Illustration Tips by Dani Duck

Before getting started I gather my supplies. I always use Arches Watercolour paper for watercolour painting (and sometimes illustration), because I’ve had bad results with every other paper I’ve used. The paper I used for this project is Arches Watercolour on a block. I prefer this to stretching the paper myself. I use Brera and Winsor & Newton Acrylics. The colours I used are Raw Umber, Cadmium Red Medium, Ultramarine Blue, Yellow Ochre and Winsor Violet (the violet is the only Winsor & Newton paint I used). I use Liquitex Fluid Matte Medium to mix with my acrylics, and Lascaux Fixative to fix my drawings.

1. Create your drawing in pencil first.

I always start out by working out my Illustrations with a graphite pencil. I agree that sometimes it’s best to work directly on your final drawing substrate. I don’t like to waste expensive paper, so if I were to draw directly on the substrate, I’d do a lot of drawings on a separate (cheap) sheet of paper first. Having said all this, most of the time I generally take the tracing paper route.

2. Prepare your canvas.

I layout the area for my drawing on the paper I will be using. I keep a 2 inch boarder on the sides and top of the drawing, and a 3 inch boarder on the base. I have 1/4th (or .25) inch bleeds. You will be erasing out to the bleeds so I usually don’t draw the crop marks or the boarder until the final image is completed. I then mask the area with masking tape or blue painters tape. (The blue dye from painter’s tape can sometimes bleed, but I sometimes use it because it comes off better than masking tape.)

3. Transfer the image with tracing paper.

I transfer the drawing onto tracing paper. I usually use some kind of pastel on the back of the drawing to do the transfer. I use a piece of paper towel and brush off (and sometimes rub in) excess pigment from the back of the tracing paper. I fix the transferred drawing with a workable fixative. I prefer Lascaux Fixative.

4. Outline and shadow your image with Acrylics.

Most people prefer to use India ink to outline their drawings. I personally love India ink, but when I want a change, or don’t have India ink, I use Acrylics. Acrylics don’t work in the same way as India ink. They don’t always flow as well, and it’s really hard to get strait lines, but Acrylics are more versatile than India ink. I like the colour choices of Acrylics. Using different colours will give you a different overall effect. Use neutral colours as a general rule, although all rules can be broken if you know what you’re doing. Outline your drawing first, and then build up washes of colours to create your shadows. This way you don’t have to worry about creating shadows later!

5. Add colour with Acyrlics mixed with Matte Medium.

Mix a tiny bit of your Acrylic paint into the Fluid Matte Medium (The medium makes for a nice matte finish). A little bit goes a long way. It’s best to paint in several thin layers to build up your colour. It’s good to use a little bit of a colour that complements the main colour you are using to make the main colour stand out (e.g. blue complements orange. I used a lot of blue which contrasted well with the brown background). I would suggest staying away from mixing white with your colours. It’s the same with regular watercolour: Use the white of your paper.

6. Highlights and finishing touches.

You can add highlights to your drawing with Coloured pencils or pastels. I don’t like using a pure white for this, because it can look too out of place. At this point you can use your coloured pencils/pastels to add more detail to your drawing if you wish. Be sure to fix your drawing when you are finished.

That’s all it takes to do an illustration in the style I’ve used. I’d like to thank my Illustration teacher (from a few years ago), Domnic Catalano, who taught me what I needed to develop my own techniques from his own.