September 2018

LED Tracing Board Review – RH A4

A tracing board or light board is a flat electronic pad that emits light. It allows drawings on one sheet of paper to be viewable through another sheet or even multiple sheets. This makes it easier to trace sketches, full drawings, calligraphy and more. It’s also a tool for beginners learning how to draw from the act of tracing.

Today, I’m reviewing the RH A4 LED Tracing Board. I’ve always wanted a tracing board, so when GearBest asked me to review this, I immediately said yes!

This is a USB powered device, but the package does not come with a micro USB cable, just the light board, packing foam and a pre-installed protective sheet on the surface of the board.

The board is made of acrylic and the surface provides a nice grip for any smooth sketch paper or light drawing paper laid flatly upon it. It seems like the static and texture help hold the paper in place. When I lay a sheet of paper on the surface, it seems as though the board creates a suction effect which keeps the sheets of paper from moving, even when I push it with my hand (this is without the protective film).

Along the top and left border of the working area, there are measurements to keep track of scale. I think that’s useful for architectural drawings. I don’t know what I would use it for, myself.

On the back are 4 plastic stickers… I’m not quite sure what their use is. They’re definitely not for grip because of their slippery nature. My guess is they provide an easier way to pickup the board when placed on a flat surface.

At 5mm thick, it’s quite sturdy. I wouldn’t be afraid to toss it into my messenger bag for a drawing session out in the park.

I usually trace things by holding them up to a window during the daytime which gets very tiring for my arms. The tracing board allows me to trace while seated at my desk during any time of the day.

This model has 6 levels of light intensity, controlled by a touch sensitive switch. The first image below on the left is the board switched off. The following images to the right are the 6 light levels which illuminate evenly across the surface – no stripes or flickering.

The color temperature ranges from 13,000 – 17,000K with a lifespan of 50,000 hours.

I used it at night to trace and shade a portrait for 4 hours and was pleased to find that it did not cause any eyestrain and even after such long use on the highest brightness setting, the board did not heat up. Small details from the portrait were clearly visible through a layer of printer paper.

The board provides enough light even when using thick canson bristol paper on the brightest setting.

These images were taken in a room with double-glass doors on a bright sunny day.

I also tested it outside under direct sunlight on the highest brightness setting. It’s almost impossible to see the drawing underneath unless I’m in the shade:

Under the shade, I can make out quite a lot of detail through the printer paper. So while you can use it outside on a sunny, cloudless day, you’re better off in the shade. Tracing text or drawings with very broad lines should be super easy.

Overall, I’m very pleased with this tracing board. The only con being that it didn’t come with a micro USB cable… but I have too many lying around my apartment anyway. I’m stoked that I can add this to my artist toolbox now, replacing the whole window tracing thing that I do very often in preparation for my tutorials!

If you’re interested in learning more about this or picking one up for yourself, please visit GearBest for more info!



Super Affordable Drawing Tablet Review – Veikk S640

Great drawing tablet that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg!

1 hour speed drawing using the Veikk S640

The Veikk S640 drawing tablet was sent to me by GearBest to review. At first, I wasn’t expecting much out of this drawing tablet because of the price. My initial thought was “I better lower my expectations because the price is so darn cheap”.

Lemme tell you… I did NOT expect this tablet to perform as well as it did!

Let’s start with the unboxing!

The minimalistic packaging contains:

⦁ 1 battery-free stylus with 8192 levels of pressure sensitivity
⦁ Felt stylus sleeve
⦁ 5.3″ x 8.5″ drawing tablet with built-in 57″ long USB cable
⦁ 10 extra stylus nibs
⦁ 1 nib remover
⦁ Instruction manual
⦁ Driver download information sheet

It’s basically a plug-and-play device. I was able to use it instantly after plugging it into my Windows 10 laptop via USB. Also, downloading the driver from their website was really straight forward — no searching under rocks for the right one!

After drawing a 1 hour long portrait, I found the tablet and stylus extremely natural to use and the pressure sensitivity, tilt sensitivity and responsiveness is honestly comparable to expensive “professional” tablets! I LOVE that it does what it needs to do without all the bells and whistles and at SUCH an affordable price. It’s freaking ridiculous!

It’s a quick scratchy drawing, but judging from the tablet’s performance, I can definitely use it to create professional commission pieces.

I’ve been using it to do other tests as well as browse the internet for more than 2 hours and so far, it has been great! My only complaint regarding software is when the stylus travels to the very edge of the screen, the cursor is stuck there for less than half a second before it becomes active again. I rarely travel to the edges of the screen while I draw, so I didn’t experience this during the speed drawing process.

I experienced absolutely no lag and the tilt sensitivity allows me to draw even at a 25 degree angle.

Here are some pressure sensitivity test strokes:


The stylus has 2 buttons which can be programmed to do various standard functions as shown below.

After using it with light to medium pressure for about 3 hours, the nib still looks completely brand new and the tablet surface remains unscratched.

Some people might prefer a more textured surface, but I love the smooth texture so much. The stylus just glides across the surface so effortlessly.

The tablet itself is 2mm thick on the drawing surface and 6mm thick along the side where the cable is attached, which makes a great hand grip when I’m using it on my lap. Its 4″ x 6″ active area is marked out by very faint white lines that are a little difficult to make out.

The material making up the drawing surface provides a sturdy structure to draw on and handle. It’s also super thin and light, which makes it very portable.

Overall, the tablet’s simplistic design is just so refreshing!


The bottom has 4 super effective rubber grips that are stuck on there very very well (tried sliding them off with my finger and they wouldn’t budge). Again, I’m honestly very impressed by this tablet and build quality for the price!

The only cons are…

  • The stylus buttons are too finicky, travel is too shallow for my preference, and it would be better if they were raised by an additional millimeter or more to make them easier to find.
  • A rubber grip on the stylus would be nice to prevent it from spinning while in use, which causes the buttons to move away from my thumb (the digit I use to press the buttons).
  • When the cursor/stylus travels to the very edge of the screen, the cursor is stuck for less than half a second.
  • No touchpad capability
  • Double-clicking is difficult unless you hold the stylus very still. Any lateral movement will make the tablet register your double-click as a single click. To combat this, I’ve programmed one of the buttons to double-click.

Honestly though, I think the pros far outweigh the cons, especially if you’re just starting out.


For the price, this is a truly amazing drawing tablet! If you’re interested in digital art and have been turned off by the expensive tablet prices out there, this one is a very affordable one to get you started. It’s definitely possible to create professional drawings on this tablet, whether it be for your own pleasure or for a paid client.

If you want to find out more about it, please click here. GearBest is having a sale at the moment and a September treasure hunt event as well.


Side Note:

If you’re using this tablet in GIMP, remember to enable stylus pressure under Edit > Input Devices. Then select “VEIKK Tablet Pressure Stylus” from the left menu and in the “Mode” dropdown menu, select “Screen” and hit save.

How to Make Drawings POP!

In this tutorial, I’m gonna show you a few ways to give a flat drawing more depth.
Go grab a drawing that you wanna work on and try some or all of these tips to add an additional layer of depth or 3D-ness to it.
Let’s begin!
Video version of this blog post:


Tip #1: Apply Perspective

Perspective is used to give the illusion depth or distance on a 2D surface. So by applying it properly, you can push areas far away or pull them closer to you, which helps your drawing appear more 3D / pop out of the page.
If your drawing is a scene or a subject that recedes into the distance, remember that objects should look smaller and smaller as they move further away from the viewer. To draw a simple scene like this, you can use one-point linear perspective to find out the appropriate size to draw each object.
Just align the edges of your object to a single point in the distance, using a ruler.
Applying perspective properly sets a good foundation for your 3D drawings. For more content on perspective, visit lesson 6 of my beginners’ course.

Tip #2: Apply Blur

To heighten the illusion of perspective, just apply some blur to sections of your drawing.
For example, if you want the viewer to focus their attention on only one apple, let’s say… the second one from the left, you can blur all the others and remove some of their detail. Our eyes are drawn to fine details, so the fewer you add, the better.
Simply use a soft tissue to smudge the drawing until it becomes blurred.
The further an object is from the main focal point (the second apple), the more blurry it should be. This is very simple to do and it helps to heighten the illusion of depth. It makes far away objects look even further away than they were before. And objects that are close to you will look even closer.
If you want the viewer to focus their attention on the first apple instead, you can blur all the others, leaving only the first one looking sharp:
You have full control over what you want the audience to focus their attention on.
This technique is helpful for differentiating foreground and background objects from each other as well as imply distance.

Tip #3: Shade More

If your drawings usually have minimal shading and contain mostly white or whatever color your paper is (like the image above), it’s going to be very difficult to make it look 3D.
The first thing you can do is get more comfortable with shading the entire drawing, leaving only the brightest areas white or close to white — trying not to let too much of the bare paper show through. If you’re not sure how or where to shade, please click over to my shading tutorial before you continue with this one. It covers the topic of light, which is crucial for realism.

Tip #4: Use Gradients

A gradient is a gradual transition from light to dark or the other way around. It can be created by gradually pressing harder or softer as you shade.
Gradients exist because the further something is from the light or the more it turns away from it, the darker and darker it appears… generally speaking. So even objects with flat sides will display gradual changes in light intensity.
Here’s an example: for most beginners, drawing a deep crease or wrinkle might look like something like the image below — A set of lines on the surface of the skin.
The problem here is that it just looks like a line tattooed onto the skin’s surface.
Because the shading is a solid value, the skin looks completely flat. In order to curve the skin into a wrinkle, we’ll need to make it look as though it’s turning away from the light. This means, the skin should become darker and darker as it approaches the groove, making the transition from light to dark become gradual instead of abrupt.
This gradient forces our brain to perceive the wrinkle as a curved surface instead of a flat one.
So simply using lines to indicate wrinkles, folds or creases won’t do. Try to use gradients wherever possible to give all surfaces a more realistic sense of depth.
Don’t forget that the further a surface is from the light, the darker it will be. So even objects with flat sides will display gradual changes in light intensity:

Tip #5: Remove Obvious Outlines

Any outlines in your drawing can make it appear cartoony which takes away from any effort in making it  appear 3D… because in real life, there are no outlines. So make sure they’re erased or try to blend them into their surroundings until they disappear.

Tip #6: Make Full Use of Your Pencils

Here’s an example of a flat drawing. Now, this may look familiar to you if you’re a very light handed artist. The shading looks good but it still looks flat. And the reason is because it lacks value contrast.
Meaning, there isn’t that big of a difference between light and dark. Everything is just a light shade of grey.
Let me pull up a graphite value scale against the drawing to show you what I mean:
As you can see, my graphite pencil is capable of creating really dark values, but in the image above, only a small range is being used, which is kind of a big waste!

This makes the drawing look really flat.

To avoid this, apply a little more pressure while you’re shading or use the same amount of pressure that you’re used to but switch to a softer pencil than the one you’re currently using. That should give you a slightly darker value.
For example, if you’re using an HB pencil, switch to a softer one like a 2B or even 4B if you want.
When you shade with a softer pencil, your drawing should come out looking darker than it normally would. When you make this change, you’ll start to see your drawing take on a more 3D form.
So simply shading darker in general will create a more impactful drawing that’s much more interesting for your viewer to look at. As I increase the contrast, the drawing becomes clearly a few shades darker than the paper, which really helps to set the drawing apart from the background.
I like the overall level of shading that it has now. But it’s still not popping out of the page.
To add more depth, I’m gonna look for specific areas across the entire drawing where I can exaggerate or deepen the values without making it look unnatural. This requires some understanding of how light behaves. If you need a refresher, the shading tutorial is just a click away.
I’m gonna go for areas that are sort of hidden from direct light and reflections.
Darkening such areas can push parts of your drawing further into the background.
Here are a few examples.

Example #1:

Darkening crevices and nooks can push them further back. But you do wanna make sure it’s not over done. So work in layers, adding more graphite just a little bit at a time so you can save yourself from erasing later on.

Example #2:

Cast shadows, especially ones on dark surfaces are great areas to exaggerate.
You might have noticed a very subtle cast shadow along the part of the eyeball that’s directly below the top eyelid. I’m gonna exaggerate the darkest area along it which happens to be the iris.
There is a slight cast shadow here to begin with. Let’s see what happens if I add some darker graphite.
Now, the iris looks deeper, and even though I didn’t touch the top eyelid at all, it looks as though it’s been pulled towards us.
I know the changes between each image are very subtle. So if you wanna view it more clearly, please watch the video version of this tutorial: click here to watch it on Youtube.

Example #3:

If you’re drawing from your imagination, it really helps to understand some basic anatomy :)
For this example, I know I can shade the pupil much much darker because it’s actually a hole in the center of the iris that absorbs light. So it should appear very dark. It doesn’t look like a hole right now, but that will change as soon as I shade it some more:
Not every drawing needs to have such dark shades/values in it. Just do whatever is right for your specific drawing.
Looks like I’ve covered all the values in my scale…
You might have noticed that after adding all these dark shades of grey, the eyelashes and eyebrow look much lighter in comparison to the rest of the drawing, making the entire drawing look rather bland and uninteresting.
Dark values can create interest. guiding the eyes to look wherever you want them to. So to give the drawing more… of a balance, I’m going to darken the eyelashes and eyebrow as well:
That’s much better!
Now I’ve made full use of my graphite pencil by including all the shades it can possibly create. Of course you don’t have to use all the values in the scale, but it does make the drawing look a lot more interesting.
So… we’re done right? Not exactly!
We traveled far over to the right of the scale, but there’s still another value on the left, and that’s white!
If your drawing contains a lot of white areas already, this might not create much of an impact.
Okay, so here are a few areas that could use some brightening… these shiny, wet surfaces reflect a lot of light, so turning them white or close to white will make them pop, immediately:
Use an eraser to remove graphite in such areas. I like to use a kneadable eraser for high precision. For a very bright white, try correction fluid/white-out.
Use your dark and light values to continue to push and pull your drawing further. If your drawings doesn’t have any wet/shiny surfaces, just brighten your highlight further. When you do this, it helps to know where the light source is coming from so the patterns of light make sense and look as convincing as possible. Click here for the shading tutorial, if you need a refresher. In the image below, the ribbons in the eye, spokes and eye whites have been lightened, among others.
Here’s a comparison between the drawing before and after:
Well, that’s it guys!
If you have any questions, leave them down below and if you have any before and after photos, I’d loooove to see them!!

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