Thread: [Learning] Art Studio Tutorial Thread
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Old August 26th, 2015 (5:40 PM). Edited April 21st, 2016 by Fairy.
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Digital Arts / Graphics


I see you have found your way to the digital art part of this resources thread. Here you can learn about the various aspects that go into digital art, and what different forms of digital art there are. Digital art is essentially any art that has been created, with aid from a computer. For example, scanned drawings which are then changed in some way, modified photographs and 3D models are examples of digital art. In this sense, most art-works today can be classified as digital art, however, in this section we're going to talk primarily about digital illustration and signature design.

Digital illustration is as you might have guessed, the use of a computer to produce an original piece of art that is the direct creation of the artist, and shouldn't be confused with Computer-Generated Art such as fractals. Often digital illustrations are created with the use of graphics tablets, as a mouse is often too clunky and inaccurate.

Line Art

Line Art is one of the core features to any digital illustration, in that it provides the outline and defines the features of the piece you are creating. There a various different types of lines you can create and use, all of which suggest something different and convey different feelings. Lines can vary in their composition, from thin and smooth to thick and jagged. Line art when used in digital illustration is often most desired to be thin, most evident in manga-style line art. However lines can also be irregular, or even implied, depending on the dired outcome.

Information and links regarding line art

It's important to remember that lines stylise and accent your work with feelings and ideas, so make sure you know exactly what you want emotion you want to capture before starting your line art.

A more in-depth look at the various different lines which can be used can be found here:
[Line Design Theory]

A helpful guide for improving your lineart can be found here:
[Tips for thin lineart]

Youtube videos demonstrating successful lineart:
[link to video]
[link to video]
[link to video]
[link to video]


~Excuse the English spelling~
Colouring adds depth to an illustration, and changes it from a flat, 2D image to a solid, 3D image in some cases, or can just make your 2D image prettier and give emphasis or draw focus. Colour has a large impact on your piece, and will likely be the most defining part of how others see your piece.

How to Colour

A basic tutorial on colouring can be found here
[Colouring Tutorial]

A more in-depth tutorial on colouring can be found here:
[In-Depth Colouring Tutorial]

Youtube Videos on different styles of coloring:
[Painting realistic skin tones]
[Comic coloring]

Brush Usage

Brushes take many forms, from pencils to stamps to splatters. There are a few brushes that are very commonly used in almost every piece, but then there are some brushes which are used more seldom, but still add a great dynamic to a piece. Brushes are your main source for colouring, shading and lineart, so it's important to get very comfortable with utilising and switching between various brushes quickly and easily.

Brush Usage and styles

A good introduction to brushes can be found here:
[Brushes Introduction]

A good source for brushes can be found here:
[Digital Brushes]


Layers are very convenient ways to separate parts of an illustration. It's like drawing on glass sheets, wherein you draw your background on one sheet, and your focus on another, and position the two on top of one another. Layers are infinite, and can be set in various different blending modes to produce different effects and highlights on the other layers. There isn't any one way to use layers, and each layer can be used differently depending on the artist and the piece being created, so you need to find what works best for you.

What layers do

A good tutorial for understanding and using layers can be found here:
[Using Layers for Digital Art]

Useful Information

Photoshop tutorial: How to remove a background in Photoshop
[link to page]

Photoshop tutorial: How to resize multiple images in Photoshop
[link to page]

Photoshop tutorial: Digital colour tricks for pencil-drawn art
[link to page]

Photoshop tutorial: Digital lighting & colouring
[link to page]

Photoshop tutorial: Colouring tricks for inked artwork
[link to page]

Photoshop tutorial: Add lighting effects to hand-drawn art
[link to page]

Digital Arts; Signature Design

Before we begin this section, I want to give another shout out to Derozio, who's original resource "The Way of the Graphic Artist" has been merged into this resource, and was a big inspiration for this thread in general.

So onto part two of this resource, the Signature Design resource. This will focus primarily on the aspects you should bear in mind when creating a Signature for any forum, but will use PC's signature limits when necessary. But at the core of Signature design, there are a few core terms you need to know and understand before you can get into how to perfect each one. If you already know all the terms, you can probably skip these, but it's always good to freshen up your understanding!

Icons: Icons are small images which would mostly be used to indicate options or links. Another example of use would be in video games, for in-game character windows. They are often 100x100 in size, and are a good representation of an artist's style, and can also be used as avatars on message boards, although PC allows for much large avatars than would necessarily be deemed an icon. Here is an example.
Large Pieces: These are exactly what it says on the tin. These can be made for money, as commissions for various companies and so on, but don't use many different techniques than would be found used for a Tag or Icon. Think posters, or splash art in video games. Here's an example of a Large Piece.
Tags: These are the small banner-like images designed with the intent to fit into signatures and they're often narrow in height, but wide in length. they used to be quite popular on forums, but began to die out with the introduction of css signatures and text signatures. Nowadays, not many people use them as a signature, but can still look miles better than a crude css signature, if done right. An example of a tag is this. Tags are a very good place to start for those new to digital art, as they allow you to learn the functions of Photoshop and other tasks you will need to be comfortable doing. Tags are mostly used as practise to refine various skills, but aren't a medium through which you can earn money.

Flow: Flow is how the direction of the focal point is matched and represented by the effects used in the piece. This is often achieved with smudging and C4Ds.
Composition: This is what makes up a signature, in its entirety.
Depth: This is how 3D a signature looks, in a sense. A signature with no depth is 'flat' which isn't good. Depth is often achieved with blurring, smudging, stocks and/or C4Ds. Tags look 100% with good depth than without any. Monochrome tags especially need more depth than others.
Focal Point (FP): The area of the signature that the viewer should be focusing on, and should stand out more than the rest of the signature. The signature is created around this. Sharpening often draws the viewer's attention, and blurring helps make the other areas less noticeable.
Lighting: This is the light created by the focal. Soft brushing and lens flares do this quite well, although it can be done with gradient maps too. However, these are quite difficult to get down, so it's recommended to start with soft brushing first.
Placement: Where your Stock/Render appears in the signature. This is a very important part of the signature, and you have to know how to make the stock/render work with the rest of the piece, and the size of it. Signatures with the focus in the center should be avoided, to avoid breaking the Rule of Thirds.
Render: A cut out of a stock often featuring a character or person.
Stock: A full image.
Smudge: An effect made using the smudge tool, commonly found in most image editing software. It is crucial to a signature, and can make or break it.
C4D: This stands for Cinema 4D. These are mostly used for effects, and are common in tags, and very easily available.


Depth is a very important technique for all graphic artists and I've seen it missed by beginners more times than I can count. Depth is what makes a 2D banner turn into a seemingly 3D piece of art when done correctly. Depth is important in almost every sig.

This is an example of some smudging and blurring. When you plan to nail depth in a tag, you are supposed to think of how the render/stock would look in 3d. If the render is pushing forward and there's a clear indication that a specific part of the render is more forward than the rest of it; you should try blending (blurring/smudging) the back of the render with the background so that it adds that much more realism. What I've done here was make the render look like it's been swallowed by the background, this is why the arms are covered and that the head isn't so much. It's all used to create depth. Mainly what was done here was smudging. You can also add depth by blurring. You can go for any of them but blurring is, relatively, easier. Mostly because you apply whatever you see in real life. You know how stuff becomes comparatively more blurry with increase in distance from the eye, right? Just think of a tag as a real-life image which needs depth and you can do that by blurring parts which are away from the eye and sharpening the ones which are situated closer to it.

Notice how in this tag that the render's edges were blurred so that it felt as if it had been coming forward. Anything with action (meaning the render or stock looks as if it was moving and was freeze framed) always has the option to blur or smudge in the direction in which it is heading. Depth can also be made using appropriate lighting. The lighting can either go behind or in front of the render. In this tag, the lighting behind the render creates a feeling that something is back there, behind him, which created depth in the sig. That, and the effects around him that lower in opacity as the get farther away from him.

Depth is something you should always ensure you have in abundance - it can never hurt a tag, honestly. You'll probably appreciate how useful depth can be if you view the following example:

This is the final version of the tag

This is how it looks raw. Without any kind of blurring/burning/dodging or sharpening.

Now I'll explain in short whatever changes have been made in there.

1) This is actually an area that has been darkened in order to fix the messed up lighting in the raw version. Notice how almost every part of the raw tag is bright, yeah? That's mostly a no-no. The parts illuminated by the light source are supposed to be bright. Other parts should be dark. So I have used a tool called the burn tool to burn or darken some areas of the tag which seemed unnecessarily bright. Think of a light bulb. Think of it being kept over the render's head. You'll probably imagine it illuminating a 'U' shaped or parabolic area with its light. By darkening certain parts, you are pretty much trying to simulate the light from a bulb here - except that the bulb is virtual and lighting is artificial. :p You'll also notice that area near the left '2' has been darkened as well. That was done to simulate the lighting of the tag by a real life light source too. Although I don't know how much I succeeded there, haha.

2) You can see these parts have been blurred, right? They are situated, according to me, a little further away from the focal and hence were blurred to increase depth.

3) The effects which have been encircled in here are actually situated near our eye when compared to the render. There is something called 'foreground effects' as well. Everything apart from the render ain't supposed to be blurry. If there are effects which are situated closer to your eye when compared to the focal, do not blur them. This whole blurring business is basically a simulation of depth of field that your eye provides in the real world. So yeah, stuff that's closer to the eye doesn't need blurring.


Flow is the technique used to make the signature feel as if it's moving in the same direction throughout, or when everything works together (more so in composition). Flow is another important aspect of tag making.

Here the flow of the tag is represented by the arrows. It's always good to get the effects moving in the same direction as the render itself. I used this tag as it's got a clear indication of flow without using anything over complicated.


Lighting is another important aspect of a tag. However you must be careful with where you place it. You must place it in a place where the lighting is foremost created. It is often created by the stock or render. Have a look at where it most bright and imagine the light is coming from that area or from above it/behind it etc. depending on the angle. You can also create your own lighting using methods such as a soft brush and a lens flare. Let's take a look at this tag again:

See how the lighting is strong here? The render had a nice bright position on the arm so the lighting was intensified. But yeah, take care not to let the lighting mess up. Too much of a bright spot on a tag hurts it. So keep stuff balanced.

There are renders which have ambiguous lighting, though. You can, pretty much, induce a light source at more than one place in these kinds of stocks/renders. Example below:

As you can probably see, most of Dante's right half is being illuminated in this tag. You can conclude that you're supposed to place the light source on the right part of the tag since that's where most of the render is being illuminated from. But there are bright parts on the left side too. It would be better to position the light source so that it, in this case, looks as if it is illuminating the right part of the tag. But it works pretty well even if you place the light source on the left. Take a look!

So yes, you can experiment with almost every basic aspect of the tag and go against the conventions. But remember, going against the conventions too much might probably end up ruining your work. It works at times. Might not work most of the time.


It is really important for a tag to have good looking colors. Without proper color enhancements, any tag can look relatively dull. Colors are generally enhanced by using gradient maps and selective colors. These two are the most widely-used photoshop tools that enable graphic artists to alter the colors, and therefore the mood/atmosphere, of the tag to his/her liking. Gradient maps are used a lot more than selective colors, though. So I feel that the usefulness of selective colors needs to be emphasized a bit. Click the image below to see what I'm talking about.

See the difference? As for how to use selective colors - all it does is 'selectively' change colors, as the name implies. You can change the red in a tag to a pink without it affecting the rest of the colors of the tag. But there's no set of rules as to how to use these, tbqh. You can just mess around with them till you get the colors right. With time and some practise, you'll gain enough experience to know what to do with almost any tag you're working on. You won't need to 'think' about what to do next - you'll do it all automatically. This is coming from personal experience, so yeah. XD;

I'll add more to this. More about Placement coming soon! Also, if you still have any queries concerning lighting, depth or stuff like typography and flow, read this. Our own Zebra Thunderhead made a really useful post regarding all these so I'm pretty darn sure you'll find it really informative. Check it out! :]

Member Tutorials

Balmung Tutorial by Zebra Thunderhead
[link to page]

Tears of Blood Tutorial by Zebra Thunderhead
[link to page]

Gunster Tag by Zebra Thunderhead
[link to page]

timeSPLITTERS Tutorial by Zebra Thunderhead
[link to page]

Wanted Tutorial by Conman
[link to page]

Manga Style Tutorial by Conman
[link to page]

Creative Sprite Tutorial by Conman
[link to page]

Tutorial by Michii
[link to page]

Smudging Tutorial by Michii
[link to page]

Manga Tutorial by Loki
[link to page]

Stock Tutorial by Loki
[link to page]

[link to page]

Sig Tutorial by Renyui!
[link to page]

Ninja Sig Tutorial by Renyui!
[link to page]

Dukey Tutorial by Dukey
[link to page]

Dante Tag Tutorial by Derozio
[link to page]

Edward Elric Tag Tutorial by circuit
[link to page]

Yato God Tutorial by JustJeff
[link to page]

Icon Tutorial by myystogan
[link to page #1] [link to page #2]

How To: Smudge by JohnnyMustang
[link to page]

Graphic Design Elements

Read about Principles of Graphic Design:
[link to page]

Learn about Gestalt Psychology here:
[link to page]

Find out more about text anatomy:
[link to image]

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