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Product Design Sketching with Mauricio Sanin

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Mauricio Sanin (@msaninm) is an industrial designer living in Colombia who uses SketchBook in his work to create explorative sketches for products. He’s especially good at designing modern looking furniture with a lot of style, interesting lighting fixtures, and other products you run across in everyday life that deserve to be more interesting. We asked him to show us how he uses SketchBook in his ideation process. 

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Getting Started

I don’t usually use a very large canvas since the main purpose of my sketches is to show ideas to clients directly from a screen or printed in a small format. This enables the software’s performance to be faster. My canvas size for this sketch is 2,000 x 1,200 pixels.

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The “Pencil” is my favorite tool for line work. Here is how I set up my custom settings. It’s a brush with sharp edges and flow is at a minimum when the pencil’s pressure is low.

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First Traces: All About Perspective

I start sketches in a very basic way by using simple geometric forms which will allow me to understand the shape and the perspective of each object. The most important thing at this stage is to focus on perspective and not in the quality of the lines.

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When I am satisfied with the perspective and composition of each object, I lower the layer’s opacity to start rubbing off the sketch.

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Defining Form and Line Definition

With my previous lines as back-up, I can easily define the shape of each backpack by rounding forms and adding volume to the initial sketch.

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To get even a better result, I lower the opacity once more and create a new layer above. This time I focus on the stroke to obtain precise lines.

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As you can see, I have selected one of my backpacks to be the main focus of this drawing. It’s the one I want to highlight to take the lead within the composition and to which I will later apply color and texture.

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Shading and Lighting

After defining all lines, I start to apply shades. I use a light gray to highlight the volume of the secondary backpacks. I apply shades to the right side of both objects, as I imagine that there’s a light coming from the left side.

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To give them this basic shading, I used one of the Charcoal Brush Set brushes that I found on the SketchBook blog.

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To further highlight the sketches and make objects seem real, I draw a shadow beneath them to simulate that they are supported on a surface.

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Color Tests and Coloring

An advantage of drawing in a digital program such as SketchBook is that you can make as many color tests as you want. In this case, I tried three combination options which I found interesting from the Copic Color Library.

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To start color testing, I duplicate the layer in which the lines are found twice. This enables me to apply a different color combination on each new layer.

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To apply solid colors, this is how I set up my favorite brush. It has sharp edges so I can apply color in a constant way without any variation in the opacity or flow.

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Now that I have defined the color scheme for my backpack I can start working on the original composition.

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Solid Colors

To apply color in each part of the backpack, I create new layers below layer where the lines are found. This process allows me to separate each piece so that the shading process becomes much easier.

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This is how the backpack looks after applying the selected solid colors to each piece on their respective layer. After this stage I move on to the shading process.

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For the shading stage I need darker and lighter tones than the base color I used before. To get these new tones, I use the Color Editor tool. I select the base color then click and drag the cursor downward to obtain a dark tone. For the light tone I repeat the same steps, but this time I drag the cursor upward.

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Shading with Color

Now that I have new tones I can start with the shading process. To make sure I apply color only on the selected part, I lock the layer’s transparency. This gives me freedom to apply the shading without the worry of coloring other pieces of the drawing. I do this with all the layers I shade.

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As I did before with the secondary backpacks, I always imagine there’s a light coming from a certain angle, in this case the left side. Having this in mind, I know that all surfaces that are pointing in the opposite direction will generate shadows. The darker tones are applied to the shadow and the lighter ones are applied where the light hits the backpack.

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Once I have shaded all the backpack, I can start adding details to make the material look realistic. In this case I added some folds at the front to increase texture.

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Highlights and Secondary Lighting

Highlights allow the drawing to stand out and come to life. These are usually placed in the parts of the surface where there are curvatures, folds, and shape changes that are pointing toward light.

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Details help drawings stand out as they allow them to seem real. That’s why I added two secondary lights, a yellow light applied on the surfaces pointing toward the left side of the backpack. To do so, first I create a new layer above the previous ones and, using the Airbrush tool, I very gently apply yellow to these surfaces.

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To have this color layer behave as a light layer, I change the blending mode characteristics and enable the Soft Light mode.

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Now, I add a secondary blue light that comes from the opposite side of the yellow light. You just need to follow the exact process as when applying the yellow light.

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You can always experiment with different blending modes to select the one that better fits the illustration. Here are a few ways blending modes can change the look of your drawing:

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Shadows Underneath

To make the backpack stand out even more and make it look real, I drew a shadow underneath to simulate that it’s resting on a surface. I create a new layer underneath all the previous layers and with the Airbrush tool I apply a dark color.

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Finishing: Adding Texture

Since I like to get as close as I can to reality with my product illustrations, I add textures with real images. In this case, I will add a fabric texture to the light gray area of the backpack. To do this, I use the Add Image icon located at the Layer panel and select an image with a rough canvas look to it that I previously downloaded from the Internet.

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To have the texture image blend with this illustration’s tones, I use the Multiply mode from the blending modes options.

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Once the texture is above the corresponding layer, I use the Deform tool from the Transform menu to adjust the image to the shape and perspective of the drawing.

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After it is in place, I start erasing the image where there shouldn’t be texture.

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The Final Drawing

The final sketch puts the colored backpack as its focus, but provides a few additional views to help show alternate or complementary ideas. Want a copy of this tutorial? Download Mauricio’s Backpack Tutorial by Mauricio Sanin.

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More from Mauricio Sanin

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Mauricio has a way with rounding off corners that keeps a modern look but isn’t overly stylized. These products could exist in real life.

Check out Mauricio’s portfolio for more of his product sketches or follow him on Instagram if you enjoy the kind of iterative, idea-driven product sketching that he’s so good at.