Illustration with Sarah Hurley

17 April 2012

This month, I’m giving you a sneaky peek into my illustration process. Most of my work is digital (although I hand draw everything first) but once a year my work goes off to be shown at the Bologna book fair and for that I like to show the full range of things that I can do, so there will be some digital, some collage / mixed media work and some hand drawn and painted work – you never know what people will be looking for! Here is the process of one of my Bologna illustrations using Derwent Coloursoft pencils (my faves!)

Illustration with Sarah Hurley

First I start with an idea. I love pictures with houses and ‘Home’ themed projects, so this year I thought I would do a whimsical house. I start to sketch some ideas in pencil; everything is a bit messy at this stage as I fight to get all of my ideas on paper before they drift off again! No-one usually ever sees this part so I feel free to be messy and make notes onto my picture, cross things out, draw over things – as long as I know what I mean, it’s OK!

Once I’m happy with a composition and ironed out any problems.Sometimes I discover I can’t draw what I want in my picture particularly well, so I’ll do a few studies of it from reference material until I’ve perfected it or I might need to practice the perspective and proportions of things until I’m happy.

I then draw it out very lightly onto my paper – I keep the strokes very light so they blend more easily, especially around light areas.

Illustration with Sarah Hurley

At this point I’ll start adding areas of colour, keeping everything very soft so I can still work over it and adding shading and highlights or even erase something if I think it doesn’t work. This is the hardest stage for me; the colours look quite flat and it can be disheartening because it doesn’t look like the picture in my head yet – at this point I want to abandon it and start over! But instead I usually put it away for an hour and come back to it with fresh eyes (and newly sharpened pencils!)

Illustration with Sarah Hurley

Once I’m happy with the colour balance I start adding shading. I love to blend lots of colours together; I still work lightly or the surface of the colouring can become shiny too quickly and it can be difficult to add more colour.

Finally, I use a pen to add details over the top. I occasionally use a black fine liner but mostly I use a grey or brown brush pen as you can get finer detail and the finish isn’t so harsh. It really depends on the piece – here I’ve used a grey brush pen to pick out the details such as blades of grass, birds' feet and eyes, leaves on the trees and other little bits and pieces – just make sure not to smudge the ink before it has time to dry!

Illustration with Sarah Hurley

Illustration with Sarah Hurley

Thanks so much for popping by to take a sneak peek into my illustration process and share my sketchbook secrets – I hope you’ll come and share yours over on the Derwent Facebook page; we’d love to take a look.

I’ll be back soon!
Sarah x

10:22 by Rebecca Watson Rebecca Watson

Scrapbooking with Coloursoft by Sarah Hurley

27 February 2012

One of my favourite crafts is Scrapbooking; not only is it a chance to be creative but it’s a great way to preserve your family history, memories and photos – as well as reliving all the great times as you work on your pages!

Scrapbooking is most commonly done on 12”x12” acid free papers, although some people scrap on 8”11.5”, 8”x8” and 6”x6” as well as mini books – so there is lots of variety for anyone wanting to start out with this craft – if you are already a card maker or paper crafter you probably have most of the materials you need already!

Scrapbooking with Coloursoft by Sarah Hurley

Today I’m showing you how you can incorporate colouring pencils into your scrapbooking. Quite recently crafters have started experimenting more with different mediums on their pages and I wanted to show that your colouring pencils are not limited to just colouring in stamped images to use on your page, there are lots of other uses too. So here is my step-by step scrapbook page…

Supply List – Derwent Coloursoft Pencils, White 12”x12” cardstock, Kraft Cardstock, die cutting machine or punches, adhesive, piercing tool, embroidery thread and needle, black journaling pen, embellishments and a photograph.

Scrapbooking with Coloursoft by Sarah Hurley

First, I cut a piece of Kraft paper to 11” x 5.5”, then using my Cricut Expression (die cutting machine) I  cut some bunting, butterflies and flowers. I’m actually going to be colouring the negative shapes but I kept hold of the die cut butterflies to add to the layout (you could also use punches if you don’t have a die cutting machine.)

Scrapbooking with Coloursoft by Sarah Hurley

Using a piercing tool and ruler I made holes 0.5cm apart all around the Kraft paper and stitched round with 2 strands of coral embroidery thread.

Scrapbooking with Coloursoft by Sarah Hurley

I then rounded the corners using a corner rounder punch and adhered about an inch from the bottom of my white 12x12” sheet of cardstock, I also rounded two of the corners of my photo and adhered next to the die cut area.

Scrapbooking with Coloursoft by Sarah Hurley

Using my Coloursoft pencils I blended the colour carefully through the die cut areas (use a blending stump to get into the small areas) I kept the colours quite fresh, using only one or two colours in each area and blending as I went.

I then coloured in the die cut Kraft paper butterflies, also with Coloursoft pencils and stuck to my layout with glossy accents (by curling the wings up slightly first and sticking just the middle down it gives a great 3D effect to your layout which will also flatten down when you want to pop the layout in your album.)

Scrapbooking with Coloursoft by Sarah Hurley

Using a black journaling pen I doodled over the top of my colouring to add lots of details.  I also added some white gel pen and glitter to small areas to add highlights. One of the great things about Coloursoft pencils is you can draw back over the top of them with a black pen to add details etc…!)

Scrapbooking with Coloursoft by Sarah Hurley

A few finishing touches, embellishments and a journaling card to tell the story behind the picture and my layout was complete!

You could also try…

  • Doodling onto your page
  • Journaling in rainbow colours
  • Stamping and colouring a repeat background to create your own patterned paper

Thanks so much for looking, I hope this inspires you to try colouring pencils in your scrapbooking projects – please do share you links here or on the Derwent Facebook page, we’d love to see them!

I’ll be back soon with more crafty projects!

Sarah x

10:18 by Rebecca Watson Rebecca Watson

The Magic Number 33

19 October 2011

Cartoonist Colin Shelbourn guest blogs about how he uses Derwent Studio 33 pencils to create his fantastic illustrations.


The Derwent Studio 33 pencil; it’s slim, perfectly formed and the secret weapon in a cartoonist’s armoury.

When drawing for newspapers, the deadlines are tight. In the case of a front page cartoon it can be as little as three hours. This includes reading the headlines, sketching at least four ideas, discussing them with the editor and then drawing the finished artwork. As part of this process, the Studio 33 is indispensable.

It’s the best blue pencil in the world and it has magical properties.

When scanned in black and white, blue lines disappear. They simply don’t register, which means I can sketch the final artwork with in blue pencil and go straight to ink without the need to erase any lines. This saves a huge wodge of time plus it avoids wrecking the paper surface and subsequently creating a splodgy inky mess.

The Magic Number 33

The printed result is a finely-crafted cartoon of elegance and tranquility; the frantic, blue pencil scribbling beneath the surface is hidden from view.

But the magic of the Studio 33 doesn’t end there. It extends into the wild, where it prevents conflict, altercation and unseemly behaviour.

The Magic Number 33

The Magic Number 33

Drawing in trains, cafés and at live events is tremendous fun but carries a risk: I’m a cartoonist so when I sketch someone, the results may not be flattering. An ink or 4B pencil cartoon can be spotted from several yards away but the magic blue pencil is invisible. This gives me plenty of time to spot an incoming victim and turn the page before they arrive. Oh look, I wasn’t drawing them at all, it was my shopping list.

Colin Shelbourn is a professional cartoonist. He can be found extolling the virtues of the Derwent Studio 33 pencil to anyone who will listen, but usually at workshops or in the pages of his new book, Drawing Cartoons (Crowood Press).

The Magic Number 33

© Colin Shelbourn

14:57 by Rebecca Watson Rebecca Watson

Sketching & Design: a Perfect Combination

18 August 2011

Sketching & Design: a Perfect Combination

We asked world-renowned web designer Grace Smith to tell us a little about how she uses sketching to develop ideas for her design work.

Sketching & Design: a Perfect Combination

Sketching isn't optional for me as a designer, it's essential. I can't go straight to digital at the start of a project, I always start off with some browser templates or Moleskine (and a few Derwent pencils!)

Sketching kick-starts my creativity and allows me to get ideas out on paper and is the fastest way to brainstorm and convey as many ideas as possible with the least amount of effort.


Staring at a blank Photoshop canvas is not a great way to start a project. Although it may sound exciting to just jump straight in, it can also be quite overwhelming. Sketching gets you over this hurdle and allows you to quickly explore concepts and ideas. I see it as the frame upon which I craft my projects.

Whether it's a website design, logo design or iPhone app design, it all begins with a pencil and paper. Sketching enables me to break down ideas and fully explore design and layout options and I find putting it down on paper tends to raise questions and ideas, and leads to changes.

I focus on wireframing and layout when sketching for Web Design and iPhone UI Design, looking at the overall picture instead of minor details too early in the process. I usually start by jotting down the main points and goals of a project on a separate page, which I can then quickly refer back to when I'm sketching.

This is the exact process I used when redesigning my own site - Postscript5, which was recently relaunched. Brainstorming ideas and sketching out layouts for each area of the site led me down some creative avenues I wouldn't have experimented with had I not taken the time to sketch!

I sketch quickly and freely as I'm not concerned with how it looks but on developing and exploring ideas. Plus usually no one but you sees the sketches so don't get caught up in  trying to draw a masterpiece!

My process for Logo Design differs slightly in that the sketches are scanned and digitally treated (in Photoshop or Illustrator). However before the sketches are treated they are shown to the client for feedback and revised, only at this point are they then scanned and given a design treatment. This allows for quick iteration and feedback and makes for a much more efficient design process.


As you begin sketching at the start of a project, you soon discover potential obstacles and problems that you may not have seen until much later in the design phase. I've therefore found that while the approach may differ slightly on each project, sketching has cut down dramatically on revisions later in the design stage.

As a designer it now means huge amounts of time aren't invested in refining concepts and solutions which may not be in the right direction, as the sketch (or a sketch turned into a wireframe) can be shown to the client, for approval.


1. Sketching Resources for User Experience Designers

2. To Sketch or not to Sketch

3. Collection of Printable Browser and Wireframe Sketching Templates

4. An in-depth look at my Wireframing process


Too many people get hung up on not being able to draw, but great drawing skill isn’t necessary to capture your ideas. Sketching should be fast and loose, you're not trying to recreate a Picasso, it’s about transferring ideas from your brain to paper.

It's the place where you make your mistakes and your discoveries and lay the foundations of your ideas.

Now excuse me while I go and grab my Derwent Pencils and Moleskine and get sketching!

Sketching & Design: a Perfect Combination


Grace Smith is the principal designer of Postscript5, a small, boutique web design studio based in Northern Ireland, where she works with clients from around the globe.

11:38 by Rebecca Watson Rebecca Watson