The Ugee Drawing Screen

In my last post I discussed how the effective writing and delivery of Jim Sterling inspires others in their creativity.  This week is a case in point.

I have had a hard time moving from my beloved paper artwork in this digital age.  I’ve tried drawing, scanning the pencils, then vectoring the pencil art.  It didn’t work well.  I’ve also tried having the artwork inked, then scanning it and vectoring from there.  That tended to work better, but still required about 4-6 steps before I could get it in a format to be edited digitally. I’ve tried two versions of Wacom style tablets where a tablet you hold controls a cursor on the screen.  That had marginal success, but I had a lot of trouble making the connection between the pen touching a black surface to a cursor making precise actions on screen.  It went ok but I’m not good enough at it to produce even close to what I do on paper. The next step was an Android tablet with software that simulates graphic design.  It sounded good because it would allow me to draw right on the screen.  The downside was the only styluses I could find were about the size of an eraser.  Trying to do precise markings was out of the question and even trying to tell where they stylus was touching the screen wasn’t always easy to determine.

During a book signing for Matthew Inman aka The Oatmeal he mentioned he uses a Wacom Cintiq and that sounded perfect.  It essentially allows you to draw right on the screen with a pencil-sized stylus you’re your choice of graphic software.

Unfortunately since I haven’t won any lotteries recently I couldn’t get one of those…so I began browsing off brands.
After much consideration I landed on the Ugee drawing screen and it has solved my digitization woes. The first piece of art I produced was my Jim F’N Sterling Son from my last post.

I drew into Manga Studio as I preferred the look and feel of its interface as opposed to Illustrator’s.  It just felt more like a real pencil and could be adjusted with sliders to be lighter or darker, as though I was picking a different kind of lead.

After doing the “pencils” in Manga Studio I imported the pencil art into Illustrator, created a layer, and “inked” using Illustrator’s calligraphy tool.  Probably not the best but it worked for my first effort. I was pretty impressed with what could be done relatively quickly, from pencil to colored art took only a couple hours.

The Ugee has my approval, its drivers loaded perfectly, it has a large drawing surface, and has an excellent stand.  The only “complaint” is that it can wash out a bit at the wrong angle, but that’s not a big problem when working on a project, just when using it as a regular screen.

As a side note, I’m hoping Jim recovers quickly.  Here’s hoping he’s back on his feet and giving them hell as soon as possible.  We need him in the trenches!

My original Jim Sterling post

Artist Spotlight: Zach West

Graphic design is in more than you realize. It takes a designer to build those eye-catching ads, the customized phone cases, and awesome T-shirts. This month, we’re spotlighting an up-and-coming designer and very cool guy, Zach West. Be sure to check out his stuff at zwgfxdesigns!

Lindsey Stirling
Lindsey Stirling; Photo and designed by Zach West:

Media types: Graphic Design, Drawing, Video Editing, Gaming, Social Media

RevPub: What made you want to become a designer, and are there any artists who influence you?

I started designing shortly after I graduated from high school. I discovered gfx forums, which are message boards dedicated to learning to design. When I joined, the community was focused on designing tags/signatures that appear below the user’s post. Some of the designs that people in the community were designing really inspired me to become a designer. They were industry professionals, but if I showed you some of their work, it would blow you away. THE artist who influenced me was a man on the forums named Cleveland Paige aka +mw.pmi. His work was amazing, and I made it my goal to be that good one day.

RevPub: What are your favorite things to design? Is there anything you want to do but haven’t yet?

My favorite things to design are signatures/tags and photo manipulation pieces. The feeling of accomplishment I get when I’ve finished one of those two are greater than the feeling I get from anything else. Plus, they’re just fun to do. As far as doing something I haven’t yet, I really want to get into illustrating something. Drawing and then using a tablet to ink and color the drawing in Illustrator is something I really want to get into.

RevPub: What are the must-have tools you need to draw or design?

For drawing, pencil and paper lol. That’s all I need. For digital designing, besides the computer and software, the pen tool is a must. The pathfinder bar in Illustrator. All the tools have their uses, but those two I use almost always in my designs.

RevPub: If you could design or draw anything for someone, who would it be?

It’s hard to pick one person lol. Probably Lindsey Stirling because she’s so awesome! 🙂

RevPub: You just graduated from college. Any tips for students entering the field?

Design as much high-quality work as possible for your portfolio and design work that you would be required in the design industry. Also, try to get experience anywhere you can!

Off the Artboard #3 – Vault-Boy-Like Character Creation Part 1


This is a tutorial requested by my good friend and fellow Illustrator neophyte, Ron Peaks.  Looking to use a simple cartoon character for a manual similar to the cartoon Vault-Boy character from the Fallout series, yet still usable in a non-Bethesda-Obsidian publication.  It sounded like a good challenge so I took him up on it.

I have two warnings about this!  First, it’s a LOT longer than intended, because it has a lot of screenshots.  Second, this is just the way I figured out how to do it with my limited Illustrator knowledge.  I’m sure there are other, better ways, but if you want to learn how to make this kind of character with just basic tools this was the way that was most intuitive to me.  It uses just a few basic tools and is easy to color and personalize.

I’ve tried hard to not sound like Strong Bad trying to teach everyone to draw a dragon… (draw and “s”…then a more different “s”…)

This post will appear in two parts, this on shows how to make the character’s head.  One in a few weeks will show how to make his body.

An Illustrator Simpleton’s Guide to Making a Character that Resembles, Yet is Legally Distinct, from Fallout’s Vault-Boy:

 Step 1:

Create a perfect circle by selecting the ellipse tool, holding alt+shift and left click dragging it onto the page.


Step 2:

Add two anchor points using the add anchor point tool (it is in the same family as the pen tool left click and hold the pen tool and select it from the list that appears)  in between the left bottom and right top existing anchor points on the circle.  Click the “direct selection” tool, click each of the new anchor points you’ve just created (you may have to click them then click them again to ensure you’ve selected them).  Click and hold and drag them to a new location to warp the circle and make it appear a bit more square.


Step 3:

Create an oblong ellipse for the left eye.  Select it, ctrl+c to copy, ctrl+b to paste it behind the original eye.  (DO NOT click off of an object you’ve copied behind another object.  It will be extra steps and finagling to get it selectable again.  Any time you ctrl+c, ctrl+b in this tutorial DO NOT click anywhere else on the artboard, as it will deselect the new object and you’ll have to navigate to find it again.)   Then using the arrow keys nudge it to create the right eye.  While the right eye is selected shift+alt and resize and make it slightly smaller than the left (for perspective)


Step 4:

Select the star tool from the polygons.  Change it from 5 points to 3.  Click on the art board to create a triangle.


Step 5:

Rotate the triangle so the top point faces left.


Step 6:

Using the direct selection tool again, move the various specific anchor points to create the desired shape of the nose.


Step 7:

Using direct selection tool, select the central anchor point on the back of the nose.  Once it’s specifically selected hit delete to remove the line segment.


Step 8:

Using the ellipse tool create a wide oblong ellipse.  ctrl+c to copy it, ctrl+f to paste it forward and nudge it up.  This will be to create the smile, so feel free to move it to the desired position to make a bigger or different mouth.  You can also change the shape of the circle to make a bigger smile, a frown, or using different shapes and warps to make various expressions.


Step 9:

Select both circles.  Using the shape builder tool in CS5, hold alt and click and hold the top circle as shown.  Drag the curser through the top of the circles and release.  This will remove the unwanted shapes.


Step 10:

You’ll be left with just the desired “smile” shape.


Step 11:

Position the new “smile” in the desired place on the head.


Step 12:

With the smile selected, ctrl+c to copy, ctrl+f to paste it in front of the smile.  Then, with the new shape selected, go to the menu, click Object–>Transform–>Rotate and type 90 into the box.  Then resize the item using shift+alt again to get it the appropriate size and move it to the corner of the mouth as shown.


Step 13:

Select the new mouth corner, ctrl+c to copy, ctrl+b to paste it behind.  Nudge it to the other side of the mouth.  Go to Object–>Transform–>Reflect and select vertical.  The select the main mouth shape again.  ctrl+c to copy, ctrl+b to paste behind.  Nudge it below the original mouth.  shift+alt resize it to make it smaller to create the line under the smile as shown.


Step 14:

Click the main smile shape again.  Ctrl+c and ctrl+f and move it above the eye.


Step 15:

From the menu select Object–>Transform–>Reflect and select horizontal to flip it.  Then shift+alt resize to get it the desired shape.  You can also select the object and free transform rotate it to get it the desired angle (you can make angry eyes, arched eye brows, etc.)


Step 16:

Select your new eyebrow.  Ctrl+c, ctrl+b and nudge it with the arrow keys over the right eye.  Go to Object–>Transform–>Reflect and select vertical to flip it and get it the correct angle.  Shift+alt resize it to make it a bit smaller for perspective.


Step 17:

Click the left eye (his left!)  Ctrl+c, ctrl+b, to paste the copy behind the original.  Nudge the new one up so it’s visible peeking out over the original eye and repeat the process for the other eye.


Step 18:

Using the ellipse tool, shift+alt to create a perfect circle on the side of the head.


Step 19:

Select the head shape and the new circle.  Using the shape builder tool, click inside the head shape, hold, and drag to the new circle to join the shapes as shown.



Step 20:

Using the ellipse tool create a series of circles on top of the head.  This will be for the hair so feel free to make an arrangement you like.  Just remember we’ll be joining these using shape builder, so it may take a few tries at this to ensure you get the desired final shape.


Step 21:

If you want the little swooshes as show, create two overlapping circles as shown, and select only those two.


Step 22:

Using shape builder, select the top circle, click hold+alt to delete the unwanted shape elements.



Step 23:

Drag the new crescent to the other circles, select ONLY the ellipses you created for the HAIR (Don’t select ANY of the other elements, especially the head shape.  This will mess up your art…) And join them using click+hold+drag over all the selected shapes.  You may have to do that several times inside the new “hair” shapes to join any extra shapes that might have been missed with the original join actions.


Step 24:

To add any extra “Swooshes” repeat process Step 21 as many times as you like and shape-builder them into the hair shape.  You can resize them and overlap them to make different shapes.  You can also resize the entire hair section.






Step 25:

Create a square using the rectangle tool in the location shown.


Step 26:

Using direct selection (again you may have to click each anchor point twice to make sure only the anchor is selected not the entire polygon) drag the points to the locations shown.


Step 27:

Select the “hair” shape and the newly-shaped polygon and join them using shape builder.  Feel free to resize or shape to create the look you’d like.


Step 28:

Create an ellipse in the location as shown and ctrl+left bracket ( [ ) key to send it to the back.


Step 29:

Selecting the new ellipse, Ctrl+c, ctrl+b to paste it and nudge it to the other side of the head.  You may wish to reposition it to give it the right angle.


Step 30:

Create a rounded rectangle and free-transform resize it as shown.


Step 31:

Free transform rotate it so the angle matches the angle of the square you create for the hair.


Step 32:

Ctrl+c, ctrl+f to copy and paste it as many times as desired.  Shift+alt resize them to get them the correct size and move them into position as shown.  It may help to move them down and left or right with the arrow keys to keep them in line rather than moving them with the mouse.


Step 33:

Color your shapes as desired.  Select each shape and select a color from the swatches to give them the desired color!


Step 34:

Create two overlapping white ellipses in the left (his left!) eye.


Step 35:

Selecting your new ellipses, ctrl+c, ctrl+b them then nudge them to the right (his right!) eye. Shift+alt resize them for perspective again.


There it is, you’ve created a legally-distinct Vault Boy-type character head!

As a bonus!

Want to give him a gruffer look?


Overlap the face with another ellipse.


Step 2:

Select the head shape and new ellipse shape and use the shape builder tool and click+alt to erase the outside ellipse shape.



Step 3:

Recolor the ellipse any shade of gray, brown, etc.


Step 4:

Change the opacity to the desired shade to give him a 5 o’clock shadow look!


Off the Artboard #2: And They Shall Know No Fear…

2D or otherwise!

Anyone who has read my section in “About Us” knows I have of late gained a massive interest in Warhammer 40k.  Thereby giving me +100 to my “King Dork” abilities.

Honestly, I didn’t even know much about it until “Space Marine,” which was my favorite game from last year.  Purists might scoff at my console-game entry into this vast universe, but, to quote James Rolfe: “To be a fan of anything, you have to be exposed to it first.”  Since discovering the incredibly deep and detailed world of the far future, I have read several novels, collected many art books, played through the Dawn of War series, watched the fun Ultramarines movie, and even started my own army (pics of my first painting attempts coming soon!).

Though I began my knowledge with the Ultramarines and read books about both Space Wolves and Grey Knights, it’s the Librarian-Knowledge-Centric Blood Ravens from Dawn of War that appealed the most to me.

I utilized this overwhelming interest to exercise more of my recently acquired, albeit limited, Illustrator skills.  While I’m still in the “look what I can do with polygons” phase using only the limited tools that come with Illustrator (the preloaded color options, shapes, etc), and creating objects and/or figures that just stand there, I was impressed with how much could be done using just what was learned in a few Google-found tutorials.  This has been a fun exercise in making something I’m interested in to try and learn to operate Illustrator and make using all the tools and functions second nature.  It was also an exercise in mass-production as I started with the basic marine and used parts from that piece to create the others.  I also created two artboards of “stuff,” weapons, insignia, and symbology that could be used over and over in various places to prevent having to re-create anything.

How impressed I’ll be with these early efforts next year only time will tell, but for now I give you my 2D squad of cartoon-style Blood Ravens!

Tactical Marine
My first effort. Basic tactical marine all cartoon’d out.  I gave him a standard bolter and a couple of grenades.
Assault Marine
This one was a nice exercise in different equipment. Making that chainsword was a blast and the first part of the Blood Ravens’ motto can be seen on its blade.
Devastator marine
A heavy-support devastator marine with heavy bolter. This one proved tricky and needs the most correcting. I made him a veteran just to mix up the colors a bit.
Captain/Chapter Master Gabriel Angelos
Captain Angelos with the Godsplitter. Making the artificer parts of his armor were an immensely fun challenge. Also he’s the only one with a human face. He’s still a cartoon but mostly recognizable!
Davian Thule
The final piece of the squad, Davian Thule as a Venerable Dreadnought. This one was obviously the most difficult, I could borrow very little from the others. It was also the most fun to build! There’s some canonical text on his armor.  Davian Thule was my favorite character in the Dawn of War series.  I wanted to ensure his venerable dreadnought state got the respect it deserved.

These were fun creations and made for nice self-taught Illustrator tutorials.  They’re still 2D flat objects, but are pretty far from my first “magnifying glass” creation, even though they were created essentially using the same concepts.  Next I’m going to try some expressive orks and maybe more dynamic character art.  These were fun though and hopefully they’ll be enjoyed!

Off the Artboard #1: Byte Me

Since my previous post ended up being a brief novella due to the desire to express my inexhaustible love for Dragon Warrior I thought I would use this as an opportunity to be more graphical and less textual.

This concept came from my friend Ron Peaks at my day job who thought “You can megabyte me” would make a good t-shirt.  He’s a comedy assassin; the humor always comes from nowhere and slays you instantly.

I made these graphics based on the concept and thought (since I go back far enough) it would be amusing to see the history of “bytes.”  These images used several different techniques in Illustrator, two used 3D effects, two used the perspective tool; they all used various combinations of polygons, shape-builder, and gradients.  They represent a lot of what I learned in my first two months of dedicated Illustrator-ing, were fun to create, and made for nice bright graphics.

So here they are!  He was correct, they probably would make good t-shirts…

Kilo Byte Me
With 5.25 Inch Floppy Disk!
Mega Byte Me
With 3.5 Inch Floppy Disk!
Giga Byte Me
With DVD!
Tera Byte Me
With a Hard Drive!
2D Formats
These were the base graphics I created to build the logos. It was fun to revisit the all the various storage media of my past…

An Illustrator’s Foray into Adobe Illustrator – Week 5

During my Illustrator tutorial spree I’ve learned a lot about how shapes and gradients can be used to make objects, textures, and even characters come to life as vector art.  While I’d never say I’ve been 100% converted to the superiority of digital techniques over traditional pencil and paper, I can certainly see the benefits of using digital methods to enhance hand-drawn artwork or to produce specific kinds of images for specific purposes.  My day of hand drawing and scanning logos, backgrounds, and simple objects to fill surroundings are certainly over.

Creating textures is still tricky and the next tutorials I undertake (after taking a bit of a tutorial break…) will be all about my artistic Achilles’ heel…coloring.  To get that ball rolling and still keep a foot in the basic shapes n’ gradients territory I found this tutorial that teaches how to make a nice water ripple texture:
This one combined many different tools, like the previous posting, to create a basic shape of a water ripple.  It was more complex (for me at least) because it added perspective (creating an oblong ellipse to simulate a horizontal circular surface) and added the use of a gradient mesh tool, which I still have yet to figure out…  But it worked very well for this tutorial.  It also displayed how to effectively use color, using black, white, and various shades of blue to give depth to the water.  Everyone’s water drop+ripple will be different and here’s the look of mine:

Next week I’ll be taking a bit of a break from tutorials and starting a new recurring series of lessons I learned from a lifetime of gaming, from the 80s through current generation.  It’ll be a fun diversion and something that is much needed…video games can be good for you!  But fear not, there is more Illustrator progress coming.  And all my fellow newbie digital designers and I can continue to unsolved the mysteries locked away in Adobe Illustrator!