Create an iPad work of art

Kyle Lambert
29 September, 2011
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Create your workflow

When creating artwork digitally there are many parallels with traditional techniques. But there are also a number of differences – especially when using iPad apps. Initially, I struggled with developing a new workflow that allowed me to produce artwork in the way I was used to. To help you with this, I am going to break down the stages of creating an illustration on the iPad. Hopefully this overview will allow you to get started and develop your own workflow.

Experiment with tools and colours


The first mistake most people make is to dive straight into a piece of artwork, which often results in frustration when it doesnʼt go well. In most cases, this can be avoided by spending a few minutes planning the artwork beforehand. Typically, I will do a number of loose sketches to figure out what the composition of my painting should be and then start playing with colours. This planning stage is particularly important if it is your first-ever iPad painting, because it will help familiarise you with adjusting brush settings and mixing colours.

Background sketch


In this illustration I decided to do a pencil-like drawing of the background environment. This sketch began very loose, with my blocking in some basic shapes. Then, as I became happier with the positioning, I reduced the size of my brush and sketched in finer details. Sometimes you may do the rough sketch on one layer and then the more detailed sketch on a second layer. That way you can easily delete the first layer at the end leaving just the finer sketch.

Background colour

Once I was pleased with the sketch, I begin painting the colours of the background environment. Typically I do this on a layer that is underneath the pencil sketch, which means I can see the sketch at all times. Once the painting started to look good, I deleted the sketch layer and painted a few necessary outlines onto the background to compensate.

Character sketch

With the background complete, I then reduced the opacity of the background layer to around 30 percent, created a new layer and began sketching the leaping kitten character. As with the background, I started very loose on one layer, reduced the opacity and sketched a more tidy version on a second layer. This resulted in a clean outline sketch of the kitten.

Character colour

Next, up on a new layer between the background and the sketch, I painted colour onto the kitten. When painting anything, I usually decide on an overall colour which is featured most often in the character as a base, and paint the less frequent colours over the top. In this example I began with a cream colour for the kitten and then painted orange and brown patterns for the fur, and pink and green for the paws, ears, mouth and eyes.

Foreground elements

Last of all, I created another new layer and painted a single falling leaf with a few shades of green. With the leaf on a separate layer apart from everything else, I was then able to duplicate it and move the second leaf somewhere else in the painting. I did this a number of times to create a range of different sized leaves at different angles. I also used an additional layer with the blend mode Color to paint a few of the leaves a different hue. At the end I merged all of the leaves onto one layer.


Hopefully seeing a breakdown of how this illustration was created will help start to create your own iPad artwork. The method I demonstrated here is by no means the only workflow you will ever need. Sometimes your artwork will be much more complex than this and require many more layers and blending techniques. Other times you may not even use layers and go straight in without a sketch. There are no rules.

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