Template Thursyay!

Thursday is Template Thursyay! Most weeks, it’s the day I release a new colouring page exclusively to the members of Angela Porter’s Coloring Book Fans Facebook group.

This week, I’ve designed a mandala full of layers and patterns. I’ve chosen a limited colour palette of soft greens, pinks, reds, oranges and browns; a softer, calmer selection of colours that have that late summer, early autumn feel.

I love drawing mandalas. Seeing the repeating pattern building up is both fascinating and relaxing. Adding colour to bring out the layers and breathe life into the design is a magical process. I’ve not done much with high contrast to bring out the dimension today. Gentleness is the approach needed today both to my art and to myself.

I find it fascinating how my colour choices are often softer, more muted and in limited palettes nowadays. It does make a change from the riotous colours that I so often used not all that long ago, and still do when it comes to the more whimsical and cute colouring books that I create for Creative Haven.

Seeing how others choose to add colour to the colouring page designs I create is also endlessly fascinating and varied.

A Sunflower and Wheat Mandala

I decided that I’d like to turn the sunflower and wheat elements of yesterday’s drawing into a mandala. And this is the result.

I’m fairly happy with it, though I think some parts lack contrast to really give them some visual volume. But it will do, for now. I like the hint of a suggestion of the whole mandala being sun-like. it also reminds me a little of hand-coloured etchings or prints. It would have looked more like a woodcut if I’d used heavier lines and more texture. These are things to try to remember and put into practice in my next mandala like this.

Mandala | 25 October 2021

I’ve been working on this mandala from time to time. Originally, I wanted to stick to fairly warm brown tones. But today, I just wanted to lift the colours with blues and oranges.

I’m glad I did. The colours are stilly vintage-y, rusty, corroded, aged. But there’s a warmth to them that I like. It is a limited color palette, and I do seem to do well with them.

The shadows and highlights really help to add some volume to the design.

I can see some Zentangle patterns in the design -Morriseau, Shattuck, Mooka – and perhaps others that have shades of tangle patterns about them. It seems that Inktober Tangles 2021 is having an effect even on my mandalas, though this is the first mandala I’ve created in a couple of months.

Created in Clip Studio Paint.

So frustrating!

It’s been a frustrating few hours. I scanned these two drawings in, went to edit and colour in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, only to find that Autodesk has cancelled the pro, subscribed version and the only one available is the free version.

The free version doesn’t allow me to alter contrast, or work at different dpi, and it is a tad unstable it seems.

Also, there was no warning of this and I had no chance to save all my own custom brushes.

To say I’m gutted is an understatement. Sketchbook Pro has been my pathway into digital art and I absolutely love its intuitive interface.

So, I’m now looking into other software I have on my ‘puter. I learned to edit and colour and add texture layers, background and text using Clip Studio Paint.

It works well, but the interface isn’t so intuitive, it’s so much like the Adobe products, with menu after menu after menu. I can see that it’s more powerful.

Trying to look on the bright side, maybe I’d become way too comfortable with Sketchbook Pro and it’s now time for me to learn new digital skills and extend the ones I already have. So this may be a blessing in disguise.

All I know is that it’s going to be darn frustrating for a while until I get to grips with this new software.

I’m tempted to have a look at Corel Paint, but I suspect it’s user interface is as confusing and not intuitive either.

I still have access to the free version of Autodesk Sketchbook. But it is missing some of the features I loved so much about the subscription version.

Anyways, I discovered the watercolour brushes in Clip Studio and used them to add colour to the top design, and I like these ones very much. I’ll see how I get along with it, but first I need breakfast. Yes, It’s nearly 2:30pm and I’ve not had breakfast yet! So I’m going to eat and then it’ll be onwards and upwards digitally, I trust.

Now I’ve had my moan, here’s some info about the drawings:

14.5cm x 14.5cm Bristol board
Faber-Castell fineliner pen
Colours and textures added digitally using Clip Studio Paint

Clip Studio Paint vs Autodesk Sketchbook Pro

Yesterday, I thought I’d give Clip Studio Paint a go. The bottom part of the template above was coloured in Clip Studio, the top part in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

I spent yesterday afternoon, and a bit of this morning, colouring part of the template above in Clip Studio Paint. So, these are my first impressions of Clip Studio Paint and a comparison with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

I think it’s impossible to tell the difference between the colouring I’ve achieved with both programs. What is different is the user interface more than anything else.

I’ve long been a fan of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, and that isn’t going to change. I love the intuitive and rather beautiful interface of the software, the menus on screen and the colour and brush ‘pucks’. Everything is done easily and simply through the quite minimalist, yet powerful, tool bars and menus. Keyboard shortcuts are available, but I prefer to use my pen directly on the screen as I work. It makes working digitally as natural as working with traditional media.

As I’m familiar with the Affinity suite of programs from Serif, working out what the different menus and tools,, which are similar to Photoshop, wasn’t as confusing as it would’ve been in the past. Thanks to working with Sketchbook Pro, I have a better understanding of what the various tools do.

While the tools and options are all accessible on the screen, I find it frustrating and time consuming as I seem to have to perform more steps in Clip Studio Paint to do the same task as I would in Sketchbook Pro. I’m sure there must be keyboard shortcuts, which may help streamline the process somewhat. However, I work directly on the screen with Sketchbook Pro and the only time I use my keyboard is name the file before saving it, or if I want to add text to the art. Usually, they keyboard is out of the way so that I can adjust the angle and distance of the screen to suit my comfort.

I do prefer the way I can choose colours in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, as well as the ease of creating a custom palette. Sketchbook Pro also comes with a separate Copic color palette. Being able to move them around the screen means I can pop them where I like, make them easily and quickly accessible for me.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a comprehensive colour palette and various options of viewing colours in Clip Studio Pro, but I like the more intuitive and streamline way of doing it in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. It’s just personal preference more than anything.

Having the colour puck makes it easy to alter the saturation and tone of a chosen colour really quickly. The brush puck makes changing the size and opacity a breeze. I keep the pucks close to where I work for convenience.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with how all this is done in Clip Studio Paint, but I just prefer the ease with which I can do everything in Sketchbook Pro.

The Sketchbook brush palette is a great tool too; I have all my favourite brushes available in one, easily accessible place. A click on this palette and I can access all the brush sets I’ve either downloaded or created so I can add or remove brushes as I need to.

The zoom and rotate touch functions only work separately. I found this a clunky and awkward way to work. I think that’s because I’m used to doing both at the same time and at will in Sketchbook Pro.

What I did like are the many more choices of brush effects in Clip Studio Paint. However, I think I can replicate many of them in Sketchbook. There are some interesting brushes in Clip Studio Paint, but nothing that I couldn’t replicate if I found I really wanted to use them.

Anyway, I will persevere with Clip Studio, working with it from time to time to become more familiar with it. The ability to draw vectors may be helpful in the future, but then I have Affinity Designer on my ‘puter, which is Serif’s version of Adobe Illustrator.

Also, I’m hoping I can find a way in Clip Studio Paint to work in CMYK rather than RGB. When I convert files to CMYK for printing, the colours shift and I’d like to work in roughly the colours that would be printed.

Overall, I think it’s a good, affordable application. It’s a fraction of the cost of any Adobe Product. I paid £40 for the Clip Studio Paint version; that’s a one-off purchase and you have free upgrades for life. You also get access to online resources created by other Clip Studio Paint users.

This price is on a par with the price of each of the Affinity suite of programs (approx £50 each), and there are regular, free updates to the software.

You can get Autodesk Sketchbook for free, though I subscribe to the pro version monthly for approx. £12; it does have a few more features than the free version. Just because Sketchbook is free doesn’t mean it’s not professional; it is. It doesn’t look powerful, but it is.

How much will I use Clip Studio Paint? That I’m not sure. Perhaps with more use the frustrations I experienced with lessen as I become more familiar with the software. Perhaps I’ll gain fresh ideas on what effects I can try out in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

Do I think Clip Studio Paint is a bad program? Not at all. It seems to be powerful and similar to Adobe Photoshop and artists and illustrators are able to create fantastic artworks with it. I’m sure that if you are familiar with the way Photoshop works, you’ll find Clip Studio Paint an easy transition to make.

Personally, I find the way the menus are set up hard work and time consuming to use. I’ve been spoiled with the simple sophistication and intutive nature of the Autodesk Sketchbook interface, no matter which version you use. I find I spend less time clicking on menu after menu to get to what I want to use, and more time creating art in Sketchbook. That may be a function of my familiarity and comfort with the software. What I don’t want is to feel I’m struggling or working so hard to get an effect I’d like when I could do it so simply in Sketchbook.

One thing I know is that Autodesk Sketchbook Pro will be my go-to digital art program. It does all I want to do digitally, and most probably a lot more I’ve not worked out yet.