I have had several Deviant Artists ask me, how do I get clean or tight pencil work and what is my process?
Well, it’s a Great question and I decided to repost my reply to that answer here as a journal in hopes that it helps Artist in this great community! I will also try to add more techniques, hints, and helpful guides in the future.
So, if you have requests on How I do something, please comment below as well and we can see what we can tackle next, No promises on every requests, but I will do my best to help.
Here is the 1st Question:
How do I get such tight and clean pencils and what is my erasing process?
1. First, lay down your rough base/sketch, (Try to make it loose, focus more on the composition and apply your references that you hopefully previously gathered if its an assignment), and apply the base VERY lightly. IF your light boxing your foundation base, do all your line work VERY lightly as its hard to discern and make distinctions when on the light-box, so make all your line work VERY light. The less lead on the paper the less smearing you have to worry about having.
2. Once your base is laid down and your happy with the foundation of it, you can then start applying darker, harder line work and definition. Place a CLEAN piece of paper (smooth paper, can be cheap xerox/copy paper - the key is choosing a paper with the least amount of tooth) underneath your drawing hand. Paper with tooth will pick up the lead from your art as you rub across it, much quicker and create undesirable smudging. Also remember that even smooth paper will inevitably pick up some lead and undesirably re-apply it onto your art, so change the paper and use a new Clean sheet or side of the paper when you see lead picking up underneath it. It also helps to wash your hands between this as some lead will find its way onto your hand no matter what. Not to mention your hands naturally produce oil anyways, so a dab of baby powder rubbed in on your hands won't hurt either, and helps serve as a protective shield XD.
3. On to the Cleaning. If you have major smudge areas, you can do some large area/negative space cleaning with a CLEAN gum eraser. However, don't get the gum eraser too close to the important line art edges or details. For closer edge cleaning you can use a "Papermate TUFF STUFF eraser stick" which has a wonderful small tip point for accurate use. These are true gems to have in your arsenal. After the oral erasing, Digitally scan in your illustration into Adobe Photoshop. Go to Image, click Adjustments, and then Adjust the Brightness and Contrast to desired quality, capture a nice balance of preserving your details, tones and values and make it easier to clean up your work. Don't try to get it perfect. Just enough to make the more specific cleaning easier. Once your Balanced, select OK.
Special Note: Some might ask, "Chuck, why do all the manual cleaning if your just going to go in digitally and do it anyways?"
Here is why - Original artwork is what is going to be in your portfolio or possibly high quality prints of the original and may garner interested buyers. So you want your originals presentable.
4. Finally, Select the Dodge tool in Photoshop to fade away smudges and line work that you don't desire. Start with a low exposure/opacity setting (12 or below") if your using a mouse. If your using a stylus then feel free to be more aggressive with the opacity/exposure. You can make it easier by strategically selecting Highlights or Shadows to specifically target what you want to define. Save as you go until completion.
That's how I get a nice, clean pencil finish. Hope this helps.