping some areas I can make those parts appear darker or lighter. Having done the clouds prior and leaving lighter parts will effectively show up through the trees, adding further depth to the picture.
We now fill in the meadows as shown in fig. 8 using the spray tool. Again, remember it’s not important to replicate the exact drawing but putting down marks that focuses on the perspective. Notice, how I made the markings near the bottom of the meadow a bit broader using a bigger brush size. In fact, we will use this method in the final touch ups to add more depth simply by changing the brush size.
Now add the foliage in the foreground as shown in fig. 9.
Now comes the good part! We are going to do the final touches to the painting and add more realism and this and this is where your ‘artistic’ ability will come into it. Even though there is no distinct shadow of a tree in the original drawing, I decided to add this using the spray tool as shown in fig. 10. This is where painting can become fun, you just add your own creativity as the way you like it. By varying the size of the shadow you will be amazed at how you can change the perspective of the total drawing. Make the shadow small and the meadow will look larger and make the shadow bigger, the tree will appear a lot closer with a smaller meadow in the foreground. Try it out yourself, you can always use the undo tool to repeat.
Using a combination of spray and line tools I have made further highlights and bold outlines onto the painting to give added depth to the final drawing (fig. 11). You can see how at the final stage you can build up the painting to your own liking. I focused on the tree giving it a stronger base which brought the tree a lot closer to the eye. By outlining and adding highlights and further shades you can vary the mood and the depth of the painting but be careful of not overdoing it.
Next, we will move onto Lesson 2 where we make use of colors.