These dog themed cards, a Shih Tzu card and a Labrador card are two brand new birthday designs just added to my shop. I’m going to be working on a range of pet themed cards and these are the first . What do you think?
As with most of my designs, I drew them using Procreate on my iPad. Here’s a little replay video of each one to show you the process. I use layers a lot so when things disappear and reappear that’s me hiding and showing different layers 🙂
This is the Shih Tzu drawing…
And here’s the Lab illustration.
You can see that it often takes me several attempts to get something right 😆. For example I kept adjusted the Labrador’s head as it just didn’t quite look right. I feel like it’s important to show the real process though, rather than an edited one that looks perfect but isn’t real! It’s a good job I’m an illustrator and not a sculptor using marble or some expensive medium as there would be a lot of waste 🤣
Would you like to know what my two favourite card design tools are? My process and the tools I use have both evolved quite a bit since I started, as I discovered new ways to become more efficient while designing cards. I now have a couple of firm favourites – these are the two tools that I’d really hate to be without!
How I started
When I first started designing cards I drew my illustrations on paper, scanned it in and then cleaned it up and used it in a card design on GIMP. GIMP is open source software that is similar to Photoshop, but free. It stands for GNU Image Manipulation Programme and is in no way as kinky as it sounds… I definitely didn’t have the money in the early stages to invest in Photoshop, and GIMP did everything I needed.
This process was fine in the beginning, but it did make designing new cards feel like quite an undertaking. Apart from the drawing, tidying the scan up took ages, and if I needed to change the drawing in some way I usually had to start again, as trying to edit it on screen using a mouse often took longer than just redoing it.
After a while I started doing a lot of custom cartoon portraits and it was especially difficult to make changes to these. I needed a better system!
My absolute favourite card design tool
Last year I finally decided to invest in an iPad (with Apple Pencil) and it is now without a doubt my favourite card design tool.
It took me ages before I went ahead (because these things are expensive!) I asked loads of other people who had iPads whether it was worth it (they all said yes). I also did a lot of research about the different types of iPads and which would be the best one for me to get.
Eventually I just went for it and got the iPad Air and it was honestly one of the best business decisions I ever made (the other one involves my printer – more about that next time…). To be rather clichéd, the only regret I’ve had since is that I didn’t do it sooner.
I bought the Procreate app and Apple Pencil to go with my iPad and together they’ve completely revolutionised my drawing process! I can just pick up the iPad and start doodling any time and then AirDrop the design straight to my Mac. Any edits or changes are easily done in the Procreate app and I can copy designs and use layers to create different versions. Can you tell I LOVE this tool?!
My other favourite design tool
My other favourite card design tool is still GIMP. Once I’ve done the illustrations, I use it to create the actual card designs and I’ve got no plans to change this. While Photoshop may be more powerful, there’s nothing I need that GIMP doesn’t provide. So I’d really begrudge spending £10 to £20 a month on a tool that I use in exactly the same way as a free one!
I’ve set up card design templates with the correct sizing for my cards and my logo inserted on the back of the card. I just drop the illustration into the template, add some text and then play around with the layout. Now that I’m not actually trying to edit the illustrations in GIMP it’s a much quicker process to lay out the card designs. If I need to adjust an illustration I just go back to my iPad, quickly make the changes and AirDrop it back to be inserted into my GIMP template.
So there you have it – my two favourite card design tools – my iPad Air (together with Apple Pencil and Procreate) and GIMP. Both make the digital side of designing cards a breeze. Now if only I could find a tool that could come up with all the ideas for me now too 🤔
It’s been a while since I showed my illustration process here on my blog, so I decided to share a mojito drawing I did back in April. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as an ice cold mojito, so it seems especially appropriate to show this now while we’re in the middle of a mini heat wave here in the UK 😁
I initially created the illustration as one of two designs for a competition. It was run by Ohh Deer in conjunction with Sainsbury’s and the brief was to create Valentine’s card designs. I might share the other design with you at another time. Spoiler alert… it’s also a cocktail recipe design!
My mojito drawing process
The mojito drawing was hand drawn on my iPad with an Apple Pencil using Procreate (an amazing drawing app). I’ve exported a time lapse of the drawing process so you can see the drawing process. There was quite a bit of faffing around, especially at the end when I realised the limes were all wrong 😆. I thought it turned out pretty well in the end though!
I then created a square card template in GIMP (open source software similar to Photoshop, but free!) This was the format required for the competition and is quite different from my usual A6 card designs. I wanted to include the recipe to make the card more useful and fun. I tried a few different layouts before settling on the one I liked.
Here’s how the final card design looked with both illustration and text…
And here is the design as a square greeting card…
I hope you found this peek behind the scenes interesting. Would you like to see more of these types of blog posts? Let me know by sending me a message on Instagram or Facebook 🙂
As well as selling greeting cards and doing custom cartoon portrait cards, did you know I also do custom illustration prints that make great personalised gifts? You may already have seen some of the cartoon portrait prints I do, but enjoy doing other custom illustration too.
I was approached recently by someone who had seen this drawing of Tower Bridge that I did a while ago. She want a collection of specific landmarks and places in the same style to put in some new frames she and her husband had bought, including the Tower Bridge illustration.
Here’s what I came up with. She chose the subject of each custom illustration print and let me know what size they each needed to be to fit her frames.
Each of those places was special to her and her husband in one way or another so now every time they look at their prints they’re reminded of the memories associated with each illustration.
I loved doing completely different illustrations to my usual for this order – I do enjoy doing the cartoon portraits, but it’s nice to have a change as well 🙂
A custom illustration of a place or topic that is special to the person you’re giving it to would make a really great personalised gift that you know they’ll love. And I’m happy to adapt to a variety of different styles to suit your tastes, from the detailed monochrome drawings above to my usual cartoonish style, or perhaps something in-between.
Here’s an example of a custom cartoon family portrait I did earlier this year for a wonderfully loyal customer – this would be ideal as a Christmas or birthday gift for parents or grandparents. If you’re interested in the process behind this particular portrait then I wrote about it here: My custom cartoon portrait process.
So if there’s anything particular you have in mind then please feel free to get in touch. My cartoon portraits are all available to order in my shop, but if you’d like something more customised or even completely different, like the landmark illustrations, then I’m always happy to quote based on the time it will take to complete.
A while ago I described how I create custom cartoon portraits when designing greeting cards to order. My drawing process has changed a bit since then though, so I thought I’d do an update.
I designed the cartoon portrait below for a graduation card using my new process so I’ve used it as an example. There’s another example at the end of this post too, which shows an anniversary cartoon portrait.
The main reason for the change is that I finally invested in an iPad and Apple Pencil for my greeting card business. And I’m so glad I did! Designing greeting cards digitally has made the process much quicker, both for drawing custom cartoon portraits and for creating other new greeting card designs.
I chose to use Procreate, which is an amazing drawing app. It has zillions of different ‘brushes’, including all sorts of pencils, pens, paints, chalks, charcoals and textures. Even aside from drawing designs for greeting cards I’ve had terrific fun experimenting and creating all sorts of weird stuff! And it’s all available instantly, which means I don’t need extra time to be able to unpack my art materials and put them away again afterwards.
Here’s one of the ‘paintings’ I created just to get used to what I could do with my new tools:
But back to my drawing process when designing greeting cards…
Creating custom cartoon portraits
I start by creating a canvas of the right size and then use the ‘6B Pencil’ to sketch the drawing in – this part is almost identical to how I started on paper (see here) except that I’m drawing straight onto the iPad with the Apple Pencil, instead of using a real pencil and paper. Next I sketch out the basic outlines and then fill in details until I’m happy with the overall drawing.
I then create a new layer above the pencil sketch. On this new layer I draw over the pencil sketch with the ‘Studio Pen’. (I find it gives a very similar look to the brush pens I use on paper). This part is where I save a lot of time, as if I make a mistake I can just erase and redo it. Before I had to leave it then edit it in my Gimp software using a mouse, which wasn’t that easy.
I also love that I can zoom right in (especially useful as my eyesight is awful!) This lets me get smaller details just right and get rid of small marks and mistakes. I keep hiding and reshowing the pencil layer as necessary until the pen completely replaces it.
Once I’m satisfied with the ‘ink’ drawing I add the colours and then share it to my Mac. This is so much easier than scanning it in then removing any noise and marks from the scanner, adjusting the brightness and colour balance, etc. It’s just a simple AirDrop and I can add the image to a greeting card template I’ve created straight away.
Designing Greeting Cards Videos
Another terrific feature on Procreate is that it creates a video replay of your creations. Would you like to see the full drawing process from start to finish for the cartoon portrait above? Well, here’s the video replay of it:
And here’s another – this time of a wedding cartoon portrait for an anniversary card.
So all in all I’m thrilled with my new purchases! Doing cartoon portraits is much quicker and easier. And I’ve been able to use it to draw quick images for blog posts or to design greeting cards for my ready to ship range as well.
If you’d like to see my range of greeting cards, including custom cartoon portraits and ready to ship cards, click on the Visit my shop button below or use the Menu.