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Even More Sketching on the Go: Sketching en Plein Aire with the iPad and Adobe Photoshop Sketch (2016)

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Do you enjoy sketching outdoors? Sunny, rainy, snowy - whatever the weather, when Nature beckons, take your iPad outside and use Adobe Photoshop Sketch to draw whatever you see or feel. Cher Threinen-Pendarvis, author of The Photoshop and Painter Artist Tablet Book: Creative Techniques in Digital Painting Using Wacom and the iPad, Second Edition, demonstrates how to bring the fun of sketching out into the open air with Adobe Photoshop Sketch.
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With Adobe Photoshop Sketch you can draw freely on your iPad, and you can easily share your sketches to Photoshop CC or via email. The iPad is so portable, and Adobe Photoshop Sketch so versatile, that together they make sketching "en plein aire" feel very easy and natural, even though you're working on a tablet rather than with paper and ink. En plein aire is a French term that means "in the open air." If you want to sketch outdoors with your iPad, consider setting up an umbrella, or sitting in the shade of a tree, as I did for this article. Shading your screen reduces glare, and it allows you to enjoy choosing colors and sketching outdoors naturally.

Adobe Photoshop Sketch features a versatile array of sketching tools. In this project we'll focus on making a colored mixed-media study with Adobe Photoshop Sketch. For this example, I drew Single Tree, shown in Figure 1, en plein aire, sketching outside under the shade of a tree.

Figure 1 The final stage of the plein aire sketch.

With Adobe Photoshop Sketch, you can sketch using your fingers or a passive stylus (such as the Wacom Bamboo Solo), as well as the pressure-sensitive Adobe Ink stylus or the Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus. For details on how to connect the Adobe Ink stylus with Adobe Photoshop Sketch, see my article "More Sketching on the Go: Freehand Sketching with Adobe Photoshop Sketch and Adobe Ink (2016)."

Setting Up and Getting Started

When you launch Adobe Photoshop Sketch, a series of project panels appear. Tap on a project panel to open a canvas. With a canvas mounted, the toolbar and menu appear along the top of the screen, along with the mark-making and coloring tools such as pencils and markers.

Figure 2 shows the Adobe Photoshop Sketch interface with a project canvas open. A pencil tool is chosen, and we're ready to select a color for sketching.

Figure 2 A canvas is mounted and a Pencil tool is selected. Other tools in the toolbar include pens, markers, brushes, watercolor, and an eraser.

Practicing with the Pencil

open the Color Themes as shown in Figure 3, and choose a color. For my practice marks, I chose a dark brown.

To warm up for sketching, let's choose a color and draw a variety of practice marks with the Pencil tool. For the look of colored pencil, I used the Pencil with a dark brown color. The Pencil draws natural-looking lines with subtle texture. Choose the Pencil (far left tool) in the toolbar. Then tap the circular Color icon to open the Color wheel as shown in Figure 3, and choose a color. For my practice marks, I chose a dark brown. To lighten or darken a color, use the Lightness slider.

Figure 3 The Color panel with Color wheel is open. Tap on a color, or drag in the Color wheel to choose the color you want.

Have fun while making expressive marks to get acquainted with the Pencil. Figure 4 shows examples of some of the kinds of marks I used to develop shaded values in my sketch. Practice sketching curved and angled parallel lines; varied hatching; and loose, small squiggles as shown.

Figure 4 Sketching lines, hatching, and squiggles.

Sketching on Location with the Pencil

Drawing from observation while sitting outdoors, I created a loose freehand sketch of the landscape near my home. Choose your subject, and think carefully about your composition. What will be your focal point? Where do you see the darker shadows, midtones, and highlights? Design a composition that's simple but interesting. When you have your composition in mind, practice sketching.

Figure 5 shows the start of my sketch. Notice the asymmetrical composition with the tree off to the right. The tree takes up about two-thirds of the height in the image, and it's the focal point for my sketch. As the composition develops, the tree will have more contrasting value (highlights and shadows), which will help draw the viewer's eye to the focal point.

Figure 5 Beginning the pencil sketch. Notice the asymmetrical composition.

If you're using your finger or a passive stylus to sketch, the opacity and thickness of the strokes will change subtly based on velocity or speed as you draw. When drawing with Adobe Ink, the opacity of the strokes will change with velocity and the pressure that you apply to the pen.

Adobe Photoshop Sketch allows you to adjust the size of the Pencil. To adjust the size, press and hold on the Size icon, and a size icon with numerical notation will appear. Drag up to increase the size, and drag down to decrease. Release your touch when you have the size that you want. Relax and enjoy the sketching process.

Sketching with Color

When your pencil sketch is roughed in, sketch some colored, textured marks to add depth and dimension to the drawing. Figure 6 shows a detail of my drawing in progress, with the loose hatching, scribbly lines, and the texture of the colored pencil strokes.

Figure 6 Use a variety of loose, expressive marks to add values to the composition.

My theory behind this loose drawing style is to leave areas of broken color, with some underlying color or "paper" showing through. The broken color and textured scribbles add color activity and vibrance to the sketch.

Adobe Photoshop Sketch allows you to mix your own custom colors! Tap the Color icon to open the Color panel with the Color wheel (see Figure 7). To lighten or darken a color, adjust the lightness slider (under the color sphere). To change the hue, move the color circle on the color sphere.

Figure 7 Mixing a rich brown on the Color wheel.

Adobe Photoshop Sketch remembers that the Color wheel mode is active. To make another adjustment to the color as you work, tap the color swatch to access the Color wheel directly.

Adding More Color and Texture to the Sketch by Shading

Next, continue to build up darker values in areas of shadow, leaving areas of highlight untouched. However, if you want to draw with a lighter color over a darker area, lighter pencil marks will partially cover darker strokes. You can see the color and texture built up with the Pencil in Figure 8.

Figure 8 In this example, I've built up more color and texture. To add highlights to the top of the tree, I used a lighter color of gold.

Adding Color Washes with a Marker

For more color interest and a deeper feeling of space, I used a marker to paint the sky and to add a little color to the grass in the foreground. The Marker (fourth tool from the left on the toolbar), paints transparent color, and you can achieve beautiful blending by layering color over color. Figure 9 shows colored strokes painted with the Marker. Tap the Marker to choose it, and make some practice strokes like mine. Figure 10 shows my sketch at this point, with the varied blue sky and added touches of light green on the grass.

Figure 9 The Marker paints with transparent color, just like a traditional marker. Notice the blending that's possible with overlaid strokes.

Figure 10 In this example of the final sketch, I've painted various blues on the sky and touches of light green on the grass.

Exporting the Drawing from Adobe Photoshop Sketch

When you're happy with your drawing, you can export it from Adobe Photoshop Sketch, using several export choices, including exporting to CC (Save PSD to Creative Cloud), directly to Photoshop CC, via email, and more. I planned to use my plein aire sketch as inspiration for a painting. As of this writing, Adobe Photoshop Sketch exports files with a drawing layer and a reference or photo layer (if you have imported a reference).

To export, click the Share icon on the top menu to open its panel. To export your sketch to Adobe Photoshop CC, tap on PS (Send to Photoshop). Figure 11 shows the menu with export choices. Your file will automatically open in Photoshop CC.

Figure 11 To send my sketch to Photoshop CC, I tapped the PS (Send to Photoshop) icon.

Congratulations, you have completed this project. I hope that you enjoyed sketching en plein aire with color in Adobe Photoshop Sketch. Happy sketching!

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