Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japan Earthquake Survivor: iPad Sketch Process - by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

I do a lot of sketching on my iPad (no, I don't have an iPad 2 yet) and I thought I'd share the process for those interested.

As I've mentioned before, I do daily sketches; it's the equivalent of my morning cup of coffee in terms of drawing creativity. Today's sketch was inspired by the recent tragic events in Japan. My family has many relatives and friends in Japan, including Sendai, and we've been worried about them all.

Just found out yesterday morning that my friend and her young daughter in Sendai are fine, which is a huge relief. Their building is damaged and they have no water or gas, but they do have electricity. My heart goes out to those who are still waiting to find out if their loved ones are all right.

I created today's daily sketch on my iPad using Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro app and a PenGo stylus. I took some screenshots along the way. As you can tell from the screenshot above, I don't tend to do much sketching before my sketches. ;-)

On the iPad, however, I usually start with a basic shape outline to help me properly place my sketch, else I might end up running out of room -- and on the iPad, there isn't a drawing app yet that will allow me to add pixels.

I like the fact that you can create layers in the Sketchbook Pro app. I generally my sketches with the ink outline first, then add color in other layers.

I fiddle with the opacity of some layers:

And I use different brushes to add textures:

I can use the pinch/zoom gesture to work on individual bits of the drawing up close:

Because there are very limited number of layers permitted in Sketchbook pro, I also keep merging layers so I can create new ones:

If I wasn't constantly taking screen shots for this post, the sketch would probably have taken me about 15 minutes. I added the small figure on the right side of the sketch at the last minute because I found the drawing too static/boring. Adding the little figure immediately creates an underlying story, making the viewer ask more questions about what's going on.

I've always liked trying to build in some kind of story in every drawing, even if it's just one of my daily doodles.

The final sketch is above. If I was going to turn this into a "real" drawing, I'd lighten up the colors a ton (it's way too dark right now) and make the sky textures more varied, maybe add some moody clouds.

Anyway, I hope this inspires some of you iPad owners to do more drawing using your device!

-- Debbie Ridpath Ohi
(@iPadGirl and @inkyelbows on Twitter)


  1. Amazing. I've always envied people who can draw. It's a wonderful talent!

  2. Wow. Very cool -- what an amazing tool. I'm quite envious, that even with these incredible tools, I could never do this. But seeing the process is so interesting! And it was great to see it demonstrated with such a lovely, rich, and moving sketch. Thank you so much for posting this!

    (p.s. so glad your loved ones are safe....)

  3. Fabtastic post Debbie and very evocative. Thank you for sharing your process with us. Now, do I need an IPAD??

  4. Very interesting to see your process. Thanks for sharing. I'm a staunch Mac fan but don't have an iPad yet. One day....

    Glad to hear your friends in Japan are okay. There's so much devastation that prayers seem inadequate.

  5. Very cool, thanks for sharing! I cannot wait for my iPad to arrive so I can sketch on it. I had Autodesk Sketchbook Pro years ago and liked it.

  6. I doodle everyday, too. My prelim sketches in the ipad version of Sketchbook Pro end up being bottom layers in my full version of Sketchbook Pro on my laptop. You inspire me to take my ipad doodles to the next level on the ipad. My stylus feels fat and difficult to make small details. Do youuse a narrow stylus? Thank you for sharing your process.

  7. Wow! I'm getting back into sketching and painting after a 10 year hiatus. Love this blog and all the great art. Thank you so much for sharing so freely. New fan for life!