I'm really feeling it!

Let's Draw! Starter Guide and Tutorial for the Basics of Art!

NOTE: This tutorial was created for digital artistic endeavors, as the work seen below was created in Photoshop via Pen and Tablet input. I will not be teaching you about how to handle a tablet or the operation of Photoshop. Fortunately, the steps and tips of this guide are easily interchangeable and applicable to traditional drawing methods if that's what you prefer!

This tutorial is very text heavy and also contains a number of images. You have been warned!

Welcome to my very first tutorial, created and shared anywhere, ever! During my time here on TAY, I've had many varying requests of my particular talent of the craft. Between asked to do sketches of random subjects, drawing out your thoughts and ideas, asking to collaborate on web comics, designing logos for our TAY banner and giving input for the design of your up and coming websites, one thing I've never been approached about was how to draw yourselves...That is, until TAY regular "It's Dangerous to Go Alone! Take this." brought up the concern a short time ago:


"Hey Bonny have you ever thought of doing like drawing guides for like just basics of drawing? I was trying to draw something today from another picture specifically this one. I just don't know how to tackle drawing things at all even though I have tried plenty of times"

The picture that was attached to the request/question is that of Link, from the Cel-da universe:

To answer the question, "Yes! I've definitely thought about doing something like this!" I never acted on it because I've always felt that I didn't have the authority to tell people how to draw because it's such a subjective approach. It was after completing One a Day that I felt I had reached a threshold of experience and realized that I could still put out a tutorial that anyone could enjoy so long as they realized it was one of so many to see on the internet.


It should be obvious that this tutorial is just one of many that is available online. The following steps and details reflects my understanding of the craft that I have developed largely on my own accord with conventional studies acquired through art classes and courses and presented in a manner I hope will be engaging and easy to understand.

Depending on your skill level, your understanding of this guide and terminologies will vary so it is important to keep an open mind and prepare yourself for discoveries through the text and your own intuition. All I ask is you respect the content of this guide and my teaching and understanding. If you disagree with the styles and method of teaching seen in this guide, move on and find a more suitable guide. Regardless, let's chat about it in the comments below.

Read through the tutorial first, and then bust out your pencil and paper or tablet and Photoshop and go through the steps on that second run through. Should make things a bit more smooth during the actual process.

That out of the way, just remember: art is all about being comfortable.


Without further delay, let's begin!


"How to draw" is a pretty damn vague and quite a loaded promise to say the least. We draw for a number of reasons and purposes, so this all begins figuring out and deciding what you're looking to do with your artistic credentials.

Let's define the word first.

According to Google,

to Draw

(is to) to produce a picture or diagram by making lines and marks, esp. with a pen or pencil, on paper.

Today's subject is Toon Link, a character who I believe is a fantastic entry point into drawing for any artist, both new and experienced for the sake of this tutorial. As chosen by the commenter who would unknowingly launch this whole piece, Toon Link is comprised of few lines and carries a cartoony disposition that on first glance looks easy to replicate. However, the aesthetic identity he holds is very unique to the universe he comes from and therefore pinning down the subtleties of the style will be key for your depiction to be deemed a success.


A Few Tips Before We Start...

Loosen Up


You're going to need to be and feel comfortable before you sit down and take part in this tutorial. If you need to loosen up, go for it! Every artist is different - some may want to sketch around to warm up, and others might simply just want to jump right in.

However, one thing is for certain: do not draw unless you are in the mood to do so. The same goes for writing, which I know more of you are familiar with here on TAY. You wouldn't set out to write a piece for TAY if you weren't feeling particularly inspired at that time. Nothing good comes out of forcing to do creative work - things won't feel genuine and the viewer will be able to pick up on that.


Track Your Journey

Keep work in progress shots of all the sessions you complete for your work. Think of these drafts as save states like that you keep of your favorite video games. This allows you to have a point in which to "restart" should you ever reach a point of stagnation or are disappointed with the turns you took. Remember, creating artwork does not always run from point A to point B. Quite often, you start at A and end up at C, backtracking to D after you hit Z somehow.

Having work in progress shots which will save you a lot of time if you make a major mistake that might undo all of your hard work. In addition, and to me more importantly, you can see the growth of your piece and yourself as an artist to have a series of these images to call back to.


Draw, Draw, and Draw Some More

If you're just getting started and giving a go at this art thing for the first time, realize that much like with anything in life, consistency and practice will become your teacher after I'm done with you. Draw in real life with a sketchpad and pencil with living subjects when you're on train or tube. Look up online references to practice against with a plethora of helpful websites with a single search on Google. Get familiar with drawing digitally and traditionally, and you will be amazed by how much knowledge both sides of the skill sets developed will be interchangable.

How I paint digitally is a direct evolution from the time I've spent painting with traditional acrylic and oil paints.

Keep it Real


We often wonder or worry how we'll be able to tell when our piece is finished. You shouldn't be looking out for such a point - it'll come to you. The thing about drawing is that your end result will not only look "just right" when you're done, but a bell will ring in your head to tell you that it's done because it will FEEL right. Any hesitations about releasing a piece of work means the piece is not yet complete.

Ask yourself:

What are my goals regarding the artwork I am about to create?
-Do I want to recreate this image exactly?

-Do I want to make this piece my own?

-Do I want to practice the basics with this image reference as a guide?

Who is this piece intended for?

A good idea is to write down the answers and either keep them visible for you to remind yourself of your personal goals or to look at them every now and then during your breaks to get you back on the path.


Whew. It feels like I said we'd start a while ago...And well, we did, didn't we? But you're really looking to actually put markings down on the paper/tablet, aren't you? Well, your patience will be rewarded.

Get your materials out, clear your schedule, get comfortable in your seat, turn up some music (that won't be distracting) and give me your undivided attention. Let's do this!


So here's our reference image of Toon Link that we saw once before at the beginning of the tutorial. Save this to your computer or print it out. The key to reaching the desired results is to study the piece. Give it a look over for a bit but don't focus on any particular part of it for too long. Your eyes should be skimming the subject to sort of pick up the subtle nuances that you will want to be translating to your canvas.

By the way, this is my set up:


I have Photoshop open on one side of the window, I have my reference of Link on the other side and some entertainment in the bottom right. I suggest you start with music and just give your work undivided attention. If you can multitask, more power to you, but I think you'll truly get the full experience reading this tutorial while just having the art open.


Like I said before, having the reference to work from, keep it in view of your space and refer to it at all times. The communication of what your eyes see and how your hand translates that onto paper is of utmost importance. A common error many artists have when it comes to replicating works is that they do not devote and commit to the paper what they actually see before them.


These beginners replace the real details that are there before them into lieu of the easy way out in the form of "symbols". Symbols are features of the original reference that are toned down in nature because what the artist has in his or her mind as to how it should look takes over rather than doing justice and replicating what it is there.

This is an extremely common mistake, and perhaps the number one reason why works by beginners lack any resemblance to the original work.


Okay, so now you might be wondering, what kind of outline is that?

Contour Drawing (via Google)

is an essential technique in the field of art because it is a strong foundation for any drawing or painting; it can potentially modify a subject's form through variation within the lines. Its objective is to capture the life, action, or expression of the subject.

Contours will be your bread and butter at the start and often throughout the creation of your work.


Note how the form has been defined to quite an extent, despite being comprised of many fluid lines. Everyone's contour work will look different from one another's. Yours will looking different mine. That said, please do not aim for your contour drawing to look like mine.

The contour is a way to gauge how accurately you can place down the elements of the piece. What we have here is a form that was created through estimation. To achieve this, I took my pen and pressed down on my canvas scribbling about with aim to the reference image and did not lift up my pen until I finished several "laps" around the body.

Basically, my contour was done in one continuous motion. There are several different ways to produce a contour; some do it blindly not looking at their canvas and focusing only on the image. Others may do a mixture of both looking at the canvas and away, which is what I did. What I want to stress to you is that when you start step 1, remember that this is a vague interpretation that should be focusing on placing the form on the canvas. This is an introduction - the subject meets the paper, so like within real life, you don't want to come off too strong.

Use light strokes and don't give any one area of the subject more attention than another. Note how my draft doesn't particularly detail any part of Link - everything is treated the same and thus the work can start off to be evenly distributed from the get go.


Now, if the contour is not your style, that is understandable. I myself mix it up every now and then with the fluid flowy lines with something we're more familiar with in almost every "How to Draw" book:


Our whole world is made up of shapes! Look around you - everything within your vision, including your own hands can be broken down into basic shapes. If you'd prefer to go this route, be my guest. I only included this because I wanted to offer you something more comfortable if you were feeling intimidated, which is not a good thing to start a tutorial with.

Break down your reference into basic shapes. This is a flat image and the character doesn't carry too much depth so don't worry about trying to translate this form into anything too serious. Just remember the outlines are exactly that - place markers so the real work can begin in due time.

Moving on, a question I assume you might have would be - where do I start?

Anywhere you want! Wherever you feel comfortable is the best place to start drafting! Remember, the nature of this tutorial is to be an exercise, and that it's not a take home test or something you will be graded on. Experiment! Remember to have fun and stay loose.


I personally start most of my works with the eyes of the character; generally, the face/head. I do this because in real life, when I communicate with people, I lock eyes with them during the conversation. That interaction can be then applied here on the canvas when I begin a conversation with my subject, and in this case, Toon Link.

So, you want to have a conversation and start sketching around, loosely hitting the key areas of the work that help pin the subject on the paper. The best way to do this, and the key to a successful contour is to use negative space to create distance between "landmarks".


A landmark is anywhere I assign that I think is important in pinning down the subject. For example, if you were driving around lost in real life unsure of the immediate area, you might assign landmarks for you to use to help pin down a mental map in your mind to call back to should you get lost once more. Eventually, you assign more and more landmarks until the map is complete.

The same can be said about pinning down details of the character to complete the "map" that is the outline! For example, let's look at the top of Link's bow. That'll be landmark 1. The next closest landmark I designate is Link's hair/bangs that are flying towards it. The space in between that area is negative space.

Here's how negative space looks on the whole of the body.


By not concentrating on the actual body, I can see the silhouette like never before. We get preoccupied with looking at the details that we so desperately want to replicate that we fail to notice the negative space that tells us exactly how to measure the landmarks. From there, you fill in the blanks!

The next thing you'll need to learn about is composition.

Composition (via Google)
is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art, as distinct from the subject of a work.

Because we are focusing on just one character, we really do not need to worry about composition too much. Composition, refers to the placement of objects on the canvas, and the relationship of those various elements that take up space within the body of the work.

Because Toon Link is our only priority, we can plop him right into the middle of the space. For my work, I've tightly cropped him into the space to keep focus on him as we learn how to draw. You may want to move him to the right side of the screen and have open space to the left to show an enemy Link is fighting. The composition is then split between two subjects who is vying for the attention of the viewer. Play around and experiment to see where you like Link on your canvas!

Otherwise, keep him dead center like I have and let's move onto step 2! Yes, really! A new step! Finally, right?


Colors, yay! I thought I could make things a bit more vibrant since you had to read so much for Step 1!

The thing is, I normally skip on coloring for Step 2 but I think it is important to touch upon it lightly before we continue. By using colors, and filling in the contour with basic blocks of the closest shades made clear by the reference, I can further define the future of the image without using outlines.


Note how the linework from before is kept entirely intact and the basic colors are plainly introduced. These are called "flat colors" due to the fact that there is no variation in them - they are basic in every sense of the word. The key thing to notice in step 2 is how I applied the color to where I want to define the next outline.

The application is messy but yet at the same time it's noticeable that I have paid respect to the boundaries of the reference shot within the sketchy contour. See how there are several flowy and rampant lines left over? Every line outside of my color blocking means they are ordered for execution - it's time to clean up!

Oh! Also, something to note - I forgot to add Link's sheath in step 1 so I drew it in during this step. This will happen to the best of us, so don't worry about your own mishaps and deal with them as they come. Let's see what happens next!


Whoa! Link is looking a lot more discernible now! This is the result of Step 3 - finalizing the line work. I should state that I use the word "finalize" here very loosely because unless you're really so technically skilled that you could nail 1:1 replication, there are going to be minor edits that will need to be made as you continue finalizing the piece. The reason why I normally do not color for Step 2 is because it's more important to have a defined outline to fill in than attempting to work out of an early unfinished outline.

Basically, applying color to the first outline will limit you to the boundaries you have placed at the earliest time of conception of the piece. This leads me to the single most important rule needed to be followed to be a successful artist.


I know many artists who suffocate their pieces - they do not give their canvas, their markings, their paints any chance to breathe. What I mean is that they stay glued to working on their piece for extended periods of time, not achieving what they expect despite their persistent efforts.

I often hear things like "I've been working on this piece for 3 hours on this single detail and I'm still not getting it right" or "I'm so frustrated by this part of my art and I'm not going to stop till it's perfect".

That is destructive to you and your work, and should never be muttered out of your mouth.


So how do you let your artwork breathe? By taking a breather yourself! I always always always take breaks in between my steps and thus they end as individual sessions devoted to the work at a time.

Finishing Step 1, you should take a break and let your work breathe and sit for a while. What do you do on your break? Anything! Some of you may want to start another piece, others may want to work on something that's already been started, another may not do anything art related at all!


By looking away from your artwork, letting it breathe and letting your mind get clear, when you return to your artwork, you will see a brand new piece as if you were in possession of "a fresh new pair of eyes". You can easily point out the flaws of your work - it shall be a eureka moment you will certainly enjoy!

Let's look at what happens when you're able to wear a fresh pair of eyes after a break and return to the outline by comparing the two:



Quite a difference, right? Note how the body has been defined more, specifically the stance in regards to the torso and legs. I had a strong first ouline, but that was just feeling out the space so that this Step 3 could really blossom.


That said, in order to get results like this, simply draw over step 1. In Photoshop, lower the opacity level for the layer and place a new layer over that outline. With traditional tools, simply draw darker lines over your softer more thin lines used during contour.

Referring to your original image of Toon Link, now is the time to give each section of the form full attention. Focus on each aspect one by one; there's no need to rush like before. However, don't be too slow either, it's all about finding a place in the middle as the key is not to think too much - just act and react to each line you place.

One thing you'll notice that I do during my outlining phase here in Step 3 is the defining of the outline of shadows. You can see them appear across his chest on his tunic, on his boots, trousers, and even the bottom half of the bow. I do this because rather than treating it as an entity during the coloring phase, I can place it ahead of time and when I return to the work with a "fresh pair of eyes", I can see how the placement looks in the grand scheme of things and adjust accordingly.


Although we've gotten a more solid outline down, it's still probably not perfect. Let's see how how I fared by putting the colors down!


Hey hey! Now we're going places! Thanks in part to a more solid outline, I have a Link that is feeling more fleshed out than he ever has been so far. Like I said within Step 2, I illustrated the original contour to sort of spruce things up amidst that sea of text. Here in Step 4 however, you see how I truly color with attention to shadows.

Just having the darks within the piece adds a new layer of definition, doesn't it? That's because Link is now being lit up by a source of light, which makes him really feel like he exists on a plane somewhere!


It's safe to say that a lesson on colors would be insanely long and not what you might want in this already lengthy tutorial. I'll do my best to help guide you in this step, so stay with me! By the way, this is the part of the tutorial where this is turning more into a course for digital artists and digital tools/programs. However, you can still apply the knowledge learned about colors for application with traditional materials with some tweaking.

Back to Step 4, as you can see, I colored those blocks of shapes that defined the shadows that I made in Step 3. However, you can also see that I filled in areas that didn't have those outlines such as the back leg, his armpit by the chin, and down the length of his cap.


Like we did last Step, let's take a break and compare the color styles of Step 2 and Step 4.


Flat vs. Rounded. The colors seen here in this latest step feel vibrant and alive. The colors are more accurate in accordance with the reference, and the definition of the light source gives a fuller appearance.

The shadows that we are playing with are mostly tonal here, bar for the shadows on his trousers.

When something is tonal, that means the colors found in the work are varying shades of the originating/base color. In this case, the greens found on Link's cap and tunic are dialed up for the shadow on those same articles of clothing. The same is said for the greens of his sleeves, the yellows of his hair, and the reds of his boots.

The trousers however, are a more warmer color, in this case looking lit up and appear yellowish, and sit next to a cool color, a slate blue as the shadow snugs the backside of the pants. The warm and cool color disposition is a treat for the eyes as they pair up nicely, and appear more realistically as shadows in real life are rarely tonal or just shades of black or grey like one might think.

Colors are beautiful creatures that can exist to appear vibrant and powerful in a number of combinations. Experiment and learn more about color by doing research on your own time and even playing in Photoshop.
Contrasts in colors are usually born of these combinations of warm and cool, and also set the mood of the piece to tell a bigger picture, such as emotive state or even time of day.


As we're nearing the end (yay!) I realize I should have said this sooner but that is why I said you should read through this first before acting on it,but feel free to enjoy your small victories! We all create work in the hopes of finishing a product that looks and feels successful. Soak in the little successes that you have accomplished throughout this journey - you earned them!


I remember when I finished Step 3 and feeling very amused at where I stood at that time. It made me excited to continue. With that in mind, motivate yourself with each little victory. Chin up and march onward!


Here we are, coming to the final stretch of the tutorial! Refinement is king! From the last step, the progress seen here seems to be the largest jump from any step by far. This is because in our minds, when we see a finished product (or near finished in this case) as the holy grail. We've been looking for this stage of our work since the first mark on the paper was drawn.


To achieve this result, I inserted a new layer over the last step and state of the work and began to cut away at the excess (what was wrongly translated) and focused on making adjustments for accuracy. Step 1 began by discussing how important it is not to make up details and to really look at the reference as a guide. That's what it's there for, dammit!

My style of drawing and painting is that which is constantly adjusting and refining as the journey rolls along. I'd be hard pressed to recall a time where an outline of mine never needed any sort of refinement. Your artwork, like you as a person and your skills as an artist, is ever changing. We can only see and make the changes that we or our art needs by putting ourselves and our art out there first. In the open, we see where refinement is necessary and take time to address problem areas.


As you can see with the work, the work is crisp. Everything is sharp and concise, as the reference dictated. The colors are kept within the outlines, edges are neat, and the aesthetic characteristics of the style of the original are preserved.

Note how the piece exudes a certain level of authenticity. To get to that level, the artist must be confident in finalizing every aspect of the work after taking time and focusing on the details one by one. NO SHORTCUTS. If you are looking to run through this, I guarantee you are setting yourself up to fail.

We've come so far because we were consistent and dedicated, and took our time getting here...The Spirit Bomb is done charging!


And we're done! The changes made to finish up this piece would be considered "touch ups" as we have seen and felt the step prior had reached a climax in terms of quality. With the last step, we knew we were heading into the end of the drawing session, having spent time refining the work into a position that would soon be the furthest we could take it without having to rely on effects to deliver the authenticity of the piece.


Now, what do I mean by authenticity? With each style of illustration, there are quirks and defining features of an artist that holds true within the portfolio of that artist. What makes the "Celda" universe so unique in their key artwork is a number of factors:

Shaky but weighted outlines

Expressive eyes

Exaggerated features

Texture overlay on top of the colors

What we did for this touch up to finish up the piece was to add texture. There are a number of ways to go about this, but I went with Photoshop's own effect tools. I made a duplicate layer featuring the last state of the work, and pushed that image through a noise filter. This gave me the speckles and texturing reminiscent of the official art. From there, I would reduce the opacity to a number I felt sat well as a whole. Lastly, I noticed there to be stray marks in addition to the grainy texture. I made yet another layer and manually painted in these marks to finally bring things to a halt.

And there you have it! We're done! After all that hard work and energy, we've made it to the finish line. Be proud of yourself!


Okay, thanks for reading. Bye.


Haha, just kidding! There's a lot more to discuss, and a follow up post shall be made to wrap things up even further.

As a gift from me to you, I want you to go ahead and post the art you come up with in the comments section below, and I will individually discuss your work in that upcoming post. I would like to compile the work submitted in response to this tutorial and I will highlight the good, the bad, (and hopefully not) the ugly. It's your first time, so don't worry - I'll go easy. I think it will be a great way for everyone to see how they fared and learn from each other's mistakes.

This is the least I could do and allows me to give thanks for all of you who followed me through the Pokemon One a Day journey. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this tutorial and hope you will find it useful. The deadline to post your artwork into the comments section is SUNDAY, June 8th, 2014.


While working on your pieces, asks yourself the question:

What is my goal for this piece? Post your art with the response to that question!


Thank you thank you thank you for reading this tutorial!

Before I go, I want to show you this...The follow up will discuss it further.


Go forth and draw your hearts out! I'll discuss these last two shots and your artwork on a post that will be released some time next week. Happy drawing!



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