Krita is one of the best open source software around, and although many people mistake it as a replacement for PhotoShop, it is more similar to an application like Painter. It focuses on sketching and drawing and provides tools tailored to these needs, while emphasizing creation rather than graphic manipulation.
This tutorial can be used both as an introduction to sketching and as a way to use Krita for this purpose. If you want to create your own digital sketch, or in the long run, you can continue to create web comics and graphic novels.
Note that although you can do this with a mouse, it is anatomically easier to draw with a pen. In this tutorial we used the cheaper older version Wacom Bamboo Tablet.
Krita is very popular as one of the default graphic editing tools in many Linux distributions.
If you do not have Krita in the distribution you are using, and it is an Ubuntu-compatible distribution, use the following command to upgrade:
sudo apt install krita
Select “File-> New” to create a new blank file. Leave the selection as the default Custom Document and change the size to the desired size. In this example, we use the resolution of the screen (1920 x 1200 with an aspect ratio of 16:10) to create a sketch for use as a personal wallpaper.
Note the “Brush Presets” panel in the lower right corner of the Krita interface (when using its default settings).
Find and add the brushes you want to use to your Favorites list to facilitate swapping between them. they are:
- b) _Basic-1 (labels: ink, numbers, sketch, Krita_4_Default_Resources)
- c) _Pencil-1_Hard (tags: Sketch, Krita_4_Default_Resources)
- c) _Pencil-3_Large_4B (tags: Sketch, Krita_4_Default_Resources)
- t) _Shapes_Fill (label: number, Krita_4_Default_Resources)
Right-click on them and select “Assign Tags-> My Favorites” to add them to the list.
Today, Linux is very useful in identifying and configuring tablets, especially Wacom tablets. If you need help getting your Wacom tablet to run on Ubuntu or a compatible distribution, look here.
One thing you might want to do is to disable the tablet’s touch function at least temporarily. If you leave the pen enabled while using the pen, this will also be interpreted as “input” whenever your hand touches the tablet.
Having multiple input points can cause serious damage when sketching, so first check which devices are detected to disable touch:
xsetwacom –list devices
Note the ID of the “type: TOUCH” device. To temporarily disable it, enter:
xsetwacom set ID touch off
“ID” is the ID number of the device. In this example, the touch input ID of the tablet is 16, so the command is as follows:
xsetwacom set 16 touch off
Draft and repeat
Select a brush and one of the pencil presets added to the Favorites list.
Draw a sketch first. If you find that the size of the brush is too large, reduce it by changing the value in the Size column at the top center of the screen. You can drag it to the left or right or right-click and use the keyboard to enter an exact value.
When you have your sketch ready, you’re ready to fire it: this is just your first draft.
Now select the layer you want to sketch and reduce its opacity (from the bar at the top of the Layers panel) to a value of approximately 20%. This will allow you to vaguely see existing sketches and use them as the basis for a second improved version.
It is convenient to put each draft of the sketch in a different layer. This way, if something doesn’t work, or if you want to try multiple times, you can delete or hide the layer and try a new layer.
Create a new layer for the second iteration by clicking the first button with a plus sign in the lower left corner of the Layers panel, or by pressing the Insert key on your keyboard.
After that, rinse and repeat. Reduce the opacity of the entire layer, create a new “painting” layer, add details, iterate again, and improve.
Draw the final sketch
When working “traditionally”, after drafting with a pencil, use ink to double-check everything. Ink is like calligraphy because the lines are no longer jagged and fuzzy, but should be clearly defined and easy to see.
Select the ink brush added to your Favorites. If you, like us, find that its preset size is too large, reduce it from the Size bar at the top center of the screen. We used the “5,00” value.
Inking requires stable lines. Krita developers recognize that not all of us have super stable hands, but help in the form of stabilizer functions. To avoid constantly looking for it in the submenu, add it to Krita’s main toolbar.
Select “Settings-> Configure Toolbar”. Type “smooth” in the search field in the upper left corner of the Available Actions list.
Add the Brush Smoothing: Disabled and Brush Smoothing: Stabilizer entries to the right panel by using the arrows between the two panels. Click OK to add it to Krita’s toolbar.
You can turn on the stabilizer by clicking the “S with three dots” icon, and then clicking the “S with X” button to turn off the stabilizer. These two should now be on Krita’s toolbar. Create another paint layer, select it and start drawing on the existing sketch. If you feel that the input is too lagging, please select the “Tool Options” panel at the bottom right of the Krita interface-it is “bound” to the “Brush Preset” where you can select a brush.
The Distance value defines how long the pointer should go before Krita responds to the input. The higher the value, the longer the delay, and the higher the smoothness.
The delay value sets an initial delay to allow the stabilizer to collect some initial inputs that will be applied. Unfortunately, this can be very annoying, so use the smallest value you can use to draw a jagged line without worrying. Initially, we used a value of 50 for both and then adjusted it.
For the inking phase, use the Ink Tool to quickly “trace” your existing drafts in new layers. You should define “the outline of each element in the sketch” without overlapping-see how the characters’ eyes are connected in the image to understand what we are talking about.
For small mistakes, don’t undo everything you did: press E on your keyboard to switch to the eraser tool and run it on any “burr” in the line.
Note that the Eraser tool always works like the selected tool and therefore has some attributes. If your active tool has low opacity, the eraser will also need to go through more times to completely erase it.
Krita allows you to manually rotate the canvas at any angle. This helps our limited biological function: our hands have limited range of motion, and certain movements are more comfortable and natural than others.
You can rotate the canvas by holding Shift + Space and dragging with the pen or mouse on the canvas. Equally useful, you can zoom in or out freely by holding down Ctrl + Space and dragging the pen or mouse.
Use everything we’ve seen so far to complete the ink drawing of your sketch.
Coloring and shading
The Shape Fill tool is perfect for coloring sketches. Select it from the Brush Presets panel.
Coloring does not require the accuracy of inking, as existing ink lines will cover any minor errors behind them-as long as the inking layer is on top. Before using the Shape Fill tool to start coloring, disable the Smoothing feature.
By default, Krita only displays the Advanced Color Picker panel, but we want to keep accessing the same palette while sketching. Select “Settings-> Dock Worker-> Color Palette”, and turn the “Color Palette” panel to Krita’s main interface.
Create a new layer for coloring. If it’s not under the ink layer in the Layers list, move it here – click and drag it to the desired location. Now is also a good time to name some layers: double-click on their existing “Layer X” name, and then type a name such as “Color”, “Ink” or “Draft 3” based on its contents.
Select the color you want to use in a part of the sketch.
Use the Shape Fill tool to color the sketch step by step instead of trying to define most of it accurately. Smaller steps can also reduce the chance of errors.
Continue coloring different parts of the sketch with different colors. Try colors, and if the Palette selection is too strict, don’t be afraid to go back to the Advanced Color Picker. You can add any active color to the component panel by clicking the button with the “plus” symbol at the bottom left of the panel.
The last part of the sketch is shading and lighting, not necessarily in this order. By darkening or lightening some parts of the design, we can impress the volume in the 2D space occupied by the sketch.
We will start by coloring the character’s skin. Since we set the skin tone on a separate layer, it is now easy to select it to color it. To select the content of a layer, right-click on it and select “Select Opaque” (the last option in the popup menu by default).
Create a new layer for the shadow. We use pure black as the shadow, but this rarely brings good results. You should choose the darker version you want to color. To do this, select a color from the palette and move to the advanced color picker. Use the three bars below the main selector to “dim” the selected colors-how to change them depends on the selected color.
Shadows require a lot of trial and error before mastering them. To do this, treat your 2D sketch as a 3D object and estimate how one or more light sources will affect it. Then, add shadows on opposite sides of each part of the sketch, and then we will see later, highlighting where the light is shining directly.
Final adjustments and repairs
After coloring everything, we noticed two problems: we forgot to paint our eyes light gray, and there were some “halo circles” around the sketch, where we added highlights without restricting our inside of the drawing layer select.
To solve the first problem, we created a new layer under all other layers but above the background layer. We use the Shape Fill tool to fill the eye area with light gray.
For the second question, we switched the Shape Fill tool to Eraser Mode by pressing E on the keyboard, and then performed a very “halo” operation around the character.
As a final step, we used the white Shape Fill tool in the new layer to draw a deliberately rough from the display in the image, similar to Manga’s “explosion”. We make sure it’s on top of everything except the topmost layer: ink. We changed its effect on the image to “Soft Light (SVG)” from the drop-down menu above the layer opacity bar, and then duplicated the layer. We reduced the opacity of these two versions so that they have values between 10% and 25%. Finally, we added a blur filter to the lower layer to make the halo above the character appear explosive.
Although this is an independent sketch, comics and graphic novels are created by patience, constant iteration, and experimentation. Group discussion after group, who knows, maybe two years from now, you will be the next Frank Miller!