Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Kawaii Wednesdays - King and Queen

I was asked to create a prince & princess Kawaii doll.  Since I already did that, I decided to create an Elizabethan style king & queen.  If you're looking for historical accuracy, these are not it!  I just whipped something together without references, because sometimes that's what I want to do!

Here's the Kawaii King & Queen.  Have fun coloring!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Preparing Drawings in Photoshop

It was a busy weekend and I'm writing this on Monday instead of planning ahead!  My sister & brother-in-law own a small fitness business (I did all the branding design *shameless plug*) and every year they and some of their clients run in a local race.  I decided to bring my oldest son to run it while my youngest son had a father & son day.

I'm not athletic AT ALL but I was very proud of my sister, brother-in-law, and my cousin for running it.  It's hard work and I'm too lazy for running.  My son, Noah, however, is a born athlete and loved everything about the day: running his first race, watching the runners coming in, just everything!

Here's my handsome boy (and a peek at one of my nieces!).  He had a great day, I had a great day, and we're all pretty tired today!

Anyway, enough of my proud mommy ranting.... Let's get to the art!

First, I want to thank everyone for their words of encouragement.  I have a goal to professionally publish a doll.  It's not going to be Wicked Women, but it'll be something, sometime.  I'm not one to give up and I love creating too much to stop!

Today we're going to look at how I prepare my sketches.  For a long time, I would draw my doll base, trace it to create templates, draw the clothing on the templates, then trace all of that again to my watercolor paper in order to paint the final image.  There are some flaws with this method.  Like making a copy of a copy, some of the accuracy is lost in each tracing step.  That would mean hours of clean-up in Photoshop after spending hours painting!

What I've been trying to do now is fix the lines in Photoshop before I do anything else.  It's much easier to fix the fit and accuracy of the lines than it is to correct the painting after it's done.  I've been doing this for my recent dolls regardless of the final medium.

So here are my revised steps: draw a doll base, trace the doll to create templates, draw the outfits on the templates, scan & edit in Photoshop, print and trace (if painting). It's an extra step and an extra set of line drawings, but it's totally worth it.

Start by scanning your images.  I have a Canon Pixma scanner/printer and LOVE it! I scan my drawings at 600dpi.  I like high resolution so that 1) I can preserve as many details as possible and 2) images are clear when you shrink them but not when you enlarge them.

Once I have the images scanned, it's time to go to work.  I'm using Photoshop CS4.  I have the current Cloud version, but my antique computer has a hard time running it.  Any photo editing software should work for this.  I scanned my images in black & white.  I don't need colors for this project and scanning in color would have added to the files size, so I didn't bother.

The first thing I like to do is adjust the levels.  In Photoshop, go to Image>Levels.  Use the eyedroppers to adjust the image.  Select the white eyedropper, then click on your image until the white of your image because the "white" that you want.

Make any adjustments to the doll base before you edit your outfits!  In this case, I don't see anything I need to edit.  I'm happy with the lines, everything is pretty clean, and I'll be painting this in watercolors so it doesn't need to be totally perfect here.  I'm more interested in adjusting the accuracy of the fit on the clothes. Save this file as your doll base.

Next, open an outfit file.  I copy & paste it into the doll base file.  Be very careful about saving these files! There have been MANY times that I've accidentally over-written a file and it is not fun.

There should be two layers in the file: the doll base and the outfit.  Keep them on separate layers and name your layers! I set the outfit layer to Multiply and reduce the base layer to 50% opacity.  You can also lock the doll base layer if that helps.

When adjusting the outfits, I like to either fit the most difficult part, or maximize the total fit.  Here's what I mean.  On this doll, the head and right side fit well.  I can make small adjustments there and focus on bigger corrections elsewhere.  Here, I need to fix the left side (circled in red).  Keep in mind how the outfit will fit the doll.  I won't adjust the bodice here because that will be uncut white space on the final doll.  Don't waste time & effort on things no one will see.

There are so many ways to correct your drawings.  You can select & move sections around, use the Clone tool, or draw directly on the image.  I find myself doing this more.  It's just drawing, afterall, it doesn't matter if it's pencil on paper or stylus on tablet.  The red line here is my corrected line.  Choose the path of least resistance: I chose to redraw one line here instead of fiddling with the fit of the entire arm.  It's the easiest solution.  Once you draw your line, erase the old line immediately to avoid confusion.

Here's a place where I selected and moved the line on the arm.  The hand is a little trickier...

I erased the whole hand.  The fit was really off.  I kept the ring and the lines for the glove and got rid of the rest.

Instead of redrawing the hand, I went to the doll layer, selected the hand, and then right-clicked and selected Layer via Copy.  Place this new layer above the outfit and set it to multiply.  Erase any parts you don't need.

And that's it!  I only have 11 more to do... I joke, but this is so much easier than adjusting a final image.  Depending on the errors, adjusting an outline might take an hour or two.  Adjusting the final painting can take two or three times that amount.

Once I correct the fit, I'll add some of the details that would be hard to create by hand, such as repeating patterns.  That's what we'll look at next week.  Til then, have fun in Photoshop!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Fairy Tale Fashion Friday - Rapunzel

It's another Fairy Tale Fashion Friday!  This is my favorite - Rapunzel.  It's for entirely vain reason!  For most of my life, I've had ridiculously long hair.  It's mainly out of laziness.  I'm absolutely THE WORST client for a hairdresser.  Getting a haircut makes me miserable.  So I let me hair grow until it gets out of control.  I literally get my hair cut about once every 5 years.

And two weeks ago, I cut my hair.  All of it.  I went from waist length hair to chin length! It was very liberating.  And it inspired this doll.

So enough about me.  Here's the doll!  The pdf file is huge so it'll take a minute to download.  It's also a two page doll!  I had fun creating a new brush to make the braid, so you'll see more braids on future dolls.  I forgot to note that the white sections on the wigs need to be cut out.  The whole second page is just outfits.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Kawaii Wednesdays - Flowers

Today's dolls are supposed to have outfits constructed out of flowers & leaves.  The boy has a Robin Hood style hat and that's probably my favorite part! I'm not sure the outfits totally worked but I liked it well enough to post it. 

I'll have another doll up on Friday & I'll be starting Wicked Women over the weekend so some of that should be up for Monday. I'm still taking request on media -- watercolor or Photoshop!

Here's the Kawaii doll:

Monday, April 21, 2014

A New Project Walkthrough

I belong to OPDAG and contribute to the Paper Doll Studio magazine.  Recently, one of the themes was queens.  I did a fantastic sketch and thought maybe I should expand it.  I loved this sketch SO much that I figured this might be the one I would submit to Dover for publication (and I sent something else to the magazine).  Like so many paper doll artists, my dream is to be published by Dover.  I'm finally at a point where I feel like my art is of sufficient quality to share with the world.  I've had some good feedback about my self-published dolls and thought, this is it.

It wasn't.

I finished my sketches this week on a paper doll I've been calling Wicked Women.  It features one doll and 12 outfits covering witches, evil queens, and the like from fairy tales and children's stories.  As I occasionally do, I started browsing Amazon and came across this:

It looks beautiful.  It's coming out from Dover in May.  Ugh.

I'll be honest, I was pretty upset.  My husband (who has been taking management training courses & expressing his "wisdom" lately) tried to calm my down.  "It's a great idea, it's an original idea, someone just beat you to market."  Ugh again.  I have a hard time coming up with original, creative paper doll themes that haven't been done yet.  I mean really, look at Dover's catalog and you can find just about everything.  And that's wonderful!  I love that they have such a broad variety of themes represented.  It just makes my task a little more daunting.

So here's the thing.  I have a doll I love.  I have the outlines done.  What do I do?  Finish it? Abandon it? Focus on a new project? 

I'm going to finish it.  And I'm going to share the whole process here.  I can't share the sketching process because that's done.  But everything else is going here.  I have one thing I need to decide -- watercolor or digitally coloring in Photoshop.  I'm going to take reader opinions into account for this one.  Feel free to leave a comment (or email me, I check that all the time, too).

Here's an overview of the sketches:

Characters featured will be: The Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen (Lewis Carroll), the Sea Witch from the Little Mermaid, the Dark Fairy from Sleeping Beauty, the Sorceress from Rapunzel, the Wicked Witches of the West and East (Frank L. Baum), the Wicked Stepmother from Cinderella, the Snow Queen, the Evil Queen from Snow White, the witch from Hansel & Gretel, and Morgan le Fay of Arthurian legend.  This image above is a composite I created from images I took with my phone so they aren't great.  I'll be scanning & starting this (and a new, top-secret doll that *fingers crossed* HAS NOT been done yet!) in the next few days and weeks.

So my excitement for this project has been a little tempered.  My loss, though, is your gain!  

Again, let me know if any of you have an opinion about the media choice for this project: watercolor or Photoshop.  And thanks for reading that rant!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Fashion Friday - Daisy

I saw a graphic on Facebook the other day that said "If I had known spring was only going to last 3 days, I would have gone out & enjoyed it more."  That is exactly how I feel this week!  My oldest son saw snow on the ground yesterday and groaned, "Mommy I don't like that!" So to cheer everyone up, I have a pastel hued doll.

Here's Daisy with a pastel, frilly wardrobe.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kawaii Wednesdays - Fire & Medic

Today seemed like the perfect day to post a firefighter & medic paper doll set.  The page is a little crowded this time.  I wanted to make sure that both dolls had both costumes!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April - One Year Later

I don't typically re-post dolls, but today I wanted to.  As everyone knows, I live north of Boston.  My family has been in New England since it was still part of old England.  I'm very proud of my heritage and my home.  It's been a year since the bombings in Boston and I still can't imagine what it must have been like to be there.  I remember worrying about my husband - he still works in Cambridge, in a building very near where some of the action afterwards took place.  He was in lockdown that day, as so many other people in Boston and Cambridge were.  I watched and worried and practically paced a hole into my carpet, waiting for information.  In the following weeks and months, the Marathon has been referenced and revisited on the local news, regularly.  I've only been into the city a few times in the last year and it seems like life as usual.  I know for a lot of people it is, and for so many more it isn't.

There are tragedies like this every day.  Big ones in distant places.  Small ones in cities and towns around the world.  This one was in my backyard.  But it isn't just a tragedy.  It's about surviving, moving forward, continuing to do good things and help good people.  I hope today is a peaceful day about athletes, perseverance, and the relentless strength of the human spirit.

So when you watch the news specials and read the one year anniversary stories, remember to be hopeful.  We here in the New England certainly are. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fashion Friday - Sebastian

I had no idea what to post today!  I have a couple of ideas floating around, but didn't want to post them today.  Instead, I went to my new favorite site - Pinterest - and started digging around.  I found a fantastic men's suit and thought, why not?  So today we have a Kentucky Derby inspired men's outfit.


Download Fashion Friday - Sebastian pdf here

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Kawaii Wednesdays - Baseball

I'm still working through the list that my student fans sent, and "sports" was one of the suggestions.  I'm not a big sports fan.  I played a little softball in school, and if I had to pick a sport to like, it would be baseball.  My husband and sons love football so I have to live with that!!

So today's doll is a baseball doll.  Opening day at Fenway is practically a city holiday in Boston and baseball just felt like the right sport to start with.

Enjoy the doll.  Oh, and GO SOX!

** For some reason, the PDF gave me some trouble when I tested it.  Please let me know if the PDF is a problem.  You can also click & download the image.  Thanks!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Coloring in Sketchbook Pro mobile

I had a grand plan for this weekend -- color a paper doll on my phone while traveling.  It totally didn't happen!

So my parents got me an early birthday present.  My mom & I went to see Cher at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.  I thought I'd color my doll on my phone while in the car.  It's a couple hours from my house and seemed like a reasonable activity.  Except that I was carsick for the first time ever! Ugh.  I spent yesterday coloring the doll instead (and catching up with my sons!) and I'm going to share that lesson today.

And Cher was amazing.  I'm pretty sure it makes me super lame to love her as much as I do but I totally don't care.  It was well worth it!!

Anyway, today I'm going to introduce Autodesk's SketchBook Pro mobile tablet app and the Sensu stylus/brush for mobile devices.  I'm thinking about moving from a laptop/Wacom workflow to drawing directly on a screen and I thought this would be an interesting experiment to see if that's REALLY the way I want to go...

I grabbed SketchBook Pro for free during an Amazon app store deal, and the regular price is $4.99.  Really not a bad price for the robust nature of this program! The Sensu brush (pictured below) retails for about $40.  I got one for Christmas and love it!  It works with most devices.  I've used it on my Samsung Galaxy S4 as well as a Nexus tablet with no issues.  It also works on the Microsoft Surface as well as all of the Apple devices.

There's a stylus on one end and a paintbrush on the other.  It comes about and the back end becomes a cap for the brush.  The whole devices becomes compact enough to fit in a pocket.  I love it!  I think it's incredibly useful.

To start, I used the doll I outlined last week.  I tried doing some of the inking in Sketchbook Pro but was not happy with the results.  It doesn't have palm rejection, so anytime I tried to lay my hand on my phone, I got a big splotch on my drawing.

Let's go over the interface briefly.  At the top of the image is a toolbar.  The first icon is the Gallery.  This contains the save buttons and access to previous drawings in SketchBook Pro's gallery.  Next is the Info/Settings button.  It contains preferences, a quick tour, user manual, about the app, and a news link.  I used this app pretty much out of the box.  The only change I made was to turn on the back button on my phone as the undo shortcut.  All of that can be found in Preferences.  Next are the tools.  I didn't use that tab during this project.  It contains some fun things like symmetrical drawing tools, basic shapes, flood fill, transform, and several other tools.  After that, there's the brush menu, color wheel, and layers.  I'll go over each of those individually.  Also notice that there's a tiny circle at the bottom of the image.  That contains a quick menu that we'll look at, too.

This app supports layers.  Some others don't and I think layers are essential.  Sketchbook Pro also allows for some layer manipulation.  I was able to set the outlines to Multiply (the way I would in Photoshop) and colored in a layer underneath it.  Here's the Layer menu with the Multiply setting selected.

I used the plus icon to add a layer below my outlines.  If you select and hold down the layer, you can drag the order of it as well as delete it.  It's all pretty intuitive.

I like to start with skin tones.  When you select the color wheel, this is what pops up.  There's a color wheel as well as HSB color options.  You can switch to RGB (on the left) and select swatches (on the right) or use the color picker (top right) AND select Copic marker swatches (top left).  I haven't used Copic markers, but they are known for being the professional standard in markers.  I like the swatches available in this app, and that's what I used to color this image.

Here are those swatches.  I love the options & variety.  It made selecting colors for my image very straightforward!

Now that I have my color, I need a brush.  SketchBook Pro has dozens of brushes built in, everything from basics like pencil and airbrush settings to texture brushes, and even some crazy image brushes!  Well worth exploring.  I selected one of the basic brushes and played around with size and opacity, both of which are available right in the menu.

And I started coloring!  SketchBook Pro supports multi-touch gestures.  To zoom, you use two figures and spread them.  To pan around the image, slide those same figures around.  It's the same gestures you would use on a smartphone or tablet, so, again, it's pretty intuitive.  I colored my skin tone on one layer, with the outlines above.

Next, I added another layer to place all of the other colors.  I tried to keep the files size down, so I limited the amount of layers I used.

Once the colors were blocked in, I went back and added texture to the hair using one of the built-in brushes.  Then I added another layer, selected a soft brush, and started adding some shading.  There isn't a selection tool and all of my cleanup had to be done with the eraser tool.

Here are four of my five layers.  I have (from the top): the outline layer set to Multiply, a shading layer for the colors, the color layer, and the skin tone layer.  The only layer not shown is the shading layer above the skin tone layer.

And here's an image with that additional layer.  I played with the opacity of that layer, and the layer shows a percentage in the corner indicating that.

Here's the circle menu I mentioned earlier.  Touch the circle and this quick menu pops up.  There is a menu of basic brushes on the left, a radial menu to change the brush and brush properties, and color swatches on the right.

SketchBook Pro saves your image to the built in gallery, but you can also export your image in several formats in several ways.  This app is also directly connected to deviantArt for those of you who keep a gallery there.

So that's a quick demo of SketchBook Pro for tablets.  I colored this doll in a couple of hours and it was lots of fun.  And now comes the list of pros and cons....

First the pros. This is an easy, intuitive program to use.  It has a lot of great features, including loads of brushes.  I like the responsiveness of the app as well.  It was easy to zoom in and adjust my brushes.  It's a fun, simple yet fully featured way to draw on the go.  There are some artists who do amazing things with this app (I am not one of them!!).  If you like the app, you can also get a desktop version for Windows and Mac, starting at about $60.  The desktop version has an amazing variety of tools and capabilities.  If you're looking for a Photoshop alternative for a reasonable price, this is worth looking at.  There's a free trial option so you can test it out before committing.

And the cons.... I wish this had palm rejection and I was surprised that it didn't.  Maybe there's a setting I need to tweak on my end.  I'll admit that this is my first start-to-finish image in the app and obviously there's a learning curve.  I wish there was a selection tool.  I can live without that as a a feature, but it would have been handy.  My biggest issue, though, is the export function.  I exported my image as a PSD file and couldn't open it in either Photoshop CS4 or Photoshop CC.  That alone will prevent me from using this more often.

I hope this was a fun little tour of mobile digital art.  I'm always looking for ways to create even when I can't sit on my studio.

I'll post another Kawaii Kids doll tomorrow and a fashion doll on Friday!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fashion Friday - Veronica

Today's doll is the direct result of my new obsession with Pinterest! Seriously, that site is so fun.  I found an outfit I loved and a pattern I already had, and this is the doll!

And... that's about it.  Not much more to say about it.  I love the colors & the pattern is fun.  I'm hoping to color a doll this weekend while traveling.  I'm getting an early birthday present from my mom -- we're going to a concert in Connecticut.  I'll be spending a few hours in the car, which seems like the perfect time to practice digital coloring on my phone!   Hopefully I can finish it.

Here's the doll!  Have a terrific weekend.  I know I will!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Kawaii Wednesdays - Birds & Hearts

It's been a busy week around here!  My sons have been a little stir crazy lately and entertaining them has taken up most of my time.  I love playing with them, but I'm feeling a little stir crazy too! I think spring has finally come to New England so it's time to get out the outdoor toys & spend our days in the yard.

And that's part of how this doll came to be.  The theme for this doll is birds & hearts.  I wanted a primitive, folk art kind of feel to the motif.  I've been drawing a lot more directly in Illustrator and these are the result.  I'm shopping for a new computer, so if there are any artists/designers out there with suggestions, I'd love to hear them! Part of me wants a computer I can draw directly on, and part of me wants a massive screen -- I don't think I can have both.  Anyway..... Here's the doll!