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Make It On Mobile: 5 Tips for Drawing Black and White Illustrations in Photoshop Sketch

Place a sheet of paper in front of graphic designer Joe Wilper and he’ll always cover it in illustrations. But during his 9-5 job, he finds branding work where he can integrate his drawing skills to be the most rewarding.

Joe Wilper Branding

Joe has another side to his creative expression; a side that skews heavily towards realism and leaves us a little bit breathless. When he’s not working on identity projects, he’s creating hyper realistic black and white illustrations that give short glimpses into the secret lives of his subjects. And he’s able to bring those same paper and pencil illustration skills to drawing on his iPad with Photoshop Sketch.

Joe Wilper Photoshop Sketch Creative Cloud

“I was curious if the stylus could truly mimic pencil and paper. I wasn’t prepared for how much fun it would be and how familiar it would feel,” says Joe. “The end result still feels like a drawing I would have done outside of Sketch, but the app gives me the freedom to push the drawings in ways I wouldn’t have normally.”

Joe walks us through his illustration process and shares five tips to create detailed black and white drawings in Photoshop Sketch.

1. Start with Light, Gestural Strokes

Think of drawing in Photoshop Sketch the same way as you do drawing with pencil and paper. I use light lines and broad, gestural strokes to get the base drawing down. Try not to make the drawing too precious at this stage. Keep loose and focus on the overall form, not detail.

Joe Wilper Photoshop Sketch Figure 1

2. Keep An Eye on Proportions with the Grid

I tap settings and turn on the grid to help with proportions and to create a more accurate base. I like a larger grid that’s quicker to navigate. Once I’ve got the foundation, I start layering some details into the drawing with a combination of the pencil and eraser tool. I have tendency to start with the eyes. They add a lot of life to the drawing, so I give them extra attention.

Joe Wilper Photoshop Sketch Figure 2

3. Add Interest with Background Textures

Adding subtle background textures is a great way to add interest to your black and white illustrations. I found that for this particular piece, a chipboard texture really showcased the highlights in the drawing and created a great overall tone that matched the natural coloration of a raccoon.

Joe Wilper Photoshop Sketch Figure 3

4. Layer Shadows with a Larger Brush

You can change the brush size easily in Sketch. I reduce the brush size down to a fine point and work in as much detail as possible. Then I use a larger brush to lightly layer in shadows on top of the detailed sketch. This helps add some depth even in the dark, shaded areas. And because the pencil is pressure sensitive, you have a lot of control over how dark or light those color applications are.

In this drawing, I’ve also used the eraser tool to create some plant life in the background. The soft edges of the eraser coupled with a reduced transparency gives the plants a shallow depth of focus. I’ve gone back over the area with a dark color so that the raccoon remains in the foreground, while the tall grasses are a subtle texture in the background.

Joe Wilper Photoshop Sketch Figure 3

5. The Undo Button Can Be a Tool

Another great thing about Sketch: the Undo button. I don’t need to worry about experimenting with the drawing since I can revert back to an earlier iteration if something doesn’t quite work.

Joe Wilper Photoshop Sketch Figure 5


Grab free Photoshop Sketch to start illustrating on your iPhone or iPad.


Illustration & Drawing, Mobile

Join the discussion

  • By Michael W. Perry - 11:37 AM on May 2, 2016  

    Sigh, some people have oodles of artisitc talent… then there’s me. Sigh!

  • By Daniela Girotto - 3:21 AM on May 3, 2016  

    This is absolutly amazing. Thanks Joe for sharing his skills!

    @ michael: agree… it can be me!