Sketching the numeric way

When you come from a traditional background, sketching in a notebook or on a simple piece of paper appears very natural, and allows you to feel free in your drawing. It is as most people say, a direct way from your mind to your hand. The quicker and more instinctive the sketches are, the more dynamic they appear.

So when crossing over a numerical media, it’s sometimes difficult to keep this natural vibe while drawing. Here are some tips and ideas for sketching on photoshop. These are all my way of approaching the numeric media, and they are in no way universal.

  • Photoshop is a different tool , take advantage of what it offers.

Sure you can draw lines on the software and pretend it’s a sheet of paper, and most of time it can be quite good looking, but while you’re at it, why not try what’s different ? Unlike a pencil and a notebook, here you can draw the masses, and the volumes by drawing with a large brush.


  • Learn to adopt new useful tools

Some tools in photoshop are particularly adapted to speed painting/sketching. Let’s just talk about two of them.


First, the lasso tool is a great way to experiment and draw neat forms. You can just start a painting by doing random forms with the lasso and paint in them with blur brushes or even texture brushes. An amazing artist, Jama Jurabaev, did some videos about his process on the lasso tool, it’s quite instructive :

Secondly, the burn/dodge tool is very useful to quickly adjust values. Use it with a round blur brush to highlight the parts of your drawings that are more exposed to the light.

  • Play with the fusion options of the layers

In photoshop you have access to many fusion modes on any layer. This fusion mode expresses the way the colors and values and the layer will react with the layers that are beneath it. You can try many things and get unexpected results by testing fusion modes. One that works well : create a new layer and paint light on it with a saturated color, then put it on the density color – mode. It creates colorful lights and gives depth to your sketches.


  • Learn some shortcuts

When working fast, the last thing you want, is to spend time looking in your toolbox. Here are some useful shortcuts I use to make life easier :

Alt (while having the brush tool) : color taker

L : lasso

B : Brush

Ctrl + T : transform

Ctrl (while transforming) : stretch one point of the transformation square to give a perspective feel.

V : move a layer or a selection

Alt (while moving) : copy layer or selection

Space + mouse : navigating into the canvas

  • Not all filters are useless

Generally speaking, filters are to be avoided when you are painting. They are quite messy and can make you think that it will hide the flaws of the painting underneath. But when nicely used, they can be quite useful. Some filters like strength, add noise and the various blurs can have a great effect when used with precision.

  • Have fun painting

Try your best to not be restricted by the software, use one tool at a time. If you feel confident and secure while you’re painting, nothing bad can happen.


There, I hope you’ve enjoy these tips, these are obviously  my opinion and from my experience, and I am in nowhere near to being a good artist, but I feel it could help some.

Keep drawing, painting and posting.




DEOS boardgame



This article is part of a 3 fold series on the DEOS game project : early stages, production and final line.

Part 1, early stages

Hello I’m Mathieu Girard, a first year student and one of the two artists currently working on the card game DEOS. In this article I’m going to discuss mostly the early development of the game from my perspective.


DEOS is one of the 12 first year projects of Supinfogame promo 2019. The objective is to create a fully working boardgame or cardgame prototype in the course of the year. The project is supervised by Pascal Bernard, especially for the game designers, while graphists are mostly on their own, apart from the unfortunately rare interventions of François Cormier. The project subjects were chosen by throwing random ideas on a board. We then grouped complementary ideas into theme groups. Teams of 2 graphists and 2 game designers were then randomly assembled and randomly assigned to a theme. We luckily got Mythology, Creatures and Heroes.

Our guidelines from there on were to wait for the intensive week which would be fully dedicated to working on the game. We disobeyed of course and started talking about the general ideas of what we wanted to do. At the time we were going for something rather complicated with a lot of depth. We had a huge interactive board in mind with cards and figurines, players would build cities and temples or go on quests. It was a mess.

Thankfully came the intensive week. We decided to completely scratch our previous vision and go for something very simple and casual with cards only. Our pitch then was that each player would play as a mythological god or a pantheon of gods who battle against each other for glory. They would destroy entire planets with cataclysms to prove their might. The player with the most planets destroyed would win the game. The word that often came to mind when describing our game was “epic” (we realized later that it was attributed to heroes and not gods, but whatever). At the time we wanted to create our own world and mythology, drawing inspiration from Magic, Dota 2, Warcraft,…etc while still being original. The following images were some quick concept art that I personally had in mind previously.

Lord of Darkness LDChar_design

However, popular opinions were against a brand new world and favored known mythology, so we asked what people wanted to be able to play as in our game. We came up with a list of classical gods such as Zeus, Loki, Anubis and so on as well as Buddha as a warlord and Lovecraft’s Cthulhu. Hence our first real concept art :


I spent most of the latter part of the intensive week working on this. We ended up sticking with classical mythologies so this illustration was later discarded.

At the beginning of the week when we initially pitched the game concept to the class, people were quite psyched. However by the middle of the week things started to get rough. Our problem was that we had not found a way to translate the sensation of mass destruction and thirst for power into an enjoyable game. Our prototype looked like a bad ripoff of UNO. Seeing our troubles Pascal Bernard told us to put aside what we had previously done and think it over from another perspective, which we (kind of) did and still we could not come up with a fun game that looked even remotely like what we had pitched. However the game designers had put a lot of effort into this prototype and were reluctant to discard it, so we stuck with it and tried to improve it instead of starting over.

During this time we also had to decide our roles in the team, namely the Project Manager and the Artistic Director. We didn’t really feel like we needed titles, we had gotten along well this far without any chain of command. Benjamin Leblanc filled the position of Project Manager out of necessity because he was the better fit. As for the Artistic Director, in a group with two graphists, it’s hardly useful but as it is a job I’m interested in for my career and I’m more experienced and skilled than my fellow graphist Camille Gangneux I imagined I would fill the position. However he was eager to take it on so I “let” him. This has worked rather well so far since most of the artistic decisions were made together anyway and the boring writing stuff is his problem.

By Friday we hit a big wall. The intensive week was over and we had a crappy, boring prototype. Our instructions then : send a week’s worth of intensive work to oblivion. Start again,with one week to catch up with the rest of the class with something new and exciting.

During this week the game designers tried many times to improve the game. On the graphists’ side we had to decide what each one of us would do. In order to do this we each drew in an hour a composition of an oracle/prophet which the other would colorize.


Camille’s oracle composition on the left and mine on the right.

Below is my shading of Camille’s composition and attempt at colorization. He didn’t finish his as it was pretty obvious I would be doing that part. This is the workflow we have adopted since then, he does the composition and I take care of the rest.

The evening before the dreaded day we did a last playtest to see how the game held up. It was terrible. We were preparing to get shredded the next day. However in the morning Benjamin made last minute changes before presenting it to Pascal Bernard and it worked. I had no knowledge of this so when I crossed his path at lunch and he was encouraging and positive I thought he was being sadistically sarcastic. This prototype is the one we would work on for the rest of the project.


This concludes the first part of this article series. Coming next is the production and the detailed artistic direction (with prettier illustrations).


Mathieu GIRARD



The Step by Step process of an art commission

WARNING: The final piece presented in this article depicts a nude woman. Those who do not appreciate such visuals may not engage in reading. Also it’s a pretty lenghty article due to pictures. :)

In the vast world of modern art, Internet has become a great place to share your work for everyone to see. Upon seeing an artist on the net whose work tickles your fancy, why not approach them and have art made for you and you only?

I was approached by an Internet acquaintance for an art commission of his player character in a MMORPG called Final Fantasy XIV, a game I’ve been playing myself for a few years now. It is not unusual for artists on the Internet to receive requests from gamers, and it’s been known for a while in the game’s community that I was one, so drawing this piece was a really fun and lengthy process that I enjoyed very much!

The commission requested a single pose of the character in full view, nude and resting on their side, rendered in 2 distinct ways: in color for one and in a thicker, black and white only linework for the other.

After collecting screenshots from the requestee’s character ingame (a brown-skinned, white-haired cat-woman wearing shaded glasses), and discussing the details of what he wanted to see in the final piece, I finally got started on it! (using my favorite art program Paint Tool SAI)

Let’s draw a cat-lady lying on her side!

Now when you start a sketch, you may be tempted to dive immediately into the finest details of your piece, with every lace of clothing and every straw of hair carefully drawn out, but that is, infact, very likely to confuse you in the later stages! You don’t want to see a character with perfect hair in a broken, awkward position do you?

  • No indeed, when I start to sketch a character, I try and focus on the POSE itself first, having a rough idea in my head of how it’s going to look and using circular, loose brushstrokes to place all the necessary body parts in a composition that works. If a part doesn’t sit right, now’s the time where I just erase it all and restart, with no level of detail whatsoever. I use a simple, thin brush that allows the drawing to be as loose and messy as possible, and when I’m finished setting up the pose, it generally looks like this (with a few stronger strokes to mark « strong points » in the pose or show its borders more clearly):




Pretty messy isn’t it? You can barely make out the character herself. But we’ll get down to detailing it later, what’s important here is that the pose sketch works for you.

  • Next part, you start actually drawing the character, following the guidelines you just set up for yourself. I like looking at the reference screenshots I took prior to drawing once in a while to make sure the character is recognizable (hair style, body type, chest size, age etc etc etc)

Again, the lines don’t have to be cleanly cut-out, I’m still using the same brush as for the base pose sketch. I roughly sketch out every different part of the character (body, face, ears, tail & accessories) on a different layer for easier refining.

At this point I’ve already spent around 30 minutes to an hour on the piece, depending on the complexity of the pose and the number of accessories, and I’ve already modified a few key points of the pose to make it work better (tail going to the left instead of the right). For the ears and tail, in addition to the character’s screenshots, I’ve looked at reference pictures of actual cats to determine their position on the body easier.

rough character sketch




  • I then remove the pose sketch layer, place a few values using greyish blue and roughly sketch out where the shadows are going to be placed. After this step, I sent out the sketch to the requestee to make sure they like it before continuing more in-depth. I am now roughly aware of what the final piece will look like too.



Already looking like something nice, doesn’t it? But let’s not stop here and go further into details!

The first part of the commission involved a sharp, binary black and white only strong linework, to show the character’s strong & feline side, along with resembling the style of the original game artwork.

  • I thus remove the value layers, take a black, sharper ink brush, and refine the character as much as possible, allowing thicker lines in shadowed places and thinner, spaced out lines in lit-up places and in the fur of the tail.
  • The muscle build of the character is enhanced via short lines that define the joints and how strong they are.

During this process I’ve also altered the original sketch and shortened the arms to make them more reasonably proportioned.



At this point, the first part of the commission is done, as I remove all of the sketch layers still present underneath the linework before saving it for later delivery.

  • The shadows are made with thick strong lines that merge with the outline of the body parts. Certain areas like the face have an entire side left black to show the shadows.


  • The thicker the line, the thicker the muscle is. The general impression must be of strength and wilderness. The white areas like the tail’s fur and the ears have thinner, multiple lines to render fuzziness & softness.

The first part is finished!



Details of the face









Muscle lines on the thighs and belly
















Let’s now make the second, and most lengthy part, the colored version! I have already spent over 2 to 3 hours on this piece, but we’re far from done yet!


Part II: The Color


Now that we have a neat looking sketch and have finished the first part of our commission, let’s move on to the lengthier process of coloring!

I was honestly tempted to be lazy and use the finished binary lineart as the base for color, but it wouldn’t have turned out so good in my opinion, so I decided to make a new lineart especially for color, working back up from the base sketch.

Details: the earring witha  touch of color and the hair

Details: the earring witha touch of color and the hair





  • Using a thinner, gray brush, I make a thinner and fuzzier lineart that will harmonize with the soft colors and shading later (a few things were tweaked in the process)


  • This lineart is purposedly lighter than the black one, to blend with the colors more easily.


  • Certain details of the drawing, like the earrings and eyes have been refined to stand out more easily.





Once this is finished, I have a nice lineart ready for color! The time spent on it varies between another hour to 2 hours.


  • Note that the « muscle lines » present in the binary black & white first lineart have been removed to give a softer, feminine feeling.

Now the final step, color!

I begin by laying out a base hue for the skin. The character is fairly dark-skinned, so I chose a mildly warm, reddish color.


You may notice a few areas that have been left white, these are areas that are illuminated by light and thus bring volume to the piece. The painting technique is uneven to mimic a certain kind of skin texture. I also paint the inside of the ears that are not covered with fur.

  • Then I add a new layer with a mask, and use a more saturated, red hue to shade areas, and a lighter yellow hue to give a bit of variation to the skin complexion. The white areas are still left white to keep the light and volumes.
  • The lips and claws have been shaded to look more red/pink than the rest, to keep a feminine, sensual side. Touches of white on the lips give them a glossy look.


Time to paint the hair and fur!

  • With a new layer, I use white and blueish gray to paint over the hair and fur. The grey serves as shading and most of the white fur is left white.


  • In the meantime I also painted the shaded glasses with brown and yellow to give it a golden/bronze aspect.


Most of the painting is done, then I focus on certain areas that need highlighting and touching up like the eyes and earrings.

  • They have a base color layer, a shading layer, and a highlight layer with very light colors to make them look bright instead of dull.

Eyes, earrings and lips with base colors and shading, no highlights yet.


Eyes, lips, earrings and glasses with highlights (gold blue and beige).

It’s done!


At this point, aside from a few touchups on the colors and possible fiddling around with layer hues, the painting is complete!
The color being the longest process, the final amount of time spent on this commission was around 6 hours!

I deliver it to the requestee within the next hour, with a message of thanks for their interest in my work. The next day, I got a message from them: They loved it!

I’m looking forward to more commissions. This really was a fun piece to do, especially on a game that I like so much!

This article and the artworks presented within it were realized by SAFFAR Laure-Hélène aka Adagio Fantasque.
Final Fantasy XIV is made by Square Enix.

Artist’s galleries on DeviantArt & Tumblr

Thank you for reading!

Recent comments

  • DigZon technology

    18 août 2015 |

    Keep up the great work ethic.


    10 août 2015 |

    This article has inspired me. It’s profound, interesting and worthy of a positive comment. I try to give good content its due and this deserves a top rating. Thank you.

  • Mathieu

    22 mai 2015 |

    Very interesting article. Could be usefull to me in 2nd year, that is if LePivain makes us study this one.

  • Mitzi

    15 mai 2015 |

    This article and many other on your page are very interesting.
    There is a big chance to go viral.

  • admin

    10 avril 2015 |

    Beautifully written