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How to Draw with a Mouse in Adobe Flash

Updated on April 27, 2012

All of us digital artists have been there at some point. We've tried drawing with our mouse, only to discover that we simply don't have the same control over it that we do with a pencil. It's harder to get the lines and curves we want without messing everything up, but I'm here to tell you it's not impossible.

If you still want to try drawing with a mouse, and you don't have the resources to purchase a tablet, and you happen to own a copy of Adobe Flash, then this guide might be for you. I'm going to move step by step through a drawing using only my mouse. It might take a little patience and practice, but it's worth it in the end.

This is the latest picture I drew with my mouse. I use my tablet more now, but this one was made entirely without one.
This is the latest picture I drew with my mouse. I use my tablet more now, but this one was made entirely without one. | Source

Getting Started: Tools and Elements

I use Adobe Flash cs3, but just about any version of Flash will do. I have no idea what you personally wish to draw, but for the sake of this guide I'm going to be drawing a fighter pilot... who happens to be a monkey.

Before we begin, there are a few main tools we're going to be using:

  1. The "Pencil Tool"
  2. The "Line Tool"
  3. The "Oval Tool" (if you can't find the oval tool, try clicking the rectangle tool. It might be hidden underneath it)
  4. The "Paint Bucket Tool"

When drawing a head, I reach for the oval tool and get a basic circle to work off from. If you click in the middle of this circle, you can delete the interior color (which is what I choose to do when starting out). At this point you should realize that there are two elements to your drawing already: The "Stroke" element, and the "Fill" element. The Pencil and Line tools draw a "Stroke" element, and the Paintbrush and Paint Bucket tools create a "Fill" element. When using a shape tool, like the Oval Tool, you end up creating both elements. You can even create a circle without a stroke or a fill element by clicking the square with a red line through it in the color picker.

Shape Morphing

Unless you're going for a certain style, you most likely don't want a perfectly round head. If you hover your mouse over the edge of the circle (make sure it's the black cursor, the "Selection Tool"), you'll see that the dotted square floating to the cursor's lower right has turned into a curved line. This shows that you can click, drag, and warp the shape at that point. With this new information, you should realize you can get that oval shaped almost however you want it to be, it just might take a lot of tweaking. If you're unsure about the shape now, it's okay. You can morph it at any time this same way.

Personally, I want this monkey to have a little edge to him. He's a toughened sky pilot, he's seen a lot of battles. Monkeys might typically have rounder heads, but I want to give mine a square jaw.

Using the line tool, I'm going to build off of that original oval shape. I also want to give him some big, monkey ears, so I'll draw those on with the pencil tool. While I'm at it, I'll add some basic guidelines to generally represent where I'll end up putting the eyes..

A basis for our picture is starting to form, but it looks... a little off. That's okay, though. Nothing to worry about.
A basis for our picture is starting to form, but it looks... a little off. That's okay, though. Nothing to worry about.
When the Fill Bucket Tool is selected, you can change the size of the gap the tool fills in automatically. Larger gaps mean there's more forgiveness for unclosed shapes, smaller gaps means it might not fill if the shape isn't completely closed off.
When the Fill Bucket Tool is selected, you can change the size of the gap the tool fills in automatically. Larger gaps mean there's more forgiveness for unclosed shapes, smaller gaps means it might not fill if the shape isn't completely closed off.

A Fresh Perspective

As you can see from the above picture, there are a few lines intersecting in weird ways, the ears are a little off, and overall it could still use some more shaping. Not to worry. If you see a line that's out of place (like the curved line on the lower left of the above picture, sort of poking out from the monkey's jaw), you can click and delete those individual sections. If the jaw's too straight for you, you can click and warp those parts as well, like we did when creating our first, initial oval.

If you're still not entirely sure you like how it's looking so far, select everything you've drawn by hitting Ctrl+A, then mirror it all by looking at the top bar, going to Modify > Transform > Flip Horizontal. This will give you a fresh perspective on your drawing. If it looks odd to you, the mistakes you've made should be more apparent. This is a good thing to practice, and I recommend doing it multiple times for every single drawing you draw from now on... even traditional drawings, by means of using a mirror. Trust me, if you're not doing this already, it will help you improve significantly.

After you've got the ears and jawline looking how you want them to, you can go ahead and add the basic skin color you want with the Fill Tool. If there are any gaps in the head, the fill might not take. If this is the case, you can either manually fill these gaps, or you can change the Gap Size that the Fill Bucket Tool automatically fills in (The picture shows where to change the Gap Size).

Even after adding color (introducing the "Fill Element"), you can still click and drag the shape of an object, so if you still don't like how the shape looks, you can continue to tweak it where you think it's necessary.

Even after adding color (introducing the "Fill Element"), you can still click and drag the shape of an object.
Even after adding color (introducing the "Fill Element"), you can still click and drag the shape of an object.

New Layer

Now I think we're ready to begin working on the face. In order to keep things clean, and to prevent from messing up the shape of our head so far, I'm going to create a new layer. If you're not sure how to do that, use the picture on the right for reference.

If those ears you drew are constantly messing up the shape of your head whenever you try to change it, you might want to put them on other layers as well. The more layers the better, really. Since you lack a lot of control when using the mouse, you're going to make more mistakes. The beauty of Flash, though, is that it allows you to constantly change and tweak your project, even more-so if you have each element on a separate layer.

The Face

So when working on the face, just keep in mind everything we've learned so far. You can get the shapes you want for the eyes by using the line tool and morphing it with the selection tool, or if you're confident enough, you can try drawing them with the pencil tool. Once as you've added the facial features, don't forget to flip everything to make sure it's all looking right (and, naturally, flip it back when you're done).

Since the face is on another layer, you can change any of the facial features at any time. You might even want to go so far as to create a separate layer for the eyes, the nose, and the mouth, especially if you're not completely happy with one of them. Even near the ending of your drawing, having a facial feature on its own layer will make it extremely easy to tweak, change, or remove if you don't like it.

Ah, there, the spark of life! NOW he looks like a monkey... a naked monkey...
Ah, there, the spark of life! NOW he looks like a monkey... a naked monkey...
Monkeys have furry bodies, so be sure it's the same color you want the hair to be.
Monkeys have furry bodies, so be sure it's the same color you want the hair to be.

The Body

Usually you want to plan the Body at the beginning of your drawing, but I wanted to keep it simple early on. Since I don't want this fearsome Sky Pilot to simply be a floating head (though that would be cool in its own right), I'm going to give mine a neck and some shoulders.

Create a layer beneath all of the others (click and drag it to where you want it in the layer window). The necklines are simple enough: Just use the line tool, then morph them with the selection tool, as we've done so many other times in this guide. I'm not going to put a lot of detail in my neck, since I plan on giving him a scarf, so it's going to be pretty basic.

If you want to color in his lower body with the Paint Bucket Tool, make sure the shape is closed or the paint bucket won't fill anything. You might need to hide your Monkey's head in order to make sure the lines connect.

This hair looks rather... jagged.
This hair looks rather... jagged.

The Hair

In the above picture you can see that I've started adding hair by means of the line tool, but it looks extremely blocky and mechanical. It doesn't really look like hair so much as spikes. Using the selection tool, however, I can shape and morph each strand into something more organic, which you can see in the picture below. In addition to what I already had, I added another layer behind the head for hair that's covered by part of his face.

I also started adding clothes, using methods previously explained, so I won't go into detail there. Mostly using the line tool and dragging with the selection tool, that's really the main key for getting any basic shape with the mouse.

There, much better.
There, much better.

"Paste in Place"

Here's a little trick if you want to draw an article of clothing that closely follows the contour of a line you've already drawn. In this instance, I want his cap to line up almost exactly with the line for his head I've already drawn, but I don't want to trace it by hand and I don't want to draw on the same layer. I Just click the desired line (in this case, the curved line at the top of the monkey's skull), copy it (Ctrl+C), go to the layer I'm drawing the cap on, then right click and hit "Paste in Place". That will paste the line in the exact same spot you copied it from. This is incredibly useful for more skin-tight articles of clothing, like on pants and sleeves.

Now he's stylin'
Now he's stylin'

Shading

At this point I have everything pretty much where I want it to be. A few things could probably use more tweaking, but I think I'm ready to move on to shading. Flash doesn't have a fade or smudge tool, so it's tough to get smooth shadows (though it's possible with gradients). I personally prefer cell shading anyhow, so that's what we're going to be doing.

Before we begin shading, be sure to change the color of your lines to something other than black (or whatever color you've been using for the "Stroke" element up to this point). This makes it easier for us to delete these lines later, as they're not going to be permanent. I like to choose a really obnoxious color so I don't forget about them.

I mark out the areas I want to shade first, then fill them in with the Paint Bucket Tool. The image on the right shows in bright pink where I want to shade.

Make sure the Brush Mode is set to "Paint Fills"
Make sure the Brush Mode is set to "Paint Fills"

Lines

So you probably noticed how we have almost no line variation in this picture so far. If we had a tablet we probably wouldn't have used any of the pencil or line tools and stuck strictly to the paintbrush (which I didn't use for this picture).

The next step I make is to manually go through each layer and change the colors of the lines to whatever I think suits best for that section. Sometimes I just go with black lines, but it all really depends on the style.

Once you've changed the line color (if you chose to), there are two different ways we can go about adding line variation (or at least thickening the lines). You can trace by hand, using the paintbrush tool (which might be a bit difficult) or you can thicken the lines using the same method I used to shade the picture. Use the line tool and pencil tool to mark how thick you want the line to be, use the Paint Bucket tool to fill it in, then delete the strokes when you're done. Just make sure the Stroke and Fill colors are both the same color when you do this. Also, if you're using the paintbrush, see the image on the right. You want to make sure that you change the brush mode to the "Paint Fills" setting, otherwise it could break your line and cause a bit of a mess.

Here is the final product. As you can see, the new line variation adds a lot.
Here is the final product. As you can see, the new line variation adds a lot.

In Conclusion

Well, there it is. I can safely say that this monkey is just as good as something I would have drawn with a tablet, it just took a little longer than usual. In my experience, Flash is the best program to use if you're drawing with a mouse. It might take a bit of practice and a bit of trial and error to get to this point, but Flash is very forgiving in this area.

If you have any further suggestions or questions, please leave a comment and let me know. I hope this thing was helpful to some of you. Best of luck with your future projects.

adobe flash cs3

Wacom Bamboo Pen Tablet
Wacom Bamboo Pen Tablet

If you ever seek to upgrade from a mouse to a tablet, this is the one I'm using. It's nothing incredibly fancy, but it's very comfortable and affordable. It takes a little getting used to, but it's the best tablet I've used yet.

 

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    • ricn profile image

      ricn 5 years ago from Florida

      Really nice and easy to follow tutorial.

    • snakeslane profile image

      snakeslane 5 years ago from Canada

      Excellent tutorial Quark, and thanks for the DeviantArt link. Welcome to Hub Pages! Regards, snakeslane