Finalizing Your sketch


There’ll come a point where you’ve chosen a design. Nothing needs to be added and nothing needs to be taken away. This is where we transpose the art and scale things up.

There are two basic steps:

  1. Enlarge your design.
  2. Refine your design.

Full disclosure: this blog will be heavily skewed towards doing final rendering on the computer—and specifically Photoshop. It’s the workflow I’ve followed for years and one that I’m comfortable with. While my ‘thinking’ stage is always analog, the final design always ends up on the computer (or iPad).



There are a few ways to enlarge your sketch:

  1. Photocopier: This one’s easy—simply enlarge your design to the desired size.
  2. Photograph: Snap a photo with your phone or camera, upload to your computer, and print to the desired size.
  3. Scanner: Scan and print from a computer.
  4. Analog: Refer to your sketch and use your best judgement to scale things up. Definitely old-school but a good exercise if you want the practice.

If you’re like me, things in your sketchbook are still pretty loose. Enlarge to a size as large as you’re comfortable with. A letter sized sheet is a good place to start. If you need more room, move up to a legal or tabloid size.

For this tutorial, I’m using a project I’m currently working on: “Ray’s Rusty Robot Ranch”. I can’t get into too many details just yet, suffice to say it’ll be a blend of mid-century retro and cowboys, oh, and have robots.

For most people—including myself—Option 2 (phone) will probably be the most efficient. Here’s the original pic of my sketch. The actual one in my sketchbook is about 5cm (2″) square. Import your image into your computer and open it in Photoshop.



Increasing the contrast will help with the tracing. Go to Image > Adjustments > Levels (Mac: CMD-L , PC: CTRL-L). Pure black is at the far left of the scale, midtones in the middle, and pure white on the right. Move each of the sliders to increase the contrast. The palette on the left shows the original file. The palette on the right has the sliders in place for the final, high contrast image. Save your file.



Here’s the image after the levels adjustment…




Place your enlarged sketch under a sheet of tracing paper, and trace out a “first draft”. Feel free to draw different elements on smaller pieces of paper and move things around. I’m still using my pencil at this point, and the eraser is getting used a lot. And yes, I use a ruler.

Here’s my first pencil sketch. When I’m done this first stage, I’ll just analyze it for a bit. If I feel something needs to be changed, I make a note.



Take your time and refine your sketch. Don’t worry about wasting paper. Don’t aim for 100% perfection.

Beyond those parts of the sketch I specifically noted, I’ll also subtly refine other parts as I go, such as changing an angle, making something bigger or smaller, etc …

Sometimes, I need to make a bigger edit. As I was going through the refining process, I noticed the “Ray’s” on top didn’t look sufficiently beefy compared with the rest of the letters …



… so I sketched out a few more options separately.



Once I felt comfortable with it, I incorporated it into the rest of the sketch. I also made some other edits, such as tilting the robot’s head.



In the next post, we’ll get into inking