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Team Think Labs | Digital Sketching in Photoshop
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Digital Sketching in Photoshop

Most of our projects at Seven2 start with a sketch. Depending on the artists particular style, these sketches can be executed in a variety of ways. Some designers prefer to use illustrator for sketches, with hard solid vector lines. Others prefer a more painterly style with bold brush strokes to render a scene. I fall into a group of sketch artists that outlines rough shapes in Photoshop.

Digital sketching has always been something I try to improve, whether it is quality, speed or both. At Seven2, I get a lot of practice and the particular challenges of sketching makes it one of my favorite tasks. For this article, I’ve decided to share a few of my favorite techniques. This is in not intended to be an exhaustive list because… well that would be boring.



I work with many graphics applications, including Illustrator, Flash, Photoshop and Blender. If I tried to memorize all the HotKeys, my brain would explode. These are the most common keys I use while sketching, not counting Cmd+Z.

Resize Brush= Ctrl+Opt+LeftMouse (drag left/right)

Rotate Canvas= R Key

Hand= H Key

Zoom= Z Key then LeftMouse (drag left/right)

Opacity= Type a number while using a brush

Shift+B= Select next tool (Shift can be used with any tool)



Sometimes it seems like the Command or Option Keys gets all the attention. When it comes to sketching, Shift is probably one of my most often used keys because it allows me to draw perfectly straight lines.

Hold Shift while drawing a line, and it will constrain to the axis.

Hold Shift while tapping two endpoints, and a straight line will be drawn between them.



Sometimes getting the right curve is difficult to freehand. This is where tracing a vector comes in handy. Create your vector path with a pen or shape tool, then Ctrl+LeftMouse click on the path to bring up a menu. Select ‘Stroke Path’. Enabling/Disabling ‘Simulate Pressure’ will give very different results.



While sketching, I don’t worry too much about the consistency or darkness of my lines. When the shape is completed, I will usually copy the layer several times and merge them together. Sometimes I will thicken the lines with a blackened glow, but that tends to destroy the line quality.



Sketching is an important part of the creative process; work as quickly as possible to keep the imagery interesting, lively and fresh. Don’t get too bogged down in details, those are refined during production.