Illustration tutorial: 6 drawing tips from leading illustrators

Inkygoodness’ creative director Lisa Hassell asks six of her favourite illustrators to tell us how to get the most from drawing with real pens and pencils

Am I Collective

Pencil line work (such as above) can be a great tool for creating tone through manipulating pattern and texture. You don’t always have to work tone into the line itself. Rather, consider how repetition and accumulation of lines describes the form and shape. Giving specific personality to your line work is a good way to add character to an object.

Barnaby Purdy

The base for my Visitants characters is an intaglio ink. This doesn’t really like to be drawn on, so I gradually build up the shading with a 2H pencil. Varying the pressure with an HB creates the midtones and shadows, and then I use a 4B for punch in a few key areas. No patience for intaglio? Acrylic, Tippex and Poscas will give you a base to draw on almost anything.

Good Wives & Warriors

When it comes to pens, we buy the cheapest ones as they all seem to wear down at the same rate. However, we use Bic biros – they seem to offer the nicest range of tones and line quality.

Florence Blanchard

I use a fine pencil to trace outlines very lightly, then I work on the details and shading with ink and a fine brush. I start with the lighter shades of grey and go darker, which allows any mistakes to be fixed as I go. I like to counterpoint graphic wavy abstract shapes with background clouds made by letting ink diffuse through wet paper, allowing random effects. Most of my backgrounds are painted with minimal planning in order to keep everything natural.

Sarah Coleman

The trick with dip pens is to use runny inks – not stodgy acrylic – and load the nib well. You can press hard on the paper at an angle of anywhere between 30 and 45 degrees, and the nib will obligingly split just far enough that surface tension will hold the ink together till it hits the page. I’ve created line widths of anything up to 3mm this way – and I get a rounded-end, fluctuating line of continuous thick-and-thin, rather than the solid and consistent line you get with a squared-off calligraphy nib.


I start by creating shapes with a 2B or 4B mechanical pencil and only ink when the drawing is 80 per cent there. This allows flexibility for creativity within the inking process. I use two or three Rotring Isograph pens of different sizes and Kolinsky Sable brushes, and I have Rotring ink that can be used with the brushes so the blacks match up. I like to mix up hatching and mark-making techniques to create texture and visual interest beyond the image itself.

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