How to Draw (Beautiful) Shoes with Hudson Rio
The basics of shoe design never looked quite as beautiful as when drawn by Hudson Rio. He’s a master of shoe design, and we’re fortunate to have him demonstrate how he does it in SketchBook. Like his process? You can download a copy of the PDF tutorial of how to draw shoes at the end of this post.
Sketchbook has a very simple and easy to use interface. Here’s how I organize my workspace in a way that is effective for my workflow.
For this tutorial (and most of my work) I only use a few different brushes. The first four brushes are standard brushes — Airbrush, Paintbrush, Hard Eraser, Soft Eraser — with minor adjustments to opacity/flow. I use a custom Do-It-Yourself Pencil Brush for sketching, and a custom Sharp Eraser with a very sharp edge. They are all great for different details:
- Airbrush: Highlights and shadows
- Paintbrush: Blocking in colors
- Hard Eraser: Erasing overspray
- Soft Eraser: Erasing highlights/shadows
The other two are more detailed brushes:
- DIY Pencil: All-purpose sketching brush that works great for my style of drawing.
- Sharp Eraser: Used with the Airbrush, this helps me create crisp highlights and reflections.
How to Draw Shoes: A Rough Sketch in 4 Steps
Having correct proportions is extremely important in a shoe sketch. Starting with basic foot/shoe shape is the best way to achieve correct proportions. Once you have that down, the rest follows naturally. 1) Sketch a basic foot/shoe shape; 2) sketch the silhouette of the shoe; 3) add details like the sole of the shoe; 4) add final details like the logo and laces.
Make a Thumbnail Page
The purpose of thumbnail sketches is to explore a wide range of ideas in small amount of time. These sketches are messy and quick, and will be refined later. Creating a thumbnail page is a good way to present and evaluate the ideas you’ve come up with.
Refine Your Concepts
Once you have evaluated your concepts and chosen a few to refine (based on function, aesthetics, materials, etc.) you will create a tighter sketch that communicates the details of the concept better. You can do this by taking your favorite from your thumbnail page and scaling it up to become the base of a more refined sketch.
Clean up the Sketch
Now that you already have the basic design figured out, you can use it as an underlay to trace over and create a quick, clean, and more detailed sketch of the concept.
Explain Your Concept
A simple sketch can’t convey everything you are thinking. This is why designers add notes to their sketches. It’s a quick way to explain features or materials to those who are reviewing the concepts.
Concepts and Layer Groups
Designers come up with many concepts for each project, and as you’ve just learned, it takes a few steps to reach a refine drawing of each concept. Layer groups make it easy organize all of your concepts and the layers used to create them.
Set Up the Final Render
Once a concept (or multiple concepts) is chosen from the refined sketches, it is time to do a final render. This is the part where the designs form, color, and materials will really shine!
Block in Colors
Use the Brush and Hard Eraser to block in and define areas of color. I prefer to be messy with my Brush and clean up with the Eraser; it seems to be easier than trying to be precise with the brush. Keeping each color on a separate layer will help in the future.
Adding a texture to your render is a great way to convey what material is being used to the viewer. For this render, I Googled “cloth texture” and found a high-res image that resembled the knitted material I want the shoe to be made of.
Start to define the form by adding shadows based on a defined light source. In this case, my light is above the shoe, so shadows will be cast on the lower parts. This step is done by adding value in large sections with a black Airbrush, and erasing where needed.
Doing the same as you have done with the shadows, create highlights above the linework layer using a white Airbrush and Hard Eraser. Use the Hard Eraser within the form to create the appearance of glossy materials.
Edge Highlights and Material Breaks
Using a white Pencil, add crisp highlights to the edges of forms and areas where two materials meet. This creates a realistic appearance, and helps explain how the shoe is constructed.
On a layer above the highlights, use a white Airbrush to create bright highlights on the edges. I like to set the layer blending mode to Soft Glow, as this has a more dramatic appearance.
The final step for me is to Duplicate the shadows layer and highlight layer, and then adjust the opacity of the duplicated layers to a desired effect. Find a balance between having enough contrast to give the image a dramatic look, without losing detail in the design.
Remember when I said to keep your color layers separate? Here’s where it is going to come in handy. By locking the transparency of the color layers, you can easily brush on new colors and explore different colorways.
A Quick Summary
Now that we’ve finished the final render, let’s review how we got here!