First things first, I didn’t create this technique, I simply cobbled it together after watching two movies and speaking with a friend of mine who is a great watercolor artist. I’ll be discussing my sources at the end of this article.
This is a method of painting animals, or anything you like, using Photoshop, a printer, watercolors, bic pens, and hot press paper. I got a commission to paint a rabbit and I wanted to achieve two things. First, I wanted to make a detailed, accurate, high-quality painting for my client. Second, I wanted to make it as fast as possible, so I could do more work in a day.
1) I made a few quick pose sketches.
2) I refined the basic line work in Photoshop. Photoshop is so fast for editing anatomy and proportion. Plus I don’t leave pencil residue on the nice watercolor paper.
3) I took my line work and reduced the opacity down to about 10%. You will need to experiment with this part, since all printers are different. Then I made the layer set to “Screen” and I made that layer brown. This tints the line work slightly brown, making it less obtrusive. You can use any color that suits you.
4) I took the print out and did some testing with the bic pens and my watercolors (supply list is provided at the end of the article). NOTHING BLED! I was supremely impressed. Both the ink from the printer and the bic pens stayed perfectly.
5) I started to do the real inking on a second printout, keeping the first printout for testing. The hot press paper feels a bit like fine sand paper so I used a smudge guard on my hand while inking. I also taped the watercolor paper down to an artist board to prevent buckling and give me a clean edge. At this point, I wasn’t sure how I was going to paint it and it’s best to be safe than sorry.
6) Then it was just a matter of painting the rabbit with watercolors. I started with light washes and built it up over time.
7) The final step was adding some white ink around the ears and eyes.
8) Add here you have it! The final rabbit. Please let me know what you thought of this tutorial in the comments below!
Want to try this technique for yourself? Download my free animal reference image pack here! It has all sorts of things from skulls, to birds, to this itchy caribou.
If you liked this post, can I ask you for a little help?
I just launched my freelance career in Sept 2016, and I’m still getting my feet under me. If you found this post helpful, becoming my patron would be a fantastic way to say, “Thanks”. It’s only $12 a year, and you can cancel any time. Plus, I’ll keep making drawings and tutorials for you! We all win!
Click here to go to my Patreon
This technique was cobbled together after watching a movie from Aaron Blaise and a movie from Jake Parker. Additional advice on the specifics of the Photoshop to printer to watercolor paper process was provided by Abrian Curington.
I don’t know Aaron or Jake personally, but they have a number of great resources and I would recommend you check those out. I’ve known Abe for about one year now and her site is getting better and better. I would definitely follow her endeavors.
I have included a few options to help with prices and sizes.
Small Glove (I have very small hands. These fit me)
I have some more posts that you might like too.
How to Win at Creative Adult – The Two List Method
“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
– Henry David Thoreau
I know you might be saying to yourself, “But one time, I got the best idea ever while driving in the car!”
I’m not saying that inspiration won’t randomly strike, it can, so can lightening. But we want to bottle the lightning and use it when we need it, right? This is where hard work, determination, and routine come into play. The more you create, the more your brain is in a creative state, the more ideas you’ll generate.
Essentially, it works like this. Just start working consistently. That’s it. Work everyday. I recently wrote a book, my first one. I had a basic outline but everyday when I sat down to write, I had literally no idea how I was going to fill out each chapter. I simply starting writing. Maybe I wrote the third paragraph first because I thought of it first or maybe I started with the first paragraph. The key is, I had started the act of writing, once I did that it started to flow. The exact same thing happens with the drawing. Just start drawing and see what happens.
Most of the time, the ideas flowed like this, so don’t get discouraged!
Remember, you never run out of creativity. The more you create, the more creative you become.
I’ve already written a good deal about productivity, schedules, and good drawing habits, but if you’d like me to expand upon any of those, just let me know!
My challenge to you is this: Try drawing five out of seven days for one month. Draw in two sessions – fifteen minutes each, with a break in-between. After the month, look over everything you’ve done and try to think of a new direction to take it. Then come back and tell me about it!
Or tell your friends about it on Twitter by click the button that says “Tweet” below.
If you do take the challenge let me know! – @sarahdahlinger or @seenunseenbook
It’s equally important to go out and actually have a life. I’m not suggested a road trip to the opposite coast or a one way ticket to Mongolia, but I AM suggesting that you go out and experience life somewhere else. A life without experiences is like trying to breathe in a sealed room. Eventually your air will run out. The same goes for your ideas.
I used to discredit this, the idea of getting out to explore. Then one day, the company I worked for sent me to CA on a red eye flight in the morning and sent me back to MA on a red eye flight that night. I was one trip, lasting almost exactly 24 hours.
…and I had dozens of stories to tell from that trip.
It got me thinking, “If I spent only one day traveling this year, and returned home with dozens of stories, what would it be like if I got out a bit more?”
I used to cite money being an issue, but it really isn’t. Even getting out to the next city or, next state, or next few states would be beneficial.
For larger plans, make sacrifices. I never buy coffee. A small iced coffee from Dunks is $2.00, multiple that by 252 (working days per year) and that’s $504 dollars saved for a trip.
I take it further too, since there’s tons of things I don’t really need. I don’t buy clothes or shoes unless mine are broken. I never buy DVDs; I watch Netflix or Youtube. I don’t buy in-app purchases for games. I never buy cosmetics (buy deodorant – that one is important). I started making most of my meals; it’s way cheaper than eating out. I never buy junk food when I grocery shop – no chips, cookies, or soda. All those things add up.
Check these out!
Tripnary– find cheap flights
My challenge to you is this: Don’t buy any extra stuff for six months to a year, and take that money to go anywhere else. Don’t go looking for inspiration and stories. Go looking for anything new. Go looking for anything you’ve never seen before.
Then come back and tell me your new stories.
Then go and draw or write about them.
A word of warning…
Sometimes, those new ideas can be excessively disruptive and distracting, so I write them down in the small notebook I keep with me. This allows me to acknowledge the idea, save it for later, and not distract from my current project.
One finished project is worth 1,000 half finished projects.
But enough with the lecture, lets have some actionable items!
1) Read The War of Art – It’s written like a smack in the face, but it’s fantastic at the same time. (Using this link will send me a small commission)
2) Read a lot of other books – Sometimes just read for fun and see if anything resonates with you. Or, read a book with a purpose -ie. “How would I change this to make it mine?”
Reading is hard for me to enjoy, so I prefer Audible. There’s a little ad on the side of this post where you can sign up for a free trial too.
3) Take this course – This class is literally addressing inspiration and routine in the lecture series linked here. It’s also crazy cheap and comes with an active online community.
4) Play nerdy games AND go outside – for a long while, I only sculpted characters from our Dungeons and Dragons campaign. It was a huge campaign with dozens of cool characters to chose from. Video games can be inspiring too.
*Don’t play games to avoid making your art. I don’t know the right time limit for you, but one day a week seems about right to me. *gasp!*..I know, I know – but you’re an artist, not a professional gamer, right? Unless you are a professional gamer, and then you should probably go back to playing games.
Check out this podcast, where Paulo Coelho, writer of The Alchemist, speaks about life experiences and writing – plus a wealth of other great ideas.
5) Realize that inspiration isn’t always this epic, Godlike, thing – Just make something. Anything. Do you like chickens? Draw chickens. You don’t need to change the world with every chicken drawing you do. However, draw chickens while thinking this, “what could I add to make this totally unique and cool?”….then see steps 2 and 4.
6) Mix stuff up. – This is how I arrived at my current project.
a. Vacation in Panama in 2014
b. Have been a longtime fan of Gaiman, Pratchett, and all mythology and folklore
c. Have always wanted to make a book like the Spiderwick chronicles
d. Have been a longtime fan of history, animals, and science
So I mashed all that together into a Seen and Unseen, a historical fiction set in 1911 – during the digging of the Panama canal. I basically took the real life journey of a scientist in the Smithsonian Biological survey combined it with my own personal experiences and observations, and sprinkled elements of myth and magic on top. Bam! Everything I love in one little package.
If you would like to see some of my studies and sketches, from Seen and Unseen check out my Twitter. I post something daily.
If you would like to support the project, see full illustrations, read the copy early, and win prizes, check out my Patreon. You can even request tutorials on there too!
I’m also not saying that this is easy and quick. It took months of thought and note scribbling to arrive to at this idea, but it was worth it and it’s fun!
What are two to four things you love that you can mash together to make something cool?
7) Mix it up: the quick version – Maybe you want to make a littler project, that’s totally cool and smart. Lots of little projects let you learn more then one big project. I like drawing monsters based on real animals, or just drawing animals. You could illustrate a book you love or draw the characters from a book you love. Try to pick the most obscure source material you can find. It’ll help you stand out.
8) Thumbnails are still, and always, your friend. – Maybe you’re designing something: characters, cars, armor, planes, whatever. Draw a ton of little thumbnail ideas first. They can look truly awful as long as you understand what they mean. Thumbs are your shorthand guide to yourself.
9) Let other people come up with the ideas – Contests and one-a-day idea groups are a great resource. Maybe take one of those ideas and run with it?
Sketch Dailies Website
Sketch Dailies -Twitter
Sketch Dailies – Facebook
Daily Drawing Challenge – Facebook
Inspiration Group – Facebook
10) Try to avoid cliche. – This one is hard and really only applies to people who are trying to get hired. Essentially, everyone has seen in:
-as a real life person
-animals as humans
-humans as animals…etc
So if you really, really need to draw Ariel as a dude or Scar as a human or Belle as the Beast, do it….once. Get it out of your system and move on. If I get an idea, I always do a google search for a few mins to see how many other people have the same idea. If a lot of people are doing the same thing, I don’t do it. Also, don’t be sucked in by the allure of fan art. Yes, Simba or Calvin and Hobbes in space will get you hundreds or thousands of likes, but, in general, those people won’t hire you. Again, if you want to unwind on the weekends, go for it, but don’t base your portfolio on that stuff.
11) Learn to listen to yourself. – I saved this for last since it’s the most scary. Go away from technology and people. Find a place where you can think. I don’t live in a big city, so if you do, you’ll have to find a quiet place for yourself which I can’t describe to you. Just be alone with yourself and your thoughts without the comfort of distraction.
Like I’ve said, this might suck a bit, since there isn’t a phone, game, or computer between you and your mind. This is good. Now you can start to think about the important stuff.
If you’re like me, your thoughts will probably be a mix of kind of cool to excessively mean. Sometimes, my brain can be a real asshole. It usually tells me that I’m in some way not good enough or should be working harder. However, it wasn’t until I allowed myself to think away from the noise and convenient distractions of my life that I was able to figure out the theme and basic plot of my book while going on walks everyday. It wasn’t easy and it took a long time! I stopped counting at 60 miles. It was 100% worth it.
What was something that inspired you recently? Let me know in the comments section below!
If you liked this post, you might like these others.
How to Win at Creative Adult – The Two List Method
Here’s the info for Seen and Unseen again. Stop by and we can chat about animals, monsters, adventures, or any of those blog posts listed above. I’d love to see you there!
I post daily studies and sketches here Twitter.
If you like to ask for private tutoring, win prizes, or simply see my best studies, check out my Patreon.
Thanks so much for everything!
A few people have commented that I am able to get a lot done and stick to a self-imposed schedule. I decided that it might be helpful to write down the habits that help me be as productive as I can be. This will be the first in a series of posts to teach you how I make and stick to a schedule.
First, I’d like to talk about time leeches.
I’m sure that you’ve heard that there are only 24 hours a day and time is the only resource that you can’t make more of. Therefore, it’s your most precious commodity. I guard my minutes like a vicious dog, and I’m very clear with myself. I have these priorities which are equal in my eyes: 1) Make a lot of art, 2) Stay healthy while I do it. 3) Maintain good relationships with the people I love while I do the other two things. If it doesn’t help with those three priorities, it doesn’t get done or it waits.
I’ll go over a few scenarios which I avoid like the plague but I see people fall prey to constantly. They are essentially instances in our daily life that suck our hours away like leeches. If you let the leeches suck your minutes away, you’ll have a tough time sticking to a personal schedule.
Scenario 1 – “I need a new towel” aka a useful item
Time wasting mindset: “The department store is only 10 mins down the road. I’ll run out and get one this afternoon.”
Time saving mindset:
3 mins to get ready, get outside, and get into your car
10 mins of driving to the store
10 mins to find and purchase the towel
10 mins of driving home
1 min to get back inside and put the towel in the closet
Total = 34 mins for a towel
Conclusion = Getting a towel wastes more than 30 mins. What could you do with 30 more minutes in your day?
– 30 – “one minutes gestures” which are then broken into 3 jpgs of 10 gestures and posted as 3 social media updates (using the last 4 mins to generate the jpgs)
– 6 chores that take 5 mins each: dishes, laundry part one, laundry part two, vacuum living room, wipe down countertops (last 4 mins used to do things like put away vacuum)
– 4 “eight minute challenges” from Jake Parker which are then 4 social media updates
– cook a meal and then break that meal into dinners and lunches
– walk for 24 mins, stretch for 10 mins
– 2 rounds of the 7 minute workout, 10 mins stretch, 10 mins meditation
– a 30 min writing session with a 4 min break at the end
…and I’m sure you have more ideas than I do.
My thought is “Do I really NEED the towel TODAY? Can it wait until I can pair the towel errand with another errand? Could I buy it online?”
Scenario 2 – “I’m at the grocery store, but do I need toothpaste?” aka an important, non perishable, item that you might have at home
Time wasting mindset: “I’m at the grocery store, but do I need toothpaste? I think I have enough at home to last me the week. Na, I’ll just go out and get some if I run out during the week.”
Time saving mindset:
“Buy the toothpaste! It’s $2.50 and can be stored under the sink for days. The grocery store is 10 mins away too and we don’t want another towel situation on our hands.”
This policy can be applied to anything non-perishable: toilet paper, canned goods, dry foods, condiments, toiletries, etc.
If there’s any doubt, buy it, and store it. These items are cheap and who cares if you store it for a few days longer than anticipated. You just saved another 34 mins in your week. We are now up to 68 mins saved in one week that would have been stolen by the trivial chores of getting a towel and some toothpaste on separate days.
Scenario 3 – “I need to go to the post office, the pharmacy, and the library.” aka things you must do to run your creative business, live, or improve as an artist.
Time wasting mindset: “I’ll just bop around town and grab what I need. All these stores are close.”
Time saving mindset: “While commuting home, I pass the pharmacy first, so I’ll stop there. Then, along the same route is the library. I’ll go there next. The post office is last on the line but out of the way. Hmmm. I’ll need to go to the post office before work, during lunch, or on another day.”
Figure out your daily routes. I have a commute so it’s fairly simple. To get many of these necessary but unfulfilling chores done, I can leave my home and take one of three routes to work, while hitting an errand on the way.
I NEVER make one trip to achieve one thing. I think of it like a video game, I want the combos.
It is imperative to avoid “have to” situations as much as possible. In the scenario above, I didn’t “have to” go to the post office that day. I didn’t leave it to the last minute, so I have wiggle room. I know this is tough, so don’t beat yourself up over it if it can’t be helped. But it’s important to try.
I’ll do out the minutes.
My home to the library, pharmacy, and back – 25 mins (if there are no lines)
Tack on a trip to the post office – another 25 mins, due to lots of traffic lights and lines
Total – 50 mins
I’m commuting home anyway, stop at the pharmacy (5-10 mins), stop at the library to get ordered book (2-5 mins). Forego the post office. Pair the post office with tomorrow’s morning commute or while getting lunch. (5-10 mins).
Total – 12 to 25 mins
A savings of 38 to 25 mins.
So here again, we’ve saved roughly another half hour. With our 68 mins saved from the treacherous towel and toothpaste, that’s 106 on the high end to 93 on the low end of minutes saved so far this week.
Scenario 4 – “I really need to clean this pit of a house.” aka don’t live in squalor
Time wasting mindset: “I’ll do my chores to the absolute perfect standard that my mom taught me when I was ten.”
Time saving mindset: “I’m not ten anymore and I have books to write and things to draw. Sorry mom, never look in my sock drawer. It’ll make you sad.”
I learned this the hard way. Like many, I was taught how to do chores by my parents. My parents are perfectionists when it come to housework. I was taught how to fold the towels perfectly, make a perfect bed, how to organize my sock drawer, how to put the silverware away in neat little lines, etc…
Fast forward, I was in college and I needed to clean my room. It was a nightmare. I was in the middle of finals but I couldn’t take the state of my room any longer. Plus I didn’t have any clean clothes. I did my laundry and started to put it away.
Glancing at the clock periodically so I wouldn’t miss class, I discovered that finding the matching pairs for all my socks took me 30 mins. I was shocked. Thirty whole mins for stupid socks? Who cares about the sock drawer? Who cares about the perfectly folded towels? No one will ever, ever, be on their deathbed saying, “Yeah, I never wrote my novel, but my cutlery? I nailed that cutlery organization chore. They were in little rows, my whole life. Worth it.”
So now my socks are all white, get put in a pile and are unceremoniously dumped into the drawer. My towels are rolled up in a highly messy way and placed on a rack, and the silverware makes it into the drawer. After that, I guarantee nothing.
I apply this is all chores. I half-ass my trivial chores so I can whole-ass my art.
I’ll do out the numbers
Perfect socks – 30 mins
Perfect towels – 15 mins
Perfect silverware – 5 mins
Total = 50 mins
Half-ass socks – 1 min (probably less but let’s keep the math easy)
Half-ass towels – 2 mins
Half-ass silverware – 1 min (probably less but let’s keep the math easy)
Total – 4 mins
This is a savings of 46 mins!
Or total for savings of time this week is now 152 mins on the high end to 139 mins on the low end.
No one will care if you folded perfect towels everyday. Free yourself from that BS.
Scenario 5 – “I want my pet cat to have a new mouse toy.” aka completely non important items
Time wasting mindset: “The pet store is down the street or on the way. I’ll go grab one.”
Time saving mindset: “My cat can play with a ball of tin foil and I’ll pick up a new mouse toy when I’m running an errand at the place next to the pet store.”
“I’ll buy a toy from Amazon prime.”
This is basically the same as the towel but even more trivial. You probably need a towel eventually. Maybe you’re down to one towel and have to suck it up with three dish towels for a day or so, but the cat really doesn’t NEED a new toy. If you want to order it online, that’s cool. Spend the money, not the time. You can make more money.
Like the towel scenario this saves you about 30 mins.
The final total for one week is now 182 on the high end to 169 minutes on the low. Let’s make it simple now and take a number in the middle -> 176 mins / 60 = 2.93 hours
The Time Wasting Mindset would cheat someone out of 9152 minutes or 152.5 hours yearly with stupid errands.
What could you do with 152.5 hours?
You could make a Patreon to get the subscription cost to Amazon Prime and draw some red pandas!
But I need a towel, and toothpaste, and all those other things!
I know and this is how I minimize the damage.
1)Get Amazon Prime and use it for everything except perishable items.
After reading this far, I think it’s pretty obvious that you can afford it. Use some of those 152.5 hours to generate some additional revenue.
a) Products arrive in 2 days. Most things can wait 2 days.
b) If it’s not on Amazon, do you really NEED it? I’ve decided to not buy something after having that heart to heart with myself.
2) ONE day a week, go run errands. Get the perishables at the grocery store, IF the grocery store is near other stores, pick up towels and cat toys. Remember to get extra toothpaste because you won’t be back this week. Otherwise use Amazon.
3)Hell Yeah! or No.
a) This is so important to help prioritize what gets done and what doesn’t
But those minutes are all broken up! How will I use them?
That’s the topic for my next blog post! – Seeing the full picture.
How do you think about these time saving tips? Have any more? Have any tweaks?
*I live in Massachusetts, USA so I realize this is a very American lifestyle. If you’re not from the USA, I’d love to hear what time saving tips you have.
You could draw one frog a day too!
If you liked this post, you might like these others.
How to Win at Creative Adult – The Two List Method
I was asked where I worked, so here’s the low down on my battle stations. 🙂
Main Desk Area
I do have a nice cintiq. It was an amazing birthday, Christmas, anniversary present. I would have never bought it for myself but now that I have one, I can say, “Yes, it’s worth every bit. I love it to death.”
I have a second monitor because I hate working without one. It feels like working in the Stone Age. I’d recommend a second monitor even it’s a cheap, crappy one.
My desk is a table from Ikea. It’s two metal legs and black particle board on top. It’s wonderfully big, and fits the space perfectly. However, the edges of the table were super sharp so I put baby bumpers on the edges.
I keep a lot of sharpies, pens, knives, tape, and the like behind the monitors. I got the tiny storage boxes from Amazon and the rest I had left over from other desk setups.
I keep art-grade supplies in this chest: conte, watercolors, pens, ink, pencils, erasers, small sketchbooks, colored pencils. It holds a lot and it’s fancy.
Muscle guy lives behind me. Drinks also are placed behind me and away from electronics.
The rose is from Tom 🙂
I go here when I get sick of working on a computer. Most of my thumbnails are created right here.
The green lap table is an awesome investment. I used to draw with the sketchbook right on my lap, and it was okay, but this is like deluxe sketching. I can’t go back.
I also journal and write on my laptop here.
The little cow* is a therapy stuffed animal and can be used as a heat or cold pack. He smells like lavender, and I use him to mend gym injuries or to put myself to sleep. His name is “Warm Cow”, and he’s next to “Flower Bear” and “Giant Bear”.
I very good at naming things. The best.
It’s super comfy and relaxed. On Fridays, I usually drink a glass of red wine or a Manhattan while drawing here too. The colder it gets, the more blankets I add to it, so it can be quite “nest – like”, hence the name.
* After years of loyalty, I have replaced warm cow with warm dino. The cow was looking a little worse for wear after the dog chewed his foot and I kept reheating him despite it.
Nomad Art Satchel
I have said it a million times by now, and I’ll say it again, “I love my Nomad”
This is my basic setup
However, I experiment all the time with it. Recently, I’ve added a homemade watercolor set in an Altoid’s tin and a collapsible doggie dish for my watercolor water.
I also clip a water bottle to my belt.
It’s so easy to use, and it can go anywhere!
Niagara Falls – Ontario, Canada
New England Aquarium – Boston, MA
Shenandoah National Park – Luray, Virgina
Let’s see your battle stations! Post your link in the comments below.
Here are a few of things I mentioned above. These are affiliate links, so if you use them, I’ll get a small commission, which is a super awesome way to to say, “thanks for the posts!”.
Have a great day!