Art Tips

by C04X14L, August 23rd, 2022

Believe it or not, I’m technically an artist. I’m also bored, so I’m going to spill my bag of tricks and try to help y’all get as good as I am. For someone with as shoddy as an artistic foundation as I have, I got somewhat far by cheating and utilizing cheap tactics to make weak art stronger. Here they are!

When applicable, I’ll try to add in photo references. I’m lazy, though, so don’t expect much. This site is a hobby, I have better things to do. If anything here confuses you, leave a note in my guestbook and I’ll try to explain it better, but when in doubt… Look it up! Or experiment until you figure it out. You might find something cooler in the process.

Last disclaimer, emphasis on "cheap tactics to make weak art stronger". These are mostly shortcuts, and don't technically make you a better artist. But we all die one day, so why not utilize your resources? Have fun with it, don't let snobby lame-o's bring ya down! (Unless it's Ethan Becker, he speaks the truth.)


Easy Colored Lineart

Open a new layer and hit the paperclip, check the “clipping group” box, or right click and hit “create clipping mask”. This is an easy way to create a layer that will only color onto what’s below it. It’s less destructive than “Alpha Lock” which will permanently change the colors of your lines. You probably will end up wanting to change the line colors, and this makes it easier. I highly recommend utilizing colored linear, as it makes the piece infinitely better. Bonus points if you blur where the colors meet, as it creates a more natural look.


Sketching Well

Don’t be scared of sketching. I know many beginner artists, like myself when I was little, freehand it with a pen or thick pencil. Always sketch first. If you go straight in, you can get good results, but even the best of the best can end up with wonky anatomy and overall less stellar results than if you sketched. It’s more of a showy trick to get views on Tik Tok. Sketching is important! For digital artists, I recommend sketching in color, as it helps to differentiate from the lineart. (If you line with colored lineart, just use a contrasting color for the sketch.) For traditional artists, invest in a lightbox, as it helps the final piece to look cleaner and materials to go down smoother. You want to avoid the sketch still being imprinted into the page after you erase it! So use a new sheet entirely. If you’re in any sort of 2D art class, your teacher or art department probably has one you can borrow/use after class ends. Use your resources!


Flipping the Canvas

Artists hate this one easy trick to improve art instantly! Always flip your canvas. Your anatomy might not be perfect and flipping the canvas horizontally will help to reveal this. If you don’t want to because it looks bad, that means you need to do it that much more. For traditional artists, just hold it up to the mirror. And try to get this done during the sketch stage! Afterwards it would be harder to fix.


Overlays

At the end of a piece, it’s nice to throw a layer on top of everything to make the colors mesh better. Create a new layer, use the fill tool to add a color (or gradient!) on top of everything. Set the blending mode to “hue” or “color”, drop the opacity to however you see fit (I generally go for between 5-15%) and you’re done! If drawing for someone else, it’s good to provide a version without adjustment layers like this, as some people like to have the version with the original colors.


The Blur Filter

At the end of the piece, the very end, copy the image file, apply a gaussian blur between 3 and 6, and drop the opacity as you see fit. It gives the legendary Snapchat effect to your art. You can see this sort of effect used in modern anime a lot. Look at something like Kobayashi or some other harem anime, they all use it. It gives a softer look and lets the colors bleed nicely into each other.


Depth Of Field

Easiest way to make a drawing look better. Blur the background. That's it! Bonus points if you add a light flare, or bokeh effects to really emphasize the DSLR camera vibes. The origins of these effects come from fancy cameras that can focus on certain distances, or have weird reactions with light. Adding these to art craetes a gorgeous effect, but aren't always appropriate, as some individuals think it takes away from the immersion and reminds the viewer it's a recreation of film, and therefore not real. But that's a bigger concern in video formats, in digital art, go wild go crazy. Add fourty overlay layers, please. It's quite fun.

Bokeh and Easy Backgrounds

So this one is a cop out, but it looks decent enough that I’ll share. Give a vertical up/down gradient, maybe airbrush in a few similar colors throughout. Then grab a large “hard round” brush and drop its opacity a ton, maybe to like 30%. Make sure it’s a big size. Tap through the screen a few times, lots of space between bubbles. Do the same thing with gradually smaller sizes. (ex. A few 300 pt bubbles, 10 of the 100 pt, 15 of the 50pt, 30 of the 10 pt) You want it to look like an iPhone wallpaper. It gives a fancy look and I’d use it in restaurant or ballroom scenes. It’s glittery, classy, and easy to pull off. I’d only use it now when I’m feeling like putting out crap art. I advise against this trick, as it doesn’t make for an interesting scene. However, if you use the bokeh trick on top of scenery, it could make for a beautiful piece. (Especially in scenes with Christmas lights, glittering objects, or a hazy environment.)

Other easy trick, fill a whole layer at the bottom of the layers, fill it with a solid color or slight gradient, find a texture/stock photo, monochrome it, and set it to “screen”, “overlay”, or “multiply” depending on the background color. I’ll explain this process more below, but it creates a simple background and is more interesting than just a solid color.


Clipping Textures

Another cop out trick. You pull a texture off of Google, adjust the HSV until it’s monochrome, set it to your choice blending mode, and set it as a clipping mask. This is a good trick for when you don’t want to draw fabric designs, need a texture on something like granite or stone, want a paper texture on your art piece, or want fancy lineart. I’d use it to do glittery lineart sometimes. I advise against that. Looking back, it’s better for accents, not the whole lineart. I still use it when doing simple backgrounds, as it’s better than no background, but still easy and looks nice.


HSV Sliders

Your best friend. Hue changes the color, Saturation changes the intensity of the color, and Value changes it from black to white. Mess with these a lot, it can produce good results. Legend has it one of my favorite OCs came from my hand slipping while tweaking the colors, and liking the result. Try weird combinations, color theory is dead, have fun.


Lines and Shapes

In something like, say, Paint Tool SAI, to get straight lines you hold down shift, and draw a line. You can also tap the screen, hold shift, and tap again to form a line between those two points. In Procreate, draw the desired form, and hold the pen in place against the screen before you end the stroke. It will snap into place and allow you to adjust the shape you just made. Boom. Easy circle. SAI 2.0 has a circle tool that is honestly worth the upgrade alone. If you’re on 1.0, a cheap trick is to create a lineart layer and move the control points until you get a perfect circle. Throw that layer into a folder, and flatten it to rasterize it and let you draw on that layer normally.


Line Stabilizer

In any art program, you will have stabilizers. Use them. They’ll keep your lineart from looking raggedy. It’s usually in preferences, tool settings, or along the top toolbar. It’s best to not go to the highest stabilizer, I’ve found that in SAI the stabilizers S-5 or S-6 is the highest you should reasonably go. Avoid stabilizers while sketching, you should want as much control as possible with that.


Art Style Studies

I’m going to get hate for this, but when you see art you like… Save it! Screenshot it! Just don’t reupload it. Keep it for references in a folder on your computer. Especially for younger artists, stare at art you like and figure out why you like it so much. Replicate details you like. The only thing that could get bad about it is if your art gets mistaken for that artist’s. At that point you should stop. Art style theft isn’t real, but it isn’t good to copy a style 1:1, and it also might mean you idolize that one person too much. I’ve seen it happen, it’s never good.


Photo References

If you have trouble drawing something, take a picture of it and trace it. If you took that picture, there is no harm in tracing over it. I do it a lot with hands or bodies at weird angles. Get a full-length mirror and use it for referencing. If you have props in that scene and happen to own them in real life, try recreating that scene!


Now that you've learned so much, I'd love to see what you make! Please do not hesitate to drop a link to your art in the Guestbook or on my site profile. I'd love to see your art, regardless of if you liked my tips or not!





Let's go home.