Tips for digital outlining!




The outline is a fundamental part of the illustration, sometimes it can be frustrating, especially when we see that our sketch looks better than the final version. But the line can have as much personality as our characters, it is very useful to emphasize or highlight parts of the illustration, direct the viewer's gaze and create movement. Here are some tips to give more character to those lines Let's start!

What brush should I use?

Obviously there are millions of digital brushes, and each one has a different function, so there is no correct answer for this question. I could say "It depends on what you want to do" but it's not enough, right? The good thing is that they all share more or less the same configuration panel. Let's take a look at a couple of basic CSP brushes: Dark Brush & G-Pen.

  • Size: The thickness of the line varies depending on the size of the brush and the pressure we exert on the pen of our graphics tablet. (A) Maximum size, (B) thickness with the minimum pressure
  • Hardness / Anti-aliasing: It is the softening of the edges. We can see how it affects the strokes in both cases. (A) Hardness, (B) Anti-aliasing.
  • Density / Opacity: With less density or opacity we obtain transparencies. Here we modify the value of the density progressively until reaching 100%.
  • Stabilization: This bar is a salvation! It makes small adjustments in the line to avoid these tremulous effects, it is great for when we want to make long and uninterrupted lines, we only have to increase or decrease its value according to our convenience. (A) 0 stability, (B) 10 stability.

What idea or feeling do I want to generate?

Maybe I want my drawing to look aggressive, to show speed, power and strength ...

Perhaps more calm, delicate, clean and fluid ...

Or even a little undefined, confused, dirty with texture!

The lines are capable of representing materials, of any type and of any volume, it is enough only to vary their thickness, direction and attitude. For example, we want this circle to look like a soap bubble, then thin and imperfect lines (which have the attitude of a bubble) is what we are looking for. We know that he is a fragile, trembling, transparent figure and that at any moment he could ... Puff! Burst!

And if we do the opposite, it may look like a bowling ball. Notice how the thickness of the line at the bottom is accentuated to simulate some shade, and also more weight.

Lines can give a worn look (A) or a new look (B) so it is important to keep in mind what we want to represent, and make them act in such a way.

The petals are delicate and light (A), the rocks are rustic and heavy (B) and like this, lots of examples ...

Represent light or shadow:

Strong strokes in certain areas of our figure will generate a relief giving the sensation that light does not reach this point (A).

Also by varying the thickness of the lines on one side of the figure, you might suggest shading (B)

For light, we use fine lines or open spaces. Imagine that the more diffuse the line, the more intense the light (C)

Perspective and emphasis:

We can help the composition to highlight an object, the lines could be slightly more defined or thicker, so we will guide the eye directly where we want (A); or to generate perspective, the same, a heavier and more defined contour will give the sensation of proximity (B)


The opposite case: diffuse and thin lines for the objects that accompany the composition but that are not protagonists (A); or to represent distance (B)

Put it into practice!

I will go step by step explaining the process of this drawing and the CSP tools that I used to solve certain problems.


In my mind is a drawing full of energy, and maybe a little rebellious, because our girl looks a little bad right? Then we will give the same attitude to our lines.

We lower the opacity of the sketch and create a new layer. I usually start delineating the features of the face, this sketch is not very clear so I have to define a line that works. If it is very difficult for me to start with the contour of your jaw, then I will start with my nose, normally when I figure out how to draw a thing, it is easier to draw the next one, there is no order for that!


I have accentuated the outline of the nose to give it some relief and shade. Then I continued with the jaw.

The eyes

I want your look to have a lot of weight, to look strong and to highlight, the tabs will have a very thick outline, and it probably will not work if I try to make such a precise stroke, so we do the following: we delineate around and fill in with the Fill tool (the one that looks like a paint bucket)

Sometimes this tool leaves blank pixels, I can not ignore them; to fix this, we change the levels in "Area Scaling" a few points above 0, the filling will cover part of the outline.

One eye has been bigger than another. I think the stroke is decent, so instead of erasing and redrawing, save time!


  • Transformation tool: I go through the loop selection, I lock the eye I want to modify> I press Ctrl + T> While we keep pressing Ctrl, we move the controllers in the corners until we get the shape that we like, to finally click on OK.

It is good practice to look at our work from another point of view to detect, as soon as possible, errors of this type. Looking horizontally while working can help us:

  • The iris: It has a curve a bit complicated, I've never done well the first time, for this I modify the levels in the stability controller, which I mentioned before, until I get the perfect curve, you do not have to give up!

Now we have ready the eyebrows, the mouth and the pupils, we also add small details to enrich the figures ...

The hair

In a new layer we will define, starting from the forehead, the outline of all the hair. From the root to the tips, from top to bottom, from one point to another, as we see fit, the important thing is that the line flows with the movement of the hair.

I will use the same trick of the paint bucket. Remember that we are working on a different layer, if we hide the face layer we will see that the hair does not have a closed contour, undoubtedly the bucket will fill the entire painting canvas, to avoid this, we click "Refer other layers" and the program will take into account other visible layers.

Once this is done, we cover any blank pixel with the brush or erase any imperfection that may have remained.

  • Details: This is my favorite part! We will add small strands to give it a more natural look that has ease!

We see how it comes to life, right? but it lacks light, and I have another trick that I like to use. Almost all the tools in CSP can act as a "draft" to say it in some way.


This box (A) will make our brush "transparent". The light will highlight tufts and will give more richness to the image. In the same way, keeping in mind the curved shape of the head, the direction and the movement of the hair, is key to prevent the figure from flattening out.

(B) It is a sample of the lines that we can apply.


In general, forcing the continuity of a line makes our stroke not look as good as it could, because our hand has a range of scope to make a fluid line, more if we work with digital media.

  • The navigation panel: When I draw, I find myself drawing out countless times, moving closer and rotating the canvas to draw more comfortably. For lines that cover a lot of space, I move away; for those that are very short or that require more detail and precision, I zoom as much as I want; and to draw lines at angles that my wrist is unable to maneuver, I have to turn the canvas.

There are always rest points in the drawing, as far as we can draw a line with ease and start a new one. (A) I have drawn a continuous line. (B) I have finished a line and started a new line at each point. The difference is slight but the figure looks better.

If I have to interrupt a long line, to end up with a very thin tip avoids that, when resuming it, a kind of strange break is created.

  • The folds: They go in different directions and some are more pronounced or wrinkled than others, depends on the fabric, and in this case I seek to be pronounced and that the fabric is more or less thick. If we do not know how to represent certain material, we can always take a look at any reference on the internet, do not remain with the doubt or draw blindly, which is a bad habit.


So far the sketch has been a good reference, but it does not work much for some areas, for example, this hand does not convince me too much, I tried to draw something decent but ... no, it was very bad.

So I made a new sketch of it, I took the opportunity to adjust its position and size, now I like its shape more, I also liked the idea of nails painted black.

But now we have this problem:

  • Opacity mask: with it it will be easy to hide the area of the hair that interferes with the hand, without needing to erase it:

(1) Click on the auto selection tool> (2) Click inside the hand, a dotted outline will appear pointing to the selected area> (3) invert the selection> (4) select the hair layer and create an opacity mask .


To highlight the hand, I left a small white outline.

I finish delineating the remaining areas, I make some details to the blouse, I draw the other arm and the hand (to which I also did a new sketch and I changed the pose).

We have finished!

The last touches have been to add a flight to the scarf to make the composition more dynamic and fun, a nice star to accompany his gesture and some grays.

I hope it is not too much information to digest, but you can always jump to any section that interests you.


CSP has incredible and very flexible tools, please do not hesitate to explore them in depth.


And finally, practice a lot!



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