Sketching Secrets

When I am working on a project I may generate over 100 sketches like this over the course of a month or two. I find them very helpful in exploring details quickly. They help keep me moving speedily and are a nice break from the computer screen. The tools are light enough that I can use this process pretty much anywhere and there is generally no shortage of notepads in any design office.

I start off these sketches by sketching my basic outline and some details with the 30% cool grey. It allows you to explore basic shape, proportions, and placement to help outline your design prior to fully committing with a darker color. Proportions are crucial to many things you might be sketching: footwear, people, cars, bicycles, etc. Keep it light until it’s right and use references whenever possible to ensure your proportions are correct.

Here, I’m going back in for the second read details, thinking through the parts of the boot and how they might interact with one another. Those relationships are what make the design. I am using the fine end of my marker just due to the scale and detail. I’ve started indicating a bit of the ground plane just to help me see the toe-spring at the front of the boot a bit.

Then I move to the next level of detail. I’m starting to think through the stitching, eyelets etc. Sometimes I wait to do this with a pen, but I was really still feeling this design out and want to get an idea of where I was going before committing on those details.

Once I have a good idea of all the different parts and pieces, I can begin value-blocking. Giving different levels of value to the different parts of the boot. Here I am using my 30% and 50% cool grey. You can layer the same marker about three times to achieve varying levels of value with the same marker. I try to keep that in mind and use it to my benefit to get some basic contouring and shadows started at this phase.

Here, I’m continuing my value-blocking and adding some color. I’m using the brush tip for a lot of coverage and to get into some small corners. Again, I’ve started layering the marker to give some basic contouring for indication of the core shadow near the rear of the boot.

Once I have a good idea of all the different parts and pieces, I can begin value-blocking. Giving different levels of value to the different parts of the boot. Here I am using my 30% and 50% cool grey. You can layer the same marker about three times to achieve varying levels of value with the same marker. I try to keep that in mind and use it to my benefit to get some basic contouring and shadows started at this phase.

Here I’m using my marker/pencil pouch with my colored pencil to get a texture from rubbing the fabric to simulate a fabric upper on the boot. I might have tested this a little more on a scrap piece of paper beforehand as I’m not 100% happy with the result, but a sketch shouldn’t be precious, and as I think it still communicates fairly well, I’m fine with it.

Once the shading, contouring, and highlights are mostly done, I begin the line work with the outline. Generally I make the outline of the sketch a little heavier than the internal line work, and a little heavier at the bottom – or any areas where there might be shadow.

Next, I do the detail line work to capture the lines inside the sketch, generally any part or detail that I want to call attention to. These lines are a little thinner than the outlines and generally range a bit in width. The thinnest lines are generally reserved for smaller detail, or areas that have only a slight difference in height from one another, whereas the thicker lines are used to indicate something that may have a greater distance or overlap from the surfaces around or behind it.

Once I am fairly satisfied with the line work, I may go back in to add some ground shadowing, vignetting, or other contextual or environmental touches to help it stand out a bit on the page.

About Ricky:
I am an Industrial Designer at Newell Brands, where I seek to improve user experiences through a unique understanding of the dynamics of people and objects in space that I have come about from a misspent youth of skateboarding and hip-hop.

I have contributed to the design and development of numerous products over the last decade, from kitchen tools and appliances for KitchenAid and Jenn-Air, to an active-seat called Buoy for turnstone, a Steelcase brand. Most recently, I helped design and develop a flexible, multi-purpose chair called Shortcut in addition to lounge setting extensions to the popular Campfire line for turnstone.

I have a deep curiosity for people, design, music, dance, art, craft, mass-produced objects, media, popular culture, and finding the relationships occurring between any and all of the aforementioned.

Tools used: Prismacolor Premier® Dual-Ended Chisel | Fine Markers, Prismacolor Premie® Dual-Ended Brush | Fine Markers, Prismacolor Premier® Illustration Markers, Prismacolor Premier® Soft Core Colored Pencils