Drawing on the iPad with SketchBook Pro
Illustration by John Hersey

Drawing on the iPad with SketchBook Pro

with Victor Osaka

Video: The Layer Editor

If you're not familiar with the concept of layers, let me give you an analogy. I'm going to draw a horizon line and let's say a perspective cube here.

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Drawing on iPad with SketchBook Pro | Online Video Course
1h 21m Beginner Apr 18, 2014

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iPad and SketchBook Pro make a great team for quick illustrations and drawing on the go. Victor Osaka introduces techniques that will make sketching with the iPad a natural, regular part of your artistic process. Also, learn how to choose a case and stylus that are best for drawing, access SketchBook's brushes and layers, and build compositions with layered color, shading, texture, and effects.

Topics include:
  • Choosing a stylus
  • Working with brushes and layers
  • Shading and texturing
  • Using hot corners and gestures
  • Exporting your work
  • Drawing ergonomics
SketchBook Pro iPad
Victor Osaka

The Layer Editor

If you're not familiar with the concept of layers, let me give you an analogy. Layers are like sheets of translucent paper allowing you to see through to the sheets below. This allows you to trace over any visible line work from the sheet below onto the sheet above. So let's see what this might look like. Establishing your base layer as a guide is your first step. Once you've roughed out your basic design shape, you'll add more layers to refine your shape, add color and texture to it. I'm going to draw a horizon line and let's say a perspective cube here.

Very rough but it gives me an idea of the shape and size that I'm looking for. Going to layer control, you can either click on the top right corner or three finger swipe up. Let's go ahead and add a layer on top. Select our base layer and reduce the opacity so that it's just barely visible. Select that layer on top and let's choose straight line tool and a Sharpie, a fine tip Sharpie.

The color is black. And this will allow me to follow those shapes, but make it clean, little bit more accurate. And normally you would be quite a bit more accurate in your drawing. This is simply to show this concept and make sure all the edges connect and we're going to flood fill this. Let's go back to, up to our layers. This looks good. I like that. Let's go to our three finger swipe down and find our flood fill icon.

Choose a color. We're going to flood fill this edge. Maybe this edge here. And, let's change the value and flood fill the rest of these. Down on the bottom, back wall, and for the ceiling going to make it a bit brighter, right there. So now we have this perspective room. Let's add a little interest to it, by going to our layer and we're going to move our bottom layer, our original rough to the top. Now we have all of our line work shown here.

Let's go ahead and adjust that to make it a little bit darker. Layer control. Now remember we reduced the opacity, we're going to now increase the opacity. There we go. Gives it a much more sketch like appearance. I might go to my eraser, choose a large size, about 20%, and come in and clean up some of the inside line work. There and there you have it. So we've adjusted the layer position, we've added a layer, we've created this translucent Workflow, so we could trace upon the lower layer and erase some of it.

Brought this line work back up to the top to give us some interest. And while some artists can complete an illustration using a single layer, you'll find multiple layers of tremendous benefit. Layers make it possible to modify one element of an image without altering the rest of it, just as we did with the background layer. The more layers you have the more complex your sketch can be. This is why I say pay attention to the maximum layer count for any given canvas size. Each layer's property can be custom tailored to affect the layers below it by way of blending modes. I'm going to go to the gallery and open up a new image.

This is a 13 layer illustration. Let's go to our layer control. I'm going to select this layer, which represents these black lines on the surface. Blending mills are a bit difficult to explain from a technical point of view. However, I'll give you a basic understanding. Let's see how changing a layer's blend mode might effect the look of your illustration. There are four blending modes you can apply to any given layer. This layer is set to normal. In a normal mode, that's one with no effect applied and it's the default.

Click on this and we'll choose Multiply. And notice how these lines have become darker. Multiply darkens the colors on the layer below it. This darkens the lower layer base on the top layer's dark values. No part of your resulting image will become darker. Let's see additive. You notice how the line work has changed again. Add lightens the colors on the layer below it. This brightens the lower layers based on the color values that are equal to or less than the value below. It's similar to linear dodge in Photoshop.

Let's try Screen, slightly different. That also brightens the color on the layers below it, but Screen brightens the lower layers based on the lightness of the upper layers. The resulting image is always lighter. Screen is very useful to brighten the sketch in a nondestructive manner. By nondestructive, I mean you can always adjust the layer's opacity at any stage, even after the project is finished. Now let's talk about layer limitations based on canvas size. Let's go to the gallery. Open up a new image. This one has 16 layers.

I've mentioned throughout the course there's a corresponding maximum layer count for each canvas size. A little trick you can use to get around this layer limitation is to merge layers together as you complete portions of your work and save versions of your little sketch. These three layers represent the background and I'm very happy with the look. One, two, and three. When you select a layer, you simply tap the merge icon, the down arrow, and it will merge that layer with the layer just below it. Merge. And now we have two layers which represent the background.

Let's click merge once more. Okay. That has now reduced my 16 layer canvas to 14 layers and it's given ourselves a few more layers to work with. You'll notice there's a number here of total layers, one of 14. This is our base. Now remember, once you merge you lose the ability to adjust those individual layers. So you must be certain you are finished with them. Now that you've merged you need to save a version before you merge any more layers. Click on the gallery icon, and click save copy.

Click back and you can continue the merging process. Repeating this Save a Copy process will ensure you can go back and make emergency adjustments to individual layers before they were merged. Keeping all these things in mind helps you to successfully manage a limited number of layers within Sketchbook Pro.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Drawing on the iPad with SketchBook Pro .

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Q: Which tablet case do you use in these tutorials? What do you look for when buying a case?
A: In the course, I am using a product called the FitFolio®, by Speck. They make this style of case for a variety of tablets, and it is one of the few that address all of my recommendations for the ideal tablet case. When choosing a tablet case you want to look for:
   - A clean, unobstructed top surface--that is, no tabs sticking up and no thick bezel that hits your hand as it moves over the top.
   - A case that is very stable when it sits on a table or flat surface.
   - A case that, when opened, allows you to rotate the table without a big flap getting in the way.
Check out the Speck FitFolio® here: http://www.speckproducts.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=fitfolio.
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