Honing your drawing skills doesn’t have to mean turning your back on digital art. Many creatives find the two work perfectly, hand in hand, offering the chance to combine the spontaneous feel of sketches with the flexibility of digital working and the all-important Cmd/Ctrl + Z.

Mixing it up
Illustrator Sam Kerr’s works (debutart.com/artist/sam-kerr) combine beautifully observed drawings and paintings with crisp vector images. 

“Hand-drawn stuff is very final. Once it’s done, you’ve got to be happy with it, or start again,” he says. “Combining digital [elements] allows room for adjustment within your image. In the same manner, the graphic elements allow me to be more creative with ideas as drawing in detail from photographs can have its restrictions.”

Andy Macgregor’s (andymacgregor.com) portraits and illustrations have appeared in The Guardian and GQ. He says integrating hand drawings with software is especially useful when working for clients. 

“It gives me the freedom I need to produce exactly what is asked of me. Time lines are very tight and clients tend to change their minds a lot, so I have to be able to amend the illustration quickly and easily.”

He adds, “It also means I can experiment and find the best solution to the problem.”

Dave Bain says, “I sometimes use Photoshop to manipulate the drawing in ways that are not achievable or time-consuming to accomplish non-digitally. An example is using several scanned-in textures I’ve created using experimental techniques. I’ll then tweak these using the Contrast and Levels settings, before incorporating them into artwork I’ve drawn out.”

Meanwhile, other artists work entirely digitally, using techniques adopted wholesale from hand drawing. Oliver Barrett (oliverbarrett.com) combines his day job at US graphic design and branding agency Go Media with a sideline in lush portraits of musicians and other luminaries. He says his graphics tablet, rather than pen or pencil, is his key creative tool. 

Oliver explains, “Usually I will do a rough thumbnail sketch, in order to get a basic idea of what the composition will be. From there, it depends on the project. There’s always a lot of Wacom tablet work, but occasionally, I do work on paper extensively and then scan it in. After that, I may use scanned in textures and layering techniques to achieve the result I’m after.” 

Above Andy Macgregor’s El Bot for El Bosque, a Colombian illustration magazine. “Everything is hand-drawn first, then all other elements are added separately – paint washes, found paper scans and mark making.”