When I thought of digital illustration I thought of sharp lines and flat colors: the ‘Adobe Illustrator type of illustration’. The type I wasn’t a big fan of. But that was years ago. Time has changed, technology has changed and well, I guess I learned a thing or two. My personal preference is still Photoshop though, not Illustrator. I feel it comes closer to free hand drawing and I really love the brushes and the textures. It’s probably also because I just don’t have the skills I need to create exactly what I want in Illustrator.
Illustration for me has always been a little digital, since I am an editorial illustrator. My illustrations need to be digitized anyway for publishing. For my very first published illustrations (over 10 years ago) that meant digitizing the analogue image by scanning it and maybe retouching it a bit before sending it off to the client. Later I started drawing all the elements separately on paper, scan and combine them in Photoshop, so I could rearrange the composition and adjust the colors. Since the Photoshop brushes became life like colored pencils (in literally every color you can imagine) and I found watercolor brushes* I started coloring digitally as well. I am using a Wacom tablet with a pen instead of a mouse for these things. I actually do not even own a mouse (which makes it nearly impossible for the mouse-people to work on my computer).
*I must say that the water color brushes still cannot compete with real water color on paper, but it can definitely add that water color feel to your illustrations and yay for Command + Z.
Since the Photoshop brushes became life like colored pencils I started coloring digitally as well.
Photoshop has a wide range of brushes, from watercolor and crayons to markers, inky nibs and pencils. I bought Kyle’s T. Webster brushes (the Mega Pack) a little over a year ago before he teamed up with Adobe. Now you get all of them for free with your Creative Cloud Membership. They’re the best. You can download them here. I still really love making my own textures by hand and then digitizing them to use in my illustrations. It gives it that hand made feel and personality I love. But I must say with all these available brushes I do it less and less.
Let’s fast forward to now… I am the happy owner of the iPad pro with an Apple pencil. A game changer. It was a big investment, but with the app Astropad it turns my iPad into an extra monitor for my computer. That means I can actually use Photohop (the complete version, not the Adobe Sketch app) on my iPad with the pencil. Hallelujah. That completely changed the way I work. It means that pen on paper and scanning it into Photoshop has become a rare thing. Somehow that’s a bit sad though. But working for clients in this digital age, you need to be able to adjust things when needed. Try adjusting an element of your carefully planned and colored analogue illustration. You might have to start over… Yikes. And most likely there is no time.
And now I have the iPad pro with an Apple pencil. A game changer.
I still use pencils and paper on every project. I always start sketching my ideas on paper and then I might switch to Adobe Sketch for a cleaner sketch to send to the client.
Would love to hear in the comments below how you feel about digital illustration! And if you are interested in my experience with Procreate and Adobe Sketch on the iPad pro, let me know and I will get into that in another post.