Recycle Your Own Paintings in SketchBook


There are always sketches that will never be finished. And sometimes I lack ideas when I’m trying to paint. These two realities of everyday art creation go together really well when you start thinking a little differently and start recycling your older work. By using unfinished sketches (or even different finished pieces and bashing them together) you can create new art. It can be in the same setting as the current sketch, or it can be something completely different. This tutorial briefly outlines my process of taking an old sketch and using blending modes and other tools to create a new painting. I’ve also collected it into a Recycle Your Own Sketches in SketchBook PDF that you can download if you want to keep a copy.

Step 1: Selecting a sketch

The first step is to select a sketch from your archives. It can be a completed sketch or something you were working on that was never finished. If it’s digital, duplicate the file and start experimenting. If it’s on paper, use Scan Sketch to pull it into SketchBook and give it an entirely new life. You can use multiple sketches or even finished drawings/paintings. For this tutorial, I liked the lighting and shadows of the snow in this work, so the sketch above will be used to create a new painting within the same snowy environment.

unfinished sketch

This half-finished sketch has some good lighting and shadows — a good candidate for recycling.

Step 2: Using blending modes and transforms

This is the main experimental step. By duplicating, distorting, transforming, and/or rotating your sketch with a combination of blending modes, you can begin to discover new compositions. The original sketch is kept on a layer underneath. It is duplicated and put on “Darken” mode. Since this is a snowy sketch with dark rocks, using the Lighten and Darken blending modes work best. When using Darken, since the rocks are darker in value, they appear on top of the snow and mix with other rocks, creating new compositions while keeping the same colors and not distorting them. This effect is replicated within the Lighten mode, but the snow is shown instead on top of the rocks since it has a lighter value.


There is no limit at this stage of how many Darken/Lighten layers you create. The more experimenting you do, the more variety you’ll see in the composition and placement of rocks and snow. Once you’ve found a satisfying composition you can start painting on top.

Step 3: Render and depth

After establishing the main composition of the new painting, the next step for me is rendering and adding depth to the piece. Using the colors already established within the painting, you can continue to introduce more rocks and shadows within the snow. I added a mountain in the back for additional depth. Throughout the painting process, it’s a good idea to constantly flip/mirror your canvas. This way, you get a fresh eye on your composition and see it from a different perspective.


Something important to remember is that you may have reusable objects in your scene already. In the frames above, I copied and pasted the trees on the right side over to the left instead of having to paint them again. I used already existing trees within the painting to paint on top and it worked out great.

Step 4: Final details and adjustments

The last step is finalizing the overall composition and adding in the finishing details. Make sure to always keep the lighting direction consistent. In this stage, I added more mountains in the distance and clouds in the sky for more depth. I also introduced some cool hues from the bright sky into the shadowy areas of the rocks so they would pick up some of the natural light.


The one on the right is the final painting. You can see several elements from the original sketch, such as the lighting and rocks/snow theme, but it’s an entirely new and even better work than it was before. I really enjoy these fun experiments in using my older work to create new paintings without starting from a blank canvas. I hope you’ll give it a shot and see if you like it, too.



Introducing an All New SketchBook for Tablets

free drawing app

Today we’re releasing a version of SketchBook for Windows Tablets users. You can download it from the Windows Store and start using it immediately.

Long-time Windows users may know that previously we offered a simplified version of SketchBook for Windows Tablet, but this new release of SketchBook is an entirely different, brand-new app. It’s a major upgrade:

  • Software that takes advantage of hardware: With Windows 10 at the core, we’re able to take advantage of GPU acceleration and multi-thread processing and a whole bunch of other technical details that might bore you to death. But the bottom line is you’ll have a better experience with real-time tracking of your screen/stylus and a better touch experience. We’ve built an entirely new framework for our apps that we’re implementing with this new version that will enable us to promote greater feature parity across all of our platforms and release new versions for all platforms faster.
  • 2-in-1 support: If you own one of those laptops that act like tablets and fold back on themselves or disconnects from its keyboard (some of our favorites being the Surface, Surface Pro, and Lenovo ThinkPad P40 Yoga), you’ll like the fact that this app is available in both desktop and tablet modes.
  • Gigantic canvas: If you’ve ever wanted to draw something ambitiously large, now you can. This version allows you to create a 10,000 x 10,000 pixel canvas. But don’t forget — you still have to fill that space with a massive amount of creativity.
  • Features galore: Dozens of additional brushes in the Brush Library; a virtually unlimited number layers thanks to the power of Windows 10; unlimited undo; plus new Layer Tools (marking menu) that will make your workflow much faster, and a full-featured Color Puck in the Color Tools to help you choose colors on the fly.
  • Stroke Stabilizer: This is a very neat feature that’s making its debut in this version of SketchBook. If you’re familiar with Steady Stroke from other versions of our app, you’ll like Stroke Stabilizer. If you need help drawing smooth lines, this tool will tighten up your messy lines automatically after you lift your pen. It’s an option if you need it, and it’s especially handy for doing things like hand lettering.

windows 10 device

Is this version of SketchBook for you?

We put together a handy checklist (followed by a short video) to help you determine if you should make the plunge on this app:

  • Old user: If you currently use SketchBook for Windows Tablet, you’re going to want to switch to this new app immediately because it’s much better. Go get it now.
  • Cintiq user: Yes, the Cintiq runs Windows 10. So if you already use something like the Cintiq Companion 2 this app will work wonderfully on your device.
  • New user: If you’ve never heard of SketchBook before but have always wanted to try digital drawing — you’ll like this app. It will support the stylus that’s already built in to your device, so whether you create detailed drawings or just like to doodle and take notes, this app is going to surprise you. You’ll probably wonder why there isn’t anything remotely as powerful in the Windows Store.
  • Non-user: If you’re not a Windows Tablet user, you’re absolutely going to hate this app. It’s a non-starter. 😜

That last one was in jest, but if this version isn’t for you, don’t fret. We have plenty of other SketchBook versions for nearly every device available for download on our support site. And, if you weren’t already aware of this, Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 — but only until July 29th. Do it now.

Turn Black-and-White Portraits into Color

add color to black and white sketches

Adding color to a black-and-white drawing is a lot like the old process of colorizing old movies. There’s something interesting about the look of colorized art. Sometimes you might even aim to achieve this kind of artificially colored look, and it’s something you can do in SketchBook. Using different blending modes, you can take a painting created with blacks and whites and add color to it. It’s important to note that simply using blending modes on a greyscale painting won’t give you the vibrant tones you would get from painting straight with color, but it’s a quick way to colorize your art. I’m going to show you how, and I’m even including a downloadable Colorize B&W Photos in SketchBook tutorial if you want to file it away until the next time you need it.

Step 1: Color zones in faces

Before we dive into the painting part, since we are doing a portrait in this example, it’s important to conduct some research on the colors and tones of the face. There is a combination of different warm and cool tones that make up the face depending on the different zones and skin color. James Gurney, a master artist and author of “Color and Light”, explains the three different color zones in on a light-skinned face on his blog. The pictures above, taken from Gurney’s blog, shows an overview of the different zones of the face with light skin and which tones they tend to be. He shows how it’s more pronounced in men than women and how it’s related to how close blood vessels are to the surface of the skin.

three areas of face

Step 2: Starting with a base

Adding a gradient to your black-and-white sketch gives you a good base to start with, and this way you can reduce possible dull tones that would appear on top of the greyscale image. In this example, I duplicated my original sketch and using the Color Balance function. I moved the RGB sliders to add a sort of purple hue, and I decreased the opacity while still having the original greyscale painting underneath.

Adding color to black and white

Step 3: ‘Color’ blending mode

Now that we have something other than black and white to start with, create a new layer with the “Color” blending mode. The Color blending mode preserves the values of the original image and uses the luminance of the base color while using the hue/saturation of the blend color. It is important to get accurate values in your sketch and have your lighing drawn out so when you use this blending mode it won’t effect the lighting but will simply add color to already existing values. However, even if you don’t think you have an accurate value sketch, it can always be fixed. During this step, a simple base hue was applied to the overall face to get a base for a warm tone. Although it may not be accurate for a light-skinned face, we can build up from this.

Step 4: Pushing colors with soft light

Here we introduce a new layer with a Soft Light blending mode. The Soft Light blending mode can darken or lighten colors based on the blending color. If the blend color is either lighter or darker than 50% grey, then the image is also lightened or darkened with that blend color.

This blending mode allows me to introduce a wider value range within my tones and control the color at the same time. It’s always a good idea to use references to study and understand. For this study, I studied a painting by Sargent — in particular the different colors he used in his portraits. (Note that the cheeks and nose tend to a redder hue as mentioned by Gurney earlier.) A desaturated bluish color was used for the eyes.

adding color in steps

Step 5: Taking a break from blending modes

Now that there are some more colors in the portrait, switching to Normal blending mode and simply using the color picker to choose colors from your canvas to paint begins to unify and bring life into the face. Continue refining and rendering. Make sure to keep the original light source in the sketch while making any other adjustments that need to be made.

Step 6: Adding color to background

For the background, a yellowish-orange hue was glazed over the entire canvas with a Soft Light blending mode with a 50% opacity setting on the layer.

Step 7: Final adjustments

Desaturated reds were added to get the blue looking hues into the chin area and yellow hues into the forehead. Sometimes warm hues that are very desaturated can appear to be cool when relative to their surrounding warm colors. The painting was flattened by merging all the layers in the image. Then, I created a duplicate layer and made color adjustments to the new layer. I reduced reds and brought in cooler blue tints to the image, which is then blended into the previous warmer image we had earlier by lowering the opacity.

final adjustments

For the final step, a Color Dodge layer was added on top with a new layer to give the painting a final glow. Now the sketch that was initially in black and white is colored! This method can be used with any painting or photo that is in greyscale. By using a combination of adjustment layers and blending modes in SketchBook, you can bring colors and vibrancy to your work. Painting in values first can help you focus on establishing proper forms and lighting, and colors can be a separate aspect you can focus on later.

There’s no substitute for painting straight in color, as you get genuine tones and blending compared to starting from a black and white sketch, but this is a great way to add color to sketches you never gave color consideration to before.

finished art from black and white to color

Abstract Texture Brush Set by Keith Cowan

abstract brushes header

Another week, another brush set. This week’s free brush set was made by Keith Cowan, a Texas native who uses SketchBook Pro to create astonishingly detailed abstract and surreal pieces. The sixteen-piece brush set includes a wide range of textured brushes adaptable to any style of painting. Download Keith’s Abstract Brushes to your desktop and double click the .skbrushes file to install. If you’re as impressed with Keith’s art as we are, read on to learn more about his background and work process.

abstract art in sketchbook pro

An astonishingly complex work in progress by Keith Cowan shows just how much work goes into his drawings.

As you’ll notice in some of the art we’re sharing here, Keith focuses a lot on lines and shading. But if you look really closely, you’ll see that the shading is often done with textured brushes. Sometimes the shading follows the light source, but sometimes it does its own thing, which helps give his work that surreal look. It’s a look that says something’s not quite normal here. His brush set is largely composed of these textured brushes. Try this technique out and see if it works in your own process.

About Keith Cowan

A firm believer in lack of planning, Cowan’s method of creating art consists of simply drawing or painting whatever pops into his head and letting it develop as he goes forward. He has a tendency to stay within the realm of the surreal which, when combined with the element of spontaneity, results in highly unique and striking art. He makes a lot of extremely detailed black and white pieces which can take over a hundred hours to complete. But he’s also a fan of using colour, which he says he intends to explore more for the remainder of this year.

Cowan pen painting

When it comes to the tools of the trade, Cowan uses a variety of platforms: the always flexible iPad Pro, a desktop computer accompanied by a Wacom Cintiq 27 QHD Touch, and the traditional go-to Koh-I-Noor technical pen. As an avid user of the SketchBook Pro app, these days he creates more digital art than traditional. A quick Google search will show you that Cowan is very active in the online art community. He is admin of the Facebook group The Mobile Artists Collective and is involved in a number of other online forums and websites. In his spare time, he also does beta testing for SketchBook (both on desktop and iOS). Take a look at his Facebook Page and Deviant Art page if you’d like to see more of his work.

Cowan black and white

How to install and use desktop brushes

Being able to share and install these weekly free brush sets in the desktop app is one of the features for SketchBook Pro members. If you’re using the latest desktop version of SketchBook (version 8), simply double click on the .skbrushes file, and it will automatically install. Check out this article for all the details about brushes and legacy versions. If you haven’t tried SketchBook Pro, you can download a free trial and unlock Pro membership for 15 days (no credit card required).

Introducing SketchBook for Education

SketchBook free for students

SketchBook has made its way into the classroom over time, both by students who have taken to it and teachers who like the idea of teaching drawing in a digital way. As more and more schools have invested in iPads for their students, we’ve increasingly run into teachers at events who ask us, “How can I get a free copy of SketchBook for all of my students?” Many state and federal education budgets have been slashed to the bone, and sadly arts programs always seem to get cut first (and most). Teachers do so much good for the world and deserve a lot of support. Today we’re happy to announce a brand-new version of SketchBook made just for classroom environments.

SketchBook for Education is for art students of any age who are ready to go from doodling to shading to brush work and line art. It supports the new iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, but it also works with Wacom pens just like our other SketchBook versions. Of course, it’s also great for finger painting! SketchBook for Education contains tools to help you draw perfect squares and circles, and it sets you up with layers so you can show, hide, and merge your drawing elements.

With Scan Sketch, you can simply take a photo of a paper sketch and keep working on it in SketchBook for Education

With Scan Sketch, you can take a photo of a paper-based rough draft and finish it in SketchBook for Education.

Scan Sketch: a killer feature for teachers

SketchBook for Education has one very important feature that we know both teachers and students will enjoy. With Scan Sketch, you can use the iPad’s built-in camera to import sketches you’ve drawn on paper. This allows you to handily switch from a paper-based to digital workflow without losing any of your work. It’s a great way for people who like both paper and digital to get the best of both worlds. Scan Sketch is brand new, and it’s already getting a lot of great buzz from users. We think educators will find this to be a killer feature not just because it feels a little magical to see it in action. It’s also incredibly functional. It solves a problem that used to involve complicated scanner devices and serious Photoshop skills. It brings in all your line work and color and lets you choose to keep or remove the background — all from a simple photograph. Check out this video to see Scan Sketch in action.

Or, simply head over to the iTunes App Store and download a copy of SketchBook for Education and try it yourself.

Yes, it’s COPPA compliant

One reason educators have such a hard time finding software for their students (whether paid or free) is because schools almost always need to abide by COPPA rules. These are government-sanctioned privacy guidelines that can be tough for schools to meet. SketchBook for Education was made specifically with this in mind to ensure an age-appropriate experience. Users under the age of 13 won’t be able to create an account, use social sharing, or make any in-app purchases. But they will be able to harness their creativity and learn some skills that will be invaluable for the rest of their lives.

Beasted Up Cars Tutorial by Nitrouzzz


Andrey Pridybaylo — aka Nitrouzzz on Instagram —  is a Russian illustrator who draws cars that are a combination of metal, chrome, and monster. He’s well known for his “beasted up” cars. Usually, these are muscle cars with angry faces and sharp teeth and a whole lot of attitude, although not all of his cars are menacing. Some of them are just plain cool looking.


We asked him to create a tutorial for us to show SketchBook users how to give a car drawing a completely different personality. If you already draw cars you’ll probably love this, but even if you don’t it’s probably a great exercise to think about how to personify objects and give them human attributes. Download Andrey’s Beasted Up PDF tutorial and add some humanity to your machines.


Beyond Beasted Up

Andrey takes commissions for these kinds of drawings, but he doesn’t just do cars. His pen-and-ink profiles have a bit of the grotesque in them, and like the best traditions of grotesque art, the details are quite beautiful when you zoom in past the shocking facade. His commissioned works range from tattoos to advertisements for car-centric businesses, to prints and t-shirts he sells on his Society 6 site. Give them a look if you like his style.


Free Brush Set: Fine Art Pencils

fine art pencil brushes header

For this week’s free brush set we’re bringing you a fan favourite from the tablet app. We’ve pulled it out of that app and are offering it up for use in the desktop app. Anyone familiar with these pencil brushes will likely tell you they are their go-to favourites for sketching. The great thing about the Fine Art pencil brushes is the diverse range of uses you can get out of them. You can use these brushes to make a realistic looking pencil sketch, use them to build a textured base for a painting, or simply create some amazing shading.

These brushes truly simulate the feel of an actual pencil. Use your tablet and pen exactly how you would use a pencil on paper. Use the pen on an angle to get a broader stroke and adjust the pressure you’re using to get a lighter or darker shade.

Download the fifteen-piece Fine Art Pencil Set and sketch ‘til you drop! Read on if you want some tips on how you can jazz up your pencil sketches and find some inspiration.

fine art pencils

Tips for drawing in pencil

If you want to play around with the colours and contrast to give your drawing a little kick, add a colour layer on top of your sketch. Try the different blending modes like Overlay, Multiply, or Colour Burn and see what looks best with your drawing. Try using a background colour that is similar to an actual sketchbook, such as light brown or grey. If you want to make a certain part of a drawing pop, use a single colour accent in areas you want emphasized (e.g., as you would the irises in the eyes of a portrait).

It’s okay to be messy when attempting to create a realistic pencil drawing. In fact, it’s encouraged. If you’re going to be using a smudge tool, lower the opacity so that you can still see bits of the pencil strokes when blending. When erasing pencil strokes in real life, the pencil doesn’t completely rub off. Try using the soft eraser instead of the regular one to leave a hint of your mistakes if you want that more realistic look. Also remember that pencils are not 100% black. Either keep the pressure on the lighter side or use a dark grey to achieve the proper colours.

For inspiration, take a look at some pencil art favourites on DeviantArt, as well as the many amazing creations and tutorials featured on Pinterest.

How to Install and Use Desktop Brushes

Being able to share and install these weekly free brush sets in the desktop app is one of the features for SketchBook Pro members. If you’re using the latest desktop version of SketchBook (version 8), simply double click on the .skbrushes file, and it will automatically install. Check out this article for all the details about brushes and legacy versions. If you haven’t tried SketchBook Pro, you can download a free trial and unlock Pro membership for 15 days (no credit card required).

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome: The Artist’s Way

overcoming imposter syndrome for artists

When it comes to your artistic endeavors and professional passions, are you afraid that outsiders will one day expose you as a fake? Welcome to the club. According to a study out of Georgia State University, a third of successful adults believe that they don’t deserve to be where they are. Hollywood star Kate Winslet confessed, “I’d wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot and think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud.” Award-winning author Neil Gaiman told the 2012 graduating class of The University of the Arts that “I was convinced that there would be a knock on the door, and a man with a clipboard… would be there to tell me it was all over… and now I would have to go and get a real job.”

These sorts of anxieties have a name: Impostor Syndrome. In 1978, clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes discovered that many of the professional women they studied believed they were living a lie, thought they owed their success to luck, and experienced feelings of inadequacy, hypocrisy, and self-doubt. Clance and Imes hypothesized that women were particularly vulnerable to such emotional turmoil, an assertion that experts seized upon and feminists touted as an explanation for the infamous glass ceiling.

Here’s the ironic truth: Impostor Syndrome isn’t an actual psychological condition. It happens to almost everyone. And it may actually mean you’re more competent than you initially thought.

A common core of insecurity

When Clance and Imes published their groundbreaking study, they titled it, “The Impostor Phenomenon in High-Achieving Women.” Note that the word “syndrome” doesn’t appear anywhere. Clance herself has stated, “I’m not sure when it began to be called a syndrome, but I do think that somehow that’s just easier for people to think about than phenomenon.” The distinction matters; a phenomenon is simply something that happens, while a syndrome is a disease.

What’s more, Impostor Syndrome affects more than just a small demographic sliver. In 1993, Clance revised her findings, concluding that “males in these populations are just as likely as females to have low expectations of success and to make attributions to non-ability related factors.” Her book, “Presence” broadened the types of people who experience it to, well, just about everyone. Other researchers have noted two important things about Impostor Syndrome. First, those who suffer from it tend to be overachievers whose main problem lies in being overly critical of themselves rather than inadequately accomplished. Second, only one particular demographic seems utterly devoid of Impostor Syndrome symptoms — actual impostors.

So what does this mean for you? Experiencing Impostor Syndrome doesn’t mark you out as mentally ill. It’s a common core of insecurity native to humanity, and an acute case probably means you’re pretty accomplished.

Is Imposter Syndrome really about perfection?

So what’s a creative who feels emotionally crippled by Impostor Syndrome supposed to do? Is the only option to fake wholeness until you reach some critical mass of achievement? Not at all. Since Imposter Syndrome is linked with perfectionism (a trait typically associated with high-achievers), trying to mend that internal issue through external achievement is akin to polishing the brass on the Titanic: attractive, but it won’t keep you afloat. To quote Fast Company’s Drake Baer, start by “see[ing] it for what it is: a surreptitious cycle of self-recrimination. Since you don’t feel you’re the absolutely most perfect person at your job, you quietly accuse yourself of being a fraud, and then feel shamed for being so phony, and then intensely vulnerable for feeling shame, fueling a need for further self-protective perfectionism.”

Of course, that’s only the first step. Eighties-era cartoons would have you believe that knowing is half the battle, but with Impostor Syndrome, it’s the whole war. So how should you go about changing what you think about yourself? Over at Fast Company, Mike San Roman suggests acknowledging that the problem exists, recognizing that no one always performs perfectly and intentionally receiving positive feedback when offered. Author Margie Warrell tells her readers to take responsibility for their successes instead of focusing on failures and absolutely avoid comparison. The Wall Street Journal’s Becky Blalock urges those struggling with Impostor Syndrome to regularly reach outside of their comfort zones and develop the habit of positive self-talk. Multiple pundits praised journaling as a healthy way to keep track of your thoughts.

The most important way to squash doubt is to keep your sketchbook open and your iPad unlocked. Don’t let the self-recrimination spiral suck you down and drag you away from engagement, creativity and accomplishment; these are things that make life worth living. Sometimes everyone feels as though they’re wearing a mask — but that doesn’t make you a fake.

Neil Gaiman’s pep talk

We love hearing stories of how people overcome shyness and insecurity to thrive with their art. Neil Gaiman’s graduation speech is a delightful salve to feelings of being not good enough. If you like his speech, consider checking out his new book of essays that includes this graduate address, The View from the Cheap Seats.

Painting with Coffee: A Free Brush Set

painting with coffee header

If you haven’t heard already, we’ve been giving out free brush sets every Monday! This week, we wanted to get messy with coffee… minus the mess. Download the Painting With Coffee brushes and give them a whirl, perhaps while enjoying a nice cup of coffee (the smell really rounds out the experience). Once downloaded, double click the .skbrushes file to install.

The inspiration for this brush set comes from the work of artists like Maria A. Aristidou, who has perfected the use of coffee as a medium for painting. Now you, too, can paint with coffee (without potentially staining your desk). Check out more of Maria’s work on her Instagram feed @ma_aris as well as her Facebook Page for some additional inspiration. If you like Star Wars or Game of Thrones, you’re in for a treat.

khaleesi painting with coffee

One of the many beautiful pop culture drawings made with coffee as the medium from the Instagram feed of @ma_aris

Tips for painting with coffee

If you want your work to look like a genuine coffee art piece like the beautiful Mother of Dragons above, you may want to keep the following pointers in mind:

  • Try using a textured background. Most coffee artists use watercolour paper for their creations so that’s a great place to start. You can also experiment with painting on different “surfaces” such as reproductions of a napkin, paper bag, or a nice wood pattern. The best part is when you do this digitally you can easily try different textures on your painting after you’ve completed it by creating a lot of different textured layers and then settle on what you think works best. Head over to our Adding Photo Texture to Your Artwork with Blending Modes tutorial if you need to brush up on your blending modes.
  • White space is your friend! Because you can’t use coffee as a highlight in real life, coffee artists utilize white space to bring out the lightest accents in their paintings. Of course, it can be difficult and tedious to plan ahead for this when painting on paper. Luckily, we have the luxury of the eraser tool at our fingertips to go in and fix things up or add more highlights afterwards.
  • Be loose. Let the brushes do their work. Try to only modify the size and opacity. Use the “Hairline Espresso” brush to build colours with multiple strokes. If you don’t allow for imperfections, it will feel too digital. Choose a variety of browns (both warm and cool) and use the Multiply blending mode to add more intensity. Don’t forget to use the splatter and coffee stain tools we’ve provided you with to complete the look.
coffee painting girl

A doe-eyed coffee girl made with the SketchBook Coffee Brush Set by our community manager Renée.

Additional cups of inspiration

Maria may be the best coffee painter out there, but she’s not the only one. Artist Giulia Bernardelli combines coffee and chocolate sketches with a camera to create unique photos with a fun and lighthearted spirit. Michael Aaron Williams puts his coffee drawings on top of 100-year-old vintage ledger paper. Elena Efremova uses her morning coffee drinking time to draw cats. Yes, cats. If you are ready to try coffee as a medium and need some inspiration, check out Pinterest for some excellent examples of coffee painting subjects and techniques.

coffee painting with cats famous painting and more

Coffee artists often incorporate cups and spills to further the motif — and some even paint on interesting mediums.

How to Install and Use Desktop Brushes

Being able to share and install these weekly free brush sets in the desktop app is one of the features for SketchBook Pro members. If you’re using the latest desktop version of SketchBook (version 8), simply double click on the .skbrushes file, and it will automatically install. Check out this article for all the details about brushes and legacy versions. If you haven’t tried SketchBook Pro, you can download a free trial and unlock Pro membership for 15 days (no credit card required).

Making Lapel Pins Using SketchBook: Step-by-Step with Simone Brown

DIY: how to produce enamel pins

Recently, we found a talented artist who uses SketchBook to turn her original art into jewelry. Her name is Simone V Brown, and she creates her art from her home in southeast Iowa in the middle of farming country. She makes a specific type of jewelry — enamel lapel pins. You’ve all seen pins like this, but have you really thought about how they were made? They start as drawings, and the beauty and success of every one of them is largely based on how well drawn that original line art is. Her lapel pins are beautiful, but what really makes them special to us is that they’re drawn entirely on her phone. She uses SketchBook mobile to create the art that ends up being produced and sold to pin-loving fanatics everywhere.

The Pin Community

Did you know there is a thriving lapel pin community? You can find any kind of fan online, but we were surprised at the level of enthusiasm in this particular community. They really love pins! And it’s easy to see why. Fan art translates very well to this medium, which means anyone with a love of a character or creation can make their own interpretive version and manifest it as a real-world object. Anyone with line-art drawing chops can do it, and some people make art that’s so good they sell it online. Simone does just that, and her dream is to be able to support herself with the artwork and jewelry she makes.

We wanted to know exactly how this DIY lapel art economy works, so we pinned down Simone for an interview. She graciously shared her experience and art with us so that others might learn by example. If you’ve ever wanted to create something like this — or even if this is the first time you’ve heard about pin art and want to give it a try — she has all the details you need to get started.

What inspires the art you make?

I was heavily inspired by comic books, movies, and cartoons as a kid. That’s what got me interested in art. I started taking art seriously around 13 years of age. I’ve never had any formal training. Everything I know about drawing and digital art I learned from library books, online tutorials, and a lot of trial and error. I like to draw anime mostly, but I’m pretty versatile and can do other styles. I’d say things that inspire my artwork now are pop culture, anime, and nature.

pins lapel custom make your own how to diy

A few of Simone’s recently produced pins inspired by one of her favorite shows.

What kind of digital tools do you use?

For my digital art when I had a working computer of my own I liked to use Photoshop and Illustrator. Right now I don’t have a PC or tablet so I am making all of my digital artwork on my LG G3 Verizon Smartphone using Autodesk SketchBook mobile. It has been a life saver! I love that you can work in layers. All the different brushes, fonts, and tools are awesome. One of my favorite SketchBook mobile features is how you can save, export, or e-mail your files as a PSD because I need to e-mail my designs to a printing company that requires you to submit your designs as a PSD file.

The awesome thing about digital art is you can put it on anything. I want my art to be different and stand out, but I also want it to be functional. I use SketchBook to make postcards, business cards, stickers, small prints, convention banners, promotional fans, acrylic charms, bookmarks, rubber stamps, and decals. In the future I want to make t-shirts, totes, and patches. There’s no limit to what you can make with digital art. I love getting positive reviews and photos from my Etsy customers, and seeing people wearing my pins and using my stickers makes me feel fulfilled and so happy.

Why lapel pins?

I started making pins because I was looking for fun and unusual ways to present my artwork. I found out about the lapel pin/hat pin community through Instagram, and I immediately knew I wanted to be part of it. Making and collecting pins is truly addictive. It’s so much fun coming up with new ideas for pins. I release one limited edition enamel pin a month right now, but I would love to be able to make more pins per month.

What’s the process of making a pin step by step?

I shall tell you, and I will add things I wish I had known when I first started making pins. It all starts out with an idea and a sketch. I like to keep a little notebook so I can write down my ideas. If you start making pins you will find the ideas will come at random and at any time. If you don’t write them down you risk losing them.

A lot of my pins are based on cartoons, but a pin can be anything. It can be a saying, a phrase, or simply a single word. A pin can be a zentangle, a mandala, or a geometric pattern. Once I have a few good ideas down then I thumb through them and decide which ones I think will make successful designs that people will want to buy from me and add to their collections.

Once I’ve chosen a design it’s time to refine it. Since I make all my art on my phone, I take a photo of my drawn sketch and load the photo into SketchBook mobile. From there I use layers to do the line art and coloring. Once I finalize the design and have it just how I like it, it’s ready to be submitted and produced. It’s that simple.

my little pony art fan pins

Simone starts with a rough sketch, which leads to a strong line drawing on a new layer. Then, she tackles the all-important coloring.

If I’ve never done this, what should I know?

There are things I wish I had known before I started making pins. These are things I keep in mind while I’m finalizing a design.

  • Learn About Enamel: This won’t take much time at all. Just know the difference between soft and hard enamel. A good place to read about the differences between enamels is on the Made by Cooper blog.
  • Match Your Colors: Pantone is known for its Pantone color matching system, and just about every printer uses it to get accurate colors. With the first pin I made, a Tree Trunks pin, the green didn’t match my original design. It still came out great, but if you want to avoid any surprises use the Pantone color system. (Need a place to start? Check out this RGB > Pantone conversion tool.)
  • Line Work: It’s important to have good crisp connecting line work because each line is going to be a metal die line that separates your colors. And those colors will be manually “poured” into place There’s a great How It’s Made video that shows the details of the entire process. You can see why clean lines are so important.
  • Simplify: It’s important to keep your design simple. My first few designs had to be altered because I didn’t take into consideration the process of how enamel pins are made. You have to leave enough space between your drawn lines for the enamel to flow into your design. The company will let you know if they have to alter your design. They always send a digital proof before production. But this can turn into a long, drawn out e-mail conversation about what you want and don’t want changed, and it can drag out the design process. You’ll save time and make the design process much smoother if you simplify your design to begin with.
  • Time: It takes about 4-6 weeks after payment is received and proof is approved for enamel pins to be made and shipped to your door. Most websites claim 3-4 weeks, but I have tried three different companies and have not had a pin arrive in three weeks ever. This isn’t a complaint. It’s just how long it takes after payment and design approval. If you plan on making pins, be patient.
adventure time lapel pins

Color proofs from the printer that show Simone’s Pantone choices — and the final results when they’re shipped to her.

What if I want to sell pins? How do you do it?

Funding is a big issue when it comes to making your own products to sell. Enamel pins are not cheap to have made, and the pricing is based on quantity, size, colors, materials, and packaging. Getting just one pin design made can set you back a couple hundred dollars. It all depends on what you want.

I found a few ways to cut costs and sell in creative ways:

  • Keep your pins small. Use fewer colors and simplify your design.
  • Consider a collaboration. Some people in the pin community collaborate and split their costs.
  • Consider pre-orders. Some people sell designs in their shops for pre-order. If you decide to do pre-orders always offer your customers perks!
  • Crowdfunding might work. Some people, like Titty Bats, have turned to crowdfunding to create their pins. Believe it or not, there is even a new crowdfunding site similar to Kickstarter called Curio Mill just for enamel lapel pins. I fund my own designs and do pre-orders, but I’m exploring crowdfunding with Patreon for my pins and other merchandise.
  • Open an online shop: There are so many places to sell: Etsy, Big Cartel, Storenvy, Depop. Find the space where you feel most comfortable and open up that storefront!
  • Subscriptions: Some ambitious makers offer monthly subscriptions like Pin Club.
  • Promotion: The next step is to tell everyone about your lovely new pins and shop. I highly recommend getting an Instagram account just for your pins. You should really take advantage of those hashtags.
  • Giveaways: Doing giveaways on Instagram is a great way to advertise. Form partnerships with other pin artists and offer to advertise for them if they’ll do the same for you. Do a pin trade or a joint giveaway. The pin community is so friendly and open to new artists.

Make friends and have fun! Don’t forget to link your new shop to your social networks — that’s very important.

What about manufacturing? Who do you use?

If you feel confident enough to self fund your designs, two companies I’ve used and highly recommend are Made by Cooper and Night Owls Print. If you would like to try making enamel pins with no risk I recommend Curio Mill. I hope all of this advice will prove helpful to you! Thank you so much for expressing interest in what I do. You can find me on Instagram, and please check out my Etsy shop and my Patreon page.