An artist I have long admired is Quentin Blake. His seemingly infant-like pen strokes bely the rich talent the artist has for crafting some of the most indelible images from my childhood. But how can I recreate his technique and style using digital art?
I have had the greatest success using Corel Painter and the Velocity Sketcher brush from the Liquid Ink collection in the Painter 12/X3 Brushes repository. With no modifications and some Real Watercolour it is possible to create art in Quentin Blake’s style.
Locating the Velocity Sketcher brush is straight forward. It will be in the Liquid Ink collection in the Painter 12/X3 Brushes repository. If you are using a later version of Corel Painter you should be able to drop the selection box in the Brush Selector window and switch between repositories.
If you prefer to download the two brushes I’m using you can grab them from here: Quentin Blake Corel Painter brush variants.
Modifying the Velocity Sketcher brush
The default settings for the Velocity Sketcher are spot on but there is just one setting I change – the Dab Profile. You can access the Dab Profile from Window > Brush Control Panels > Dab Profile.
By default the Velocity Sketcher looks like this:
I change this to be the one above – Pointed Profile.
I find that it gives a sharper and more satisfying mark.
A word of caution. You may be tempted to play with the Liquid Ink settings of the Velocity Sketcher, and that’s great. But the Feature attribute can be a pretty processor intense value to adjust. I would keep it at the default setting of 1.0. This attribute is what controls the number and size of droplets that the brush will produce. A higher value will have a big impact on performance and isn’t necessary.
Trying it out
Create a simple document in Corel Painter that is 8×8″ and 300dpi. This will allow you to print the piece to a good resolution once you are finished.
Either create a new Liquid Ink layer or simply tap the screen with the Velocity Sketcher selected.
When you stroke around the screen using variable amounts of pressure you should find that the marks created are very satisfying.
If you watch Blake work you’ll see that he works with very precise strokes. Some are long and some are short. The longer the stroke the less ink remains on the pen before he has to refresh it from the ink well. The effect here is to have the pen effectively scratch into the paper and leave a thin trail of ink in its wake. You can loosely emulate this by relaxing the pressure as you complete the line.
Adding some watercolour
I find the best brushes to use here are the ones found in the Real Watercolour collection. In particular I found the Light Fringe brush to work a treat, with some modifications.
Locate the Light Fringe brush in the Real Watercolor collection of the Painter 12/X3 Brushes repository.
By default the Light Fringe brush is set to have 100% grain. I reduce that to around 12%.
You can see this value at the top of the Corel Painter application window when the Light Fringe brush is selected.
Again, if you watch Blake at work, you’ll see that he varies the water / pigment ratio depending on the detail that he’s applying. For foliage, for example, he may have a high water to pigment ratio as it’s largely a background feature. Whereas with skin or clothes the pigment to water ratio is higher.
We can emulate this with ease using Corel Painter’s brush settings by accessing the Real Watercolor panel: Window > Brush Control Panels > Real Watercolor.
You may find it easier to create a new brush variant depending on the type of colour you are applying. For now I’ll stick to just using the one brush. Here are my modified settings.
You’ll notice how I’ve increased Wetness and Viscosity. Increasing the Water value means that the brush is significantly wetter. Increasing the Viscosity means that the water is ‘thicker’ and flows more generously across the paper. Let’s see how it looks.
What I’ve done here is apply some base colour using my modified Light Fringe brush.
Note: I saved the variant by going to Brush > Save Variant and giving it a descriptive name. In this case: Solid Paints – Characters and Objects new.
A final thing to consider is the application of colour over existing colour. In my character above I want to apply a little shadow to the face and a rosy cheek. An attribute to consider here in the Real Watercolor panel is Pickup.
By default the Light Fringe brush has a Pickup value of 0. This means that the brush stroke will not pick any of the pigment up from the underlying watercolour. I like to just nudge that up a little to around 12%.
Let’s see how that looks.
You can see that I’ve added a little shadow and applied some more colour to the scarf, coat and horn. I think the effect is very satisfying.
Actually drawing in Quentin’s style is the subject of another post. His composition and the amount of movement he puts in his characters is wonderful and something to definitely focus on.
For a more detailed look at his approach visit Quentin Blake’s website.
We can do so much with digital art and Corel Painter is a wonderful tool for experimenting, making mistakes and tweaking our brush settings until we’re happy with the result.
Whilst we can never replicate that wonderfully tactile approach to painting with traditional media we can certainly go a long way to emulating an artist’s style by closely monitoring their technique and mapping it onto the tools available to us.
Don’t forget you can use the brushes that I’ve used here by downloading this .zip file: Quentin Blake Corel Painter brush variants.
Corel Painter 2021 is available to download as a FREE trial (click the product image below). Note that this is an affiliate link and you may well be presented with an intermediate web page that explains this in a little more detail)
I highly recommend you give Corel Painter a go.