Stuck in the 80’s with my Wacom

Ever since my work experience placement at Imaginate, I have been completely enchanted and hooked on the capabilities of the Wacom Cintiq tablet.

I was lucky enough to have a play on it during this time and Meg showed me how to set it up as a dual screen, how to paint on Photoshop and how to download appropriate brushes and textures. I must say my first attempt was amateur at best. But since then, I have been determined to get better at using it. 

Despite being a Graphic designer, I have developed from a fine art background so thoroughly enjoy illustration, drawing and painting. So what better device could you ask for then a Wacom tablet to transfer all of these skills digitally and combine all my areas of interest. I BEGGED to have one for Christmas time, and pitched the idea as not only a leisure time activity, but a tool to improve my skills and aid me in my University studies. Thankfully, I was given the funds towards one and I also made up the rest of the cost using commission, birthday and work savings, thus being able to buy one just over two weeks ago. As you can imagine, I was like a child at Disneyland. Practically skipping around holding my box, carefully sliding off the lid and piecing it all together with excitement. 

Then came the time to think of my first digital painting project….

Now for those of you that don’t know me, so the vast majority of you, I should probably explain that I am a HUGE fan of the ‘Alien’ franchise. Ever since seeing at a young age the empowered female lead actress Sigourney Weaver in the 1979 horror classic literally sucking the life out of the terrifying Xenomorph, I have developed, what my friends may say is, an unhealthy obsession with these movies. I have the box set, original movie posters, fancy dress outfit, knowledge about Stan Winston and inspiration artist H.R Giger and I am even planning to have the same number tattoo that the 8th Clone Ellen Ripley has in the final movie ‘Alien Resurrection’. Because of all these reasons, and the fact that May this year the next installment of the franchise ‘Alien Covenant’ will be released, I couldn’t think of anyone better to pay tribute to as my first attempt at a digital piece of artwork. (I was probably also biased to the fact that she looks and reminds me of my mum, minus the alien ass-kicking).

I created this piece of work by first finding a suitable portrait image I wanted to work from and placing this into a Photoshop file. I created a new layer and used this image to draw an outline with the tablet pen. With the outline drawn I removed the image and placed it to the side as reference. Using a large brush size and a low opacity, I marked out on another layer the basic highlights, shadows and colour changes on the portrait. I then started to create more in depth painted features using more comprehensive detail and precision, with each facial feature being a new layer and full opacity. This was the most difficult aspect of completing this document, remembering to use layers for each element, individual facial feature and texture. I found myself switching mainly through the colour, brush and smudging tools on Photoshop. My final layer in the document consisted of the textures on the skin, hair and clothing. Involved in this stage, was a lot of zooming in to what felt like a million percent, whilst keeping track of lighting within the piece and using a brush of the smallest variety. The main result can be seen here. For a first attempt, I am extremely happy with the outcome and it took me approximately a week to finish by just chipping away at it during my free time around my weekly schedule. 

I would recommend any artist who wishes to learn how to paint on a digital software to invest in a Wacom tablet, it made it a smooth process for me and a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It left me totally inspired with the possibilities of the device and I intend to keep practicing with it whenever I have free time. My only advice would be to regularly calibrate your tablet pen to get the most accurate results possible.

Thank you Sigourney Weaver, you were an excellent subject and a pleasure to paint. Onto The next project!


Abi Bills
Junior Designer, Imaginate

createmeg egan