12 tips by top illustrators for creating amazing artworks

A collection of practical hints and tips from professional illustrators

Try not to get attached

Playing with colours is probably the most fun part, and very important. Don't grow too attached to anything in your work though, whether it's colour or a particular element, as it may have to be ditched later if it doesn't fit.

Draw on your skills

If you have a talent for illustration, draw something, scan it in and then use it to create an outstanding artwork.

Nicolas Monin-Baroille, Germany


Colour can be used to convey different times of day, adn the way you feel at the time of creating the artwork. I find it best to trust my own instincts. Think carefully about how you use colour, but don't overthink it.

Lizzie-Mary Cullen, UK

Get a fix on a Smart Object

When you paste an Illustrator selection into Photoshop as a Smart Object, it's a good idea to create guides to indicate where it sits. That's because if you later edit the original in Illustrator, you may find the Smart Object shifts in Photoshop.

Charles Williams, UK

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Pattern Book in Illustrator

Creating your own pattern swatches can take a bit of practice and experimentation. The beauty of Illustrator is that it includes a large variety of basic patterns to help you get started.

David Popov, London

Photoshop as a colour lab

Trying out different colour variations in Illustrator can be time-consuming. Better to export your image to Photoshop, use the Paint Bucket tool to apply colour and then use the whole range of adjustment layers. This way you can quickly generate a few different looks. Once you're happy, export your image back into Illustrator, sample the colours and colour your vector file.

Steve Scott, UK

Plan ahead

Planning is key to an illustration like this. It involves lots of different layers and elements, to start out with the core layout. Once this is in place, it becomes a lot easier to work into. Thinking about how different tonnes of colour can add depth to the illustration alongside the textures is key.

Jeffrey Bowman, Norway

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Bring back old edits

It's a good idea to do all your erasing on a layer's mask. That way, you can mostly bring back parts your want brought back at any time.

Tablet love

Every Illustrator should use a graphics tablet instead of a mouse. It's more natural to work with a pen, and shading and painting with pressure sensitivity can produce great results.

Igor Šcekic, Croatia

Screen Test

The Screen and Multiply effects in your Layer properties are very useful, especially when dealing with black and white. Multiply will hide all the white and screen the black. It's when you start playing with coloured tones that you can start creating some amazing effects.

Chris Malbon, UK

Shadow Zone

While adding a shadow onto a plain surface, make sure it's on a separate layer. After you've finished brushing, load a selection of the surface layer and then add Gaussian blur. This will help you make smoother brush strokes.

Soften each layer's edge

To ensure that the model appears integrated into the scene, you need to soften the edge of each layer. With the foreground objects selected, go to Select > Modify > Contract and use a setting of 2px. After this use Select > Modify > Feather (Ctrl/Cmd + F6) and use a value of 1px. This value will vary, depending on the size of your image.

Becha, Serbia

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Observe the real world

Real life research is vital for ideas. Take a walk outdoors, look under logs and poke things with sticks. Take a sketchbook and draw what you find.

Andrew Groves, UK