How It’s Made, Illustrated Letters

25th November 2015

Here’s a quick run down of a working process. I received a commission for a pair of illustrated letters, one featuring a jaguar the other a lion…

I start by making a load of initial sketches to work out how I might compose the image and get a good look for the animals.

lion and jaguar sketches
Some bad drawing here, but they’re only quick initial sketches.

When I’m happy with my sketches I pencil out the letter on to the paper. For this I cheat a bit and use a light box. I then pencil in the animal using my composition sketches as reference.

pencil layout of the lion

At this stage I do my best to keep mistakes to a minimum and any I do make I tend to just redraw. Too much eraser use can make the watercolour paper bleed watered down ink.

outlining the animals

The next step is to outline the animal with a dip pen and ink. I don’t outline the letter as that I just fill in with a brush.

letter inked in

After all the inking is done I leave everything to dry for a good while. I never underestimate the length of time this takes — I’ve buggered way too many works in the past rubbing out pencil lines while ink isn’t completely dry!

When everything’s dry and pencil lines are erased it’s on to the inking. This involves layering various ink washes adding the tint and shadow until I’m happy with the way thing look. With these pictures I’m using quite bright colours as the mood is cheery and these are usually intended for children’s rooms.

Mid-way through tinting the jaguar and lion. Also shown here is a colour testing/ink blotting scrap paper.
Mid-way through tinting the jaguar and lion. Also shown here is a colour testing/ink blotting scrap paper.

Then it’s only a matter of finishing off and adding in small details. I might make some small adjustments too — for instance, here I actually added a thin wash of yellow over the lion’s body to brighten him up.

So there you go. Not the most complicated of artworks, but that’s kind of the idea.

j is for jaguar illustrated letter
“J is for Jaguar”
l is for lion illustrated letter
“L is for Lion”