When I draw traditionally, the thing I miss the most is the layers. Especially when I want to design a creature from scratch and I’m not sure what I want it to look like yet, experiments end up in a confusing mess of lines. But I discovered a workaround that lets me draw separate elements on separate “layers”, and end up with clean line art. It’s very simple!
What You Will Need
Green ballpoint pen
Red ballpoint pen
Blue ballpoint pen
Black ballpoint pen
(Optionally) Thin felt-tip pen
Photoshop (or similar photo-editing software)
1. How to Draw the Traditional Layers
Take the green pen and sketch the general silhouette, a gesture, or a very simplified skeleton.
Check the proportions and fix them if necessary. Add details to the “bones” to see the proportions better.
Take the red pen and sketch the muscles. Animal anatomy books are really helpful for this!
Take the blue pen and sketch the details. If you know exactly what you want to draw, you can skip this part and go straight to the black pen. However, it’s often good to test your idea first in these safe conditions.
Finally, take the black pen (and the felt-tip pen, if you have it) and draw the final lines. The darker the better!
2. How to Turn a Messy Sketch Into Clean Line Art
Scan your picture or take a photo of it and open it in Photoshop. Go to Image > Adjustments > Black & White. Drag all the sliders to the right.
All the colors have been brightened to white! If you want, you can make them more visible by lowering their percentage. For example, it’s good to show some bone or muscle outline to make the drawing more detailed.
Finally, darken the lines with Image > Adjustments > Curves or Image > Adjustments > Levels. Experiment with them to achieve the result you want.
You have a clean piece of line art now, ready for publishing or further editing! In the latter case, you may be interested in the tutorials below: