Sunday, August 28, 2016

Masterpiece Tips And Tricks

Heyo, Jammers!

It's DXplorergirl here, with my first real post!
I'm eating breakfast while I type this, because I'm gonna be busy today. That's all I know, Mom won't tell me... and that's always bad. o_o

From context, I can only assume we will be hiking, except not in the woods. :thinks: Yeah, it's a head-scratcher, that one.

Warning: This is a long article! While informative, it is well beyond what any sane blogger would post! It's even beyond my normal limits... O.O 
I should be back tomorrow with a regular-length post. For now, I will pour all my thoughts on creating Masterpieces into one article for anyone who is interested. Please forgive me, those of you who are not! :holds up paws pleadingly:

Today I will be talking about (drumroll please)  ...  Masterpieces!

My Hyena reading a Sherlock Holmes book.

I've been asked multiple times about how to draw Masterpeices, and to be honest, I don't have a straightforward answer. I do have some tips and tricks to help you in your artistic endeavors. :P

First off, there is no right or wrong way to do art. Everyone has their own unique style, and their own preferences. "Beauty is it the eye of the beholder." The saying is cliche, yes, but it has only stuck around this long because it's true.
If you want to draw realistic-looking animals, go right ahead! If you want to draw AJ-style cartoons, knock yourself out! Humans? No problem! ...Unless you draw someone you know, and attach a name/username to it. Then it's Personally Identifying Information (PII). Oops!

Now to a few (hah!) technical tips.

1. Be a good craftsman! Be aware of your tools and how they work.

When you go into the Art Studio, the "tools in your toolbox" are the Paintbrush, the Airbrush, the Paint Bucket, various shape-makers, and the Smudge tool. I will go into more detail on the latter in the next segment.

The Paintbrush is your basic freehand drawer. (Not a dresser drawer. XD) Make a line with a pen and tablet connected to your computer, a stylus on a touchscreen laptop or a finger on a trackpad. I find the stylus method the easiest, but that's because I don't have much practice with Dad's Bamboo brand tablet.

The Airbrush uses the same method as the Paintbrush, but instead of emitting a continuous line, it produces circles of reduced opacity. The more times you go over an area, the stronger the line will become. You can make circles of various translucency by clicking in the same place multiple times.  Move fast and the circles will be spaced out and obvious; move slowly and they will blend together into a smoother look.

The Paint Bucket will fill any area with the exact same color. However, after one color has been blended with another using the Smudge tool, it cannot be filled the same way. Be sure to have your colors the way you want them before smudging.

The various shape-makers are named Line, Rectangle, Circle, and Triangle. They are named this because... ummmm... because I say so! XD

As can be expected, they create the shapes they are named after. The Circle tool will start your circle with the center located where you first clicked. Rectangles, triangles, and lines can all be manipulated from one point on the outside of the shape. Again, that point will be determined by the place you first clicked to start the shape, and the rest of the shape will vary in height and breadth depending on the direction you move your mouse..

The Smudge tool may very well be the most important, next to the Paintbrush. It is much skinnier than the other tools, (example here. Paintbrush, then Airbrush, Linemaker, with Smudge on bottom)

 and can be used to create the look of fine hairs, as well as smooth(ish) color gradients. More on smudging next.

2. Make good use of the Smudge tool, but not overuse.

The Smudge tool can soften the edges of a block of color, and even move details to some extent. The issue is, the farther you move a line, the more definition is sacrificed. While it is good not to be a perfectionist in the first stages of a drawing, don't make a substantial error and think, "Oh, I can fix that later by smudging." If you get to that point and find out you can't fix it by smudging, it's too late.

Smudging works better on light colors than dark, and seems to extend rather than fade them out gradually. Do you see where the light strip of color ends on the sample picture? That's not where it ran out of color, it's where the mouse button was released (or finger or stylus was lifted). That lighter patch would have kept on going, and would only have lightened if it ran through a color lighter than the original one.  That would include crossing over or tracking back on itself. This can seriously interfere with the color palette of your drawing if it is not taken into account.

3. Think ahead.

The Undo button is also a tool in the toolbox, and one I hope will soon be developed further. As it is now, you can only undo one action at a time. So after every mark, line, or smudge you should think, "Do I really want to keep this in my final drawing? Can I replicate this later if I need to?" If the answer is no to the first, and/or yes to the second, don't be afraid to undo the action.  You can use Redo to go back and forth to see if you like the effect or not, before deciding. But once you make your next stroke, the door is closed. (Still, you can use another color to "erase" a line or object later by painting over it.)

4. Save, save, save!

After many tragedies involving lost artwork and a lousy internet connection, I have learned to save my Masterpieces repeatedly. After any stage that you're really pleased with and don't want to be lost, or after a certain amount of time, save a partially finished copy. That way, if you get kicked out, you can pull up the last stage you saved. Some progress will likely be lost, but if you're blessed, not much. I save my art with the same beginning title, like "aj-masterpiece-hyena-reading", varying it slightly for each copy. (...hyena-reading-sketch, hyena-reading-three, hyena-reading-final...)
Since the files on my computer are organized alphabetically, this ensures I will always find them together.

That's all I can think of that might help! Thank you SO much for your patience! XD
Have fun drawing!
Jam On!



  1. YAY! Masterpiece tips! Great post Kara! :D

    1. Thank you! I hope this helps y'all create some EPIC works of art! ;D


  2. I'm really into digital art, and making masterpieces on AJ is definitely fun when you know what you're doing! I agree with all your points! Also, something I often do is draw a sketch with a grey/red/blue, then either go over it with black or whatever colour I intend to fill in with (if it's lineless), then I use the fill tool to remove all the sketch lines. AJ should upgrade their paint tool to have a cutting tool(not sure what to call it) and an eraser. Layers would probably cause a lot of lag, so I don't think they could ever do that x.x

    I do wish you could import art from other programs, eg photoshop, FireAlpaca, paint tool SAI etc, but this would mean people might misuse this feature and turn photos into masterpieces instead XD
    Also, gosh that hyena art is amazing o.o



    2. Actually, I do the sketching thing too! Thank you for mentioning it, I completely forgot! o.o

      Thank you to everyone for the compliments! :blush emoji: Wish we could do AJ emotes on blogs... That'd be so cool. :D


    3. My drawing tablet is a Huion h420 and I figured it would work with AJ but it doesn't :( Does anyone know how to make a drawing tablet compatible with AJ?

  3. What?? I didn't know you were going to post on here! That's awesome!
    Yeah it's sort of hard to get used to the studio in my opinion, but for some reason, because it's more simplistic, it's easier to draw (except for layers, I very much dislike how the Studio doesn't have layers >:( )


  4. Your hints are really good! I find it sometimes hard to draw with the art studio but your tips made it easier. :D

    Also, OH MY WORD! YOUR AN AMAZING ARTIST! :O I love that hyena pic!! Please! Teach me your ways or draw something for me or something!!! XD

    1. Thank you Lostfairy!

      I am very flattered that others want me to "teach them my ways". This article is my attempt to do so, perhaps inadequately. I do apologize for the disarrayed format of the article...

      (Yeezsh, Kara! Cut it out with the obscure vocabulary! >.< Big words. I mean cut it out with the big words. See, I'm trying!)

      Sorry. I like reading old books. :)

      I do take commissions, the price for a portrait being one "good" short Rare Spiked Collar. That's my rate, not gonna vary it. Granted, I may lose clients that way, but I'm not great at haggling. 0~0 XP

      Please contact me by Jammer Wall or JAG if you're interested!


  5. I cant seem to save my art on my computer no matter how many times i tried. I tried saving on both Mac and Windows but they didnt work, can someone help me?

  6. My drawing tablet (wacom intuos art tablet) doesn't work with aj. Is it supposed to?

    1. Hi, Annabeth!

      Yes, it normally is compatable with the AJ Art Studio. Maybe try checking your Wacom Tablet settings, and see if messing with some of the settings help! :)

      Remember, God made YOU!

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Hiya, I just recently got a Wacom Intuos Draw Tablet, as an early birthday present (13th of January is my birthday :o) and I can't seem to make it compatible with AJ :(!! It works perfectly with Chrome and other applications on my computer. I haven't changed any settings besides pen and tablet button settings, I would love your guys help, to help solve the issue.

    But one more thing, your blog was awesome, it gave me multiple tips and tricks on how to become more understanding of the art studio, I love the the hyena art you did above as well, so clever :)!!

    Thank you so much
    - VxGoldenLlamaxV

  9. I draw by using a stylus on a touchscreen laptop, so I'm afraid I will not be any sort of help with Wacoms. Thank you for the compliments, and Happy Birthday! :D


  10. This article is amazing! I just found it by googling 'Animal Jam Paintbrush' because I needed an icon for my new blog's Favicon, but the Masterpiece shown here pulled up as well, and I was like, 'HEYYYYYY, that's a Karalee drawing if I ever saw one!'

    Once the Animal Jam Artists Community is up-and-running, do you think you could post something similar to this there?


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