iStock has an excellent collection of raster illustrations, and we're looking for more. There is a large and growing demand for traditional illustrations like oil and watercolor paintings, sketched charcoal drawings, pastel illustrations, paper collage, and more.
For those of you accustomed to working digitally, we've put together this overview of traditional illustration media, from a very entry-level perspective. 'Raster' refers to the fact that these images are scans or photographs of physical illustrations, as opposed to digital files created on a computer. Give the piece a read, check out the examples, then head out to the art supply shop and start drawing.
If you already work in any of these mediums, we'd love to see your work. We've provided tips on how to best digitize various illustration mediums. Try scanning or photographing a piece and uploading it to iStock.
Pencil is controlled, forgiving, and easy to correct. Pencil drawings can be detailed, realistic, whimsical or impressionistic. Most artists are familiar with pencil and charcoal which makes them a good place to start experimenting.
Pencil drawings can be created on any type of paper. Smooth paper will allow for finer lines and crisp detail, whereas rough paper will allow you to create interesting textures.
Pencil graphite is grey, whereas charcoal has a richer dark tone but is softer and less controlled. Graphite can have a reflective glare when applied densely on paper, while charcoal creates a softer, deeper matte black. They are easily combined simply by using the charcoal to darken any shadows and low-lit areas in your illustration.
Pen and ink drawings are clean, defined and dramatic. They are often used to create a comic style, but everything from abstract to realism can be achieved with this medium.
Pen and ink is not forgiving, and fixing mistakes is difficult. Small mistakes can be corrected by using white gouache. Proper planning of your composition beforehand goes a long way in preventing any mistakes during the inking process.
Choose a good pen that will not clog easily or leave blotches on the paper. It is also good to choose smooth, fine paper. Fibrous papers tend to catch and clog the nibs in pens. A paper with a heavier weight is ideal, as it will prevent the ink from bleeding through. Illustration board is smooth and provides stability. Be sure to clean your pens after use, to prevent ink from drying in the nibs.
Since blending is not possible with pen and ink, shading is achieved by using a variety of techniques:
Colored pencils are a surprisingly easy-to-use medium for creating traditional artwork. They allow you to have precise control and add fine, intricate detail to your piece. It is easy to create bold color with strong light and contrasts, especially useful with realistic styles.
They can be used on a variety of paper. Cold-pressed paper will add texture and roughness to your illustration. Smooth, hot-pressed paper will create soft blends and color transitions.
While drawing, it is a good idea to rest your hand on a clean piece of scrap paper laid overtop your illustration. This will prevent your hand from smearing bits of color left behind onto areas you would like to leave white.
One drawback to using colored pencils is an effect known as wax bloom. This happens with the wax binder separates from the pigments of the pencil and rises to the top, and appears as a grey film. It is best to scan or photograph your illustration immediately following its completion, in order to capture the colors when they are still vivid.
If wax bloom does appear, it can be wiped off with a soft cloth. Using a finish spray will prevent wax bloom from occurring, however it is best to scan your piece prior to applying the finish or it could create reflections on your scan or photograph.
Watercolor painting is generally used when the desired effect is a softer and less detailed final piece. Vibrant, rich color can be achieved by using more paint and less water, or washy, impressionistic pieces can be created simply by using more water. With watercolor painting you will need to paint in reverse, otherwise known as "negative painting", since the highlights are created by using the white of the paper.
Watercolor paint is a little less forgiving than other mediums since it is difficult to correct mistakes. Once paint has been applied to paper it can be challenging to remove it. However, since most watercolors are built up by using light washes, it is easy to control the progression of your piece with patience.
Watercolor paper is specially designed to hold large amounts of water. You can choose between smooth, hot-pressed paper or rough, cold-pressed paper depending on how much texture you would like in your final piece. It is a good idea to tape down the edge of the paper in order to prevent warping when significant quantities of water are applied.
It is advisable to use two jars of water, one for rinsing your brush between color applications, and the other to use for clean water when painting washes. Be wary of using heavy pencil lines if you are starting with a sketch, as the pencil will show through the paint and be difficult to remove once the paint has been applied. Masking fluid or frisket can be used to protect areas that will be white in the final piece. It prevents paint from being absorbed wherever it is applied to the paper. Once your painting has fully dried, the masking fluid can be easily removed with an eraser or knife.
Watercolor pencils are very similar to colored pencils in that they allow you to have precise control and achieve intricate detail and bold colors. However, since they are water soluble, they can be further manipulated in a variety of ways simply by adding water to the paper or to the pencils themselves.
Water can be applied to the finished pencil drawing with a brush, to soften tones and blend colors. This allows you to be selective of the areas you would like to soften with water. Alternatively, pencils can be applied to wet paper, creating a watercolor effect with more color bleeding and softer tones and lines. More pencil can be applied after the paper has dried to add harder edges and more vibrant color. Different effects can also be used by applying water with a sponge or toothbrush.
Oils paints are simply colored pigments suspended in oil. They are much more vivid and opaque than watercolor paints, and much slower to dry. Oils can be applied smoothly to create a nice, soft surface on the canvas, or built up to have dramatic texture and form.
Oil painting is a bit more forgiving than other mediums, since the paint can be reworked while it is wet, even several days after the initial application. Canvas is usually used, as the paint easily adheres to the textured surface. Oil medium can be added to decrease the drying time, and give the paint a more glossy finish. Paint thinner will be needed to clean brushes afterward.
One drawback to oil painting is that it has a short blending life on canvas. Therefore, try not to overwork areas as repetitive alterations can quickly result in muddy color.
Acrylic paint is ideal for beginners as it is flexible, versatile, and fast-drying. It is similar in consistency to oil paint, however the paint itself is water based. It can be used straight from the tube like oils, or thinned with a medium to create a watercolor-like effect. Acrylics are very forgiving and mistakes are corrected easily by simply painting over the area once the paint has fully dried. Drying time can be extended by using an acrylic medium, or a spray bottle with water that will apply a fine mist to the paint.
Any type of paper can be used with acrylic, but canvas or illustration board will more provide stability if the paint is applied thickly.
With acrylics, washes can be layered on top of each other without fear of disturbing the colors underneath. Once each layer dries, it becomes insoluble in water which makes it very permanent and durable. Masking tape can even be applied to dry layers of paint to create hard edges without damaging the paint underneath.
Pastels are very versatile, easy-to-use, and are great for beginners as they offer a lot of control. Fine details can be easily achieved.
Pastels can be applied to a variety of surfaces, although acid-free paper is recommend to preserve the stability of the pigment. Any texture or color of paper can be used.
Oil pastels are soft, and offer a variety of colors from subtle to brilliant. It is best to start with the darkest colors and then apply them heavily for the strongest effect. Colors are easily blended to achieve a softer look. Experimenting with colors in different layers and varying thicknesses is best, as there is no wrong way to work with oil pastels.
Chalk pastels are a little harder and drier, and will create more texture. They are one of the easiest mediums to work with. Light, broad strokes can be created by using the pastel sideways. Thin, detailed lines can be achieved by sharpening the chalk and holding it at an angle. Colors are easily blended.
It is beneficial to rest your hand on a clean, scrap piece of paper when using pastels to prevent smudging.