One Simple Way To Add Depth To Rainfall (Or Snowfall) In Digital Art/ Digitally-Edited Art

2017-artwork-adding-depth-to-rain-in-digital-art

Well, for today, I thought that I’d quickly explain one of the many image editing techniques that I use on a regular basis.

For this technique, you’ll need a simple image editing program that is capable of adding lines (of varying thickness) and/or dots (of varying thickness) to an image. I’ll be using an old version MS Paint, but any other simple programs will do for this technique.

One common problem when digitally adding rain or snow to images is that the rain or snow can look a bit “flat”. It can look like a single “sheet” of rain or snow is falling over the image. This usually happens if you just add random white/grey lines or dots to the image without thinking about things like distance and perspective.

However, if you follow a couple of simple rules, then the rainfall in your digitally-edited artwork will look a lot more voluminous and realistic. Firstly, here’s an example image of a city which I’ll be adding rainfall to in this tutorial (to add snowfall, just do the same thing, but use dots instead of lines).

This is the example image (taken from one of my older paintings) that I'll be adding rain to.

This is the example image (taken from one of my older paintings) that I’ll be adding rain to.

First of all, identify the deep background. This is the sky above the outdoor areas in your picture and/or any distant buildings. Here’s another version of the example image, with the deep background highlighted in green:

The deep background.

The deep background.

Now, find the line tool in your image program. Choose the thinnest possible line width (and change the line colour to either white or pale grey) and add thin vertical lines of varying lengths to the deep background, like this:

This is the first step in adding more realistic rain.

This is the first step in adding more realistic rain.

Once you’ve done this, find the mid-background. These are the parts of the background that are between the deep background and the foreground. Here’s another highlighted version of the example picture, with the mid-background in green.

The mid-background.

The mid-background.

Now, select the second-thinnest line width in your editing program and add these slightly thicker lines to both the mid-background and the deep background, like this:

As you can see, the thicker lines are used on both the mid-background and the deep background.

As you can see, the thicker lines are used on both the mid-background and the deep background.

Finally, look for any non-covered areas (eg: anything or anyone that isn’t directly underneath the roof in the foreground of the example image) in the close background and/or foreground and then add even thicker lines to these areas, and to both the mid and deep background areas, like this:

Voila! The rainfall has much more depth! Sorry if the mid-background lines look different to the previous example, I accidentally overwrote a saved file and had to make the previous example again.

Voila! The rainfall has much more depth! Sorry if the mid-background lines look different to the previous example, I accidentally overwrote a saved file and had to make the previous example again.

….And that’s how to add more depth to the rain in your digital art/ digitally-edited art.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Four Basic Tips For Making Minimalist Comics

2015 Artwork Minimalist comics article sketch

I know that I’ve probably said all of this stuff before, but I thought that I’d talk about minimalist comics today since – at the time of writing – I’m working on a dark comedy comic called “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall“, which hopefully will have been posted here in late October. Here’s a page from it:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE]"The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 1" By  C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE]”The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 1″ By C. A. Brown

Anyway, minimalist comics are comics that are (relatively) quick to make, but which also look interesting enough for people to actually want to read.

I absolutely love making these types of comics because they allow me to be a lot more spontaneous and, because they’re fairly quick to produce, they never really outstay their welcome. But, how do you make them?

1) Black and white artwork: One of the reasons why I’ve made more comics this year than I did last year was because I learnt how to draw in black and white late last year.

Black and white artwork is absolutely perfect for minimalist comics for a whole host of reasons.

First of all, you don’t have to carefully work out a colour scheme for each panel of your comic. As long as most pages of your comic contain a good balance of brighter and darker areas, then it will look fairly good.

Not only that, you don’t have to constantly switch between colours (either on a computer program or with traditional art supplies) when making B&W artwork, which can help to speed up your comic. Likewise, B&W artwork can be digitally edited a lot more quickly and easily than colour artwork can (I mean, you can even use MS Paint to edit B&W artwork quickly).

Finally, even the most mediocre B&W art (like my own) tends to look a lot more professional than mediocre colour artwork does.

2) Misdirection: One of the best ways to disguise the fact that you’re making a minimalist comic is to include one or two more detailed panels every now and then (when it makes sense to do so in the context of your comic – eg: when you’re introducing a new setting) and then to keep the level of detail to an absolute minimum in the other panels.

Here’s an example from one of my other comics called “Dead Sector” – notice how the second panel has far more detailed and realistic artwork than the other panels do:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Dead Sector - Page 4" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Dead Sector – Page 4” By C. A. Brown

As long as the difference isn’t too obvious, your audience’s attention will be drawn to the more detailed panels and they’ll be less likely to notice the lack of detail in the other panels.

Not only that, if they’re reading quickly, then they’ll just assume that the other panels are as detailed as your detailed panel was. Either that, or they’ll use the visual information in your detailed panel to “fill in the gaps” in your less detailed panels.

3) Backgrounds: Backgrounds can be one of the most repetitive, annoying and time-consuming parts of making a comic – so, try to keep your backgrounds as simple as possible. For a good example of this, take a look at another page of “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall”:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall - Page 2" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “The Horror Of Hardtalon Hall – Page 2” By C. A. Brown

If you look closely at this page, you’ll probably notice that only half of the panels on this page have detailed backgrounds. The backgrounds for the second, sixth, seventh and eighth panels are just a couple of leaves and a small amount of shading. Likewise, the page I showed you near the beginning of this article just uses a plain black background for each panel.

So, once you’ve used a couple of detailed pictures to establish your setting, try to find a way to make your backgrounds as simple and undetailed as possible.

4) Writing: I know that I’ve probably said this more times than I can remember, but the thing to remember with comics is that the writing matters a lot more than the artwork does. In other words, if you focus on telling a funny/ dramatic/ interesting/ compelling story, then you can get away with using fairly simple artwork.

As long as your artwork clearly shows what is happening, then it can be a lot more simple than you might think. So, use this fact to your advantage when you’re making minimalist comics.

If you want a good “serious” example of how fairly minimalist artwork can be used to tell a compelling story, then check out an excellent autobiographical graphic novel called “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi ( or the film adaptation of it ).

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Is Simple Art Better Than Complex Art?

Yay! It's a retro 1990s "Game Boy"-style drawing :)

Yay! It’s a retro 1990s “Game Boy”-style drawing 🙂

For today, I thought that I’d look at whether simple art is better to make than complex art. This is one of those subjects where there aren’t really any “right” or “wrong” answers, just lots of different opinions.

But, that said, I make a lot of simple art and I think that it’s pretty awesome – so, I guess I should probably explain why……

For starters, simple art can be made fairly quickly and spontaneously. I’ve written about this whole topic in a lot more detail before but it only usually takes me between 30-120 minutes to finish a painting or a drawing because, amongst other things, I keep my art fairly simple.

What this means is that I can produce a lot of art in a relatively short amount of time, which – amongst other things – also means that I get to practice a lot more too.

Another reason why simple art is so awesome is because it focuses almost entirely on what is important about a picture or a scene. Yes, you can spend days adding lots of fine detail to a single picture, but most of your audience is probably only going to notice the most prominent parts of your picture when they look at it.

Ok, a few of them might take a closer look at all of the detail you’ve put into it, but most of them will probably just look at the entire picture for a few seconds and only notice the important parts.

As such, making simpler art that pretty much only includes the important parts of a picture and gives the illusion of detail in the rest of the picture (eg: using a lot of jagged lines in the background to represent a forest in the distance) means that you can save yourself a lot of wasted time and effort.

Yes, a small portion of your audience may find the lack of genuine detail to be annoying, but most people who look at your picture probably won’t even notice. In other words, it’s easy to fool people into thinking that you’re a better artist than you actually are if you make simpler art.

Yet another reason why simpler art is so brilliant is because it’s absolutely perfect for things like comics and webcomics. Although I don’t make nearly as many of these as I used to, they were one of the things which made me keep my art style relatively simple. Why?

Well, it all comes down to time and consistency. For starters, drawing a comic page will take you longer than making a “normal” drawing or “painting” for the simple reason that you’ll usually be drawing about 2-12 small pictures per page rather than one large one.

As such, keeping your art relatively simple means that you will still be able to produce your comic at a reasonable rate – which is important if you’re working to a schedule (eg: you’ve got a webcomic that is updated 3-7 times per week).

Not only that, using simpler art in your comic helps you to keep your art fairly consistent too. Because you will probably be re-drawing the same characters and settings again and again in your comic, keeping your art fairly simple means that it’s easier to make sure that everything and everyone looks like they’re supposed to in every panel.

One of the only downsides of making simple art is that you’ll probably get some criticism if you become successful. I mean, we’ve all seen at least one famous book series (like the “Purple Ronnie” books or those books by Edward Monkton) which has ridiculously simple art – and I can guess that your first reaction to them was almost certainly something like: “How the hell is this so famous? I could make better art than that when I was seven!

However, this isn’t as much of an issue as you might think. If you’re making a webcomic, then your audience will have lower expectations about your art than you might think (so it’s easier to impress them). But, if you’re making a book or anything like that and you’re using really simple art, then make sure that the writing is good! If the writing is good and interesting enough, it’ll distract people from your simple illustrations.

The only reason that you’ll probably get “I could have done better than that!” comments is if the main focus of your book or comic is on the simple art. But if your simple art is just there to accompany, illustrate or enhance the writing then people are much less likely to criticise it.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Using Simple Lines In Your Drawings

2013 Artwork Simple Lines Sketch

In early August, I wrote a short story called “Modica” which included an idea for a new art style: “In a modica painting, you only had nine lines. Nine lines, none of which could touch each other or extend for more than half the length of the canvas or touch each other.

This idea for an art style was mostly inspired by the fact that most of my “How To Draw” guides usually begin with simple lines and I often deliberately don’t quite join the lines together. When I wrote “Modica”, the concept of using a few simple lines for a drawing seemed like a neat idea for something to add to a short story.

Not to mention that it’s just about possible to actually make a modica drawing too:

I guess that only one or two of these qualify as "proper" modica drawings.

I guess that only one or two of these qualify as “proper” modica drawings.

However, when I was writing my recent article about Hokusai, I mentioned that he pretty much just used a single line for the entire background of one of his prints. This got me thinking about the importance of simple lines in art and why it is useful to learn how to draw simple lines in an expressive way.

Not only does learning how to use simple lines effectively allow you to draw more quickly, but it makes things stand out a lot more in your drawings too.

If you’ve been drawing for a while, then you probably already know how to use simple lines effectively – it’s one of the easiest skills to learn. If you’re new to drawing, then it just takes a bit of practice, but if you’re not sure where to start, then try copying a few drawings which express a lot using just a few simple lines.

The trick to using simple lines on their own is to just draw a simplified outline of the thing that you’re drawing. You can also sketch one or two of it’s most important features in a fairly simple way if you want to. Remember, you are not trying to copy something exactly, but to only give a general impression of what it is – your audience’s imaginations will fill in the gaps.

A simplified drawing of an old laptop computer.

A simplified drawing of an old laptop computer.

However, if you are drawing something slightly more complicated, then simple lines are probably the best way to start your drawing. Generally, it is a good idea to draw these in pencil, but if you are quite confident in your abilities and you can incorporate the simple lines into your final drawing, then you can draw them in pen too. In many ways, these are the “skeleton” of your drawing.

This whole subject, when it comes to drawing people, is covered in pretty much any book on drawing that you can find. Although there is a formal way of doing this for more “realistic” drawings, I’ve kind of come up with my own way of doing it for my more stylised drawings.

However, if you are new to drawing, then it is probably best to use the more formal technique until you can work out your own shortcuts.

The "skeleton" of someone's head and shoulders drawn in both my personal style and the more formal style.

The “skeleton” of someone’s head and shoulders drawn in both my personal style and the more formal style.

Plus, using simple lines can be a good way to show the texture of something without drawing it in detail. Whether it’s a few horizontal wavy lines to show that a field is covered in grass (or covered with water) or a few diagonal vertical lines to show the rough surface of a mountain, you can express a lot with just a few simple lines. Most of these techniques can be learnt fairly easily from looking at other drawings (old comic book art can be especially useful in this respect).

A rather small mountain (more like a large rock) in the middle of a field.

A rather small mountain (more like a large rock) in the middle of a field.

Likewise, simple lines can also be a great way to draw 3D landscapes quickly. I’ve mentioned mountains earlier, but the most simple way to draw a basic 3D landscape is to draw a line for the horizon and two diagonal lines to represent a road or a path. Once you’ve drawn these three simple lines (in pen or pencil), you can add whatever other details you want to.

Just remember that everything gets smaller and narrower when it gets closer to the horizon. Plus, the upper and lower edges of buildings and doors should run parallel to the nearest diagonal line.

A road (with and without details). Notice how the drawing on the left only includes three lines.

A road (with and without details). Notice how the drawing on the left only includes three lines.

Although this article was fairly basic and rather short, I hope that it was useful 🙂

And, yes, if you want a challenge, then try to produce a “modica” drawing (using only nine lines which must be less than half the width of the page) – they’re a lot more difficult than they look, but they will teach you a fair amount about using basic lines in your drawings.