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Custom Illustration Prints as Gifts

Custom illustration prints - Eiffel Tower

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.

Custom illustration prints - Lions at Trafalgar Square
Lions at Trafalgar Square
Little Mermaid Copenhagen
Little Mermaid Copenhagen
Lyme Park
Lyme Park
Stippy Stappy St Agnes
Stippy Stappy St Agnes
The Ritz
The Ritz
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower
Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge

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.

Custom illustration prints
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.

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Free Printable Gift Tags

Happy Birthday Free Printable Gift Tag

This week I thought I’d treat you to some free printable gift tags. I’m really happy that you’re here, reading my blog, so want to show you my appreciation.

The gift tags cover a range of different occasions, so hopefully you’ll be able to find one that’s just right.
free printable gift tags

How to get your free printable gift tags

To get your hands on these gift tags just click the button below to enter your email address. I’ll then email you a link to a PDF of the free printable gift tags (and you might get another freebie too!) All you need to do is print the PDF onto some card.

You’ll also be subscribed to my newsletter to get all the latest updates and offers each month (if you’re already a VIP subscriber you’ll be getting this freebie in the next newsletter, so don’t worry about missing out!)


How to use them

  1. Print the PDF onto A4 size card stock. It doesn’t have to be particularly thick, so any plain card that goes through your printer will do.
  2. Cut around the light grey tag shaped outlines. You can use a guillotine to get really straight edges if you have one, but scissors and some careful cutting will work just as well 🙂
  3. Punch a hole in each tag where indicated – just use one end of a normal paper punch.
  4. Thread some ribbon or string through the hole of each gift tag and tie together. you can do this two different ways…

And voila! You have some ready to use gift tags…

They’re great for sprucing up plain wrapping. The bright colouring makes them a real feature against any plain coloured paper, including white or brown paper. The picture below shows a gift wrapped in plain white computer paper which really makes the ribbon and gift tag pop!

Wrapped gift with gift tag
You can also create a gift bag yourself out of paper and attach a gift tag – you’ll find the instructions on this page: Gift wrapping ideas

I hope you have fun with them! I’d love to see how you use them, so if you post your creations on Instagram or Facebook, please tag me so I can take a look 🙂


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My custom cartoon portrait process

Custom cartoon portrait process

I’ve been doing a lot of custom cartoon portrait orders for cards and prints over the last few years. People just seem to love seeing themselves and others in cartoon form! Read on to find out how I go about creating my stick figure portraits step by step…

First steps

When I get an order for a cartoon portrait card or print the first thing I do is get in touch with the customer to ask them to send photos and find out if they have any preferences regarding outfits, etc. If the photos show anyone both with and without glasses or a beard then I’ll double check which version they want. (I did once get two photos of someone’s Dad for a personalised birthday card which both showed him with a beard, and I was only when I sent the first proof that she told me he no longer had a beard… in a tone that seemed surprised I didn’t know this…)

Once I have the photos and other information I need to get started I open up my sketchbook and get started.

Layout of each custom cartoon portrait

I begin by very roughly sketching stick figures on the page in the positions and poses I want them in. This is helpful for getting proportions right in even one person portraits but is especially important when I’m doing larger family portraits for making sure they’re balanced. Check out this example from a family cartoon portrait I worked on recently:

Custom cartoon portrait layout
This sketch shows roughly where each family member will be in relation to each other.

I sometimes send this to the customer to check they’re happy with the layout, but usually only if there are at least four people in a family portrait.

Filling in the detail

The next step is to start working on each person’s head, working from the photos. This is the most important bit to get right in order for the customer to recognise the real people from the cartoon versions.

Custom cartoon portrait heads sketch
Here I used pencil to draw the detail of each person’s head and try to capture their likeness

Once happy with that I’ll move on to the bodies and add in any props or pets. You can faintly see how I draw the bodies and clothes around the original stick figure sketches.

pencil sketch of family
This example shows the pencil sketch once finished

I try to make sure I’m completely happy with this step before I move on, as it’s much easier to draw with pencil than to edit digitally later on. When I’m content that I’ve captured each person’s likeness I’ll use my Tombow brush pens* to go over the pencil in black ink. If necessary I’ll use my Derwent Graphik line maker pens* for any very fine details before rubbing out the pencil marks.

Inked sketch
This shows the inked version in my sketchpad – ready to scan in

Digitising the sketch

The drawing is now ready to scan in. I use the ‘Text’ setting in black and white to get the sharpest outlines I can. I leave the image rasterised rather than converting it to a line drawing as otherwise some of the detail can be lost and it also looks less hand drawn.

Custom cartoon portrait scanned
Here’s what the digital image looked like once it was scanned in

At this point I leave my pens and pencils behind and do all the rest of the editing digitally. I sharpen up the contrast and remove any marks that have come through on the scan but shouldn’t be there. I also fix any slips or mistakes I may have made in the inking stage.

Time to add colour! All the colour is digitally added, to make it easier to make any colour changes if the customer asks for them. I send a first proof to the customer to get their feedback once I’m happy with the digital image and colours .

cartoon portrait sketch first proof
Here’s the first proof I sent to the customer with colour added

Final edits

A lot of the time the customer accepts the first proof. However it also often happens that they ask for colour changes or realise that the photo they sent showed an older hairstyle, facial hair or glasses.

In the example above I’d been given instructions for outfits of two of the family members but omitted to check what the others should wear and did my own thing. This was foolish of me… In this case the customer felt that the two figures in orange and blue were too casual looking in relation to the rest. As a result I needed to digitally redraw these two outfits. (She also asked for a few colour changes but these are very easily done.) I’m now trying to ask more questions and get as much detail as possible before starting. This is much easier than having to edit digitally later, and I’m hopefully getting better at remembering to do this!

The finished product – how this custom cartoon portrait turned out

Once I’d made these edits and send a second proof the customer was very happy with her family portrait. I’ll always keep going until the customer is completely satisfied with what I’ve created! Here’s the finished product:

The final cartoon family portrait as sent to the customer

She also asked me to sign the portrait as she said I should get credit for my artwork, which I thought was really lovely of her! I’ve also done quite a few other cartoon portraits for her, so despite my mistake she remained a very loyal customer 🙂

So that’s my process! I love doing custom cartoon portraits. They result in me having a lot more interaction with my customers than I do with ready to ship orders that are just printed and posted off. Some really terrific customers come back again and again and I’m always so pleased to hear from them when they ask for another custom cartoon portrait for a new occasion.

Take a look at the range in my shop to see examples of all the different custom cartoon portrait cards and prints that I offer.

* These are affiliate links, which means that if you click on them and buy I will get a tiny commission on that product – it doesn’t cost you anything though! And I only add affiliate links to products I actually like and use (of course).

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Free colouring in pages for kids

Free colouring in pages

We’ve all been in lockdown for a while now, so I hope you’re all doing ok. It must be particularly difficult if you have young children at home to entertain, so I wanted to do what I could to help. I’m offering some free colouring in pages for kids which you can download and print off to keep them amused for a little while at least! Continue reading Free colouring in pages for kids

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Beer illustrations

Beer illustrations

It’s starting to look a bit like I’m obsessed with alcohol… (who me?!) These beer illustrations follow on from the cocktail illustrations I did last week. I’m not actually much of a fan of beer, though I don’t mind half a pint of Guinness now and then, or the very occasional lager on a particularly hot day.
Continue reading Beer illustrations