Recycling Horrible Sketches in Affinity Designer

Over the years, I’ve learned that you cannot throw away any sketch. Whatever the case, it’s an idea that your brain gave to you for free. So today, I want to show you how I benefit, even from the dinkiest doodle from my sketchbook.

This will be our final image

Let’s Get Started

Pen sketch on craft paper

Above is the doodle we’ll be working on in this short tutorial. I’ve chosen it randomly from one of my sketchbooks to show you how to transform almost anything into something usable. If you want to follow along, you can download this sketch here.

Although the craft paper texture sits beautifully here, I’m going to get rid of it for the sake of clarity. By applying a Gradient Map, you can turn any line drawing into a perfect blueprint to lay down our vector graphics without getting an eye strain during the process.

Tracing Our Sketch

Lock the sketch Layer and create a new one on top. I am using the Pen Tool to trace the sketch. In this case, I don’t want to lose the roughness of the original lines, so I’m keeping my vector lines all jittery to give them a hand-made finish.

Notice I’m not fixing anything up. Instead, I’m respecting my doodle’s wobbly lines and imprecisions. Strangely enough, drawing perfect lines would ruin our final artwork.

Disable Snapping from Snapping Panel

Extra Tip: If you want to thoroughly embrace this paper cut-out look, I recommend you keep snapping disabled. Doing this will help you create a more consistent organic line work.

As I keep adding shapes in this fashion, you can notice how the overall look is coming together. If all elements look this way, you’re making clear the sloppiness is intentional.

I spot the most relevant details and trace them up the same way.

Above, you can see how the entire drawing looks so far. At this point, it’s all starting to make sense.

Reshaping Our Paths

At this point, I hide my original sketch. Now I have an idea of where I’m going with my drawing, so I don’t need the source material anymore.

Using Affinity Designer’s Node Tool, I do some basic clean-up. I try not to spend too much time on this step to avoid feeling tempted to fix the paths too much.

Time To Steal Some Colors

This is a helpful tip when you feel too lazy to come up with a simple color palette from scratch. Just Google some terms that contain the feel or the color scheme you’d like to give to your illustration.

In this case, I searched for: ‘Home Decor Pastel Mint.’ Of course, you could search for ‘Happy tomatoes dancing at dusk‘ if that’s what you feel, and it would be alright too. Just look for something that you like.

Avoid the obvious ‘Color Palettes‘ search because that would be too boring and predictable. Instead, the idea is that you work out your color palette, but with some help to not start from scratch.

I took a screenshot of the Google search and cropped out this particular part, which is the one that caught my attention. You only need a small spot to focus your attention. I’m looking for a five-color palette.

Using Affinity’s Color Picker, I extracted the colors on the first row. As I wasn’t happy with the result, as the overall palette seemed too dull to my taste, I took the liberty to tweak these colors and make them more vibrant. 

Paste these colors in your document. Next, go to the Swatches Panel and choose to Create Palette From Document from the top-right small hamburger menu. In this case, I added this as an Application Palette.

Affinity Designer Swatches

Now I’ve created a Color Palette, which I didn’t make from scratch, but also didn’t take it from someone else. This tip works great when you’re working on tight deadlines and need to develop color ideas quickly.

Using my new Color Palette, I filled up my shapes, and this is how it looks. If you ask me, I hate these colors!

Rules Were Made to be Broken

As nothing is carved on stone and it’s my palette, after all, I edited the colors, ending with a more eye-pleasing result.

Alternative Color Scheme

I think these colors look cleaner and fresh. But, of course, you might prefer the first palette, and that’s okay; we have the freedom to choose whatever the hell we like the most. That’s the beauty of the design process.

Spicing Things Up With Textures

To me, texturing is a crucial part of this process. As the graphics are super simple and there are only a few shapes laying around, adding textures will add visual appeal and enhance the organic appearance we’re looking for in our final artwork.

I borrowed some brushes from our Rough Shaders for Affinity Designer pack. You can download a FREE Rough Shaders demo HERE.

I use the Color Picker to get the base color and then using the Color Panel I chose a darker value to create a basic color shade.

Affinity Clipping Masks

I locked this textured color shade to your target shape using Clipping Masks. If you don’t know exactly how these work, I recommend you check out this tutorial we released a while ago, explaining how to use Masks and Clipping Masks in Affinity Designer.

Adding texture to the rest of the shapes.

And finally, drawing a larger texture across the Artboard to add some teeth to the background.

Final Result

Now you have all your shapes, textures, and colors laid down, you can feel free to play around with the final composition. To give my final image an even more organic look, I’ve thrown in some textures from our Octopus Brush Pack for Affinity Designer on top.

I hope you’ve found this short tutorial helpful. We started with a useless sketch and turned it into some finished little piece of art that could be used as a web graphic, a book cover, or for any other purpose rather than being buried in a piece of paper.

Remember, don’t overlook any resource that might spark your inspiration. Sometimes, you’ll find it in the most unexpected places, under the most unexpected circumstances.

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