Tag Archives: digital

How to Illustrate 2 Simple, Popular Styles

How to Illustrate 2 Simple, Popular Styles

In this post there are two simple step-by-step tutorials of how to illustrate a cartoon style and a more realistic style…


Step 1 – Draw your sketch


Have some fun with this, if you get what you want on paper the first time then great but don’t be afraid to experiment.

You can exaggerate features when drawing in this style, notice how the positioning of the features in the sketch are normal but I have played around with the sizing. The eyes are massive but the nose and mouth are tiny, the face shape itself is angular with a very pointy chin.

Step 2 – Start to ink your sketch in Illustrator

Once you are happy with your sketch, transfer it into Illustrator, you will want to put the image on a locked layer which is set to ‘template’ with a transparency of 50%. You can name this layer ‘sketch’ if you want.

Screen shot 2013-12-19 at 10.06.25

This now means you can ink your sketch clearly on a layer above this one.

I started by drawing out the outline of the hair, and then started adding in the features, jawline and neck, all using the pen tool.

Screen shot 2013-12-19 at 10.29.14

The tapered effect was achieved by altering the ‘profile’ of the pen stroke within the stroke palette.

Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 14.21.15

Step 3 – Colour

Create a third layer inbetween your sketch layer and inked line layer.

Transfer the shapes you created from the line layer in order to colour block your picture.

Screen shot 2013-12-19 at 10.46.33

You can also trace under the lines you created by locking the line layer, this is how I drew the whites of the eyes and the purple colours of the mouth.

Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 14.28.58

Step 4 – Adding details

cartoon style

You can see here that I have added gradients, shadows and highlights in order to make the artwork not look so ‘flat’, you can really be creative here and use your imagination in order to create your cartoon character! All of these extra details were added on the 3rd layer.

‘Realistic’ Style

Step 1 – Choose your picture

For this style you can either draw your face as in the previous tutorial or use a photo. As long as you have the rights to the photo I would suggest this option as the end result is usually better.

Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 14.50.04

Step 2 – Illustrator

As in the cartoon tutorial, place your photo on a locked template layer with a transparency of 50%.

Step 3 – Inking

For this style, we are going to be using coloured lines as they give a softer, more realistic effect. The black lines work for the cartoon style as they make the image stand out or ‘pop’ off of the page, with this style you need to consider the skin tones, shadows and light a little more.

Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 15.45.34

It is easier to ink the drawing using a bright colour so you can see what you’re drawing, in this case I have used red as it really stands out.

Step 4 – Colour

Once you are happy with your lines you can turn them the correct colour and also create a third layer for you to start the main colour up.

It is a very similar process to the first style, its just a case of creating an image that is as close (as you want) to the original photo as possible.

Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 15.55.44

Step 5 – Adding details

At this stage, you can add a lot of nice detail. Again I have used gradients, shadows, feathering, transparencies and also blends to get a good skin tone and feathered effect with the hair.

Realistic_StyleWe hope that this has been an interesting and useful read!

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Posted by on December 19, 2013 in illustration news


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How publishing for different devices impacts design

Guest blog courtesy of Christopher Bladon – Design Oracle, HL Studios for Bookmachine.


Many design companies, like us here at HL Studios, come from a print or web-based background and have had to do some serious upgrading (of software, equipment and especially skills) to keep up with the multitude of digital devices available on the market today. Designing for these devices is quite complex, as each device has different characteristics that impact on the user experience.

Every digital project we undertake has different problems to overcome. In an ideal world we would start from a blank document and produce content for a single digital format, but as no single job is the same we frequently find ourselves dealing with legacy print documents that are required in multiple formats for multi-channel publishing. This situation is unlikely to change anytime soon and may never merge into a single universal standard.

Our starting point is always the format required – ePub, PDF, MOBI/PRC, AZW, IBA (iBooks Author) or stand-alone app. Usually the client dictates this, but in consultation one format may work better for the end user, especially if a more visually attractive media is needed. Thankfully, when multiple formats are required most layout software allows for the export of different formats, with the minimal of changes to any files. IBooks Author is slightly different. At the moment there is no direct way of importing InDesign or Quark files into the program – there are some work-arounds to this, but none of which are entirely satisfactory, as yet. We are working with our programmers to create an InDesign plug-in that can export directly to iBooks – which we hope will make the process of conversion smoother.

The next important thing to think about is the orientation – Landscape or Portrait, Fixed or Fluid – this may have implications on the construction of the document. Re-flowable and re-sizeable text aside, an ePub file has the issue of what to do with design features such as chapter headings and chapter openers. In a print-first workflow where the design features have been commissioned with the printed book in mind, there is an inevitable conflict between preserving the ‘look’ of the book and retaining the usability of the e-book.

Another good practice is to ensure the correct usage of stylesheets. Tags and stylesheets enable efficient single source, multi-channel publishing. And the most effective technology for employing tags and stylesheets is xml. Using an xml workflow or book production smoothes the transition from print to digital.

Size becomes an issue (don’t laugh) if you pack an e-book full of all the exciting interactive features available. Most digital marketplaces have strict guidelines on the maximum size allowed for each document.

There are many other things to take in to account, for instance black backgrounds enhance glare on most devices and font choices become irrelevant when using formats like ePub. We also need to design with the finger in mind. An adult finger is larger, but a young child’s finger is less accurate, so it’s important to ensure that any design works for all potential users. Links need to be large enough to click. Allowing for the navigation features on each device is important, for instance, the iPAD has a pop-up navigation bar at the top (44px) and a toolbar at the bottom (40px); any clickable feature in an e-book needs to be clear of this area. Other devices have similar navigation bars that need to be designed around. We have found that leaving an area of about 50px around all sides usually covers most tablets or smartphones.

The initial construction of a print document has the greatest impact on the conversion into an e-book, so good practice in a workflow is essential. If you would like tips on how to do this successfully, feel free to contact us at HL Studios, be it just for an informal chat or to arrange a full professional presentation.

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Posted by on February 21, 2013 in design news


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Page composition goes digital

In the old days of hot metal printing, the compositor was one of the team that physically assembled the printing plates, gathering the individual type blocks of single letters that made up the words, sentences and ultimately full pages of type for production.

Today, we live in a computerised world and so the concept of page composition is somewhat different. Gone are the physical needs to assemble printing plates, as page composition is done on computer screens, printing machinery is increasingly able to work effectively from a virtual plate and photo setting is commonplace.

For those old enough to have trained in the days when changes to layout were an expensive, time consuming addition to the page composition process, there was a discipline taught, of the value of getting it right first time. In contrast, today’s computerised systems, with page layout being carried out on screen using software such as Indesign, offer almost too much flexibility for anyone planning layout or page composition. The skill today is in having the discipline, of using the many opportunities with care and ensuring that a page composition is still effective at communicating what it needs to do.

Here at HL Studios, we provide a comprehensive range of support services for educational publishers. Including the provision of page composition and graphic design services, which take account of the need to design layouts to suit the new formats on screen, as well as more traditional on paper design. In addition, the company offers project management, and can execute other vital elements such as animation and illustration in order to deliver a complete package to create educational materials. The company has its own interactive software, to create a whiteboard including video, images and activities on the page of an e-book.

Among the issues faced by those involved with page composition are how to present material clearly and logically. For online material, there is the need to consider how to link different pages and illustrations, perhaps arranging for them to open in new windows or on new pages. In this respect, a page composition specialist may need to work with website designers or programmers, to ensure that links work correctly, and ensuring that the consumer can find a route back to previous points of interest. In a virtual world, a reader will lose the facility of thumbing back to previous pages, which will always be a virtue of printed material.

Links between pages will depend today on how material is being viewed. A website format is familiar to most people, and those viewing it via a computer terminal will normally expect to interact using a computer mouse, clicking to move down a web page, to move onto a new page and so on. However, formats are changing all the time. Only during the last couple of years have people started to become familiar with the touch screen, as employed on an increasing number of smartphones, led by Apple’s innovative iPhone, and by the company’s equally ground breaking iPad. For those involved with page composition, such as the team at HL Studios, the challenge is in staying ahead of developments, and of the way users interact with new technology as it emerges.

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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in design news


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Out of print and backlist titles – How to make revenue

HL Studios book layout team are helping a major UK publisher create revenue from old titles with a smart bit of hardware that we happen to have in our oxfordshire studio.

We are currently taking around 100 books and converting them into e-books with searchable text. 

The smart thing is that the vast majority of these books are printed copies with no digital files available. In some cases the publisher found that they only had one remaining copy in their archives!

By doing a ‘google’ (see google books project) we have helped a publisher gain revenue and also reinforce the copyright for the 2012 launched e-book.

If you have an archive of dusty old books with no electronic files, and feel this is something you think would be of benefit to you, please dont hesitate to contact us.

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Posted by on July 3, 2012 in design news


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Quick 10 step guide to commissioning illustration

1.     Include the type of illustration, font details, line weight, colour and shading preferences.

It sounds obvious but it is the simplest details that can often get forgotten!

2.     Assume the illustrator has little or no knowledge of the subject you are writing about.

Although our illustrators at HL Studios have a wealth of experience, it is not possible (even for us) to be expert in every area. By adopting this attitude when creating the briefs the author can avoid many pitfalls; it is much better if the illustrator spends their time creating the artwork rather than twiddling their thumbs whilst the PM queries the author, trying to clarify the instructions. Remember, the Devil makes work for idle thumbs!

3.     Don’t assume the illustrator will have the manuscript in front of them when they create the artwork.

Although at HL Studios we have an integrated workflow system allowing files to be available to various departments, when artwork is separated from the manuscript or is to be produced before the completion of the manuscript, the context in which the artwork is to appear is lost. Therefore all relevant information should be present on the artwork brief.

4.     Include appropriate references and style guides, including level of detail and view required.

Most illustrators would say that visual references are preferable to written instructions (remember these are delicate arty creatures who’s greatest strengths do not usually lie in The Three R’s). The internet is a fantastic resource for quickly finding an image for the illustrator to use as a reference that can then be included on the brief. Alternatively, a weblink can be provided. Be aware that weblinks can be broken; a copy of the actual reference image is usually the best option. If you are unsure of what style you need, HL Studios are always happy to provide examples to help you establish a style.

5.     Make sure it’s legible!

An author may be able to read his or her own handwriting, but (like a Dr’s) can anyone else? An Excel spreadsheet or WordDoc is an excellent alternative and image references can be added in to one document.

6.     The final size and orientation – landscape or portrait. 

Remember sizing instructions. A highly complex diagram of the inner workings of the heart will be next to useless if the only place available on the page to position it is in the gutter!

 7.     Consider the future uses of your illustrations.

At HL Studios we always layer our files so that your illustrations can be used in digital books.  However, it is worth spending a little time considering if an illustration will work well animated in the future. If you are unsure our animation team can give you advice.

8.     The deadline by which the illustration is required.

Once again, it sounds obvious but it is the simplest details that can often get forgotten!

9.     A little time and attention spent at the start really pays off.

Ensuring these simple rules are followed can make the difference between a fraught and frustrating process and a smooth and successful one. Hopefully, at HL Studios, we can make the commissioning and production of illustrations a happy experience for everyone concerned.

10.  We’re always more than happy to talk through any questions or to give advice before briefs are submitted + 44 (0) 1993 706 273.

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Posted by on May 31, 2012 in illustration news


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Digital continues to grow – a guest blog from Dev Eloper

Educational publisher and FT owner Pearson has reported a rise in profits thanks to improved digital sales and growth in emerging markets.

“Pearson expects to achieve continued sales and operating profit growth in 2012, in spite of tough trading conditions and rapid industry change,”

Sales of digital products increased by 18%, making up a third of the group’s total sales. At the FT, digital subscriptions amounted to nearly half of total circulation whilst Penguin saw e-book sales rise 106% to make up 12% of revenues.

Here at HL Studios all of our design team can now create epub format e-books for use on mobile and tablet devices, and our Illustrators have the ability to take any illustration and convert it into an animation.

For those clients that want more out of an e-book, rather than a fixed format epub book, our software developers are able to program interactive e-books that work on all devices and can contain anything from flash activities, games, videos through to in-game updating.

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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in design news


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