Sketched character study using Corel Painter X3

One of the joys of being a character artist is the simple art of observation. I can find inspiration everywhere. I usually sit in a cafe observing with a sketchbook and pen when I get some time or the weather’s nice and I’m in need of a break.

I loosely sketched this chap as he drank water and read a book. A wonderful subject because he sat still :)

I was sat 90 degrees to him so the sketch was the one on the left. The other two poses I improvised.

These were created using Corel Painter and a liquid ink pen. Shading and colouring was applied with the Pointed Simple Water brush from the Digital Watercolor collection.

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Doodling a random character in Corel Painter X3 on iMac

As you may have noticed I love to doodle. I love to doodle with no clear idea in my mind as to what I’m going to create.

I created this video earlier to try and capture the process. In it I explain a little about my setup with Corel Painter as well as my prefered pens / brushes etc.

The terrible fate of Colin Collins

Continuing my doodle theme I fired up Corel Painter and messed around with an idea that started life as a small blob staring up into the sky. Naturally I made up a little story for the scene :-)

I wanted to show a sense of anticipation, mystery and a touch of nerves. This guy sees something high in the sky. Something that is not at all normal. It stops him in his tracks…


Simple sketch with a 6B Pencil and RGB 128,128,128 colour.


Outlined with a Flat Color pen and black colour

Colin Collins, THE most unlucky kid in school, saw something high in the sky. Something strange. Something… alien. He stopped walking and stared as the diamond shaped ‘thing’ fell from the sky. It span and shone and twisted and groaned as it tumbled right out of the sky at breakneck pace.

Young Master Collins stood in awe. He stood in awe for just a little too long. The diamond alien thing hurtled toward him at a little over one thousand feet per second.

When it struck him it was travelling at just less than the speed of sound. Colin Collins made no sound. The alien thing made a crater 240 metres wide and 78 metres deep.


Finished with Watercolor – Dry on Dry Paper


Colin Collins in Corel Painter X3 on iMac

Doodling a witch

Lazily doodling earlier in Corel Painter, I found myself testing the side of a 6B pencil. As I shaded without removing the pencil from the canvas, I fell in love with the tone and texture.

I paused for a moment to look at the screen and quickly identified a witch. I’m quite a fan of crafting something from an otherwise dispensable piece of art.


The original doodle

As you can see the original marks on the canvas could have been pretty much anything!


Inked with a Flat Color pen


Original doodle removed and Watercolor tone applied

But to me they were quite clearly a witch. I used a Flat Color pen from the Ink Pens collection to shape the character.
The animated broom was added at the last moment.

With a combination of wet paint brushes from the Watercolor collection I added some tone.

I rather like the way the witch is creepily drifting and dragging her toes along the floor!

Image created with Corel Painter X3 on iMac with Wacom Cintiq.

Creating a school storybook at Weston Primary School

I really do have to pinch myself sometimes.

Next week I am thrilled to be attending Weston Primary School where I will be working with the children to illustrate a story that they’ve written.

This is a story that the entire school has contributed to and it’s a real privilege to be invited to spend time with them.

The way that the day will pan out is that, following a quick introduction during assembly, I generally meet with various children from key stage 1 in the morning and key stage 2 in the afternoon.
We work together in sketching out some visual ideas for their story and defining the characters.
Of course the children have their own thoughts and ideas as to how their story should look and this is perfect.


Wacom Cintiq Companion 2

I always take my full technical kit with me.
This is a Mac Mini with a Wacom Companion plugged into it. I project from there through an Epson projector onto a large screen in the school hall. My drawing app of choice is always Mischief.

The children sit with pencil and paper and we all have a huge amount of fun bashing out ideas. It’s essentially a storyboarding session and I enjoy getting the children excited about sketching.

What’s essential to this process is that the children cannot make a mistake. It’s just ideas. There’s no such thing as a bad idea. All ideas are welcomed and all contributions explored.

I have a range of coffee table books that focus on story development and conceptual art and I will always take those with me.
Books such as PIXAR’s FUNNY! which I heartily recommend to anybody with an interest in storyboarding.

What falls out of the bottom of the process is a series of sketches that the children can then go away and work with during class time.

I’ll sit with children individually to help them where they need it. I love listening to the children’s ideas and I love to see them expressing themselves visually.

Following what will probably be an extremely productive few days or weeks in class I will take all of their artwork and assemble the book using InDesign. The PDF book is handed back to the school for review and then it’s uploaded to an online publisher (usually Amazon’s CreateSpace) and a book is produced.

If you are involved with schools and this sounds interesting to you there is much more information available over at my Cartoon Academy website.

Sketching and drawing a cartoon using Mischief

I am a huge fan of digital sketching. I remember almost 20 years ago playing around with my very first drawing tablet – a Wacom Intuos. It was superb and I must have created enough artwork to fit on a handful of floppy disks :-)


Back then I probably used Paint Shop Pro. A wonderful application that allowed for some fine details. I couldn’t afford Photoshop.
These days I have the full suite of applications from Photoshop through Corel Painter to Manga Studio. They are all superb.

I run an Apple iMac 27″ and have a Wacom Cintiq 22HD Touch plugged into it. What a difference 20 years makes in technology. The combination of Mac and Wacom is a digital artist’s dream.


I’m always drawing. When I’m feeling technical I fire up one of the drawing apps and start sketching. My first choice application for sketching is Mischief. A wonderfully versatile and lightweight app that just lets you draw. Nothing more, nothing less. There’s layers but there’s no layer effects. There’s no filters and no fancy text functionality. There isn’t even a paint bucket. It’s just a drawing app. You create your canvas, select a brush and start drawing.


In this step by step tutorial I want to share with you my approach to creating a cartoon (above) in Mischief.


The brush palette is pretty basic but has everything that you’d need to start sketching. For my sketch I chose a pencil and modified it slightly to be less broad. I like the texture that the pencil provides.


Drawing in Mischief is a pleasure. The canvas is infinite which means that you don’t start by defining your image file’s dimensions. You simply launch a new canvas. When you export your image you can select the entire canvas or just a portion of it. More on that a little later.

For now I just want to lay down some marks to help establish the structure of my cartoon.

My main character is rather excitedly controlling a remote-controlled BB-8. He’s leaning back but is stood firm.
I indicate this with a broad red arc. Everything that I draw around this character will now have this red arc at its core.

I also indicate the light source. Later, when I’m inking I’ll reference this light source to apply some darker areas to BB-8 and to also throw a couple of shadows down.


The character’s torso and basic body shape are added. You can see that I’ve also given some consideration to his gaze. I’ve got him staring straight down at the droid. Though I’ve not drawn the arms and hands yet I’ve indicated where I want the controller to be.

In the back of my mind I can picture the character’s facial expression. I know I want him to be smiling but at this point it’s not so important. I just want to create the basic composition.

BB-8 will be in motion and heading from left to right away from my character.


Before I add some detail to BB-8 I want to complete the structure of the character that is controlling him. I add the arms, hands, controller and facial expression.

It makes perfect sense that the guy has a smile on his face. He’s in control.

It’s now time to focus a little on the subject itself.


BB-8 is whizzing along. I angle him back and add some motion marks. In this sketch I place his antenna vertically on his head.
Later, on reflection, I decided that to further emphasise the motion I’d angle them back a little.


To allow me to start inking the lines in I drop the opacity of the sketch layer to around 10 – 12%. A pretty neat onion skin effect that allows me to see just enough of the sketch to add the inked detail.

I confess I love this part the most. It’s a wonderful thrill to be able to add some firm ink lines and start to construct the final image.


From the detail above you can see how satisfying the line is with its varied weight. With just a little pressure I can get a very fine line. As I increase the pressure the weight of the line increases and I get that wonderful variation. Particularly noticeable around the eyes.

Whereas before, whilst sketching, I was ‘zoomed out’ (i.e. I could see the entire sketch), I now enjoy zooming in and adding the detail. This is, of course, something that is a key feature of producing digital art. That ability to fine tune your work right down to the pixel.

I occasionally add extra features such as tiny freckles and fine hair lines.

As the cartoon takes shape it throws up opportunities to add things that I’d not considered while sketching. The cheeky little grin, for example.


Once the cartoon is inked I’m done with the lower layer. One of my signature effects is to ‘black out’ the far side of a character and also those areas immediately underneath something. So in the cartoon above you can see that I’ve blacked out the left leg and shaded the left arm and area beneath the right arm. It adds a little depth to the image and a little more interest.

Also, on BB-8, I’ve added some black to the area just beneath his head.

The cartoon is now ready for colour.


For the colour I use the same pen. It gives a satisfyingly solid finish and I find myself simply ‘colouring in’.

To help emphasise the motion with the droid I white out the motion lines against its body. I could almost write the word ‘WHIZZZ’ alongside it.

For some extra interest I erase some of the colour on the main character to show a little white area. You can see these around the face, sweater and pants.

And that’s it!

Mischief is a wonderful tool for conceptual work but as you can see it is also a perfectly adequate application for producing finished art.

To export the image I have some options.

Hitting ‘M’ on the keyboard places me in Marquee mode. I can drag a rectangular marquee around the image. Specifically the region that I want to export.


Thanks to Mischief’s infinite canvas I can draw without boundaries. But this also means that I need to specify which area of the image I want to export. By default Mischief stores its artwork in .art format files. Obviously this format is not something I can work with on the web or in Photoshop. Not yet, anyway! Mischief uses a vector based model for creating the art, hence its versatility and ability to scale.

So I need to export to a format that I can use.

Hitting CMD+E (Mac) I can then export the selected area.


The dialogue box that appears allows me to specifically capture the selection and alter the dimensions of the exported file. It also allows me to specify a DPI and file format.

For the web I’m happy with 72DPI and PNG format, but using the same .art file I can also export to 300DPI which is perfect for print. Extremely powerful and perfect for any digital artist concerned with both web and print production.

If you’ve not already, I heartily encourage you to give Mischief a whirl. It’s free of charge to evaluate (15 days) and inexpensive to purchase. ($25USD, approx £17GBP)

Download Mischief.

Download the original .art file used in this tutorial.


Sketching Cinderella

Each morning I enjoy sketching. This morning I fired up Corel Painter X3 on the Mac.
I recently watched Cinderella (2015) and thoroughly enjoyed it. The actress who plays Cinderella really does lend herself to a sketch. Her expression both in the film and in the film’s publicity shots is wonderful.
So I took one of those shots and had a bash at sketching it out.
For this I use a simple 2B pencil and work quite quickly to pick out the main shapes. I only ever intended this piece to be a sketch so I deliberately didn’t become obsessed with the finer details.


As a separate exercise I had a bash at applying some colour. For this I used a Wet Acrylic brush from the Acrylics collection in Painter. Again, I wasn’t at all concerned with the finer details.

Hope you like them :-)