Three Very Basic Ways To Improve Digital Photos/Scans Of Your (Non-Commercial) Traditional Art

2017-artwork-quick-ways-to-improve-art-with-digital-editing

I’m sure I’ve given a similar tutorial to this at least once before but, if you’ve got a scanner or a digital camera, then you can use image editing programs to improve the scans/photos of your traditional art before posting them online (Note: If you’re actually selling the originals, then don’t do this – because it may be considered false advertising).

I’ve also written this tutorial in a program-neutral way, so that it will hopefully be useful regardless of which editing program you choose to use. However, for the example images, I’ll mostly be using a totally free editing program called “GIMP” [GNU Image Manipuation Program]. This program is completely open-source too, which also means that you can find a version that will work on pretty much any computer.

If you’re new to image editing and don’t have an editing program, then “GIMP” might be worth experimenting with. Likewise, if you’re new to image editing, make a backup copy of your digital image before you try any of these techniques.

So, what are some quick and basic things you can do to improve the digital copies of your artwork?

1) Brightness/contrast: Most image editing programs have a brightness/contrast adjustment feature. Usually, this can be accessed from one of the menus at the top of the screen.

For example, in GIMP 2.6 (a slightly old version of GIMP I downloaded a couple of years ago), it can be found in the “Colours” menu:

 This is how to find the brightness/contrast option in GIMP 2.6 (and probably in more modern versions of the program too)

This is how to find the brightness/contrast option in GIMP 2.6 (and probably in more modern versions of the program too)

This feature can come in handy if, after scanning or photographing your artwork, it looks slightly “faded”. To make your art look a bit more vivid (or to make line art look bolder), just lower the brightness level and increase the contrast level.

Most programs will allow you to experiment with this until you get it right (by showing you a preview of your changes, or having an “undo” function), but a good rule is to lower the brightness by about 20-30 % and increase the contrast by about 60-80%. However, every picture is different. So, be sure to experiment to find the right levels for your picture.

2) Cropping tools: One problem with scanning or photographing traditional artwork is that the digitisation process usually adds a lot of needless background details. After all, you probably just want to show off your painting or drawing, and not the scanner bed or the surface that your picture is resting on.

A simple way to get rid of all or most of these pointless background details is to use a cropping tool. This allows you to select a square or rectangular area using the mouse. Once this area is selected, you can click on it to remove anything outside of the area.

The icon for the cropping tool varies slightly from program to program (eg: in GIMP 2.6, it looks like a scalpel) but, in many programs, it will look like two diagonal halves of a square placed on top of each other. But, just hover your mouse over the icons until you find the right one. Here’s an example.

As you can see, different programs sometimes use different icons for the same tool.

A simple crop without any other alterations (provided it shows the whole painting or drawing [unless you are also showing close-up details]) is probably the only one of these techniques you can use if you are selling the originals of your art commercially.

Since any digital images of commercial artwork should be an accurate representation of the painting or drawing that is being sold, merely removing pointless background details (that have nothing to do with the artwork itself) probably doesn’t count as misrepresenting the product.

However, background details in photos can probably be useful to help potential customers gauge the size of the artwork quickly by comparing it to nearby objects (but, if you’re selling art, you should also state the size/dimensions of your picture in the description too).

3) Hue/Saturation: If you can find the brightness/contrast options in the program that you’re using, then the hue/saturation options will probably be somewhere on the same menu.

This option allows you to control both the intensity (saturation) of the colours in your artwork, as well as allowing you to change all of the colours by a particular amount (eg: the “hue” option).

You’ll probably also find a “lightness” option, which allows you to alter the brightness of the image too. Most programs also allow you to change these levels using user-friendly sliders.

These are the hue/satuation options in GIMP 2.6. Ignore the colour chart at the top of the picture, you'll probably just be using the three sliders at the bottom - which can also be found in many other programs.

These are the hue/satuation options in GIMP 2.6. Ignore the colour chart at the top of the picture, you’ll probably just be using the three sliders at the bottom – which can also be found in many other programs.

A good general rule is to only make very small adjustments to the hue levels in your picture, if you feel that it improves the picture. Of course, if you’ve completely messed up the colours in your picture, then making larger adjustments to the hue level can be one way to salvage your picture. However, it might also make it look slightly surreal.

To show you what I mean, here is a chart. The top picture has no hue adjustments. The middle picture has the kind of small, subtle hue adjustment that you should probably use. The bottom picture contains a very large hue adjustment.

Click on the chart, or open it in a new tab, to see a full-size version.

Click on the chart, or open it in a new tab, to see a full-size version.

One other ultra-basic way to salvage your picture is just to lower the saturation as much as possible, which will turn your picture into a greyscale image (Note: Once you’ve clicked “ok”, this may not be easily reversible, depending on whether you save the greyscale image and/or whether your program has an “undo” function. So, make a backup first). Like this:

Lowering the saturation levels drastically is one simple way to convert your image into a greyscale picture, which can be a useful thing to do if you've messed up the colours. But, MAKE A BACKUP COPY before you press "ok"! I cannot emphasise this enough!

Lowering the saturation levels drastically is one simple way to convert your image into a greyscale picture, which can be a useful thing to do if you’ve messed up the colours. But, MAKE A BACKUP COPY before you press “ok”! I cannot emphasise this enough!

Some images look a lot more dramatic in greyscale than they do in colour. Plus, a basic greyscale image will often look better than a badly-made colour image.

I won’t cover it in this tutorial but, if you’ve got a greyscale image, then you can often also use other features in your program (like the selection tools, colourisation tools, the “RGB levels” feature, image effects etc..) to re-do the colours in your picture in a better way. This is a bit more advanced than anything in this tutorial but, it’s worth experimenting with, given that you can also use it to create digital-style artwork like the picture at the top of this article, or this larger picture:

"1990s Office Awesomeness" By C. A. Brown

“1990s Office Awesomeness” By C. A. Brown

So, yes, these are three quick, ultra-basic things (brightness/contrast, cropping and hue/saturation) you can do to improve the digital copies of your traditional artwork. Just remember that, if you’re selling the originals of you art, you shouldn’t digitally alter the actual content of the art itself (although cropping an image to the correct size is probably ok).

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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Three Basic Ways To Get More Out Of Your Image Editing Program

2017-artwork-get-the-most-out-of-your-image-editing-programs

If you’re new to digital image editing, it can be easy to think that whatever editing program you’re using can only do a limited number of things. However, most image editing programs can actually do a lot more than you might initially think.

Since there are many different image editing programs out there, I’ll try to write the “advice” parts of this article in a fairly non-specific way that will apply to most programs.

However, I’ll be using examples from the 2-3 image editing programs that I actually use on a regular or semi-regular basis (eg: MS Paint 5.1, Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6 [it’s old, but still very functional!] and, very occasionally, a free open-source program called “GIMP).

1) Combine several effects and/or tools: Although the menus of your image editing program may only contain, say, fifty different effects and/or tools – there’s no rule against using many of these tools/ effects in combination with each other in order to create a huge number of effects that you can’t create with just a single option. In fact, you can use different tools/effects from multiple programs in conjunction with each other if you really want to.

The trick, of course, is working out which effects, tools etc… go well together. But, with a bit of thought and/or random experimentation (be sure to either keep unaltered backups of your images if you’re experimenting), you should be able to create quite a few effects that you wouldn’t be able to do with any one option available to you in your editing program.

For example, by combining the “noise” and “colourise”/”RGB” options that can be found in many image editing programs – you can create a corkboard-like texture fairly easily.

Likewise, you can also use several basic features found in many programs to convert photos into something that resembles videogame-style pixel art (although the tutorial is MS Paint 5.1 -specific, most editing programs allow you to do things like altering the colour depth of an image).

Or, to use a recent example, I’d just finished my usual MS Paint 5.1/ Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6 editing on a scanned painting that I plan to post here in July. However, it still didn’t quite look right.

Suddenly, I thought “What if I use the ‘dilate’ effect in Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6 and then lower the highlight/midtone/shadow levels“. Although the picture also required some extra adjustments to the hue/saturation/lightness levels after I’d done this, I ended up creating a really distinctive effect:

Here's a close-up detail from the painting to show you what the effect looks like. It made the painting look like a combination between an impressionist painting and a pixel art picture.

Here’s a close-up detail from the painting to show you what the effect looks like. It made the painting look like a combination between an impressionist painting and a pixel art picture.

2) Look online for undocumented features: Whilst this isn’t true for all image editing programs, some image editing programs contain extra features that aren’t listed in the program’s documentation. The easiest way to find out about these is, obviously, to do an online search for “hidden features in [Your editing program]“. You might be surprised by what you find.

For example, a couple of weeks before I originally wrote this article, I ended up looking up something to do with MS Paint. To my surprise, I also found several articles that list undocumented features in many versions of MS Paint.

To give you one example, you can freely alter the brush/pencil/airbrush size to literally any size by just holding down the left “ctrl” key and pressing the “+” or ” -” keys.

Likewise, if you select an area and then hold down left “crtl” – you can drag the mouse away from that area to create a quick copy of the selected area. If you hold down “shift” instead after selecting an area, then it will leave a trail when you move it. This can be used for creating bizarre abstract art, like this:

This was an abstract picture that I mostly created using the undocumented "trail" feature in MS Paint 5.1

This was an abstract picture that I mostly created using the undocumented “trail” feature in MS Paint 5.1

Of course, MS Paint is just one program. But, it might be worth looking online to see if there are any hidden undocumented features in the program that you use.

3) Shortcuts are your friend: Many image editing programs will contain keyboard shortcuts for their most essential features.

Although this may just seem like a boring, and easily ignored, feature – learning the keyboard shortcuts for features that you use often can save you a lot of time. Likewise, you can also use them in all sorts of clever ways too.

For example, in Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6, I leave the “RGB” settings at + 11% red, -4% green and -18% blue. This means that if I want to add a light skin tone to a selected area of a drawing/painting that I’m editing, I can just quickly hit the “Ctrl + U” shortcut for this feature and then hit “Enter”. If I want to add a slightly darker skin tone to a selected area, I can just repeat the process 1-2 times.

Or, to give you another example, I keep the “highlight/ midtone/shadow” levels at -31% highlight, -31% midtone and -36% shadow. By using the “Ctrl + M” shortcut, I can quickly make an image (or part of an image) look slightly more shadowy.

If you learn the keyboard shortcuts for the more well-used parts of your editing program, then you’ll be able to do things like this and much more.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Very Basic Ways To Salvage A Failed Painting With Digital Editing

2016 Artwork Salvaging failed paintings digitally

If you’re an artist, then you’ll know that failure happens sometimes.

But, as long as you’ve got a digital camera and/or a scanner, and an image editing program (if you don’t have one, you can download a freeware open source image editing program called “GIMP” here), then you can at least have a better digital copy of your failed painting if you’re prepared to edit it.

Just remember that, if you’re planning to sell your art, then the digital image of it that you post online should be an accurate representation of the original painting or drawing. But, if you’re not selling it, then feel free to edit away to your heart’s content.

Although I use a combination of an ancient 1990s version of Paint Shop Pro, GIMP 2.6 and/or MS Paint 5.1 for my image editing, most image editing programs share a few basic features.

So, it doesn’t really matter which programs you use. I’ll try to write these instructions as generally as possible, so that they’ll be useful regardless of which image editing program you use.

I should probably also point out that the three tips in this article are extremely basic. So, if you already know a little bit about image editing, then you probably won’t learn anything new here.

1) Your picture looks too faded: One problem with scanned or digitally photographed paintings or drawings is that they often look slightly faded.

An easy way to remedy this in pretty much any image editing program is to look for an option (it’s probably in the “colours” menu) labelled “Brightness/ Contrast”. Once you’ve found it, all you have to do is to lower the brightness level slightly and raise the contrast level until your picture looks right.

Personally, I usually tend to use a fairly low brightness level and a fairly high contrast level, because it gives my art a “vivid” look – but just experiment until your picture looks right.

Once you’ve done this, then just cut the image to the proper size (eg: if there’s other stuff in the background of your digital photo etc..) using the cropping tool in your program ( In GIMP 2.6, the icon for this tool looks a bit like a scalpel. In other programs, it often looks like a square made from two overlapping “L” shapes).

2) You’ve messed up the colour scheme: If you’ve messed up the colour scheme in part of or all of your painting, then all is not lost. In fact, there are several things that you can do to create a better digital copy of your artwork:

– Hue/Saturation: Select the parts of your picture that are the wrong colour (or don’t select anything, if you have problems with the whole image), then look for this option in your image editing program (it’ll probably be in the “colours” menu).

Once you’ve found it, just move the “hue” slider until the selected area is the right colour. This will probably require a bit of trial and error, but you can change the colour of pretty much anything (except for solid black and white areas) using this.

– RGB values: Another way to change the colour of a selected area of your artwork is to look for the “RGB” options in the colour menu of your image editing program. This allows you to alter the amount of red, green and blue in the selected area. This is less precise than altering the hue levels, but it can be useful if you need to add colour to a solid white area of your artwork.

– The Nuclear Option: If your problem can’t be solved with either of these two things, then you can remove all colour from your picture by either looking for a “greyscale”/”desaturate” option in the colour menu of your editing program, or by opening the “Hue/ Saturation” menu and reducing the saturation to zero.

Once you’ve done this, then you can mess around with the RGB options (or look for a “colourise” option) to give your artwork a tint if you want to.

In fact, I actually did this with one of my failed paintings from late April (in addition to using a “blur” effect too) after I messed up the colours in it fairly significantly. This is what the final picture looked like:

"Let The Rain Fall" By C. A. Brown

“Let The Rain Fall” By C. A. Brown

3) Correcting small mistakes (in a less noticeable way): I usually tend to do this in a fairly basic program like MS Paint, but you can do this in any image editing program.

The main thing to remember when correcting small mistakes is that the exact colours in your painting are different from the basic stock colours that are available in the menu of your image editing program.

If you use the stock colours (or try to create a similar colour using a custom colour menu), then your corrections will stand out from a mile away.

So, before you correct small mistakes, look for a colour selection tool first.

In MS Paint 5.1 this is called the “Pick Color” tool and the icon for it looks like a pipette/ dropper. In GIMP 2.6, it’s called the “Colour Picker Tool” and the icon also looks like a pipette/ dropper. Virtually all image editing programs contain this tool, so you should be able to find it.

So, what does this tool do? Well, once you’ve selected it, just click on any part of your painting and the brush/ airbrush/ pencil colour will change to the exact colour of the area that you’ve just clicked on. This means that you can seamlessly alter a part of your painting using the exact colours that are in this part of your painting.

Yes, your corrections will still be noticeable if people know what to look for, but they won’t be extremely obvious at first glance.

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Anyway. I hope that this was useful 🙂

The Joy Of… Cheap Art Supplies

2015 Artwork Cheap Art Supplies Sketch

Even though this is an article about art, I’m going to have to start by talking about music and computer games for a while. Trust me, there’s a valid reason for this and I’m not just rambling about obscure stuff just to sound pretentious. Honest.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, a few weeks ago I rediscovered a couple of acoustic punk bands I first found on Youtube a couple of years ago – I am, of course, talking about “Johnny Hobo And The Freight Trains” and a later version of the same band called “Wingnut Dishwashers Union“. Some of their songs can also be legally downloaded for free on the Internet Archive too.

One of the interesting things about both of these albums is both how low-budget they sound and how this doesn’t matter in the slightest, because the lyrics are so wonderfully-written and cynical. The lead singer/guitarist might sound like a busker, but he’s more punk than most “popular” punk bands are. And I don’t even consider myself to be a punk, even though the first “cool” band I ever discovered was a punk band (The Offspring, if anyone is curious).

And then this made me think about my favourite computer game – I am, of course, talking about “Doom II” and all of the various fan-made levels and mods for it you can find on the internet. This is a game that is over twenty years old and, graphically speaking, it looks very primitive. But it’s still a lot more fun than many games that have been made over the past decade, because it’s so well-designed.

It’s easy to write things like this off as “the exception to the rule”. The rare things which, although they may be low-budget and/or primitive, are still somehow great for a weird reason that no-one can explain. But, I’d argue that they’re great because they’re so basic.

One of the most damaging myths about making art is that it requires a lot of money in order to be great. I’m talking about the idea that a good artist needs lots of expensive art supplies, a purpose-built studio and/or expensive graphics editing software in order to produce great art.

This is, quite simply, nonsense.

Yes, using lots of expensive stuff will help to make any flaws in your art less obvious at first glance and it will probably also make you feel more “professional” too. But it’s no substitute for skill, imagination and/or experience and you shouldn’t let a lack of money and/or expensive equipment put you off from making art.

The fact is that the basic tools for making art are fairly cheap. And they still work.

You can draw a truly stunning picture with a cheap pen in a cheap notebook, you can make a great picture with cheap coloured pencils, you can paint something wonderful with low-grade paints, you can digitally edit a picture with a free open-source image editing program like GIMP etc…

And, ironically, the quality of your work will shine through a lot more easily than it would if you produced something with expensive stuff.

Why?

Well, because there’s nothing to hide behind. No fancy art supplies, no flashy digital effects or anything like that. It’s just you and your work and, if you’re good at it, then you’ll impress people – if you’re not, then you won’t. And, if you can seriously impress people using incredibly cheap materials, then this is a sign that you’re doing well.

Plus, sometimes, it can be fun to test yourself by going “back to basics” and seeing if you can still make great stuff with nothing more than a pen, a pencil and a piece of paper. Yes, it’s a bit more of a challenge than usual, but it’s still strangely satisfying nonetheless.

The interesting thing is that all of the things I’ve said only really apply to things like art and/or music. There’s no real equivalent for writing because, at the end of the day, words look like words – regardless of whether they’ve been typed on a top-of the range modern computer or on something from the mid-2000s.

The text of a bestselling novel and the text of a self-published e-book still look pretty much the same in visual terms. So, in a way, I guess that writing is the most “honest” and “open” form of creativity in the world.

It’s just a shame that other forms of creativity aren’t as inherently egalitarian as writing is, in this respect.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

What Are The Most Important Skills An Artist Can Learn?

2014 Artwork five basic skills sketch

First of all, this is another article for absolute beginners. So, if you’ve been making art for a while – then you’ll probably know all of this stuff already and it’s probably not worth reading this article.

Still, if you’re new to making art (and, like me, are self-taught)- then there are a few basic skills which you should try to practice as much as possible because they will come in handy throughout your artistic career.

I should also probably point out that different artists think that different skills are more important than others, so this is only really my personal opinion about which skills are the most important to learn. Plus, since I started out by making drawings, most of these skills will be drawing-related and may or may not be applicable if you’re planning to work in other art mediums.

Anyway, let’s get started 🙂

1) Copying by sight: Whilst it’s ok to start out by learning how to draw things by tracing them, it’s very important that you learn (through practice) how to copy things just by looking at them.

The best way to learn how to do this is to start out by copying photographs rather than painting or drawing from life because a photo is a single static image which can be studied closely and will not change depending on which angle you view it from. Plus, the hard work of transforming a 3D object and/or 3D scene into a two-dimensional image has already been done for you if you look at a photo.

The important thing to remember when copying a photo is that, because it is a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional scene, the exact shapes and outlines of things will probably look very slightly different to what you might expect them to look like. So, pay very close attention to the photo you’re copying and remember that it is, essentially, a 2D image like the drawing and/or painting that you are making.

2) 3D Shapes and perspective: I wrote a much more detailed instructional article about this a while ago, but it’s very important to learn how to draw basic 3D shapes and to have a very basic understanding of how to use perspective if you want to draw anything even vaguely realistically.

This isn’t really as daunting as it sounds – I mean, I mostly learnt how to draw basic 3D shapes and objects from just doodling randomly over the years. Plus, you can create good perspective in your pictures by just drawing an “X”-shaped guideline on your page (before you start drawing) and making sure that all lines in your drawing run parallel with the nearest line of the “X”.

3) Mixing colours: Whilst I only have a very basic understanding of colour theory and I only really started to learn how to mix colours late last year (when I finally started using watercolours), it’s a very useful skill for any artist to learn.

If you know how to mix or blend colours even vaguely well, then the number of colours available for you to use will be almost infinite. So, don’t be afraid to experiment with different colour combinations until you find the ones which are perfect for your next picture.

4) Basic light and shadows: Although I only have a fairly basic understanding of this and only remember to use it in my art some of the time, knowing the basics of how (and where) to add shadows to your picture will automatically give your art a sense of depth and realism. Not only that, it also makes your work look slightly more “professional” too.

Basic shadows are fairly easy to add – all you need to do is to be aware of where any light sources (eg: the sun, lightbulbs windows etc…) in your picture are and make sure that your shadows are on the side of anything that is facing away from the light source.

5) Trickery: There are loads of ways you can fool your audience into thinking that they’re looking at something that is more detailed (or even just technically better) than it actually is. Most of these are things that you’ll either learn just from looking at comics or through practice and experimentation.

But, the most important thing to remember is never to underestimate your audience’s ability to “fill in the gaps” when they’re faced with just a few essential details of something (eg: you can create the illusion of detail using a few basic rectangles that represent a city in the distance, or a few squiggly lines to represent trees).

Not only that, it’s also important to learn what the “focal points” of a picture are because you can either focus most of your energy on just making these few parts of your picture look good or you can use them to distract from badly-drawn parts of your picture.

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Sorry that this article was very basic and didn’t really say anything new, but I hope it was useful 🙂

Six Swift Ways To Become An Artist (If You’re Not An Artist)

I drew this in MS Paint with a mouse (right-handed, no less!) just to show you that simple art can be drawn with very little practice/experience.

I drew this in MS Paint with a mouse (right-handed, no less!) just to show you that simple art can be drawn with very little practice/experience.

So, you aren’t an artist? Come on, admit it, the most that you’ve ever drawn is a stick figure and the only painting you’ve ever done is painting the bathroom walls magnolia.

But, let me guess, you need art – or rather you need to make some art, because you can’t find what you’re looking for on the internet (or can’t get permission to use it).

Well, you’re in luck – here are six swift tips which will turn you from an absolute beginner into something vaguely resembling an artist in the space of an hour or two at most.

Yes, you should still practice regularly if you want to become a better artist and this guide won’t teach you how to paint the Mona Lisa or anything like that. But, if you need to make a fairly simple drawing or cartoon fairly quickly, then you’ve come to the right place 🙂

So, let’s get started.

1) Perspective: Yes, this word sounds complicated and intimidating to new artists, but all “perspective” really means is knowing how to draw a scene that looks like it has some depth.

Yes, it took me a while to learn how to use perspective properly. But, it’s actually very simple. There are two simple ways of doing this and it makes sense to use both of them, although you can get away with just using the first one if you have to.

The first way is to take your page and measure it’s height and width. Divide the height by two and then draw a pencil line across your page at this height. If you don’t have a ruler, then just guess. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You should end up with something that looks like this:

A simple horizon line, which is half the height of the page.

A simple horizon line, which is half the height of the page.

This line is the “horizon” in your drawing and it will help you to make everything look like it is the right distance away from the front of the picture. The bottom edge of every building, person, object etc… in your drawing should be below this line. Things in the far distance (eg: mountains, buildings etc…) should be above the line, but the bottom edges of them should be touching the line.

If you want something to be closer to the front of the picture, then make it bigger and make sure that the bottom edge of whatever you’re drawing is closer to the bottom of the page. If you want to draw something further away from the front of the picture, then it should be smaller and the bottom edge of it should be closer to the horizon line. It’s that simple.

Notice how the bottom edge of each triangle is at a different height.

Notice how the bottom edge of each triangle is at a different height.

The second way is to work out how to draw things in perspective is to take your ruler and to draw two diagonal lines across your page in pencil. Go from corner to corner, to make sure that both lines meet exactly in the middle of the page. You should end up with something like this:

These are basic perspective lines. Be sure to draw them using pencil rather than pen.

These are basic perspective lines. Be sure to draw them using pencil rather than pen.

After you’ve drawn this, then draw a horizon line if you want to. In fact, it’s easier to draw the horizon line after you’ve done this, since you just have to make sure that it lines up with the middle of the “X” you’ve just drawn.

So, what was the point of drawing a giant “X”? Simple. In order to make your picture look even more 3D, just make sure that every flat edge in your picture is at the same angle as the line of the “X” that is closest to it. Like this:

The edges that are the same angle as the perspective lines are shown in red.

The edges that are the same angle as the perspective lines are shown in red.

Remember again, things that are in the distance are usually smaller.

(If you’re interested in learning more about perspective, then check out my article about drawing simple 3D backgrounds).

2) Simple Backgrounds: The fact is that people don’t usually pay as much attention to the background as they do to the rest of your picture. As such, you can get away with making your backgrounds ridiculously simple.

As long as they look vaguely like the thing you’re trying to draw, then your audience’s imaginations will fill in the gaps afterwards. For example, you can draw mountains in about three seconds, just by drawing two identical wavy lines.

I've made the second line red, so you can tell them apart. But, yes, you can draw mountains with just two lines.

I’ve made the second line red, so you can tell them apart. But, yes, you can draw mountains with just two lines.

Likewise, houses, towns and cities in the far distance can easily be represented by just a few simple shapes:

You can also use a slightly pointier version of the "house" shape to represent trees too.

You can also use a slightly pointier version of the “house” shape to represent trees too.

There are plenty of ways to do this, but you’d be surprised how often you can get away with just using simple shapes or a few simple lines to represent things in the distant background. If you need more help with this, then check out this article I wrote a while ago.

3) Things behind other things: If you’re totally new to this, then always remember to sketch everything in pencil first and remember to draw your foreground (eg: everything close to the front of the picture) before you start drawing the background. Don’t worry, it’s surprisingly easy to work out how to draw things that are behind other things.

Once you’ve sketched the foreground in pencil, just go over your pencil lines with pen and then start drawing the objects in the background in pencil on top of your foreground. Then just take an eraser and erase every part of your background which overlaps with something in the foreground.

When you’ve done this, you should be left with a sketch which shows you which parts of the objects behind someone or something that you need to draw and which parts you shouldn’t draw.

4) People: People are one of the most difficult things for any artist to draw and it can take years of practice to learn how to draw them in anything resembling a realistic way. But, if you need to draw some people quickly, then there are several quick tricks that you can use.

If your people are in the very far distance, then you can get away with drawing very small stick figures. Just remember, the arms shouldn’t point outwards and the legs shouldn’t point in opposite directions. So, use a rectangle, rather than a line when drawing their body:

The right and wrong ways to draw people simply.

The right and wrong ways to draw people simply.

If you’re drawing people standing closer to the front of your drawing, then things can get a lot more complicated (since they have to be a lot more detailed).

You can either use a slightly larger and more detailed version of the “rectangle” stick figure I showed you earlier (you can also add simple 2D clothes and a face to it, if you sketch the stick figure in pencil first) to make a quick cartoon character or you can look online for more detailed tutorials about how to draw people. But, this takes longer to learn – so, if you’re in a hurry, then stick with “rectangle” stick figures.

5) Faces: Simple cartoon faces are ridiculously easy to draw when you know how. Yes, you can just draw the classic “smiley face” 🙂 or “sad face” 😦 if you want to.

But, if you want to make your cartoon characters look a little bit more detailed or you don’t want to look like a complete beginner, then there are a few other simple ways to draw faces.

These are usually fairly easy to work out for yourself, but if you’re in a hurry, then just copy one of the basic cartoon faces in this picture:

Some basic, easy to draw cartoon faces.

Some basic, easy to draw cartoon faces.

6) If you need to draw anything else: If you need to know how to draw anything more than simple scenery and people, then there are loads of free tutorials all over the internet that you can use (just search on Google or Youtube).

But, if you need to find simple drawing tutorials very quickly, then it’s probably worth checking out Shoo Rayner’s “Draw Stuff Real Easy” Youtube channel.

If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands and you want to learn how to draw a whole variety of eccentric, random and strange things. Then be sure to browse through my old “How To Draw” guides on this websites (the first few of them are animated too 🙂 )

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂 And good luck 🙂