Characters in a Scene: Sketch to Digital skillshare originals badge

Patrick Brown, Digital Artist and Hobbyist

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21 Lessons (3h 18m)
    • 1. Trailer

    • 2. Setup and preperatons

    • 3. Line work (Part 1)

    • 4. Line work (Part 2)

    • 5. Line work (Part 3)

    • 6. Flat Colors

    • 7. Shading (Part 1)

    • 8. Shading (Part 2)

    • 9. Shading (Part 3)

    • 10. Lighting (Part 1)

    • 11. Lighting (Part 2)

    • 12. Lighting (Part 3)

    • 13. Details (Part 1)

    • 14. Details (Part 2)

    • 15. Details (Part 3)

    • 16. Background (Part 1)

    • 17. Background (Part 2)

    • 18. Background (Part 3)

    • 19. Background (Part 4)

    • 20. Background (Part 5)

    • 21. Background (Final part)

92 students are watching this class

Project Description

Digitally render a character in motion

Setup & preparations

  1. Scan your sketch

    Using a scanner, scan your completed sketch into Photoshop and place it into your new canvas.

    Once placed take the opacity of the sketch layer down to about 50% to fade it back. This will be useful when doing the line work and creating our black outlines over the sketch.

  2. Set your canvas in Photoshop

    Place your scanned sketch and set your canvas to a size that gives you a flexible, functional workspace and a lot of room for movement.

  3. Understand your dimensions and resolutions

    You want your work to be high-res, but you don't want it to be so big that it slows down your progression.

    I always like to work at around an A3 size (42cm wide x 29.7cm deep), with 200 resolution.

  4. Brush presets

    It's essential to have the right brushes before begining the digital art process. Having great outlines is all about having the right brush preset.

    Below you'll see the settings I use for my hard brush:


    And here's an example of the main brushes I use:


    Here are some examples of some more creative brushes:


    Here are some links to the brushes I use for shading, lighting, texturing and detailing. These are the brushes I live by:

    Dan LuVisi brushes

    AlectorFencer brushes

Line work

  1. Draw over your sketch digitally

    Use strong outlines and thin detail lines. This can be explored with pressure on the wacom tablet.


  2. Explore line weights with depth

    To communicate depth, play with the pressure on your wacom pen as well. Use thick outlines around the outside of your character and thin lines within to show more detail.


Flat colors

  1. Lay out flat colors under your outlines

    When placing flat colours, divide each colour into seperate layers. Not only will it make the process quicker down the track but it will help give easy selections when needed for shading and lighting.


  2. Keep midtones

    When placing your flat colours down, keep in mind the tone of the colour. We will be darkening it later when shading and lightening areas too. So it's smart to keep your colour to a medium tone.

  3. Group your layers

    It's important to keep your layers organised, by the end there can be up to 100 layers, on a larger scaled artwork.

    So when creating layers, group them into folders, for instance.. one character will have thier own group folder containing seperate layers for their shirt, pants, skin ect..

Shading & lighting

  1. Shade your flat colors

    Now that flat colors are down, you will shade each section with a darker tone of that same colour. I do this by going to Hue/Saturation and taking the brightness down -35 and then using the "eyedropper" I'll grab that colour, then "undo" to go back to my medium tone, ready for shading with the dark shade I grabbed.

    Make a selection of the layer, Ctrl+click on layer, using a soft brush, carefully shade your layer.

  2. Use cell shading

    My technique begins with a round of soft shading, using a feathered brush, then another round of hard/sharp shading using selections and darkening them with the same dark tone.

    This gives off a great cartoony vibe, with the cell shading, but still keeps a hint of a realistic look with the soft shading.


  3. Add highlights

    Once the shading is done, you'll go through the highlights by using the same technique with shading, but bringing it all to life using the dodge tool. The trick to highlights is making smaller selections where light would hit the most, then using the dodge tool to add to it.



  1. Use your grunge brush

    Add specs and textures to your characters using grunge brushes. This is great for adding depth to the atmosphere.


    Here are some examples of how brushes can be used:



    See the Setup & preperations section for brush preset links

  2. Use color levels

    It's a great idea to add some different colour tones to your art. A good example is the face, skin tones aren't all one colour, the nose and ears are a little red, the eyes are sometimes a little more desaturated and lean into the greys.

    This can be done by making a new layer above the layer you want to change colour to, then set the colour mode to "colour", then use a different colour and brush over with a soft brush.


  3. Lighten and colorise outlines

    It's a great idea to lift the brightness of your outlines instead of leaving them jet black. This will soften the overall look and actually attract the eye a lot more. It gives a polished look and adds quality.

    Select your outlines layer and use "Hue/Saturation" to lift the brightness up +10 or so. Then set the colour mode to Luminosity. Or, you can manually select sections of your outlines and colourize them to match the tone underneath.



  1. Outline the background

    This will ensure that your background is seamless and flows perfectly into the foreground.


  2. Color your background

    It's very important to match the background with the same style as our characters, using the same colour tones and techniques will make sure of that.

  3. Add shading & lighting to your background

    Use the same color techniques to add shading & lighting to your background. Also keep in mind the light source, backgrounds usually consist of solid object so make good use when casting shadows.

  4. Detail your background

    Using your grunge brushes, don't hold back on the detail, think hard about what to expect in detail. Think of rust, dirt, dust, water.. Be creative and use your grunge brush for both dark parts and go over again with lighter parts to give contrast.



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