Thursday, 29 September 2011

Traditional drawing with a digital pen?

I thought it might be helpful to do a visual step by step of how I've approached my recent large digital drawings. (The aim at this stage is to make is as close as possible to how I approach executing a traditional drawing). I use Corel Painter 11 and an A5 Wacom intuos 4 tablet/ pen which has 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity. The experience of drawing with the wacom pen is pretty similar to traditional drawing. It doesn't feel exactly the same as drawing with graphite pencil but I would say it is in between using a graphite pencil and ballpoint pen so definitely within my tolerance levels. 
Above is my tablet set up - those of you familiar with the intuos may wonder why it looks a little odd - the reason is that it currently has acetate and carbon taped to it  (...changed daily) to execute Activity (Year 2). This makes no difference to using the tablet - and in fact gives it a bit of 'tooth' - more of a 'real paper' feel when drawing.
I set up the canvas as 101.6 x 137.2 cm or 40 x 54 inches (above) the same size as my traditional drawings on paper and aluminium panels. The image below is my screen proportions and the relative size of the drawing when the entire drawing is visible.
I zoom out to see the drawing as above regularly - but I do the actual drawing at 100% i.e. life sized. (below is the screen with the section of the drawing at 100%.) A few people have asked me whether looking at the screen (as opposed to the surface the pen is actually drawing on) is disconcerting - but I find it completely natural and haven't had any problems with it. It may be because I used a pen/ tablet as a mouse alternative long before I started drawing digitally.
I always work on a single layer and I use the 'real pencil' tools (the name always makes me smile), default 2H, 4H, 2B & 6B. I use the smallest size setting -  size 1 - the size remains the same throughout the drawing and all variations are done via pressure or 'tilting' the pen (a similar effect to using the side of a traditional pencil as opposed to the point). This is a little different to my 'real, real pencil' drawings where I rarely use a pencil softer than 3B.
When I've finished the drawing I export it as a tiff and send the file to be printed 1:1 scale. To date I haven't proofed so as not to alter the final result. (i.e didn't want to subconsciously try to make it look more like a graphite drawing). At the moment I've only printed on paper and aluminium panel - but I intend to explore other outcomes in the future.


  1. Fabulous post Kate. Went to a workshop last night about promotion and social media. Most of it was obvious, however, a few little gems to talk about when we meet up. N x

  2. Wow, this is so cool! I never knew the capabilities of a digital pen before. Now I am definitely going to look into getting one.