I’ve been asked about linework a few times. The few who have asked are usually interested in clean, flowing linework. My work is very dissectible. All I do is combine good tools and fastidious cleaning over absurd sizes and resolutions. So here’s me showing my linework progress as it has changed throughout the years.
To be honest, I use a lot of linework because I’m not particularly good at full value rendering. I have worked full value countless times, but it never feels as natural as I wish it did. I feel like my full value renderings look unprofessional.
Yes, I painted this. I’ve been told several times it looks alright. But you can see how there are several successful and immensely talented artists whose rendering skills I cannot compete with. These include Jason Seiler, Sam Weber, Sam Spratt, Sam Wolfe Connelly, among many other Sams and artists.
Lines feel natural to me. I’ve drawn this way all my life and it has evolved as I’ve become more practiced and knowledgeable of analog and digital mediums.
At first, I used a lot of penciled lines. I would scan them in and tamper with them in photoshop. This is how a drawing would look right after scanning.
Incomplete drawing: I don’t have a large scanner. I scan the drawing in parts (about 4 scans, seldom 6) and then photomerge the files in photoshop. I won’t do that now. This drawing is 16 x 24.
Once the drawing is photomerged, I tamper with its contrast with the purpose of accentuating the linework.
In this particular case, I also had to decrease the size of the cat’s head. I drew the cat’s head too large in the original.
After a few years of this, I also started experimenting with inks, pen and nibs, microns, brushes, and what have you. I favor Holbein’s I354 Black ink for pen and nibs, and I382 Special Black ink for brushes. Special Black will ruin your nibs so use it with brushes. My only problem with ink is that I don’t have that steady of a hand. Pencils grasp the paper, so they give you a hold that steadies your hand, thus the lines come out softer. With inks, it’s all in the wrist. My overly-abused, climber’s wrists are constantly quivering, thus the lines come out jagged.
Click to enlarge and you’ll see just how jagged these lines are. I would take these lines into photoshop and fuss over it until everything looked soft and flowy.
The end product was not unlike a straight-to-photoshop drawing. This lead me to start inking on computer. Inking, scanning and cleaning was demanding more time than I could really employ.
I tried lines with Adobe Illustrator…
… but I felt like they lacked character.
As I kept experimenting with inks on my sketchbooks, I started developing a taste for more natural lines. I developed brushes in Photoshop that emulated my nibs, brushes, and markers. This allowed me to incorporate some of my analog mark-making into my digital work. I also started working in lower resolutions. This allowed the brush textures to show through a little more. It gave my work a little more character and made it look a little less synthetic.
I made numerous marks over many types of papers and textures. I then scanned them and turned them into brushes. There are dozens of tutorials online that can teach you how to create your own. This one’s pretty good.
I’ve also uploaded my most frequently used brushes over here. Use them or dissect them as you please. I will never ask for any attribution. Keep in mind that these are just tools. A style is not to be dictated by what you use, but by how your thoughts, concepts, mediums of choice, and unique visual problem-solving react to each other.