Friday, 25 January 2013

My weapons of choice (the tools of an illustrator)

I have a few people asking how I draw and what tools I use, so here is some insider information on my weapons of choice. It's not the same for all artists, but this is how I work.

First things first...


Strong, sweet coffee to help me concentrate. Energy drinks work just as well, but are pretty bad for your health / teeth so I'm trying to avoid them.

Drawing takes a lot of concentration so I need to snack and drink regularly, I recently switched to a vegan diet so I'm replacing my sweets for much healthier nibbles!

There is one vital tool in this job that I cannot live without. 


Running on OS X 10.8.2, the capabilities of the Macbook Pro, in my opinion far outshine any PC or laptop out there. It's fast, powerful and never lets me down. 

If the Macbook is the foundations to my house, then the software I use are the bricks and mortar.


I recently upgraded to CS6, although previous versions are just as effective. 

My main contenders are Photoshop and Illustrator.  I use whichever one fit's the client's job best - or whichever the client requests. Here's some samples of my work in each, and you can see the difference in the programs and what they do.


Mostly used to manipulate and edit photos, this raster based program gives me the chance to create more natural, painterly illustrations. Very similar (but not identical) to drawing traditionally with paper and pencils / paint / etc


It took me some time to master Illustrator and the pen tool, but once I did the world of illustration came to life.

Illustrator is a vector editor, which means you use mathematical equations to create your art in shapes. The huge plus to this is that illustrations created in Illustrator can be blow up in size without pixelating like images created in Photoshop. For me, it's great for clean, striking images where shapes and form rule.

Indesign & Dreamweaver

I mainly use Indesign to create book covers, posters and templates when putting the illustrations to print. Dreamweaver is a web design software for making HTML websites and mobile apps. Although my knowledge of this program is limited, I know enough to make websites such as this one with relative ease.


There was once a time where I floated on a sea of paper in a raft made from pencils. Not so much anymore. 

I use a Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet connected to my computer to draw straight into the program I'm using. After some time practicing and getting used to looking at a screen instead of your hand, it saves time and money. (after the initial outlay of the tablet) If you are wondering what the elastic band is for round the pen, it is to stop it rolling off my desk, which it likes to do.

I still do draw by hand for certain projects where the result just can't be duplicated digitally. For example when drawing for comics, the digital result just isn't as good as an old fashioned pen and paper. In these cases, I use a mechanical pencil, good quality paper, and a copic multiliner set to create images like the one below. I then often scan the artwork into my computer and colour it digitally in the above programs.

They are the essentials, my tools I can't live without. But there are are a couple more things that I cannot leave off this list, as they are just too important when I'm doing what I do.


My mac comes equipped with a very effective calendar and note taking system, I even have a few apps for this sort of thing. However time and time again, I have proved to myself that the best way to meet deadlines and keep records is a good, old fashioned PHYSICAL diary. There is nothing for me, that can replace a biro and notebook when it comes to keeping notes on my work. It's messy, full of scribbles and I would be lost without it. 


Ok, so not necessarily rock and roll all of the time, but definitely lots of music. Itunes, headphones and a killer playlist keep me focused and prevent me getting distracted.

 What music I hear you ask? I'm happy if it has guitars or was made in the 80s.

So that's pretty much it. I'm not a morning person so prefer to work late into the night, and they say you're supposed to take regular breaks away from the computer but I love my work so often the time flies by without me noticing.

Project 365

Project 365 is still going strong, here are my illustrations of the day for today and yesterday!

Today - 25th Jan 2013...

And yesterdays, 24th Jan 2013...

Thanks for looking! Be sure to leave a comment if you see something you like!