Update: I’ve since moved on from using a LunaTik Touch Pen to a Pogo Connect Smart Pen exclusively. In this review I explain the extra features it gives you when used with Paper by 53.
Every drawing is different and I try to keep that in mind before launching Paper by 53. With that said, the following are some general steps and techniques I utilize when drawing and painting on a 3rd generation iPad with retina screen. One thing to remember is experimenting with all the tools and drawing everyday will really up your game. I’ve learned soo much doing just that for the last couple of months.
When I begin a new PaperFaces portrait, I start by sketching an imperfect square with the pen tool. I use the square as a rough guide for the composition because I like the look of shapes and lines bleeding outside the border. An alternative would be to use the eraser to straighten up the edges, if you like things neat and tidy. You could of course forgo the square and fill the entire page — whatever works for you.
Usually I pencil in quick gestural outlines as a guide for painting forms later. Other times I jump right to the background and splash in layer upon layer of watercolor. It really depends on the source material and if the background has enough detail to bother with.
If you ask me, this tool is what sets Paper by 53 apart from all the other iPad drawing apps like Procreate and Sketchbook Pro. I use the watercolor brush in two ways… well maybe three.
When crisp edges aren’t a concern, I’ll block in color quickly with the watercolor brush. I achieve continuous tones by painting slowly and never removing the stylus (or my finger) from the screen. If I want to create a smooth gradation in color I move the brush progressively faster to fade it out.
Brightening existing areas is easily achieved with the watercolor brush. Mix enough white into a color and the brush can be used to lighten. This technique is perfect for adding highlights or correcting mistakes when an eraser’s edges might be too harsh. When working with white my general rule of thumb is to move fast. If you stick around in one location too long it’ll lighten too fast. The same is true when using full black…
To shade existing areas apply a darker hue, gray, or black. For backgrounds I tend to use a light blue-gray to paint in shadows. I prefer to start light and layer on multiple strokes to add depth and contrast gradually. When working on a subjects’ face, I’ll use a dull brown to add dimension and shape. Applying a coat of gray or brown works wonders on hair as well.
I don’t use the fountain pen or marker tools all that much because I like my illustrations to have a more painterly feel to them. However, these tools are perfect for covering large irregular shaped areas with a base color — like hair. They also come in handy when I need to rework or make adjustments (more precise than the eraser) to something I already drew or painted.
Two things to keep in mind when working with the marker tool:
I saved the best for last. When I first started using Paper by 53, I was enamored with the thick and thins of the fountain pen and how true to life the watercolor brush handled. But then I rediscovered an old friend, in a digital world — Mr. Pencil.
Need to lightly sketch out a face… pull out the pencil. Need to smoothen out some edges… pull out the pencil. Need to add shadows and highlights… pull out the pencil. It has so many uses, that by default I spend most of my time with it. My absolute favorite is to use a white on top of a black (or dark background) and sketch in highlights, especially in long hair. It’s sick how easy achieving realistic looking hair is when using the pencil.
Read in detail how I draw hair with Paper by 53.
I hope some of this has been helpful. To better describe and show my process, I’ve recorded numerous speed paintings done with an iPad 3, Paper by 53, the Mac OS X application Reflector, and edited with Adobe AfterEffects. A time lapse video that demonstrates some of my techniques is embedded below (ProTip: watch it fullscreen). Feel free to comment, like, or subscribe if you like what you see. If I missed anything or you want some additional pointers, reach out via Twitter or email.
PS: I wrote another guide called Mastering Paper by 53, that expands on all these techniques in greater detail and then some.