Learning from Copying Along when using Tutorials.

One of these is my version. The original is from a tutorial by Andrew Hou.

If you have a good eye, whether or not you ever look at this kind of art, you can tell which one is mine, because it’s the flawed copy. Of course I can’t imitate someone else’s style the first time I try.

Don’t fear my familiar followers, I would likely never work in this style or use this sort of subject matter. It’s practice, and all about “cell shading”, which is a technique that comes from animation, if the name wasn’t a giveaway. Using Photoshop, all the shading and color are applied via making shapes with the lasso tool, which, again, I would never think to do. Note that I had to draw it first, switching windows from the video to PS, and then do the shading. They were never side-by-side when I was making it. It’s not copying the finished drawing, but imitating the whole process.

Students taking this tutorial were NOT intended to copy along, but to make heir own character and use this shading process. Why people would be adept at making characters and need to learn basic cell-shading, which is within the same ballpark of skills, I’m not sure. While I could come up with my own character if pressed, that’s not what the lesson was about, so I thought I’d learn more by just imitating whatever the artist did himself. Note that in the prior exercise I did make a character, but mine was a bird and didn’t have clothes, and so when he went into shading buckles and all that I had nothing to do.


Lately I’ve been doing a lot of tutorials. For a while I worked with Paintable, and I did nearly half their full course in a month, with a $35 membership. I’m sure I got my money’s worth because I picked up a lot of tips, tricks, and techniques I may be able to apply to my own art. But I had some issues with the course, and wanted to try some others. I may go back and finish the course later.

I finally settled on Schoolism because they offer a bunch of courses by different people, and covering a whole array of topics in great depth. The courses are expensive if you want feedback from the teacher, but you can access all the instructional videos for all the courses for a monthly membership of $25 a month. It’s a bit like a buffet lunch. It’s a deal if you are going to chow down, but not if you just want a salad.


Bye the way, my copy is on the left. You can tell because the character’s right knee is too low, and I didn’t bother to fix it; the hands are off because I wasn’t really sure what he was doing with them (drawing them foreshortened and in silhoette), and, well, you can just keep finding little things I screwed up.


Good art tutorials are very difficult to make, and there’s no guarantee at all that a good artist can make them, though I get the impression a lot of artists think they can do it just by flying off the cuff.

I can manage a lot of tutorials because I already have the basic skills and am just looking to expand them, but I can easily see where genuine newbies would hit huge hurdles and abandon ship.

The key is to make step-by-step instructions, that are also coherent, and demonstrate them. Lessons should be in bite sized pieces, unless or until they culminate in a larger project which the prior lessons have more than adequately prepared the student to do. In a course, we should move from the basics to the more advanced material.  This is rarely the case.

I’ll be doing a course and suddenly find I’m supposed to do something on my own that takes 6 hours. This may mean the teacher didn’t want to spend 6 hours of his or her own time figuring out how to make it into a manageable lesson.

As a student, I have to bridge the gap between what the instructors provide and how I can actually learn from it.


One of the devices that works for me is copying along, as I did with this character. It’s a slow and sometimes tedious process, but has the added benefit of letting me get into the other artist’s head, and see directly how he or she applies the techniques in question.

I once took a one hour speed painting, which was NOT a tutorial, and played it back super slow, with very frequent pauses, in order to learn the technique of an artist I admired.

Often in a course instead of a tutorial you will get a “demo”, which is just the artist showing himself or herself using a bunch of techniques they mostly taught to make something. The cell-shading tutorial was a bit like that. Even if I made my own character, there’s no way I’d remember all the little steps without watching the video again, and maybe again.

In these instances (and I’m seeing a lot of them), I might feel tempted to just skip them, but I find that copying along, imitating whatever the artist does, is worth the extra time and effort, and hammers home the techniques to the point where I might incorporate them later in my own work. It doesn’t need to be an exact duplicate, just passably decent.

~ Ends

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