Disclaimer: this article is the author's honest personal opinion, not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned.
I have always been interested in finding the perfect workflow that could allow the designers to produce images that possess authentic hand-drawn qualities digitally, preferably all within one single piece of software.
The reason behind this obsession of mine boils down to my phobia towards the expensiveness and vastness in the variation of the traditional art supplies. Whenever I get to visit the meticulous setup of certain artists’ studio or hear them geeking out about the subtle differences among various brands’ watercolor tubes or brushes, as much as I admire their dedication to the craft, I cannot help but feel discouraged.
Therefore, as a staunch believer in the power of technology, I did a lot of research on which workflow, which combination of software and hardware can free the designers from the shackles of traditional tools and supplies, yet still able to create convincing hand drawn images that are devoid of the typical ‘processed’ look we see in most of the ‘digital arts’ today.
Unfortunately, aside from the myriad hardware limitations such as poor palm rejection, parallax, or insufficient stylus accuracy, most of the software we see today just aren’t advanced enough to simulate traditional medias (watercolor, gouache, etc.)
However, despite all the hurdles above, the purpose of this article is to demonstrate to you that, the combination of iPad Pro and Autodesk Sketchbook might just be the perfect workflow when it comes to architectural marker drawings.
The drawing I’m presenting to you in this article uses a reference photo featuring a modern prairie home designed by Yunakov Architecture and built in Bucha, Kiev, Ukraine.
The first step of this drawing is to lay down the perspective framework. This step is completed using the Mac version of Sketchbook because though Sketchbook’s perspective tool is robust, it’s only available on the desktop version. Fortunately, we only need to use this tool during the first step. Throughout this process, I used the hard pencil tool for thick contour lines, and the ballpoint pen tool for thin, detail lines.
As for the natural environments such as trees, shrubs, grass, i only vaguely indicated their positions at this point before transitioning to the iPad Pro, because the hardware I use while working with the Mac version of Sketchbook is a Wacom tablet, and I found the working process of drawing on a tablet while looking at a monitor to be less intuitive than drawing directly on the iPad.
Now that we have a solid perspective framework, the next comes the coloring process. And this is where Sketchbook really shines. With the vintage marker tool, you can see for yourself how well it mimics the strokes of traditional markers. More importantly, Sketchbook is equipped with a rich Copic color library. The palette in this library not only covers a wide variety of colors you may find in good quality marker sets (that can easily set you back hundreds of dollars,) which satisfies your need to render any materials as a designer (metal, wood, stone, etc.) the colors also possess the semi-transparent quality you find in real alcohol-based Copic markers, which adds even more to the authenticity to your drawing.
After I had finished rendering the bulk of the building, I then moved on to refine the natural elements. At this point, it’s worth mentioning that the Apple pencil is without a doubt the most accurate stylus I’ve ever used. Compounded by the factor that there is no parallax when drawing with iPad Pro, it is easily one of the best drawing devices on the market. As you can see here, I was able to draw fine lines delineating the organic, natural elements with a high degree of control just like drawing with pen and paper.
What is all the more amazing is that the size of this piece is incredibly large. However, throughout the whole drawing process, there was no lag or any hiccups at all, which attests to the light weightiness of the Sketchbook software.
The workflow of iPad Pro + Autodesk Sketchbook is also very forgiving and media agnostic, meaning that whereas it would be a huge hassle to apply watercolor glazing to a half finished marker drawing in real world, the digital workflow gives you the ability to add more details to your drawing with your media of choice at any point of time. Moreover, the whole concept of layer structure frees the designers of the tedious ‘masking’ process when it comes to painting behind already painted areas. Using a digital drawing software, you can execute your drawing/painting in whatever order you feel comfortable, as long as all the critical elements are on their separate layers.
FLAWS + CONCLUSION
With all the praises, like any piece of software, as powerful as it is, Sketchbook for iPad is not flawless. For a starter, it offers very little control over the stroke rotation. Sure, you can tweak the stroke randomization to spice up your drawing. However, I think to be able to control which side of the marker and at which angle to draw with can easily take the usability of this software to the next level. Another minor flaw with Sketchbook for iPad is about its time lapse recording functionality. Although it’s an incredibly useful functionality, my problem with it is that it records all the canvas zoomings throughout the drawing process. For someone like me who does a lot of zooming in and out, the recorded video can make the audience feel nauseating when playing back at high speed.
With all that said, with its affordable pricing and the aforementioned functionalities, Autodesk Sketchbook is a godsend to people like me who with to take their ‘sketchbooks’ on the goal, embrace the digital drawing workflow, and be free from all the inconveniences associated with traditional drawing tools.