Friday, 16 January 2015

FAQ: What materials do you use?

I quite often get asked about the materials I use to create my portraits. It's a question that pops up frequently on my Facebook page and Instagram so rather than go through the lengthy process of replying to each query individually, I thought I'd write a post on the subject, so that I can provide a little more detail. (I am by no means saying it isn't worth my time to reply individually!)

Pencils: I use Faber Castell Polychromos pencils. When I first started pet portraits, I was using watercolour pencils, but this is mostly because that's all I happened to have at the time. I've since progressed to the Polychromos and I really love them. They have a high pigmentation and a wonderful range of shades to choose from which really helps me build up base layers to make fur look really rich, particularly black fur which, believe it or not, is far from black!

I would like to try out some other types of pencils in the near future, such as Prismacolour, so that I can make some comparisons and maybe discover something that works even better for me!
Paper: The paper I currently use, and have used for a while now, is Daler Rowney Murano pastel paper, in the colour stone. I stumbled across this paper when I was trying out various textures and colours and after doing a few portraits on it, I found that it suited my techniques very well. Being a pastel paper, it has a slight raised texture to it which is brilliant for holding the pigmentation of the Polychromos. I love the shade and I think that it complements pretty much every type of colouring of the animals I draw; it provides a really nice base colour that makes the drawing pop out. It also means that I can apply white pencil to bring the highlights to life even more than I would be able to on white paper.

Finish: On the subject of highlights, the final material I use is Daler Rowney FW Acrylic Ink in white. I use this to sharpen and brighten the important highlights where the white pencil isn't quite enough, for instance, for the shine in the eyes or for whiskers. I am very sparing with the use of acrylic ink but it does help to finish the piece off and give it that final burst of life.
Digital: For the actual piece of art work, I do not use any digital tools; it is all done by my hands using the materials I've discussed in this post. However, I use Photoshop to create the mock-up that I will work from for the piece, which allows me to try out different compositions and see how they work before physically drawing them out. I also use guidelines on PS, much like the "squaring up" grid technique, to draw the outline so that I get the important features in the right place and in proportion. Finally, I use a Canon scanner or my Epson A3 printer/scanner to scan in the finished portrait ready to share with you!

And that's it! Nothing special really, just good, old-fashioned pencil and paper. If you have any other burning questions about my process, I would be happy to answer them so feel free to leave a comment here or email me at

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