My methods of illustration and how to choose which is right for your project

All illustrators have preferred ways of working, some like to keep it real with pen and paint and others are fully digital. I have two ways of working that, although they are both digital, are quite different and have pros and cons when it comes to matching up to a client’s requirements.

Digital media works in one of two ways, it’s either pixel-based or vector-based and this is the fundamental difference between my two methods. Each brings its own characteristics to the work and lends itself the different uses, so let’s look at the two of them in more detail.

Vector illustrations

I create these (mostly) in Adobe Illustrator and they are composed of paths that have a mathematical formula that dictates shape, thickness, fill colour, border colour etc.

A vector image is made up of a huge number of these ‘mathematical paths’ and that is what forms the final image. Thankfully, programmes like Illustrator mean that I don’t have to code each path, I draw with my cursor or stylus and change the qualities of those paths to build my final image. This might all sound quite cold and flat but the software allows me to do quite complex and nuanced things and I can inject a great deal of personality and warmth into my images. I am able to adjust line thicknesses, add texture, alter opacity, and overlay objects so give a more ‘handmade’ feel if that is what you are after. Alternatively, I can keep them crisp and clean for a more modern, no-frills style.

There are many advantages to using vector illustrations, the main one being that they are infinitely scaleable. You could blow up a vector image to the size of a house and it would still be super crisp, with no pixelation. They are also generally easier to edit and it’s simple to isolate parts of the image. For instance, if you have commissioned an illustration of a person in a room but would also like me to supply a file of just the person on a white background, it is much easier to pull that part of the image out with vector illustration.

Below are some examples of illustrations I have created using vector graphics.

Pixel-based illustrations

Also known as raster graphics, I create my pixel-based illustrations on my iPad using Procreate or other drawing software. Pixel media does what it says on the tin, it is made of many, many individual pixels which are the building blocks of the image. Each one has a specific colour and tone and it’s all these pixels viewed together that forms the image. You can see this at work if you look at your monitor or a piece of print using a magnifying glass.

The number of pixels an image has is called resolution and this is what can make raster graphics more difficult to work with. You have to set the file resolution at the start of the project and that can’t easily be increased. For instance, if you create an illustration for printing at A3 but partway through you decide that actually you’d like to use it on a billboard poster then you are kinda out of luck. You don’t have enough pixels in your image to do that. Blowing it up would make each pixel enormous and the image would look ‘pixelated’

However there are a lot of advantages to pixel-based illustrations. As I hand draw them onto my iPad they have a free-er, more natural look. They have the kind of imperfections that make ‘real media’ illustrations appealing, full of texture, and happy wonkiness. And as they are digital files they can be edited and altered via the software used to create them (not as easily as vector graphics but it is possible). Isolating parts of the illustration is also possible through the use of layers to keep the elements separate – however it’s best to know this information at the start of the project so that I can ensure it’s set up properly to begin with.

Below are some examples of illustrations I have created from pixel-based media.

I hope that is helpful information and if you’d like to discuss which route would be best for your project brief then get in touch and we can talk!