Make digital projects seem hand-made

Lisa Hassell finds out why it’s become so fashionable to bring a handcrafted dimension to digital artwork

A new wave of artists, illustrators, designers and animators are incorporating craft elements into their work, bringing a handmade feel to projects that have, in recent times, been largely part of the digital domain.

One of Ben Newman’s Masks works, on show at the Nobrow gallery in London

This new way of working offers a unique set of challenges and requires careful preparation. For anyone used to working purely digitally, that may seem daunting. But for a steady stream of creatives, it offers the chance to produce illustration and design work that at first glance appears to be pure craft. Only on careful inspection do the hallmarks of a digitally rendered piece become clear.


Publishing, animation, homeware and commercial advertising are exploiting the trend. But is it still largely a way for frustrated digital designers to find an alternative outlet? Or is it a valuable addition to an industry that is constantly reinventing itself?

For illustrator and animator Lesley Barnes (, the joy of crafting is a natural part of the creative process. “I think it’s important to start every illustration with your hands. I either sketch out a design or cut out shapes from paper, which I scan into my computer,” she says.

Lesley creates elaborate digital collages, mixing handmade elements in Photoshop. “It combines the best of both worlds,” she says. “You have a ‘crafted’ look which suggests something unique, but also the convenience of a digital image which can be adapted.”

It’s clear that this look offers the audience something a little different, says Lesley, who has brought it to bear on projects such as a music video for Belle & Sebastian. “I think the viewer feels somewhat comforted by work that looks handmade.”

Work by Mathis Rekowski for the Pick Me Up art fair in London

Solar by Eoin Ryan

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