Category: Drawing Resources

How to Convert Your Pen/Pencil Drawings into Vectors Using Illustrator

The first step of course is to make loads and loads of drawings. Get into the habit of drawing daily, and then once you’ve found that perfect sketch. Take it and scan it (preferable) or take a photo of it. I always go for the highest res scan available, which on my scanner is 600dps.

Open the image in Photoshop first.

Image —> Adjustments —–> Levels

Play with the shadows as well as the highlights and make the background as white as possible, the lines as dark as possible. This is done by adjusting the black and the white cursors. Make sure preview is enabled and basically just look at your drawing change as you adjust the levels.

Image —-> Adjustments ——–> Contrast

Turn up the contrast and make your lines black. Take down the brightness a bit if you can, to make the lines even darker.

Cool, so now we have a decent black and white image ready for Illustrator. Copy and paste the image from Photoshop, and paste it into Illustrator.

Once in illustrator. Find the button “Live Trace” (as indicated in the image below in the top let corner) and click on the the dropdown. You can alternatively select Object —-> Live Trace —> Tracing Options


Make sure both Strokes as well as Fills are checked under Trace Settings. Then click Trace.

This step can be a bit subjective, so play around with the settings until the desired effect is achieved. This may vary greatly with different images so practice, and use Ctrl-Z frequently to undo any mistakes.

Now that you’ve got your image vectorized. You want to go to Object —–> Expand . This turns all of your stroked, and anchor points into editable vectors.

By Pushing “K” you will activate the Live Paint Bucket tool in Illustrator. Use the paint bucket to fill certain areas just as you would do in photoshop.

I also used the pencil tool to draw in an extra arm, and close off areas as the paint bucket tool will only work in areas which are completely closed off on all sides.

You can now scale the image up, since most websites which print tshirts and other items want to have an image that is at least 3100px wide (This is for sites like Society6 and RedBubble) . Download the template from these sites to ensure you are creating your image for the right size template.  You can change the scale by going to Object —-> Transform —-> Scale

Now copy and paste the image back into photoshop, just as pixels. Make the background layer transparent.

Select the white background with the magic wand tool and delete it. You don’t want to have a big white square around your image if it is going to be printed on a shirt.

Now upload the image to the website of your choice for printing tshirts according to the specifications and size which is required. For Society6 it is currently 3300px s 5100px, it is important not to resize your image at this point, unless you are making the image smaller to fit. Never resize an image to be larger in photoshop as it will become pixelated.

Now your image is ready, and available with a variety of background colors on both tshirts, hoodies, tote bags, and pillows.



Eye Pencil Drawings and Step by Step Tutorial

When considering how to draw the human eye one must first look at the multitude of eye pencil drawings which I have linked below in the resource section. In this step by step tutorial you will learn how to construct the human eye from simple shapes while using pencil and a little bit of chalk for highlights. The drawing will be done on brown craft paper (you can use the brown paper bag paper if you have nothing else) and this is used because the brown paper will serve as a neutral grey tone which means in this drawing we will only be going darker, and lighter around this middle tone. The brown paper can be substituted for grey canson paper if desired.


Step 1 

Define the major shapes with simple outlines. Use source materials, a model, or a photograph for reference.

Step 2

Fill in the pupil and draw an organic shape indicating what will be the fluctuations of value in the iris.  Remember not to press to hard with your pencil as this will destroy the tooth of the paper and make it difficult to erase.

Step 3

Make a pile of graphite from your pencil. Dab your finger in it and use it to make some soft values in step 4.

Step 4

Blend some soft values with your finger under the top lid of the eye and around the iris.

Step 5

Blend the eyelids and the contour under the eye using a combination of your finger and pencil.

Step 6

Use some white charcoal (they also come in pencil form) to pop in a few highlights. Be minimal here and don’t go overboard!

Step 7


Add the eyelashes by paying attention to making them all curved and not straight. Use an eraser  to help soften the highlights and shape the eyelashes.


Eye Pencil Drawings Resources

Here is a bunch of eye pencil drawings resources for those who want to learn how to draw eyes. The human eye can be quite a challenge and is a great piece of anatomy to examine as there are many varying planes to consider and one can push the detail all the way down to the individual lashes.

Look at these resources and eye pencil drawings for further reference.

Styles of Drawing

So you have been drawing for months from life. You have piles of worn Bridgeman and Loomis books piled up by your desk, and you still suffer from a simple problem. You don’t seem to have anything close to a personal style developed. Fear not. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Developing a personal style consists of two main components, 1 is to draw as much from life as possible as this builds up what is called your Visual Library (This means that if you draw a guitar 20 times from life, you’ll have a better chance of drawing a realistic one from memory), the second component is to understand and get very familiar with the type of symbols you generally use to convey certain features (or other objects). One must first get familiar with the different styles of drawing first in order to get a good feel for your visual vocabulary (symbols) .

So what does it mean to understand the symbols which you use? You have already been taught not to use symbols but instead use abstraction to create the illusion of depth. And this is fine if you want to make paintings like a traditional painter. However, a large group of people don’t start drawing from life in this manner when they are 14 or 15, they start by drawing from cartoons, comic books, and from their heads. And these early symbols we make for a nose (for example) stick with us for all eternity, or so it seems. Let’s take a look at just how eyes are handled in three different cartoons in the image below.

In all of these examples we can see that the symbol for an eye can vary greatly, but still depict an eye. This is what we generally refer to as someone’s style. The nuts and bolts of someone’s style is based upon the symbols they use, and the techniques which are used to represent them. So we can look at the image below, and see how different symbols are also further stylized by the techniques in which they are depicted.

So how did Ralph Steadman find his personal style, and how did that differ from Todd McFarlane and Bill Plimpton? Well, in order to see how these people draw, we can simply dissect the way they construct a drawing. In the top drawing by Steadman we can see a lot of importance is given to the gesture of the figures, and this is followed by a very methodical and technical series of dark cross hatching marks. The line is fluid and wild, and this is then kept in place by the very meticulous cross hatching. Therefore we could safely say that if we wanted to develop a style similar to Ralph Steadman we should do loads of gesture drawings, as well as practice how to crosshatch. In the second drawing by Todd McFarlane we see highly developed and structured figure drawing in outrageous poses. These drawings were most likely done in pencil first and are heavily dependent on drawing the figure from memory. So in order to draw more like Todd McFarlane I would suggest studying the figure from life, as well as drawings from memory and building up compositions slowly. Starting with sketches first of multiple characters, and then resketching these onto a larger composition, and then finally finishing them with pen and ink. In the third drawing by Bill Plimpton we can see that his depictions of form are very painterly and that his mark making is fluid and free. So in order to draw more like Bill Plimpton I would suggest working with colored pencils (because of their ease of use in depicting large areas of value) and then slowly building these values up and finishing the drawing with darker marks to place the features of the face. Then, when working with pen we will treat the ink in a similar manner as the colored pencil and gently shade in large value shapes with a pen.

So, so far we have distinguished two important aspects of how to develop a personal style. One is the symbols which are used, and the second is the techniques which are employed (ie. how someone handles the medium). But by going through the different ways these artists constructed their drawings we also added a third important aspect which needs to be considered. And that is the ability to look at drawings (preferably by an artist you admire) and take apart how they are created. Every artist on the planet is influenced by other artists. The simplest way to say this is for you to find out what you think is cool. Once you have identified your favorite artists you should then do what I’ve done in the preceding paragraph, and that is to take apart to the best of your ability how their drawing were made. Now, you shouldn’t just bite their style, you want to create your own, but the good news is that a style will naturally come out after years of drawing and multiple attempts at recreating a variety of other styles. In fact, you may already have a style now, it just might be a really generic and crappy style. So ask yourself, how do you want to improve it? Is there an artist which could be influential? Are you interested in creating commercial work? Or work for animations or comic books? Well, then you’ve got to create a style which already meets commercial expectations. Which means that straying from the accepted commercial norms will be looked down upon (this can even be the case for well established Comic Book artists). Otherwise the sky’s the limit and by using the tactics outlined above (and with a lot of practice!) you’ll be able to create a personal style that not only satisfies you, but others as well. Just remember that these things don’t come over night!

Animations Before and After Flash

With everyone dying to start using the latest version of the latest program to animate it is also important to consider the fact that not all technological innovations necessarily mean that the end product will be improved. Much discussion has been done surrounding the topic as to whether Flash is a good program for animating. And while it undoubtedly can be used at a professional level, it should also be noted that many times it has been used to cut corners and those using it have a tendency to forget about many of the basic principles of Animation. As the father of a toddler I often turn on Nick Jr to get a moment of peace. The first time I had watched it in over 15 years I was astonished to see how terrible many of the animated series had become.

A glaring example of this would be the PBS show Arthur which switched to Flash in the 16th season. Take a look at the two videos below and compare them for yourself. The changes are obvious and it boggles my mind that some higher up thought that using flash would be an improvement over the previous seasons (of which there had already been many).

Season 1

Season 16 (Flash)

It’s pretty easy to see that the quality of the animation suffered greatly after they decided to turn to flash. When I was growing up my favorite show was called “The Mysterious Lost Cities of Gold” (mainly because I was obsessed with the Aztecs) and compare this against my new most hated theme song in the world. The Dreaded “Dora the Explorer” where young children learn to memorize completely useless information.

Mysterious Lost Cities of Gold (new music added) 1982

Dora The Explorer 2010


So no. You’re not just being nostalgic for your cartoons. While some people can utilize the benefits of new technology. There are also those that want to churn out as much crap as fast as they can, to make as much money as they can. But don’t despair. Just as always there are innovative young animators who are taking advantage of the benefits of flash and making great material. It’s just that the ease of use of the program, combined with an inability to integrate qualities of older animations into Flash has created a lot of awful flash animations which permeate youtube. For that reason I’ll leave you with a video of someone who can actually use flash in an interesting and new way. Oh what’s that? You don’t see any vectors? Well, maybe that’s because they’re hideous in animations 😀

How to Capture a Likeness in a Portrait

In order to achieve a high degree of likeness in a drawing one must pay attention to what is called the facial triangle. The facial triangle is a term which refers to the brow, cheek bones and the nose. One may notice that this doesn’t necessarily make the perfect triangle due to the shape of the head so it’s better to think of the shape as the image which can be seen below.

Look at the features of the face and see how they are unique. In the image above the features are pretty generic on this woman. Practice drawing and looking at the minute differences that occur in every facial triangle. While the mouth and jawline are also important factors to consider in completing the drawing, the best tactic is to focus first on nailing the facial triangle and then letting the rest fall into place.

So. How does one construct the rest of the face after the facial triangle has been completed? Well the next most important feature is going to be the overall shape of the head. And these head shapes can be comprised into a multitude of categories. Take a look at the gallery below to get a feeling for all of the different shapes that the head can take on.

There are different ways to tackle a portrait with pen and ink, or pencil. The two most popular methods are to either first go for the overall shape of the head, and then fit the facial triangle inside of that shape. Or to first work on the features present, and then add the larger facial shape around them. Neither way is “correct” and it will be up to you to decide which method works best for you.

Caricatures can be a great place to look at the multitude of different features on a face since they are all exaggerated in these drawings and therefore easier to see. When drawing an accurate portrait one will actually use a method similar to those used by caricature artists. And that means that in addition to looking at the facial triangle, and facial shape, that small exaggerations should be made to prominent features in order to make it quite clear “who” a drawing of a person is.

Free Digital Painting Resources (not bad references for eyes) (some inspiration)!)-Download (its a photoshop plugin that allows you to use the corel painter color wheel) (A collection of tutorials for digital painting especially cell shading and comics/ very stylized though) (a collection of corel painter tutorials) (some really great inspiration) (more inspiration its important) (this ones cool this guy posts animated frame by frames of his works so you see exactly how he did each piece.)