About this book

Sketchbook Pro is a professional grade painting app that is easy to use and which helps you create digital art that looks like paintings created using ink and color. Using Sketchbook Pro, you can transform your digital art into true masterpieces that resemble work done using traditional mediums.

SketchBook Pro Digital Painting Essentials will show you how to transform your digital art into true masterpieces. This book will guide you through the many tools and options available in Sketchbook Pro such as the symmetry tool, layer editor, and blend modes to create images that look as though they were done by hand using traditional tools and mediums. This unique book offers inspiration with hands-on techniques and gives you an insight into a professional artist's mind.

Starting with an overview of the program, this book will help you customize and set your preferences to help you produce the best possible images for use on the Web or for print. You will be able to look over the author’s shoulder as he demonstrates the use of the tools to create artwork that looks like it was painted or inked. This book will then show you how you can draw basic illustrations and then how to create acrylic paintings. You will also learn about file saving options; which ones are best for what you intend to do with the artwork. The book will also show you how to export the images you've created to other software and will give you tips and tricks that will help you make the most out of Sketchbook Pro. SketchBook Pro Digital Painting Essentials will give you an extensive overview complete with supporting imagery of how each piece of art was made, and by the end of this book, you will have created multiple drawings using Sketchbook Pro.

Publication date:
October 2013


Chapter 1. An Arsenal of Tools

SketchBook Pro 6 has a great selection of tools and brushes to create your artwork. It also has a number of places in the software where you can locate your tools. This allows the user to work comfortably and quickly while enjoying a great number of options. The following is an overview of some of the essential tools in SketchBook Pro 6.



There are several places to locate your tools and menu choices in SketchBook Pro 6. Like all computer software, you will find a menu bar atop SketchBook Pro. In the menu bar, you can access all your tools to edit your preferences or your document. SketchBook Pro also has a number of ways in which you can quickly locate your tools without having to continually open and close the windows or going to your menu bar. The following screenshot shows the lagoon window:

In the real world, an artist has a studio where all his equipment is stored—paints, pencils, markers, brushes, and so on. When an artist decides what to work on, he/she chooses the appropriate materials for the piece, or if he/she goes out to paint, he/she selects only the materials that are going to be used. The menu bar is similar to your studio, and the lagoon is similar to a portable art box where you keep the tools you use the most. The advantage of this is that you have several ways of arranging your workspace according to what is comfortable or expedient for you. Apart from the menu bar and windows such as Brush Palette, Tool Box, and Colors, you have the lagoon, as shown in the preceding screenshot, on the lower left-hand side of the interface.

The first set of menu options on the lagoon is called Interface Controls. This allows you to set up your workspace. You can set the lagoon to the left of your screen (it is on the left by default) or move it to the right. It allows you to take these elements off in order to use your entire screen to work on your drawing or painting. It also allows you to set up as many elements as you want on your screen when you are working. Any or all of the elements can quickly be brought back to view on your screen using Interface Controls.

The second set of menu options is Tools and Views. Here you have many of the options that are available in your toolbar. It is possible to customize your lagoon in order to place the tools that you use the most. In this way, you can have them readily available and can have your toolbar removed from view to have more space to work (customization will be covered in the next chapter). One of the default choices is Zoom/Rotate/Move Canvas. In order to activate the rotate canvas capability, you will have to set it up in your program preferences. You must go to the Edit menu on the menu bar, and then choose Preferences. On the General tab, go to Graphics and check Enable Rotate Canvas. (Note that right under this, there is a notice asking you to turn this feature off if you experience slow performance.) After you check the box, you must restart the program and the rotate canvas feature will start working.

The other default choices in your Tools and Views menu are Fit to View, Ruler, Ellipse, Layers, Symmetry X, Symmetry Y, and Actual Size.

You will find that when you start drawing, it is important to first choose Fit to View so that you can see the proper size of the canvas. Without selecting Fit to View, your image will occupy a very small area of the canvas.

The next set of options is Brushes. The default choices are Pencil, Airbrush, Paintbrush, Hard Eraser, Brush Palette, Ballpoint Pen, Swap Brushes, and Marker. Swap Brushes is a feature that allows you to swap the current brush you are using with the one that you have previously used without opening the Brush Palette window to look for it. For instance if you are using the Pencil brush and then selecting Eraser from Brush Palette, instead of opening and closing the Brush Palette window to get back to your previous brush, you can select Swap Between 2 Brushes in the lagoon and it will swap back to Pencil. You can do this with any two of your brush options.

Next we have Colors. You can select the colors you want to use from here. Most of your choices on the lagoon can be customized. You can either use these default colors or change them to the colors you use most often.

Next is the Edit options. The Edit option consists of the following options: Select tool, Lasso tool, Clear, Copy, Paste, Cut, Crop to Selection, and Move/Rotate/Scale Layer.

Lastly, there are the File options. The Previous Image option allows you to switch to the previous file in your directory. To the right of this option, there is a similar icon with an arrow pointing toward the right. This is for the next image in your directory or folder, in which you save your image files generated from this program.

The other features on the lagoon are inside the oval. There is an icon for the current tool brush you are using and also an icon for the current color. Selecting either one of these, opens the Brush Palette or the Color Editor window respectively. There are also Undo and Redo icons.



All the tools in the lagoon can also be found on the toolbar. There are more tool options in the toolbar, which can be added to the lagoon. The default tool choices in the lagoon can be customized to include only the tools that you use the most. In this way, you can work with only a few windows open and this can free up your workspace.

Going from left to right on the toolbar, you have the tools such as Undo, Redo, Select, Lasso Select, Crop, Zoom/Rotate/Move Canvas, Add Text Layer, Move/Rotate/Scale Layer, Ruler, Ellipse, French Curve, Symmetry X, Symmetry Y, Free, Steady Stroke, Line, Rectangle, Polyline, Oval, Layers, Brush Palette, Colors Editor, and Copic Library.

A lot of these tools are similar to what you find in many graphics software, and others have been on the previous versions of SketchBook Pro. Here you will be given an overview of the newer and unique tools.

The Ellipse tool

This tool allows you to make perfect ellipses by changing the scale and rotation to fit your design. When you select the Ellipse tool, a diagram of the tool becomes visible on your canvas. On this diagram or guide, there are icons that allow you to scale, rotate, and move the tool to accommodate your design. You can adjust the Ellipse tool to draw the shape you want anywhere on the canvas, and the line will automatically snap to the guide.

The Symmetry tools

The Symmetry X (horizontal) and Y (vertical) tools will place an axis line based on the tool you choose, and whatever you draw on one side of this axis will be mirrored on the other.

French Curve

This tool operates similar to the Ellipse and Ruler tools; however, there is a small icon at the very top of the guide that allows you to change the shape of the guide. There is a library of French curves and clicking on the icon changes its shape. You can also rotate and scale the guide similar to the Ellipse and Ruler tools. The following screenshot shows the French Curve on the canvas:

Steady Stroke

This tool allows you to make a steady and smooth stroke by dragging the line using a tether to guide it more accurately.

Lastly, at the end of the toolbar, there are icons that open up different windows or palettes.

The Layers editor

Just like any other graphics program, you have layers to work on. As you can see in the following screenshot, the layers in SketchBook Pro 6 are similar to the layers in other programs. You can add layers, change their transparency, or rearrange the layer order. There are two important features of the layers: blend mode and lock layer.

Blend modes

The Blend modes are similar to those in other programs, but it will be useful to go over them again here. The various modes are as follows:

  • Normal: In this mode there is no blending taking place between any of the layers. Normal means that what is underneath the layer will be drawn or painted over and lost from sight unless one of the blend modes is applied.

  • Screen: This mode ignores the black color in the layers below and brightens all the other colors.

  • Add: This mode is similar to Screen but the colors become brighter.

  • Multiply: This mode is opposite of Screen and Add. It ignores the white color in the layers below and darkens the other colors.

The following two screenshots illustrate the Normal blend mode. The first screenshot shows the value squares placed over a blue background. In the Normal blend mode, the value squares cannot be seen when the blue layer is placed on top.

In the following second screenshot, the layer with the squares is placed below the blue layer. In the Normal mode, you will not be able to see the squares through the blue layer.

In the Screen blend mode, the black value square is ignored but the white and other value squares show through. They appear brighter because it adds white to the values creating a tint that blends with the layer color on top, as shown in the following screenshot:

In the Add blend mode, the value squares appear as they do in Screen; however, they are brighter as seen in the following screenshot:

The Multiply blend mode is the opposite of Screen. Multiply ignores white and allows for the other value squares to show through, which are darkened because black is added to the values creating a shade that blends with the layer color on top.

By selecting the Add Image icon, as shown in the following screenshot of the Layers editor, you can select an image from your image library and bring it onto the canvas:

The dinosaur drawing in the next screenshot was originally done in pen and ink, then it was scanned and saved as a JPEG image in Photoshop.

If you place a layer underneath it and attempt to color the image, SketchBook Pro will still read the white areas as solid. so the colors will not show through as illustrated in the following screenshot:

When you select Multiply in the blend modes on the Layers editor, the white areas are ignored and the colors in the layers below will be shown through as seen in this following screenshot:

In the following screenshot, another layer is added underneath the line art and the Screen blend mode is selected. This has the effect of lightening the pixels underneath when you color on this layer.

Lock Layer

When you work on an image, it is good practice to work on several layers separating the different elements of the image. This helps because if there are changes to be made, you can make those changes in the areas that you need to without affecting the other elements of the image that were placed on a different layer. Once you choose to lock a layer by clicking on Lock layer, as shown in the following screenshot, only the elements or the areas covered in that layer will be affected by the changes. For instance, if you were to separate line art and colors into different layers, and you decide to change the color of your line art, simply select that layer and lock it by clicking on the icon on the lower right-hand side corner of that layer. Now, you can change the color of the line art without affecting the areas around it. If you were to use color outside your line art, it would not show on your canvas because only the areas that were already drawn would change.

By selecting Add Image, a line drawing can be imported into SketchBook Pro, as in the following screenshot. A layer can be placed underneath to add background color.

Let's select the Lock Layer option in the Layers editor. While coloring on the layer with the line art, only the areas with art on it are affected as seen in the following screenshot. The area around the lines remains unchanged.

Brush Palette

The brushes are stacked into two columns, as shown in the following screenshot, on the right. These columns can be dragged up and down to select the wide variety of brush options offered by SketchBook Pro 6. On the top-left of Brush Palette is the Show Brush Properties icon, and on the top-right is the Show Brush Library icon that opens the brush library to view all your brush choices. You can customize your brushes in the brush properties window. You can also create your own brush by using the Do-It-Yourself Brush icon. (Customizing the brushes and creating a brush will be covered in Chapter 2, Setting Your Preferences and Customization.)

You can resize the brush that you are using without opening the brush properties. Tap and drag your cursor over the brush puck to resize the brush. Dragging it to the left will decrease its size and dragging to the right will increase its size. The brush puck is the light gray-colored puck shown in the following screenshot:

The Color Editor

A unique feature in SketchBook Pro is the color puck. The Color Editor works in unison with the color puck. Instead of opening and closing the Color Editor, you can tap on the color puck to access the color wheel where you can change the color. On the color puck, you can also tap and drag your cursor to left and right to change the saturation and up and down to change the brightness. The Color Editor is shown in the following screenshot of the palette with the color wheel, gray scale, and color picker.

The color puck is shown in the following screenshot:

The color wheel in the color puck also contains a color picker, as shown in the following screenshot, which can be used to select a color that you've already placed on the canvas:

The color and brush pucks can be closed by clicking on the small dot in the top right-side of the pucks. To open them again, you can go to the menu bar, select the window, and then select the puck you wish to bring back onto your screen.

Copic Library

This color library is based on the popular copic markers used by cartoonists and illustrators and is especially popular among the manga artists. The following screenshot shows the window for Copic Library. The colors are arranged in two color sets, one for Illustration and the other for Design. The current color is displayed with the complementary colors underneath it. You can use the copic markers (which are the markers found in your Brush Palette) without having to open the Copic Library window. You can select the marker colors using Colors Editor.

At the bottom of the library, there is a space to drag the color swatches to create a custom set.



Although SketchBook Pro has plenty of tools, you don't need to understand all of them at once to get started. As you use the program, you will easily become familiar with all the options. As shown, there are many places to find these tools, so you don't have to worry about opening a specific tab to find your favorite tool or brush. In the next chapter, we will discuss how to tweak the properties on these tools as well as set preferences and customize SketchBook Pro.

About the Author

  • Gil Robles

    Gil Robles is an artist/illustrator living in New York City. His clients have included Bloomberg Market Magazine and the Review and Herald Publishing. His watercolors have been sold to private collectors. Although Gil's training as an artist has been in traditional media, he has spent a great deal of time exploring digital media. Currently, he enjoys using SketchBook Pro for his paintings and illustrations and for leisure. Gil has posted many demonstration and instructional videos on his YouTube channel, grobles63.

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the book is very expensive and not contains many technical info. Google for tutorial lend to better result.
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