How to Sketch a Magnificent Blue Jay in Artboard

This magnificent Blue Jay makes a great study for our tutorial on sketching in Artboard. Learn how to draw this beautiful Blue Jay using freehand lines and expert fills.

Final Image

Below is the final image we will be working towards:

Tutorial Details

Program : Artboard 1.1+ for Mac OSX
Difficulty: Beginner – Intermediate
Topics Covered: Freehand Line tool; Layers; Styles
Estimated Completion Time: 20 – 30 minutes

ATTENTION: As of Artboard 1.7, “shared” styles are no longer part of the default workflow, therefore, references to “New” and “Clone” in this tutorial are no longer current. As of Artboard 1.7, the “New” button in the Format Bar and Style Inspector becomes the “Reset” button. See the Users Guide for more information about shared styles.

Step 1

For this tutorial, we use a Wacom Bamboo Tablet to draw sketchy strokes and shapes. While you can use a mouse or track pad, we recommend a pen tablet for its quick response and smooth results when sketching. In the main menu, make sure all Graphic > Snap To settings are off (unchecked).

We begin by adding an image for tracing. With the Rectangle [r] tool, draw a rectangle on your drawing canvas. With the rectangle still selected, open the Style Inspector – Expert pane and click “New” to create a new style from scratch. (EDIT: As of Artboard 1.3 the “Simple” and “Expert” buttons have been removed from the Style Inspector (it edits all expert styles by default).) Click onto “Fill” in the components list then click the “-” button to remove the component. Repeat to remove the “Stroke” style component. Click the “+” and add “Image” to add an image adornment. Using an Image Adornment gives us more control over the image properties. Click onto “Image Adornment” in the Style Components list to open its properties. Click the “Image File…” button to choose an image that will be used for tracing. Change the image opacity to about 60% to make tracing easier. Chose the “Fit maintaining aspect ratio” setting. In this example, we are tracing a delightful photograph taken by wildlife photographer James Ownby, used by permission. Of course, you can use any image to suit your purpose.

Step 2

Let’s add a new layer to hold our sketch. Click the “+” button at the bottom left of the Layers list. We’ve named the layer “Blue Jay”.

Open the Style Inspector – Simple pane and click “New” to create a new style from scratch. Uncheck the “fill” to remove it. Click onto the stroke color-well and choose a nice dark brown color from the Colors panel. Adjust the stroke width as needed. Using the Freehand Line [f] tool, begin tracing over your image.

Step 3

We are tracing the photograph to produce a ‘sketch’ type drawing. So, rather than drawing precise outlines to be filled, we are using several shorter strokes to provide the outline and shading.

I used three different stroke widths in my sketch. First I draw the heavier lines. Next, I clicked “Clone” in the Style Inspector (or the Format Bar) then reduced the width of my stroke and continued drawing. Then, I clicked “Clone” again and further reduced the stroke width and finished the finer details. I used a fill style of the same color to draw a circle for the eye, and a smaller white circle for the eye reflection.

Step 4

Next we’ll move the image to the side to use it as a reference for colors. Return to the Select [s] tool and click on the layer containing your image. Click on the image to select it and, while holding the SHIFT-key to maintain the aspect ratio, drag one of the object handles to make it smaller. Move the image to the side.

Step 5

Add another layer and drag it so the new layer is under your tracing layer. We named our new layer “color”.

You could add shapes with any fill style as a background behind your sketch. We are going to add some soft colors to the blue jay’s body. In the Style Inspector – Expert pane, click “New” to create a new style. Remove the stroke and fill style components and add a Core Image Filter style component. Click onto the component and choose the Gaussian Blur setting. Then add a Gradient Fill style component. The gradient fill will be under the Core Image Filter Group (you may need to click the little arrow next to the Core Image Filter Group to reveal the groups contents). We’ve created a radial gradient with light and dark blues. If you need more information on working with gradients, see our tutorial “Love Using Artboard’s Smooth Gradients.” Using the Freehand Line [f] tool, draw a shape behind your sketch to provide some background color. To add another background object color, clone the style and continue drawing.

Final Image

That’s it! You’ve successfully created a sketch drawing. At this point you may want to add some background elements and finishing touches. We wanted to keep things simple by adding a subtle hatch fill style with wobbly blue lines in the background. Give it a try, we’d love to see your next masterpiece!