Some Very Basic Tips For Making Monochrome Art

Well, for today, I thought that I’d briefly share a few very basic tips for making monochrome art. Although I’ve almost certainly already talked about this ages ago, it’s a topic that I’ve been meaning to return to for a while.

Monochrome art is art that literally uses just two colours (typically black and white). It shouldn’t be confused with greyscale art – which is fairly similar but, like in old films, also includes lots of different shades of grey too. Here’s a comparison between monochrome and greyscale art to show you what I mean:

Monochrome and greyscale art might sound similar, but they look very different.

Making monochrome art requires slightly different skills to making most other types of art. As such, it can be a really fun artistic challenge that can also help to improve any colour artwork that you make too. The main reason for this is that monochrome artwork teaches you how to use shading and the importance of looking at your picture as a whole too.

Shading is important in monochrome art because it is what you will need to use in order to add texture to your picture and to give the impression of grey areas (without actually using any grey). Whilst it is possible to make monochrome artwork without any shading, it doesn’t really look as good.

Here is a quick chart (made in MS Paint. Apologies about the JPEG compression artefacts.) that will show you three of the most basic/common types of shading that are useful when making monochrome art. You can vary the size or intensity of these to create all sorts of different effects.

Hatching, cross-hatching and dots are the three easiest and most common types of shading used in monochrome art.

Monochrome art also requires you to look at your artwork as a whole. Because you can’t differentiate different parts of a picture using colours, you need to pay extra attention to the balance of white, black and shaded areas within your entire picture. Without enough visual contrast, your art can look empty, gloomy or muddled.

A good general rule is that one third of your picture should be shaded, one third should be black and one third should be white. This doesn’t have to be exact, but it is worth aiming for. Here’s a chart to show you what I mean:

Although this picture has slightly more shaded (highlighted in orange) and black (black) areas than white (highlighted in blue) areas, there’s still a good mixture of all three things here.]

In addition to this – if you want to avoid visual confusion, try to make sure that each area of your picture is touching an area that is shaded differently. For example, a heavily-shaded item in a drawing should not be touching another heavily-shaded item (since the two can blur together when viewed from a distance). This creates instant contrast that helps the viewer to know what exactly they are looking at. Here’s a close-up example to show you what I mean.

This chart isn’t perfect, but hopefully it illustrates the importance of making sure you don’t place two identically-shaded areas next to each other.

Apart from these two basic things, making monochrome art isn’t too different from making colour and greyscale art. So, as long as you practice different shading techniques and pay attention to the whole picture, then it isn’t too difficult to make monochrome artwork if you’ve already had a bit of practice with making other types of art.


Sorry for the short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

Four Tips For Making Art Using MS Paint 5.1

Using MS Paint – especially simpler older versions of it – to make art is one of the most interesting types of art challenges out there. Although this program might not seem like a serious art tool, it can do some seriously impressive stuff if you know what to do with it. For example, here’s a landscape painting that I made (based on a photo I took during the snowfall in early 2018) using version 5.1 of MS Paint:

“Westbrook – Snowfall 2018 (MS Paint 5.1)” by C. A. Brown

But, more recently, I’ve also been experimenting with making more imaginative paintings with MS Paint 5.1 (the simpler and more focused version of MS Paint that comes with Windows XP. I knew there was a reason I still kept my old computer after upgrading.) that are more similar in style to the cartoon paintings that I usually post on here. Although – due to scheduling differences – these pictures won’t be appearing here until October, the experience of making them has taught me a few more things about making art in MS Paint.

So, here are a few tips:

1) Line tools and computer mice: Unless you’ve got a graphics tablet and are skilled at using it, then you’re probably going to be using the mouse when making MS Paint artwork.

This isn’t as bad as it might seem. Or, to put it another way, the MS Paint cartoon at the very end of this article was not only made with a mouse – but I was also using my non-dominant hand when making it (since, although I’m left-handed, I’ve got more used to using mice right-handed). Yes, playing computer games probably helped improve my mouse skills, but you can get a surprising amount of precision with a mouse in MS Paint even if you aren’t a gamer.

How? Well, this is where the line tools come in handy. If you try to use any of the free-hand drawing tools (eg: pencils, brushes etc…) in MS Paint, then your art is probably going to look a bit shaky. The trick is to use the “Line” tool and/or similar tools (like “Polygon”) which allow you to click once, use the mouse movement to control the length/angle of a line and then click again to place the line on the page.

By using lots of shorter lines (for curves etc..), you can draw really precise artwork using a mouse. Here’s an example:

These are two quick MS Paint drawings that I made in a minute each. The one on the left was made using the “Line” tool, the one on the right was made using the “Pencil” tool. As you can see, one looks a lot less shaky than the other.

2) Tricks: Although older versions of MS Paint may not have many features (which is why they’re better than more complicated, and less streamlined, modern versions), you can still do all sorts of cool stuff with MS Paint that you might not know about.

Three obvious and/or lesser known tricks that I’ve found to be very useful are:

-The secret way to adjust the size of the airbrush beyond the three settings (Choose the airbrush, then hold “Ctrl” and tap the “+” or “-” keys to adjust the size beyond the three pre-set sizes).

– Creating custom colours (“Colors > Edit Colors > Define Custom Colors”)

– Adding transparent backgrounds to text boxes/copied images by using the box at the bottom of the toolbar (it’s easy to see this, but there’s no in-program explanation for what it does.)

Here’s a chart to show you all three of these techniques:

Click for a larger image.

3) File formats and airbrushes: Although MS Paint 5.1 doesn’t have a tool to add gradients and shading to your artwork, there are workarounds. The most basic way is to create a basic “Dithering” effect by adding dots using either the “Zoom” and “Pencil” tools or, if you don’t want to spend years on a piece of art, using the airbrush (especially with the custom size adjustments in the previous point on this list).

However, these dithering effects can look very “pixellated”. There’s a clever trick you can use to smooth them out a little bit though. However, you should ONLY do this at the very end of making your artwork (or if you’ve already saved another Bitmap format copy of your art). Once you’ve done it, you can’t reverse it!

If you’ve been using MS Paint 5.1 for any length of time, you will know that you should ALWAYS save “work in progress” paintings as Bitmap images (it’s the default file format in MS Paint for a reason) if you don’t want to mess up the “fill” feature or lose some colour depth. This is because MS Paint 5.1 has a very aggressive JPEG compression algorithm. This will result in lots of small compression artefacts that can wreak havoc with MS Paint’s ultra-sensitive fill feature etc… But this subtle blurriness works wonders when it comes to covering up the “pixellated” look of a dithered area of a piece of MS Paint artwork.

Here’s an example of a smoother gradient created using the JPEG compression blurriness in MS Paint 5.1:

Again, remember to save a Bitmap copy before doing this and/or wait until the very end of making your art before doing this!]

4) My process: To finish this article, I thought that I’d share my process for making cartoon artwork in MS Paint 5.1. Each picture is made in four stages. Firstly, I make a very rough sketch using thin grey lines (remember, use the “Line” tool and not the “Pencil” tool!).

Then, I set the primary colour to black and the background colour to white. I then use the middle option on MS Paint’s “Polygon” tool to create line art by outlining everything in the picture and automatically filling the middle of each outlined area with white. Using the “Polygon” tool for this also reduces the number of grey sketch lines that I have to manually erase.

Then, using the “Define Custom Colors” tool I mentioned earlier and a few basic features (eg: the “Fill” tool etc…), I then fill in all of the basic colours in the image. After this, I either save a backup copy of the image or just hit the “Print Screen” key and paste a copy of the image into another editing program. This backup is useful because you can only “Undo” three times in a row in MS Paint 5.1.

After I’ve got my backup, I then add all of the shading to the image using the airbrush (and the custom size trick I’ve mentioned a couple of times) as well as adding fine details and making any last-minute changes to the picture. I also usually use the JPEG compression trick I mentioned earlier after I’ve finished everything else. The four stages look a bit like this:

The full-size picture at the end of this diagram will be posted here on the 23rd October 2020.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Ways To Learn New Image Editing Techniques

Well, I thought that I’d write about digital image editing again. This is mostly because, when preparing one of the digitally-edited paintings that will appear here in October, I accidentally discovered how to create a hazy “light pollution” effect using version 2.10 of a free open-source image editing program called the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). Here’s a small preview of the painting:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 9th October 2020.

If anyone is curious, the effect is very simple. Just use the free select tool to select an area of the painting, use one of the hazy circular airbrushes, crank the airbrush size up to maximum (don’t do this if you’ve got a really old computer though, since I once crashed an earlier version of GIMP doing this on an old Pentium 4/Windows XP machine a couple of years ago), change the foreground colour to yellow or orange and then give the selected area one light spray. Like this:

This is a reconstruction of what it should look like when you are adding this effect. Note the type of airbrush selected on the right-hand side of the screenshot and the airbrush size halfway down the left-hand size of the screenshot.

But, how do you learn how to do random stuff like this? Well, there are several ways:

1) Tutorials: One of the easiest ways to learn how to do new stuff with your image editing program is just to look online for a tutorial. However, this has a number of limitations that it is worth being aware of.

For starters, many tutorials you’ll find on the internet are program-specific ones. Although this isn’t really an issue if you’re using a popular or widely-used program, it can be a bit annoying if you’re using older or less well-known software – since there won’t be as many tutorials out there.

Likewise, tutorials will only teach you to do what other people have already learnt how to do and decided to write about. If you want to do something, but don’t know how, then you’re relying on someone else having exactly the same thought and then going to the effort of writing a tutorial about it.

If it’s a popular type of effect like a scanline effect (in GIMP 2.10, you can do this by just going into “Filters > Distorts > Video Degradation”. It’s a vast improvement over the convoluted method you had to use in earlier versions of GIMP), then you’ll probably find a tutorial. But, if it’s something a bit more random or obscure or difficult to describe, then no-one might have written a tutorial about it.

In that case, you need to….

2) Experiment and mess around: One of the best ways to learn how to do new stuff with your image editing program is to just mess around with it. As long as it has an “undo” feature, then don’t be afraid to set a bit of time aside for messing around with all of the different effects and features. But, although this will show you what the program can do by default (and you’ll need to know this), it won’t show you everything that you can do with it.

Why? Because a lot of interesting image editing effects are actually emergent properties. In other words, they’re unintended things that happen when you combine two or more effects or features in a program. Or even when you use an effect from one program on your image and then open the image in another program and use a different effect on it.

In other words, it’s a bit like colours in traditional painting. If you’ve only got red, yellow and blue paint, then you can create pretty much any colour by mixing them together in different proportions. The same principle is true for digital effects.

For example, a few years ago, I wanted a quick and easy way to create 1990s-style floral patterns. I’d tried just drawing/painting them, but it was very time-consuming and didn’t really look that good. So, I wanted an easier way to do it. And, when messing around with an ancient late 1990s image editing program called “Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6”, I realised that I could create this kind of effect by combining the “Noise” and “Glowing Edges” features in this program. Like this:

Ok, there probably aren’t many users of “Jasc Paint Show Pro 6” (1999) these days, but these are the steps you need to do in order to create a 1990s floral pattern style effect in it. I forgot to include the noise settings in this image – set them to “random” and choose a high percentage like 85%.

But how did I work this out?

I’d used each of these features separately in the past and knew how they worked. So, combining them seemed like a logical thing to do (and I’m surprised I didn’t work this out sooner). So, this sort of thing works best when you get to know your program well.

The program has no purpose-built option or button for this floral effect. It’s an emergent property of two other effects. In fact, by also using the program’s “Colorize” feature after making the floral pattern, I’m also able to create the backgrounds for the little drawings at the beginning of these articles too. Again, there’s no purpose-built button for adding this pattern. It’s something you can only make by combining different effects.

And you can do this sort of thing in any image editing program or combination of programs. So, mess around with whatever program or programs you’re using and learn what all of the features do. Once you have a good understanding of them, you’ll probably be able to work out how to combine them in order to create the effect that you need.

3) Accidents, efficiency and laziness: If you use an image editing program regularly, then you’re probably just going to pick things up by accident. You’ll notice a feature you haven’t tried before or you’ll make a mistake and discover something new in the process. It’s always fun when this happens.

Remember the “light pollution” effect that I showed you at the beginning of the article? I hadn’t planned to add this to the painting. My original plan was to shroud the background in mist by using a large pale blue or grey digital airbrush. However, I forgot to change the brush colour from the yellow I’d been using to add lights to the background. So, when I used the large airbrush, the effect just appeared by accident. It was a really cool moment.

If you use image editing software regularly enough, then you’ll probably have moments like this every now and then. Likewise, you can also discover a lot through sheer laziness too. In other words, if one of your image editing processes is time-consuming or convoluted, then you’re probably eventually going to start looking for and experimenting with ways to speed it up or make it more efficient. Because it’s less effort.

For example, GIMP contains a feature that allows you to digitally add lighting to your image (“Filters > Light and Shadow > Lighting Effects”). However, this requires a lot of calibration and is only really useful if you want to include one light source. So, after a while, I just suddenly realised that I could create a similar effect (kind of like a bloom effect) much more quickly by just applying a slightly larger digital airbrush to any light sources in the image. I use it in pretty much all of my drawings and paintings these days. Here’s an example:

“Centre Of Daydreams” By C. A. Brown

All of the glowing areas around the lights in this painting were created using both traditional painting techniques and a digital airbrush – and this was just because I wanted a quicker way to digitally add lighting than using the program’s pre-made “lighting effects” feature. So, if you use image editing programs a lot and for long enough, you’re probably going to start spontaneously finding more efficient and/or better ways to do things.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Yet Another “Work In Progress” Art Preview Post

First of all, sorry for yet another one of these posts. Although I had planned to post a review I’d originally prepared last November of a comedy horror movie (“Cockneys vs. Zombies” [2012]) – the film has quite a few scenes set in a care home, and I began to worry that the review may have seemed a bit crass, given all of the problems in care homes in the UK at the moment.

So, yesterday, I decided that it would probably be better to show off some more “Work In Progress” versions of digitally-edited paintings that will appear here next year instead. Still, sorry again about posting yet another one of these posts.

“Rooftop Wasteland” by C. A. Brown [Version without rain, sky, saturation adjustments or airbrush effects].

“Monitor Meeting” by C. A. Brown [Version without airbrush effects, scanline effect or saturation/chroma adjustments].

“Checkerboard Cafe 1993” by C. A. Brown [Version without airbrush effects or saturation/chroma adjustments].

“Rooftop” by C. A. Brown [Version without sky, rain, airbrush effects or saturation/chroma adjustments].

Last-Minute “Work In Progress” Art Preview

Well, since I wasn’t happy with the article that I’d originally planned to post today, I thought that I’d replace it with a last-minute preview of some “work in progress” versions of digitally-edited paintings that I’ll be posting here next May/June. And, yes, like most of the art I’ll be posting here from about next February onwards, these pictures are smaller than usual (mostly because I’ve found that a smaller size allows me to make better art).

Anyway, enjoy 🙂

“1982 City” By C. A. Brown [Version without sky or airbrush effects and saturation/chroma adjustments].

“Hologram Magic” By C. A. Brown [Version without saturation/chroma adjustments or airbrush effects.]

“Style 1992” By C. A. Brown [Version without distant background, airbrush, small corrections or colour temperature adjustments/sepia effect.]

“Future 1991” By C. A. Brown [Version without sky, airbrush effects or colour temperature changes.]

“Westbrook – Verdant Memories” By C. A. Brown [Version without saturation adjustments or airbrush effects]

“Funicular” By C. A. Brown [Version without airbrush effects, saturation adjustments, background or CRT monitor effect].

The Stages Of Making A Painting (GIF, Static Image and Plain Text versions)

Well, I was in the mood for another “making of” article, so I thought that I’d show you several of the stages involved in how I make a typical digitally-edited painting. The painting in question is one that will appear here in full-size on the 4th October 2020 and it is called “Gothic 2005”. Here’s a smaller preview of the painting:

A cartoon painting of a room shrouded in shadows, shown from a "Dutch Angle" perspective in order to add an atmosphere of horror. A woman dressed in a black hoodie (with a stylised bright blue picture of a heart being stabbed by a sword on it) and a dark blue tiered skirt stands in front of an old CRT television and holds a VHS case. Green Christmas lights dangle from a beam above. Behind her, there is a large window which shows a creepy-looking fairground during stormy weather.

This is a reduced-size preview of the painting.

Although I’ve made a (small and slightly amateurish) animated GIF of the stages of making this painting, I’ll also include a static image of all the frames from the animation and a plain text version of this information in case the GIF is too fast and/or the static version is too small to read. I’ll also add a small bonus at the end of the article too. Enjoy:

If this is going too fast to read, scroll down for a static version.

Click for larger image. If the text is too small to read, scroll down for a plain text version of all the text here.


“Gothic 2005” – A digitally-edited painting by C. A. Brown
“Making Of”
[Full size painting will be posted here on the 4th October 2020]


– Cheap watercolour paper
– Waterproof ink rollerball pen
– Various watercolour pencils
– Waterbrush
– Old scanner from 2006
– Refurbished PC from 2013/14 (?)
– “Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6” (1999)
– “GIMP 2.10” (Open-source)
… And 7-8 years of regular daily art practice (the most important part)


– Line art
– Watercolour pencil
– Adding water to the drawing
– Digital brightness/contrast adjustment
– “JASC Paint Shop Pro 6” editing
– “GIMP 2.10” editing

—-Bonus ——

A while after preparing this article, I ended up watching this fascinating mini-documentary about black & white films. So, I was curious about what this painting would look like in greyscale.

And, although the initial results (created by just digitally lowering the colour saturation to zero) weren’t that good, I was able to improve the picture a bit by playing around with the brightness of various parts of the image and also using MS Paint (eg: to add white highlights to the Christmas lights, to add better lighting – and a dithering effect – to the character’s left hand etc..). So, if anyone is curious about what this painting would look like if it was in an old movie, this bonus version of the picture should satisfy your curiosity:

– It’s so much more… artistic 🙂


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

How To Create A CRT Television Effect (Using Open-Source Software)

Well, it’s been a while since I last wrote an image editing tutorial, so I thought that I’d show you how to make your artwork (or photos) look like something on an old CRT television using version 2.10 of a free, open-source image editing program called the GNU Image Manupulation Program (GIMP).

This was something I discovered whilst messing around with one of the digitally-edited paintings I’ll be posting here in September and, unlike in older versions of GIMP (where you had to create layers etc…), it’s a lot easier to do in version 2.10 and hopefully whatever the latest version is when this article eventually goes out (it’s already up to 2.10.12 at the time of writing). It can be used to create effects like this:

This is an edited version of an upcoming painting, showing off the effect. I had to boost the colour saturation using another editing program and I also added a LED-style detail etc… But, for the most part, this is what the effect looks like.

So, how do you do it?

Firstly, you’ll need a digital copy of the image you want to edit and a copy of GIMP 2.10 (although there may be later versions available now, older versions can still be found here).

A copy of the image we’ll be using – another piece of art I’ll be posting here in September – loaded and ready to edit in GIMP 2.10 🙂

Set the background colour to black using the two squares on the left-hand side of the screen directly below all of the small icons. Click on the lower of the two and change the colour to black.

Make sure that the lower of these two squares (on the middle-left of the image) is black. Click on it and select a colour.

—-Optional (This might be useful later)—-

To get the best effect with some of the more advanced stuff we’ll be doing later, you might need to do some extra optional stuff now:

If your image doesn’t already have one, add a black border to it (“Filters > Decor > Add Border”). Then, select an area around the main part of your image that looks like a slightly curved square. You can do this by clicking on the lasso-shaped “Free Select Tool” on the left-hand side of the screen and then drawing the shape with the tool, before clicking on the icon next to it to turn your outline into a selection. If you mess this up, just go into “Select > None” in the toolbar at the top of the screen and then try again.

Drawing a slightly curved square/circle around the image using the “Free Select Tool” (the lasso-shaped icon highlighted in the upper left corner of the screen)

Then click on the icon next to the lasso in order to turn your outline into a selection.

This isn’t strictly necessary, but it’ll come in handy later. Anyway….

——- Back to the main part of the tutorial —-

Go to the top of the screen and select “Filters > Distorts > Video Degradation”:

The “Video Degradation” option.

This will bring up a toolbox that allows you to select several different types of video degradation patterns. Choose the “Large staggered” pattern from the drop-down menu. You now have a very basic CRT-like effect. But, if you want, then there’s a lot more we can do….

Using a “Large staggered” pattern. It looks a bit like a CRT television image, but we can make it look even more convincing…

If you’ve ever used a CRT television, then you’ll know that the screen is at least slightly curved. Luckily, this is fairly easy to replicate in GIMP 2.10.

Remember the optional part about adding a black border and selecting a slightly curved square earlier? Well, this is where it comes in handy. You can still do this without it, but what I’m about to show you looks better if you’ve done this beforehand. At the very least, make sure that you’ve set the background colour to black before doing this.

To get a curved screen effect, start by clicking on “Filters > Distortions > Lens Distortion”:

The “Lens Distortion” option.

Once the toolbox opens, look for the slider called “Edge” (it’s the second from the top) and increase it until the selected area of your image starts to curve like an old CRT monitor.

Increasing the “Edge” slider until the picture looks a bit like a curved CRT monitor.

If you want to enhance the “old VHS” effect even further, then start by going into either “Filters > Artistic > Softglow” or “Filters > Artistic > Softglow (legacy)” and applying this effect. It’ll make everything look a bit brighter and more washed-out. But, at the moment, the image will probably look too washed out…

Applying the “Softglow” effect. I used the “legacy” variant for the background image, but the main version will work well too. At the moment, the picture looks too washed-out though.

To make the image look a bit less washed-out whilst still keeping that “old VHS tape” look – go into “Colours > Hue-Chroma” and/or “Colours > Hue-Saturation” and mess around with the levels until the picture looks a bit more vivid and/or gloomy. Personally, I recommend slightly increasing the chroma and/or saturation levels and decreasing the lightness levels a bit. But, just mess around with the sliders until the picture looks good again.

Making some adjustments to the chroma and lightness levels. You can also adjust the colour saturation levels using the “Hue-Saturation” option on the menu.

And, voila! You now have a CRT monitor style image:

This is the finished edited image. As you can see, it looks a bit like a VHS tape playing on an old CRT TV screen 🙂


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Reasons To Mix Physical And Digital Tools When Making Art

As regular readers of this site probably know, I usually refer to my artwork as “digitally-edited paintings” or “digitally-edited drawings”. This classification might sound a bit strange, but it basically just means that I use a mixture of old-school “analogue” art tools (eg: waterproof ink pens, watercolour pencils/paper etc…) and digital tools (a scanner and a few old, cheap and/or free image editing programs) in order to create the art that I post here.

Here’s a comparison of what one of my upcoming paintings looks like without digital editing and what it looks like after extensive editing:

As you can see, the un-processed scan of the watercolour painting not only looks a lot more faded – but it has less dramatic lighting, no realistic shadows, skin tones or sky detail in the background. I’ve also deliberately left parts of the original “unfinished” to leave more room for digital editing and corrected or covered a few small mistakes in the digital version.

So, if digital tools improve my art so much, why don’t I just make art “100% digitally”? Well, here are a few reasons to mix analogue and digital.

1) The best of both worlds: Simply put, mixing the two mediums gives you the best of both worlds. Not only will your art have the texture and hand-made individuality of traditional art, but using digital tools too will not only allow you to add effects that would be a lot more difficult to add in real life but also allows you to easily correct any mistakes that you make too.

Yes, learning how to correct mistakes digitally takes a bit of skill (Pro tip: Look for the icon in your image editing program shaped like a pipette or dropper. It’s usually called “Pick Colour” or “Colour Picker” or something like that. It’ll allow you to set the brush colour to the exact colour of the pixel you click on, allowing for seamless corrections), but the flexibility of it makes the process of creating art a lot more forgiving than if you only use traditional tools.

It also means that making art has the intuitive physicality of actually putting pen or brush to paper, whilst also offering all of the versatility of digital tools (eg: digital airbrushes that can change colours without lots of complicated paint/ink changes). It allows your art to contain all of the interesting small imperfections that only really come with physical art, whilst also allowing you to easily correct any larger imperfections too.

Yes, it means that – unless you print it out – you won’t have a physical copy of the finished artwork, but you will at least still have some kind of physical original as a backup and/or form of record-keeping. Plus, if you’re ever planning on selling your art – remember that the pictures you post online must be identical to what the customer actually gets (eg: don’t post edited images if you’re selling an un-edited original).

2) Low-budget creativity: Mixing traditional and digital also allows you to create more “professional-looking” art with some very inexpensive, “obsolete” or open-source digital tools. Like this:

This is a screenshot of an ancient late 1990s commerical image editing program called “Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6”.

This is a screenshot of a free open-source image editing program called “GIMP 2.10”.

As shown in these screenshots, two of the image editing programs that I use are an old commercial program from 1999 called “Jasc Paint Shop Pro 6” (which I found on a magazine cover disc in the early-mid 2000s – and which still just about works on Windows 10 🙂 ) and a completely free open-source image editing program called the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) – which I’ve been using to add more sophisticated lighting effects etc.. (using the airbrush tool) to my paintings over the past year or two. Sometimes, I use MS Paint too.

The point of all of this is that you don’t need an expensive *ugh* subscription to a certain popular “software as a service” image editing program in order to add digital elements to your art – however much it might be featured in online videos about making digital art. Cheaper and perfectly functional alternatives exist!

Although I’ve got an old second-hand graphics tablet somewhere, I found it a bit of a hassle to use. So, I usually just use the mouse when editing my traditional art. It took a bit of practice to use a mouse with this level of precision (gaming helps a lot), especially since I’m left-handed but have been using mice in the common right-handed configuration ever since I first used a computer many years ago (bizarrely, I’m actually better at using a mouse right-handed than left-handed). Still, it’s a lot cheaper to replace a worn-out mouse than a worn-out graphics tablet.

Likewise, because digital editing (even something as basic as tweaking brightness/contrast levels to make the colours bolder) enhances the “look” of your art, you can also make good-looking art using fairly inexpensive physical tools too. I mean, most of my digitally-edited paintings are made using waterproof ink rollerball pens (which are more expensive than ordinary pens, but not too outrageous), cheap low-end watercolour paper and an assortment of random low and mid-range watercolour pencils.

The most expensive art tools I use are an old printer/scanner I got in 2006 (and, yes, the printer part has long since stopped working) and a vaguely modern refurbished computer from 2013/14 that I bought second-hand in late 2018 (and, before this, I used even older computers from the mid-2000s).

So, blending physical and digital art allows you to create some relatively impressive-looking art using some fairly low budget tools – because each half of the process covers up the shortcomings of the other half. Of course, regardless of your budget, regular practice is the most important part of making better art. I cannot emphasise this enough. Practice is more important than the tools you use!

3) A distinctive aesthetic: One of the cool things about blending traditional and digital tools is that it makes your art look different from either 100% traditional or 100% digital art. Several years ago, I remember seeing at least one comment (either here or on DeviantArt) which asked if I used marker pens when making art. I don’t. They’re very expensive and I’m used to using watercolour pencils.

Yet, thanks to the more basic image editing techniques I knew at the time (eg: brightness/contrast adjustments etc…), I was able to make art that looked a bit like a marker pen drawing whilst also being different enough to make people ask me what exactly I used to make it.

The point of all of this is that blending digital and physical tools is one of many ways that you can give your art a unique and distinctive “look” that makes it stand out as “your” art. And, yes, it’s perfectly ok to share your image editing techniques with other people – since there are lots of other things (like art materials, colour palettes, your personal drawing style, the themes in your art etc...) that will also make your art look unique too. Two people can use the same techniques and make very different-looking art.

For example, I learnt that you could digitally add colours and shadows to monochrome ink drawings after reading this “making of” article for Winston Rowntree’s excellent “Subnormality” webcomic.

In addition to using simplified variants of these techniques (such as just heavily adjusting the brightness/contrast levels instead of using “threshold” features) to improve the little illustrations at the beginning of these daily articles (and speed up the process of making them), I also combined them with several other image editing techniques that I’ve learnt (eg: airbrushing techniques, hue/saturation adjustments, combining multiple editing programs etc…) to produce small digitally-edited ink drawings like these upcoming ones:

These drawings will be “officially” be posted here in August 2020. And, yes, I made them when I had less time and thought I was running low on watercolour paper, so I’m not too bothered about posting them early.

None of these drawings look anything like a “Subnormality” comic (I’m not that good at drawing. Yet, anyway…), yet they are partially based on techniques I learnt from Winston Rowntree’s “Making Of” guide. So, don’t worry about sharing your methods. One of the coolest things about blending digital and traditional tools is that there’s so much more room for variation and it’s another way to give your art a unique look.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

It’s Another Last Minute “Work In Progress” Art Preview

First of all, sorry about the lack of a book review today. Although I’d originally prepared one last summer that should have appeared here today, the world has unfortunately changed quite a bit between then and now.

Back in July 2019 (and it’s weird how this is now “the good old days”), I’d read a gritty mid-2000s sci-fi thriller novel by Simon Spurrier (which was the first novel in Abaddon Books’ “The Afterblight Chronicles” series) that was set in a stylised “Mad Max”-esque post-apocalyptic future caused by a virus. At the time, this seemed like a enjoyably fantastical and “silly” novel – which was perfect for an affectionate and light-hearted review that I could add to my article buffer for future publication.

Of course, you can probably see the problem. Even after editing the review several times and trying to add disclaimers to it, my younger self’s cheerful attitude towards this post-apocalyptic novel would probably still seem ridiculously crass and outdated if the review appeared today. So, reluctantly, I eventually ended up scrapping the review – which is a shame because, under better circumstances, it was a fun novel to read (if a little too slow-paced sometimes).

Anyway, since I didn’t want to post nothing today, I thought that I’d show off some “work in progress” previews of a few of the slightly smaller digitally-edited paintings that should appear here next spring. And, yes, these were originally supposed to appear here a few days ago (but I suddenly found an interesting game demo to review instead).

Sorry again about not posting a review today, but I hope that you enjoy this preview of unfinished versions of next year’s paintings 🙂

“Rainfall” by C. A. Brown [Version without chroma and saturation adjustments, rain/fog effects etc…]

“Westbrook – Alley” by C. A. Brown [Version without airbrushing, colour adjustments or rain/fog effects.]

“Survival Horror 2003” by C. A. Brown [Version without colour adjustments, blur effects or lighting effects.]

“1910” by C. A. Brown [Version without colour adjustments, depth of field/blurring/fog effects etc..]

“Mall 2000” by C. A. Brown [Version without colour adjustments, small corrections or depth of field effects.]

The Complete “Work In Progress” Line Art For My “Damania Recanted” Webcomic Mini Series

Well, I thought that I’d do the usual thing of showing off the “work in progress” line art for my latest webcomic mini series.

If I remember rightly, there were a few art/dialogue changes between the line art and the finished comics. In addition to a few small corrections in the final panel of the first comic and a small dialogue change at the end of the fourth one, the third comic has very different line art due to re-using one panel’s artwork for all four panels. And, yes, all of these changes were a product of the writer’s block that I experienced with this mini series.

Anyway, here’s the line art 🙂 You can click on each piece of line art to see a larger version.

“Damania Recanted – Indie [Line Art]” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Recanted – Charity Shop [Line Art]” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Recanted – Topic [Line Art]” By C. A. Brown

“Damania Recanted – Time [Line Art]” By C. A. Brown