Bowers Sketching Improvement

Hi PB, I am suggesting a gradient which I think will help, but looking at the rendering again, I don’t mind the blue, but it’s the fact that it covers the whole page, putting it in a box behind part of the design, not all of it, will hopefully help - if you do this you may have to sacrifice your reflection, but it’s worth a try anyway. PT

Here is a workshop vacuum that I rendered on SBP.

Any feedback is greatly appreciated!


Not quite sure why you rendered two shadows?

Right now it appears your product is both laying down and we are looking at it in top view as well as being upright and we are looking at it in sideview.
My guess is, you intended the latter.

I would recommend an inner glow instead of the drop shadow behind the product.

Don’t be afraid to push your values, this will help your drawing read better from “across the room”.

Great suggestions Carl. I also like how you got rid of the reflection. I feel like that was played out over the past couple of years. The cast shadow you added is very nice.

Hey PJ,

How long are these renderings taking you and what’s your goal? Can you share some sketch styles that you’re aiming to accomplish?

If photo realism is your goal I have a few concerns:

  1. Why do you want to do photo realistic digital renderings? At this stage if you want true photo real images you should be using 3D. I think you should reevaluate the reason you’re using photoshop as a tool.

  2. Sketchbook pro most likely isn’t going to get you that flashy rendering it sounds like you’re seeking, it’s not made for that. The right tool would most likely be Photoshop.

  3. Remember, if your fundamentals of sketching and rendering aren’t strong then it will come through in your digital work. Perhaps you can share some of your analog stuff? Even taking a step back and doing some simple products digitally would make critiquing easier for your viewers and I think you’d gain more from it at this stage.


Hey Aaron,

I’m glad you bring that up…I’ll step back to explain my goal.

“Photorealism” is a poor word choice as I was aiming more for a thread to improve on my SBP rendering capabilities…getting materials to look the way they should look and creating higher quality sketches, renders etc for marketing and my portfolio. Since graduating with a BS in ID I’ve been spending my lunch breaks and evenings to improve on these skills for 2 years now (as I have been told they are greatly lacking and holding me back).

As far as sketching/rendering goals go I would like to be much better at communicating visually in two ways 1) a fast sketchy, very loose, inspirational and explorative ideation style and then 2) a refined, closer to photo style that communicates materials/textures similar to Jeff Smith, Reid Schlegel or Mike Serafin SKETCHBOOK by mike serafin at

I can upload more to this thread if needed but a great look at my analog abilities can be seen at my website below or my instagram @pbowwow has a lot of work as well.

Thanks for the advice mentioned above!

Awesome, I’m glad we got that out of the way it helps the board see where you’re at and what your strengths and weaknesses are.

How often are you sketching?

I see a lot of full on renderings and personally, I think you can make larger leaps in your skills if you spend less time rendering and more time on sketching a lot. 30-40 Pages a week with multiple sketches per page is going to improve your skills pretty quickly.

Your line control is pretty good, but I think your biggest weakness is in proportion, and if the proportion is off in the sketch then there’s very little value to rendering out. I understand that at some point you have to learn the software, but beware of the time spent rendering vs. sketching.

If I had to make a suggestion of a work flow to both improve your sketching and rendering skills it would be something like this:


Category: Computer Mice

10 pages - 11x17 (or 11x14) 2-3 sketches per page of one product type. Pen, Pencil, Marker, etc. Only add detail/ marker to the best sketch on each page. Don’t render them all!

Use reference for both computer mice proportions, details, and successful sketches that you can learn from.

After the 10 pages you could take your best sketch and bring it into sketchbook/photoshop and render it. This way you’re maximizing time to get better at sketching and still learning the software.

That’s my feedback!


I really appreciate it.

I did the 30-40 page weeks back in 2010-2013 when I was in school, now I’m doing more like 5-10 outside of work (albeit these are usually renderings and less quick sketches to practice basics). In work I am sketching concepts on SBP and solidworks but wanted to take my abilities to a higher level hence the thread.

I guess what I can take from this is to jump up another level I should take a couple steps back and relearn/retrain at a higher level of sketching so that the renders come across better. That makes sense.


I agree with Aaron, practice sketching first.
Why don’t you try sketching existing products or even copy sketches that you like, Mike Serafins are great. This way you focus on sketching and not so much on the form generation at first. By doing somebody else’s sketches you will discover little sketching details & style here and there.
If you sketch existing products you will start to build a form/shape library in your head that you can use during future ideation exercises.
Try sketching multiple existing drills (makita, bosch, dewalt, milwaukee, Ridgid, etc.). This will force you to understand their proportions, venting details, grip details, chuck, battery, etc. After that, try to sketch a few of your own.
These exercises are for you to practice your sketching skills without having to worry about being innovative. These are some pretty nice form exploration sketches…George Yoo, Concept/Industrial Designer in land of creativity, CA. I believe he was trying to just work on form generation. Again, try to build a mental library of forms and shapes.

Will do FH13, thanks!

I also want to s/o Aaron’s “design school journey”…thats incredible. I just wish I knew of this years ago, so inspiring to see the amount of progress you made going through school. Crazy amount of improvement.


Thanks PJ,

I’ve been fortunate to have a few passionate instructors at school and on these boards mentor me throughout the past 3 years of design school. I’ve found that I improve most when asking relentlessly for feedback and receiving criticism from designers that can articulate what’s wrong and how I can improve. I should also note that I’m still itching every day to get better at sketching.

At one point I was getting feedback from my sketching instructor at noon, 5 PM, and 11 PM every day while also posting on the boards every Sunday. If you put in the quantity of work and share it, I assure you that you’ll be on your way to some great sketching skills.

Below are some goggle sketches and a quick concept render of one of the forms. Trying to improve proportions, line control and capture a looser style.

Any and all feedback is helpful!