Welcome to the Self-taught Illustrator podcast. My name is Natasha Polozenko, and I am here to prove that you do not need a formal training or background in art to make it as an illustrator. So listen up and get ready to be inspired, encouraged, and uplifted in your illustration journey.
Let’s do this!
Hello everyone, Welcome back. I’m so excited to be talking to you today. In last week’s episode, I mentioned that I have started working with a few coaching students to help them uncover their personal illustration styles. I found that as I was working with these four different students, some of the same questions kept on coming up, and it kind of made me think that these might be good topics to potentially explore in more detail in podcast form, which could also, in turn, help a lot more of you folks listening out there. In this episode, we are going to look at which illustration medium you should be focusing on in your illustration practice.
Let me take a step back for a moment and fully explain what a medium is. Your medium is the materials that you use to create your art or illustration. It may be oil on canvas, pen on paper, Photoshop, Procreate. Illustrator. I want to make it clear, when I talk about mediums, I am talking about the process of mediums. So, if you sketch on paper, bring that into Illustrator, and then into Photoshop to add the details… I want to define this process as your medium.
Okay, first things first, you don’t have to stick to one illustration medium, I just personally recommend building an illustration practice around an illustration medium or process. The reasons for this are:
Okay, so now that we’re aligned on what medium is, and you’re aware of some of the benefits of sticking to one medium. Let’s talk about how you can find which medium is best for you.
Firstly, let your style define your medium, don’t let your medium define your style. What do I mean by this? So, if you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you probably know how passionate I am about personal illustration style. I believe that style is ultimately a reflection of ourselves, it’s our experiences, backgrounds, influences inspirations, as well as our taste- what we like, and what we don’t like.
When you take a step back, sit down and do the work of unearthing and developing your unique style, you’re going to start to discover some very specific defining visual attributes. So for example you may find that it makes sense for you to have a style that includes a lot of texture and grit, or you may find that for you, a cleaner, more simple line makes more sense. So firstly, understanding what your style wants to naturally be first, and then finding that medium or process that will help you achieve that is the way to go. Remember, your medium is just a tool to help you execute your ideas, your creativity… It’s a way to help you convey your message. Don’t let the tool itself stifle or direct you too much. So I hope that makes sense.
So now, what do we do if we already know the style we want to achieve? If you have the desired outcome in mind. The first thing you need to do is figure out if you want to work in vector or raster. There are pros and cons to both. Vector art can be infinitely scaled up and down, so there’s no pixelization, which is a huge draw for a lot of people, but on the downside, you also can’t get detailed with shading in the same way that you might with a raster program.
I want to take this moment to urge you to not pick a vector program just because you could theoretically scale up or down. It actually might be rare that you would ever need to do this anyway. So, I want you to take the time to figure out what makes sense for your style. If you find that you want to create 2d illustrations with no or shading, and just like the clean finish of vector art, a program like Adobe Illustrator might just be the path for you. Please do not be afraid to go raster and use a program like Photoshop or procreate. Just be sure to work at a large artboard size, which should be enough for most of your scaling needs.
Okay, so now that we’ve talked about picking between raster and vector programs. Now, how do we pick between the different options that are available within these different categories? When it comes down to it, lean towards whatever you prefer, but also consider what you financially have access to. There’s no denying that Adobe has built up a reputation as the industry standard, but it can be quite pricey…
So I want you to understand your budget and look out for alternatives that may be cheaper… Procreate is an example of a program that does everything that Photoshop can do, but it is only a one-time payment of $10 versus however much the Adobe Suite, or a Photoshop subscription cost these days. Granted, you need to have an iPad, and Apple Pencil. But that’s just to say that there are alternatives out there. So figure out what you can afford right now. Don’t let the expense of different software and tools stop you from creating.
Now, we’ve talked a lot about digital mediums and software, and how to pick the right one for you, but there is a whole other realm of exploration that you could undertake when it comes to more physical mediums. Now, this steps a little out of the world of illustration, but I love the process that comes with trying out my style in different mediums. Although I have a digital illustration style, sometimes I will experiment with painting my characters, or I will play around with how my character looks in polymer clay. This is such a fun process, and I recommend getting as creative and playful as you can. And who knows, you could even start potentially creating some unique mixed media hybrids, pulling together, digital and physical mediums to create something completely unexpected.
Alrighty, So that’s it, for now! Thank you for tuning into the Self-taught Illustrator Podcast where we prove that you do not need a formal training or background in art to make it and thrive as an illustrator.
I hope This episode was helpful to you, and that it helped you get closer to deciding on your illustration medium… Drop me a DM @nataszko, that’s nataszko on TikTok or Instagram to let me know! I look forward to bringing you more illustration tips tricks and nuggets of wisdom. So, until next time. Bye for now.