From Canvas to Computer: Combining Traditional Art With Graphic Design

Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post about the research and planning phases of a white tiger infographic I designed.


One of the key aspects of that infographic is a large illustration of a white tiger. When creating the design, I wanted it to look rustic and rugged. The infographic is about the horrors of the breeding industry, and making the illustration look slightly distressed would complement the content well. I wanted to stay away from the clean, polished look of vector images. While I could create a computer-generated rustic look in Photoshop, I decided to take things a step further and design the tiger without a computer, both to challenge myself and to create the look I wanted.



I wanted to use black paint to create bold lines with a sketchy/distressed feel. I began experimenting with a paintbrush, but the lines still looked too polished, and they didn’t look rugged enough. I then saw a pencil sitting nearby with a foam pencil grip on it, and I was inspired. I dipped the pencil grip in the black paint and made a few practice strokes. They were bold, commanding, but still had a rustic look. I began using the pencil grip to paint the entire tiger, angling it for thicker or thinner strokes, and moving quickly to create an illustration that looked natural, not planned or perfectly calculated. Working with traditional art better allows you to create things that aren’t perfectly aligned, which is better when creating illustrations with a more natural feel.




The final illustration had the rustic, natural feel I wanted. It was a good start, but the illustration was not done yet. I scanned it and opened the file in Photoshop. Then, I added some subtle blue and orange colors, changed the shadows and highlights a bit, and faded the colors slightly to blend the illustration in with the rest of the infographic. The final file was a perfect integration of traditional and computer design skills; it had the rough, rugged look I wanted without looking messy or unprofessional.




Using traditional art can be intimidating for a designer who is used to working in Photoshop and Illustrator, but the challenge is definitely worth it. Obviously the traditional art route takes longer and can’t be used for every project, but when you make a deliberate choice to enhance your work using this method, it pays off. Plus, now I can say I know how to paint with a pencil grip. I should probably add that to my resume ASAP.