Digital Pencil Drawing using Krita and G’MIC

Over the last month or so I’ve been working on this Illustration using digital 3D techniques and drawing techniques with a digital painting software called Krita.


I used both 3D and 2D digital art techniques but I wanted it to look like a pencil drawing so I employed the typical hand drawing skills you would expect with pencil like brushes in Krita. I also used a great feature in G’MIC to create a pencil textured base from the 3D render to save some time and create nice shading effects under the drawing layers.

G’MIC is integrated into newer versions of Krita from version 5 so doesn’t need to be maintained seperately. The pencil textures for the artistic stylize filter in G’MIC are also included, I gave them to the developer of G’MIC for free so everyone could use them.

I started developing this Illustration by making 3D models using ZBrush, Curvy 3D and 3D Coat which I composed into a scene and rendered out using Blender. The image above was worked on further in Krita to get a pencil drawing look.


The actual pencil drawing bit I’m going to talk about in this article took around 10 hours to complete. I’ll talk about the 3D process in another article.


You don’t have to start with a 3D render for what I’m going to show you by the way, it could be any image whether you started it using other digital painting brushes or whatever and then decided to go in a different direction with it. I did this with another picture a while ago of a squirrel I initially painted in Affinity Photo when I was testing the filter out with my pencil textures.

I also used the same technique for this picture.

Video Process

Here is the process video for the pencil drawing in Krita. Hopefully it will give you a general overview of what I did, but I’m going to write down the process here as well.

Setting up your document in Krita

I’ll supply a ready made template on my Gumroad page you can look at for reference of how to put your own file together, but here are the steps.

1: If you are looking to use an existing image for this technique you need to open the image you want to apply the pencil stylize effect to in Krita.

2: Duplicate your image (so you have a backup copy) and then make sure the background is opaque. If it isn’t you can create a layer underneath it and fill this with a colour (white for example) then merge the layers together.

Update: The pencil textures I made are available as presets in the Artistic Stylize filter in G’MIC so can be used without having to do the steps 3-9 directly within the filter settings. These steps are still useful if you want to use your own custom textures though.

G’MIC Artistic Stylize: pencil, charcoal and pastel

This method I’ve talked about below this point is still useful for custom textures though. I have some more custom textures available for this technique here for free.

3: Now you need to create a layer above this image which will contain the pencil shading texture (or any other texture for that matter) for the style transfer with G’MIC.

4: To create the textures I created a hand drawn pencil shading scale with different types of pencils on paper (if you want it to look “really” hand drawn it needs to be hand drawn in my opinion, but you could make something like this digitally if you want), scanned it in and then made it into a square format tiling pattern using PixPlant. I’ll include this pattern with the document template file. It is good practice to make shading scales if you want to practice your skills and it is fun making your own textures to experiment with. I don’t mind if you use mine though, please have fun.


For the texture to work well it needs to have a good range of values from light to dark, hence the need of the shading scale from light to dark. Hand drawing it means you get the lovely grainy texture and imperfections / happy accidents as well.

As I wrote about in one of my development diary entries for a stippling technique using the same method you can get it to work in the G’MIC stylize filter as long as you create light to dark values using a gradient and appropriate layer blending mode. The Artistic Stylize filter won’t work well with a flat value image.

Incidentally this video I made shows how you can turn a flat texture into one with enough tone to work with the filter by tricking it.

For some things a radial image like the one I created for the stippling technique may work better to create fewer artifacts to fix afterward, but as a rule a linear one will be fine and is much easier to create.

5: Drop your tiling pattern into Krita as a new layer, then use the create pattern from current layer with this texture.


6: Fill the layer with the pattern.


The filled layer:


As you can see, I made the pencil shading scale into a repeating tiled image so I could use it in documents of any size or ratio I wanted in future. I found that the image for the stylize filter in G’MIC needs to completely cover the layer, so this approach is more versatile.

To be on the safe side make sure you go to “Image > Trim to Image Size” as well so it is definitely matching the source image size and there is no overlapping in the layers. I found this can cause problems in some of my earlier experiments if both images don’t match size and ratio of each other.

7: You should have the texture above your image in the layers. Select your image below the texture in the layers panel.

8: Then go to  Top Menu > Filter > Start G’MIC


This will open the G’MIC interface where you can select different image effects and filters. The one you need for this guide is called Stylize, you can search for it in the search bar.

9: Set your Style settings to Custom Style (Bottom Layer) and Input layers setting at active and above.

Make sure the texture for the custom style is the image in the overlain box and your image you want to apply it to is underneath it.


Pressing OK will start the process of the filter. It will take time depending on how large your image is and how fast your computer is. My computer did it in around 4 minutes.

10: The pencil shading from the texture will be applied to the layer that was underneath it.


As you can see there are some areas that may need fixing- the dark patch on the picture the squirrel is pointing to and the dark band on the squirrels tail. Other than that it is a good base to work into as a start.

Another thing I like to do with this layer is to go to Filter > Color > Color to Alpha. This creates transparency on the layer which will let paper texture layers underneath show though creating a nice traditional look.

Choose a base paper texture

You can choose whatever paper pattern fill or texture you like. I went for a basic paper texture.


In the free template for this demo I will not include the base texture but you can find paper textures on the internet or make your own by scanning a piece of paper in. If you have the paid for version of Digital Atelier set for Krita by Ramon Miranda it comes with lots of paper and canvas textures you can use. It is worth paying for the complete version, you also get lots of textures and papers as well as video tutorials on how to use them in Krita with the paid set. The paper textures are useful for getting different looks for transparency masks and base or overlain paper texture layers.

You can erase parts of your picture where you want the texture of the paper to show more. You might want to duplicate it before you do this or use a transparency mask for a non destructive workflow.

Choose a texture for the overlay texture

A layer with a pattern fill of a texture I made is put over the drawing layers and set to Overlay blending mode at a low transparency. The level of transparency controls how much grain effect is applied to the drawing, you can adjust it for your own needs. Around 20 or 30 % is a good start.

overlay pencil texture

This will be included in the free template I’ve made for this demo, but you can try different textures to get different looks.

A Note on Brushes

I mostly used brushes in two bundle sets for this Illustration. You can find them on the internet and they are both free.


Charcoals by Ramon Miranda

These brushes are fantastic for charcoal and pencil style in Krita. You can find them in the video description for this video if you go onto YouTube:

There is also an optional template file provided by Ramon as well.

Once installed in Krita they will look like this:


I like to use the finger blending brush to soften details and blend things. The brushes in this set give a really lovely textural look to your drawings. Just try them all to see what you can do.

Krita 4 Extras brush presets pack

The other set I recommend is made by David Revoy and available for free. My favorite brush from this pack for the pencil lines and shading is one called hardpainting-02-textured-dry-details. It has a nice grainy texture and works well as a pencil. There are lots of really great brushes in this set. The other pencil brushes are great for the pencil drawing style as well.


There are more brushes since I wrote this article you might want to check out. I wrote about them here.

Brush organization tip

I put my favorite brushes into the popup picker so I could use them faster. I also like to organize brushes I like by tagging them into a custom set I usually label as “mine” so I remember I’ve bookmarked them for my favorites. They can be selected to show up in the popup palette if you select the tag you labelled by clicking on the tag icon in the lower right.


Back to the Drawing

Basic Outlines

I drew in the outlines for the drawing on a separate layer above with the back up original image on a low opacity as a guide above this.

I used the hardpainting-02-textured-dry-details brush but you can use whatever you like. You can draw the lines in from observation alone if you want, but I found it was faster and more accurate just to trace the outlines since I was going for a realistic look.

Initial Shading

I fixed the dark patches on a layer above the base textured layer and below the lines layer. The layer has a transparency mask in it made from a pencil grain texture I made and scanned in to give it some texture (actually the same one I used for the overlay paper texture I talked about earlier). The following screenshots show how to make a transparency mask in Krita.

Use the color picker to sample colors around the image to blend things in and use the blending brushes to soften it in.

More Drawing

I kept working on the drawing using observation skills with the reference photo for as long as it took until I thought it was finished (around 10 hours for the drawing in the demo). Darker lines and more defined details were added on layers without a transparency mask.

Color layer

I didn’t do a color layer for this Illustration but you can add colour by using layers above your drawing and setting them to an appropriate blending mode such as overlay or soft light. Experiment and see what looks nice.

I found that Ramon’s new Sketch V2 brushes were very helpful for coloured pencil techniques. Links to them can be found in the videos description on YouTube or on the Krita forum.


I cropped the picture to improve the composition.

Color Adjustments

This could be a new article on its own, so I’ll keep it simple by saying if you want your drawing to have a toned look you can play with different effects in G’MIC or overlay more textures and try different layer blending modes etc. I played with different filters and overlaid textures. Have fun and try different things.


This is optional, but if i tone a drawing I like to put some bright highlights in to make things pop such as eye details. This is usually the last stage.


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