There’s a certain something that marks out an amazing artwork from one that’s merely good: an extra little touch of talent or something special about the concept that raises it above the rest. Here we ask some of our favourite and most inspiring illustrators to reveal how they produce their best pieces.

The artists featured are from digital, hand-made and mixed-media traditions, working in modes including advertising, fashion, editorial, character art, children’s illustration and pattern design. Their advice will show you how to improve colour and composition, produce better inked work and smarter digital techniques – and even how to come up with better concepts to underpin your next incredible artwork.

Retain that handmade feel

Mark Goss,

Owl Enclave by Mark Goss

I like to hand-draw as much as possible, even when working digitally, to retain some of the handmade aesthetic. Initially I work up all the separate layers using a brush pen on tracing paper, layering each piece on top of the last. I scan each layer before live tracing, adding colour and textures in Illustrator.

Cause some distress

Ben Javens,

I enjoy imitating the imperfections and distressed look of traditional screen-printing. I do it by scanning old prints and using these elements in digital illustrations.

Owl illustration by Daniel Mackie

Layer your scanned work

Johnnie Weiliang Hoek,

Work by Johnnie Weiliang Hoek for Inkygoodness

My illustrations always start out as a sketch using tracing paper, pencil and Staedtler pigment liner pens. I always scan and redraw the whole sketch in several layers in Illustrator using the Pencil tool – it’s important to be organised.