Tag Archives: illustration

Creation Requires Inspiration!


‘Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity’

We’re a creative bunch here at HL Studios, and for today’s blog post, we thought it best to give you an insight into what inspires us on a daily basis when it comes to our work…with a twist.

Each set of images has been chosen by one of our members of staff, see if you can guess who’s is who’s. The images are linked back to the HL Studios ‘about us’ page.

This person chose artists that fall into a realm of what can only be described as ‘prog modern fantasy’ as their inspiration, in their words…”M C Escher, Chris Foss (wow!), Roger Dean, Theo Aartsma (Big wow!).”


This member of staff is clearly inspired by more traditional high fantasy artists, they have chosen Eyvind Earle, Hidemi Kubo, Brian Froud and John William Waterhouse.


Next up is a creative who finds joy in the bold and the brave, in their words “My inspiration comes from the flow and form found in design. I admire structured design, especially corporate identity. My influences are: Designers Republic, Banksy, Phillippe Starck and the wonderful world that is deviantart”.


Our next entry is from someone who takes their inspiration from the wonderful world of media as a whole…”design to me is the colors and shapes used in graphic effects for tv, web and print”.


The next entry has rather a lot of inspiration, they have listed them all here…”Sin City, 300 and graphic novel style art – not that awful manga sh*t. Coraline, Nightmare before Christmas, Morph and anything animated with models. Mexican Day of the dead celebrations and paraphernalia (am I sounding like a serial killer yet…?!).
Packaging. I’m an absolute sucker for great packaging design. Mobile phone boxes, the little hole in Maltesers boxes, Cadbury’s egg n spoon desserts, Mikado sticks… am guessing I should add food here… FOOOOOD!
The English countryside & the seasons. Photography and photo manipulation apps, take my phone everywhere and take pics of everything. And oooh I love a good sign as well…”.


Our last entry draws their inspiration from both modern and vintage forms of artwork, their list includes Lucian Freud, vintage movie posters and books from the 1950’s and 1960’s, and the clean cut designs we find on the world wide web.


We hope you have enjoyed looking at our inspirations as much as we have enjoyed collating them!

How many did you guess right…?!

Love, the HL Studios Creative Team.

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Posted by on February 24, 2014 in design news


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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Posted by on December 19, 2013 in illustration news


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Our 10 Best Illustrations of 2013

Presenting a list of the 10 illustrations we are most proud of from the past 12 months…

ScholasticAlice in Wonderland Smoking Caterpillar


This is a fun artwork that was drawn for a series of books comissioned by Scholastic. It included many other characters from ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and also ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, but this was by far our favourite!

RaintreeDinosaur Infographic


When we first saw the brief for this infographic we initially thought ‘thats a lot of dino for one artwork!’, but they were so great to draw that when it was finished we ended up quite liking it, however busy it may look!

RaintreeDiagram of a Collision


This is an excellent example of some of the more technical artwork we create here at HL Studios. Another job from Raintree, this artwork shows an aerial view of a motorway collision.

RaintreeReduce, Reuse, Recycle


An infographic from Raintree that represents the mantra ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ in quite a cartoony yet striking manner. We decided to feature this as it is a rather unusual style of artwork, and we’re always happy to show off the diverse range of styles the studio is able to produce.

RaintreeAnimal Abilities


Animals are great to draw, fact! We had lots of fun with this series of artworks, and this one is a particular favourite in the studio. It’s actually rather relaxing to draw animals (depending on how tight the schedule is of course!) and this artwork is a nice example of the range of different creatures we get the chance to illustrate.

Pearson OxfordBlack and White Villa


This illustration has been chosen as it is a fantastic example of how an artwork can still be brought to life even if it is drawn using black and white. The perspective on the building is also very well done and therefore deserved a place in out 10 Best Blog.

Pearson Oxford ‘Church


This is one of two artworks that were created for Pearson Oxford. It is a lovely example of how a simple cartoon style can still be used to portray a serious subject. There are some nice uses of shadowing, and the blends used for the brick work give a great perspective on the whole piece.

Pan MacmillanDanubia Map


We take a lot of pride in our cartography skills here at HL Studios, and this map in particular is an amazing example of what our illustrators can produce. The level of detail in this map is beautiful and absolutely deserved a place in this list.

MacmillanShanghai Waiter


This piece is a collaboration between a few of our illustrators, it has been chosen for this list as it demonstrates how well the team works together whilst also showing off both techincal and figurative styles.

Cambridge University PressAnne Boleyn


An artwork for CUP that was an absolute joy to illustrate. Again it is a straightforward style but capturing the likenesses of famous faces is always good fun to do.

We hope you have enjoyed this post, don’t forget to keep an eye out for more creativity from the illustration team in the future!

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Posted by on December 18, 2013 in design news, illustration news


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Welcome Autumn!



Back to school, nights drawing in, wasps everywhere, busy busy time in publishing, ahhhh love it!

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Posted by on September 6, 2013 in design news


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Realistic 3D Paintings Of Aquatic Life

from The Graphic Design Blog.

Worth a follow for the fabulous examples of artwork that crop up from time to time.

This artist begins by painting the fish (using acrylics). He tries to use as little paint as possible, then pours resin into the bowl and continues to illustrate it layer by layer to create a sense of depth; thus creating the illusion of the fish swimming in water. I want the bucket of goldfish for my house, my cat would love them!

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Click to follow them, or to follow us 😀

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Posted by on April 22, 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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