Melissa_Doran_BrambleTableLast week I was delighted to start an online course called Make Art That Sells run by superstar illustration agent Lilla Rogers which is all about how to break into different markets with your drawings. I heard about the course from one of my favourite illustrators Flora Chang who did the same course earlier on in the year and was blogging about it.

Bolt Fabric

Week one focused on bolt fabric, the big rolls of fabric that you buy to make crafts for your kitchen and your family. You know, if you are a real girl :). The class format is that at the beginning of the week a mini-assignment is given to everybody and we do our research and make lots of drawings. Then later on in the week we get our big assignment and have to have it handed up by Sunday. We can talk to our classmates and share our progress via a facebook group. It was great to see what everyone else is doing and everyone is very nice (no negative feedback is one of our class rules).

Dishes and Berries

So in the first week we had to draw berries and pyrex casserole dishes and then make a Vintage Kitchen themed submission. I had a client meeting in Leitrim early on in the week so I stayed a night at my parents and did my drawing there. I drew some dishes that have been in the house since the sixties and went out into the fields to draw berries.

leitrim rainbow blackberry

When I got back to dublin I scanned them in and strengthened up the lines in Photoshop before bringing it in to Illustrator for the real fun.

Adjustment Layers in Photoshop

In Photoshop (CS6) I added a levels adjustment layer (layer>new adjustment layer>levels). If the levels panel looks scary at first, just remember to look at the three triangles, white, grey and black. I usually start with the black one and drag it to the left, this makes my whites whiter and removes the gray interference that might have been some light peeping through. Then the white triangle blackens up the lines, then drag the central grey triangle to adjust the midtones. Sometimes I also add a brighness/contrast adjustment layer but in this case I didn’t need it. I saved it out as a jpeg and then brought it into illustrator to trace it.

Before and after adjustments



Live Trace in Illustrator

In Illustrator (CS6) I opened the live trace panel (window>live trace) and clicked on the image to tell illustrator that I wanted to trace it, then clicked on the preview button at the bottom of the live trace panel. I adjusted the threshold, paths, corners and noise setting until I was happy with the result. livetrace Once you are happy with the tracing result you need to click on expand (this is in the middle of the options panel above your drawing) and then rightclick on the image and select “ungroup”. Its best to lock this layer and add a new layer for colouring in.



Because Lilla recommended limiting the palette for this exercise I made a swatch folder in the swatches panel to keep me from running away with myself. If you make your swatches global, then decide to change the swatch colour, the colour will update across your whole drawing. I will get into more detail about colour and swatches in a later post. I made one main pattern and two co-ordinates to go with it.  I layered the bramble images together and turned down their opacity to give a slightly textured background in the main image and I used this method again for the red co-ordinate which gives it a kind of silk screen print feel. We all uploaded our final images to a closed Flickr group. The week really got me thinking about the bolt fabric market. To be honest I never thought about it before! I loved it. Someone in my class was telling us that she ordered her fabric online already and is going to make some aprons from them. So cool! I’m going to keep working on fabric designs alongside this weeks assignement, week 2: Homeware. See you next week when I’ll tell you all about that!


If you want to learn how to draw digitally and enhance your hand drawings come to my Digital Illustration class or join my facebook group for tips.


Related Reading:

Make Art That Sells Week 2

Make Art That Sells Week 3

How to make a Christmas Tree animated GIF

Hand Lettering and Design – Workshop with Steve Simpson