We’ve been working on our blog steadily since January 2017. In the beginning we used customized stock Photoshop pictures, we would take a stock photo, and add our own slant to it. They looked good, had our “corporate colours” and did the job, but they didn’t feel “us”.
We needed something that would make us stand out. Craig and I both love to draw, and we would occasionally share a funny drawing that we did. At some point we realized that it didn’t take a ton of effort to draw a picture compared to the effort of writing a blog post, and it is something we could use to add our own unique character to each post.
Looking back, we’ve also realized that you can tell at a glance who has written which post based solely on the post illustration.
In March we started illustrating our header pictures. Craig and I have different styles, but we largely use the same tools.
In the very beginning I used paper and some duotone markers for my postings, while Craig used Paper by 53 on an iPad.
Things have evolved and now we use a hybrid of iPad images with some Photoshop additions to get where we want to be.
I love how our post images look, and how when we’re on social media, our images look totally different than anything else in my news feed. To my knowledge, We are the only blog with custom, hand drawn watercolour images for every single post we make.
This is our process, the tools we use, and why we do things this way.
First things first, every picture starts with a blog post, sometimes I have an idea as soon as I write the post, sometimes I need to re-read the post a few times. Craig and I will usually bounce the post back and forth a few times before we decide on what illustration we’ll use.
Depending on the day, I may start out with a pencil sketch, or I may jump right into the iPad if I have a great idea.
I keep a sketchbook on my desk, and some of my favourite drawings have started out as pencil sketches first.
I draw in a few different sketchbooks, but my current favourite is a ringed sketchbook that I grabbed at Chapters one day. The paper is nice and thick, although it’s not bleedproof paper for pens.
I usually draw with an erasable blueline pencil, I love the line I can get out of this, and I can make it as loose or as thick as I want. I ink using a combination of a #3 micron pen, and a Pentel brush pen, which is an amazing tool allowing for a nice combination of thick and thin lines. I will erase the blue lines with a kneadable eraser (the grey blob above), and then sometimes I’ll finish things off using a Prismacolor premiere brush tipped marker.
If I’m doing something in Paper by 53 (free on iOS), I will usually start with a very light sketch in a light grey, but largely I hit the pen tool and go right to town. Paper is a great tool because it lets you create beautiful watercolour looking illustrations, but the tool set is purposely limited, and drawings with Paper tend to look the same. The biggest limitation with paper is that you are drawing on one single layer, and anything you do gets jammed on that one layer. Adding vector images is very cool, but they don’t always play nice with your other layers.
The thing I really like about Paper is the “Pencil“, which is a bluetooth enabled, pressure sensitive drawing stylus. It is a great tool, although not nearly as elegant as Apple’s own pencil.
I recently began using the iPad app Tayasui Sketches (free on iOS, “Pro” upgrade is $6.99).
Sketches is great because you get multiple layers, you have blending options, and there are great type tools built right into it. I love drawing a blue line layer underneath, and then inking on another layer overtop.
The watercolour tools are even better on Sketches than on Paper because you can choose to leave the paper “wet”, meaning you can blend in more colours over time.
This lets me add some pretty cool effects, including the ability to put droplets of “water” on the image, and super-saturate the page with “water”. Unlike traditional watercolour, you can dry it with the push of a button and immediately lay another colour over top of it.
There are a ton of other great iPad apps for drawing which I can recommend from first hand use.
Pixelmator ($6.99 on iOS) – if you aren’t using Pixelmator on your Mac, you’re missing out. I’ve always joked that most people only use about 12% of Photoshop’s power. Pixelmator started out as that 12%, but has since grown by leaps and bounds. It’s more stable and faster than Photoshop on most Macs. The iPad version has nearly as much power as its desktop brother, and is an awesome tool for drawing with.
Procreate ($9.99 on iOS) – Very similar to Pixelmator, but it has even more options. Doing a quick Google search for Procreate images will show you some incredible things that people have done. I find it a bit complicated for my needs, but those who love it will swear by it.
Adobe Sketch (free on iOS) – Adobe’s entry can’t be beat for price. It has a full suite of tools, layers, timelapse recordings, custom canvas formats, incredible pressure sensitivity, and much more. It is a great option, and free really is amazing for the amount of power you get.
We love drawing our images as much as we love sharing them, and I can’t wait to get started on my next blog post!
Brian Garside has been building websites for two decades and has worked on some of the largest websites in Canadian media. He focuses on creating good user experiences and building websites that make their owners money. Brian is certified in blogging and content marketing from Shaw Academy.