How did they do it? Digital art edition
February 18, 2015 6:12 AM   Subscribe

I am wondering what software program(s) might have been used to create images such as this (link to illustrator Noah Z. Jones's website) or these (link to the Fishcakes Etsy store). These are colorful, cartoony, line-drawing illustrations.

I'm also wondering how they might have done it. Did they scan in their own line drawings and then color/refine within the software program?

(As a side note, I'm a total novice at all of this and am only assuming these are computer-created images. I'm hoping to try to make similar images myself and am wondering what program to invest in and learn.)
posted by whistle pig to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You couldn't get this result out of MS Paint without a LOT of work, I think.

To me the first link (Noah Z. Jones) looks like, as you suspected, a sketch that's been inked and colored. That could've been done with natural media and then photographed/scanned, or that could've been done using Photoshop or Illustrator.

The work in the second link looks like it could very well be cleverly-done vector art (Illustrator), but then it could also just as easily be raster art in Photoshop. There's so many ways to approach this that there's no way to know what exactly these particular artists did.

The difference between Photoshop (or other raster tools -- Painter, Gimp,, etc) and Illustrator (or vector tools -- inkscape, etc) is that raster tools let you manipulate pixels, while vector tools let you manipulate lines and shapes. Some kinds of art are more clearly suited to one tool or the other. Photo retouching is pretty much the realm of raster art for instance. Line-art illustrations can be done in either tool. It's a question of how you want to work. The shakey, hand-drawn-looking lines in some of these pieces could be hand-drawn and scanned, they could be inked using a tablet or some other process on the computer, or they could be inked using carefully-placed vector lines.
posted by Alterscape at 6:52 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Its impossible to say how they were done or what software was used. They could have scanned in line drawings and traced over them, they could have used a graphics tablet or they could have free-hand drawn them just with a mouse. Graphics tablet would be the easiest way but a decent one is quite expensive.

Pretty much any graphics software a step up from MS Paint would do (you could get close in paint but no anti-aliasing)

Can you already draw like that with pencil and paper? If not, I'd start there. Its not the software or technique that created the images, its the artist. If you can't draw like that already then investing in fancy software and tools wont change that. If you can already draw like that then the best investment would be a good graphics tablet like a Wacom cintiq ( if you're really serious - very expensive but you draw directly on the screen so its much more like drawing with pencil and paper)
posted by missmagenta at 7:02 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The first link looks hand drawn, so it's a common OS, heh.

Images at the second link look like they could have been done with Illustrator, Photoshop, Painter or any number of software. It really depends on how you want to work and how much money you want to spend. There are free alternatives to Illustrator or Photoshop, known as Inkscape and Gimp.

Did they scan in their own line drawings and then color/refine within the software program?

Yeah, this is a common method. You scan your sketch in, then refine it in the software. Here's a 15 minute video on how it's can be done using Adobe Illustrator.

If you search Google for "scanning and cleaning sketches" or "scanning and coloring artwork" you'll find a lot tutorials.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:09 AM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Its impossible to say how they were done or what software was used.
No it isn't.

The first one was hand-drawn in ink, scanned, and colored in (probably) Photoshop.
-There are scanning artifacts. In the upper left, there are a couple of spots that are probably from schmutz on the artist's scanner. Also, there's a very subtle texture in the background from the grain of the paper. Looks like watercolor paper.
-The line has a sort of delicate wobble that's hard to get digitally. Also, its thickness is really even, except in a couple places where it isn't. That makes me think it was drawn with a Micron or Rapidograph pen.
-The shading has a sort of linear quality, like it was drawn, not outlined. It would be easier to do that in a raster program than in a vector program. So the coloring was probably done with a tablet, and probably in Photoshop just because that's what most people use.

The second ones were digitally drawn and colored.
-Some of the lines are pixelated (example)! In those cases, the artist definitely didn't use Illustrator. You could get that effect in Photoshop, or maybe it is Paint there, I don't really know.
-In others, the lines have a sort of regular irregularity (example) that is characteristic of digital brushes, though I am less sure in this case. If I had a higher-res image I would know for sure. Photoshop, Illustrator, and other programs all handle digital brushes. Actually, there are a couple of prints (example) which look like the lines were produced in a couple different ways, which is confusing.
-Again, I'm thinking Photoshop for coloring. In a lot of cases, the color goes right up to the line, so the artist might have used the magic wand tool for selecting areas to color.
posted by the_blizz at 7:30 AM on February 18, 2015 [7 favorites]

Noah has contact info. Email and ask. I bet he answers and gives you tips.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:48 AM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

The opacity and lack of blending on the Etsy illustrations looks a little like Hyperbole and a Half. She uses Paintbrush.
posted by MrBobinski at 5:19 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Generally, "sketchy" drawings like those start out as hand-drawn, then scanned at a high resolution, then colored-in using something like Photoshop.

You could hand-draw them using a Wacom tablet (or something similar) but it's honestly easier to draw/scan (in my experience, anyway)
posted by Thorzdad at 5:35 AM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

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