Hello again, friends!
It’s been a little while since I posted the original “Is Sketchbook Pro For You” articles, and since then, much has changed in the feature set of the program. There have been two updates to the software in that time, expanding on the usefulness and intricacies of working lightweight and expeditiously.
This series is about you and what your needs are. I will be responding to questions I get from others, questions I would have asked about the program, or highlighting creative discoveries other artists have made. Since I am in no means an expert on Sketchbook Pro, I invite any other users to contribute unique ways they use the program for inclusion in the series.
Today, I am going to investigate if Sketchbook Pro can produce Hard-Edged Variable Lineweights like the ones some of us are used to using in other programs. The usefulness of this would be if you are producing a lot of traditional comic or illustration work, or need sweeping gradual radius changes to your strokes, without changing line integrity or opacity. Sometimes we want a small stroke that organically grows into a larger stroke, similar to an ink brush.
Can Sketchbook Pro do THAT?!
Let’s begin our quest to find the answer!
Answering the question is as easy as taking an unhurried look at the brush system.
The brush system in Sketchbook Pro seems to function similarly to the one in Photoshop, with a few caveats. First, the options for your tools change for each tool and will be more limited generally than you are used to in Photoshop. This means that with some tools, your pressure sensitivity will not be able to increase or decrease the opacity or in some cases, the radius.
That’s ok. We are imaginative people and can think out of the box… let’s see a little breakdown of what we can use to create final lineart.
When I am doing “final linework” in Sketchbook Pro, this is the tool I use the most. (A) The problem is that when you let up on your pressure for a fine line, the opacity changes.
You would think the ballpoint pen would do the trick, but the lines don’t flex and grow with your strokes. (B).
Sketchbook Pro’s brush system natively softens bigger brush sizes (C) The structure of the system works against the crisp line we are seeking.
Hm. Does this mean all the brushes in Sketchbook Pro are “puffy” and unsuitable for lineart?
Not necessarily. I use the pencil tool as final lineart in my work and find it works well for what I do. When I am creating in the program, I tend to leave a lot of room for color with my lineart and choose to do all of my influence, shading, lighting, and weight with color instead.
What if your linework is more traditional though? Do you crave a fine line? Do you ink with a brush when you work analog?
I’ve got just the thing:
Manga Studio is a program made by Smith Micro designed completely around creating full comic stories. Don’t let the name turn you off, it’s quite a capable little program. The highlight is definitely the vector inking system.
There are many settings for optimizing lines, reducing shakiness, and editing after your strokes are placed… but the true strength lies in vectors… the power and crispocity (haha) of the lines!
Look at the lineweights I created in this pen and ink drawing of Dorian. Yes, I am not the greatest inker, but the scalability of bending lineweights and keeping a smooth, sharp edge can’t be denied.
Sometimes, clients or projects come up where this is important for me to achieve, and when that happens, I create the lineart in Manga Studio.
I import the finished lineart using the “add image” command in Sketchbook Pro and color it there.
With as useful and encompassing as Sketchbook Pro has been for me, I hope that one day an equitable vector inking system will be added to the toolset. Until then, when I need the Hard-Edged Variable Lineweights and properties of the sable brush and ink quill, I turn to Manga Studio.
Your needs as an illustrator as well as your client’s needs will dictate the breadth of usefulness or limits of constraints that Sketchbook Pro sets with it’s current brush system.
To gain a full understanding of the software, I strongly suggest visiting Autodesk’s site and checking the demo out for yourself. I promise that you will spend less time learning the software and be producing more quickly than any other program I have come across.
Until Autodesk includes something equitable to Manga Studio’s vector brush tools, Sketchbook Pro can’t quite give inkwell and sable brush results yet.
If you have a recommendation, question, rebuttal, or process you would like to contribute to this series, please contact me at daimyoprophet (no spam) @ gmail dot com