Interview: Graham Bradshaw

1 October 2012

We came across Graham Bradshaw's work online and since then have been so impressed with his attention to detail and creativity in his drawings. We asked Graham to answer a few questions about his life and work:

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Liverpool but we moved away when I was very young. I was raised in a small village called Chinnor in Oxfordshire. Chinnor sits right on the edge of the Chilterns & is a really nice place to grow up; home to all my childhood memories. I now live in Rugby, Warwickshire with my wife, three children & a loopy German Shepherd. I work full time as a Team Leader for a company called Cemex which has  long 12 hour shifts but lots of time off in between. I’ve always been very hands on & mechanically minded, fixing, designing & making things has always played a part in my line of work. My favourite subjects at school where always Art, Woodwork & Metalwork. Drawing is something I do in my spare time; usually late at night when all the kids are asleep. Sometimes I’ll be up until the early hours because that’s the only time I get to draw. I find drawing very relaxing & once the headphones are on, the pencils come out & the iPod’s set to shuffle I’ll drift off into my own world & lose myself for while.

Interview: Graham Bradshaw

How would you describe your work?

I feel that my work is very much like every other graphite portrait artist. This is something I’d like to break away from rather than continuously drawing portraits of celebs, people’s family members & animals.  Please don’t get me wrong as I do enjoy drawing these things but I’d like to start combining ideas and making my work different if that makes sense. The drawing ‘Lost in a dream’ was my first attempt at breaking away from the normal. Although surreal, the drawing still holds a realistic vibe. I think the best way to describe my work at the moment is ‘evolving’.

How did you start out as an artist?

I began drawing at a very early age. At first I drew cartoons that I’d send in to Phillip Schofield. Phillip was really cool! He showed two of my cartoons on his children’s show on CBBC & also read out my name twice. The first cartoon was Scooby Doo & the other was Count Duckula. I received a letter & badge from the BBC to say thanks for sending in the drawings. I was really chuffed about it & remember wearing my badge to school every day for weeks. It wasn’t until I was twelve that I discovered my ability to draw people. It sounds bad but I stole my brother’s Derwent pencils & FHM magazine to draw Sherilyn Fenn. It was kind of accidental really but that’s where it all started I guess.

Interview: Graham Bradshaw

How has your style evolved over the years?

From the age of 18 I gave up drawing for years. My parents always told me I had a wasted talent but you know what it’s like being young; all I wanted to do was hang out with my mates & party. I’d draw the odd picture from time to time but never really took it anywhere. In my twenties I spent a lot of my time learning how to play guitar. I got good on guitar but I always knew I’d never be as good at that as I was at drawing. In 2010 I decided to start drawing again & began sharing my work online. I’m constantly competing against myself with every piece I draw striving to make every drawing better than my last. Back in 2010 my work was soft & lacked depth.  Over the last two years my style has become a lot more detailed, accurate & realistic but most importantly it has depth. I now know the exact pencil grades that suit my style & the paper I need to use; back in 2010 I didn’t have a clue & was still experimenting.

Do you have your own studio? How have you made the space work for you & your creativity?

I don’t have a studio as such but I do have a room that I share with my German Shepherd who snores a lot. In the room I have a large angled art desk that has a massive canvas of New York City above it. I love New York, it fascinates me, unfortunately I’ve never been there but it’s always been on my ‘to do’ list.

What is your favourite piece of work and why?

That would have to be ‘Lost in a Dream’ simply because it’s the first time I’ve really let myself go creatively. The drawing is a concept rather than just copying from a photograph.

Interview: Graham Bradshaw

Who or what inspires your work?

I’m inspired by a lot of things but mainly my kids. They often ask if they can see my drawings & if I’m drawing one of them they get really excited. Music inspires me a lot & listening to my iPod while I draw is a MUST! I can’t draw without music. If I’m having a tough time with a drawing I’ll change tracks to get a more uplifting tune which drives me to keep going. Artists who inspire me are Hyper-Realism artists such as Paul Cadden. I’d like to become Hyper-Realistic in my drawings but what I don’t want to do is copy another artist’s style. Finding my own direction & having my own ideas is my main goal as an artist. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to become an artist?

I’d tell them that there’s no such thing as one big break! The only reality in art is hard work. If you’re serious about becoming an artist then you’ll get your rewards, but if there ever comes a time when you stop enjoying what you do... give up! 

What are the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of being an artist?

Wow that’s a tough question because there’re so many. The best feeling is completing a commission that the owner loves & gets emotional over.  Then there’s the sense of achievement when you’ve completed a piece, the moment when you stand away from the art board for a while & admire your work from a distance. I also love it when you’re in the process of drawing & you get that feeling that it’s going better than you expected. Posting your new piece on Facebook & sitting there refreshing the page to see how many people have liked it; sad I know but any artist who doesn’t admit to doing this is a liar.

Posting on Facebook isn’t just exciting but it’s also a very nervous time for an artist. The most rewarding part is all the amazing people & other artists I’ve met since sharing my work online. One of my most memorable moments was when my artwork was seen by a member of the film industry. I was invited to Pinewood studios for the day to visit sets for The Da Vinci Code & Children Of Men. The Da Vinci Code was amazing; I don’t want to ruin it for people but they couldn’t get permission to film inside the real Louvre in Paris so they recreated the entire gallery at Pinewood. There was still blood on the floor when I went in because they’d filmed the opening scene the morning I was there. I wasn’t supposed to see the set because I was actually on my way to meet Tom Hanks. Tom wasn’t available because he was filming on another stage at the time so the guy I was with asked if I’d like to see The Louvre instead. I never did get to meet Mr Hanks but that day still remains one of the best days of my life thanks to my artwork. There’s more but I’ll let you (Derwent) reveal that when you’re ready.

Interview: Graham Bradshaw

What are your top tips for budding pencil artists?

My main tip is to be patient; never rush and always believe in your ability. If you ever get tired or start to struggle leave it alone & come back to it later. You’ll always see your drawing from a different prospective when you’ve been away from it for a while. As for techniques I’ve found that a tortillion (smudge stick) works great for accurate detail & blending. I often get asked how I keep the paper so clean. Most artists already know this but for those of you just starting out, try using a blank piece of paper to mask out the areas where you place your hand during drawing, that way you won’t smudge your work.

Thanks so much to Graham for sharing his thoughts with us. Find out more about Graham and his work by visiting:

09:00 by Rebecca Watson Rebecca Watson

Interview: Kelli Hamblet

24 July 2012

We were so pleased to interview renowned equestrian artist, Kelli Hamblet. Her pencil drawings really capture the essence of the horse - we asked Kelli a few questions about herself and her work:

What inspires you and your work?

Originally I only drew cityscapes as my background is in architecture. I think that is where my attention to detail came from. My other passion in life is my horses, and once I had started to draw them, I’ve never looked back. They started out just as head studies and portraits and now have progressed to incorporate their movement and strength.  I often travel around to dressage competitions to find new subjects to draw.

Interview: Kelli Hamblet

Which artist inspires you?

I remember when I was young admiring the work of a local childrens’  book illustrator called Robert Ingpen. I’ve also always loved the old masters, Vermeer and Canaletto in particular  and when I was at university I discovered the photorealists and have been a great admirer of many such as Richard Estes and Douglas Hofmann.

How and when did you start drawing?

I have drawn as long as I can remember. Art was always my favourite subject at school, particularly in pencil. I have done a little painting, but I always seem to come back to my pencils, they are the medium I feel most comfortable and confident with.

What have you learned about yourself & your work over the years?

I have learned to trust myself and to follow my own instinct rather than head in a direction that others have told me to follow. Over the years many have told me I needed to loosen up and be more ‘impressionistic’ in my work, but that’s just not me.

Interview: Kelli Hamblet

What are the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of your work?

There are 2 favourite parts, picking them up from the framers when they are all properly ‘dressed’ and looking their best, and the other is dropping off commissions of animals to their owners and seeing the look on their faces.

Which is your favourite piece of work and why?

My favourite would have to be my most recent picture of a stunning Australian dressage horse called ET. I was at a riding competition where I was taking lots of photos and as soon as I saw him enter the warmup arena and begin to move, I knew he would draw up well.

What would be your advice for someone starting out in this area of work?

To be patient, work hard, and be true to what inspires you the most.

Do you have a studio?

I have a back room which is supposed to be the studio, but I hate being locked away and so have my drawing board set up in the corner of the living room.  As I live alone, this suits me really well.

Are you a member of any societies, if so do they help with your work?

I am not a member of any art societies, but I’m involved with riding clubs, so they have a lot to do with the horses I draw.

What type of music, if any, do you listen to while working?

I actually love to have movies playing in the background while I work. I can only play ones I’ve seen though, as new ones distract me too much! As my work is quite detailed, it does help me to look up every once in a while as well.

What’s your favourite drawing accessory?

I recently bought a new pencil box which I love. It is really a large wooden tool box with  lots of small drawers, but they are all felt lined and it’s the perfect size for all my pencils...well that and my Venetian Red No. 63 Derwent pencil!!!

Thanks so much to Kelli for agreeing to be interviewed. Kelli is an Australian artist whose passion for horses really shines through her work - she can be found on Facebook.

Interview: Kelli Hamblet

09:00 by Rebecca Watson Rebecca Watson

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

Valentine's Card Project with Sarah Hurley

30 January 2012

We love crafting here at Derwent, so who better to show us some great techniques and projects than super-crafter Sarah Hurley? Sarah will be bringing us lots of fun and colourful ways to craft using Derwent products so keep your eyes peeled... take it away Sarah!

Today I’m sharing with you a Valentine’s card using Inktense pencils and blocks. They are so versatile and have such bright vibrant colours; I just love using them in my crafting!

I’ll be showing you how to stamp and colour with Inktense…

Valentine's Card Project with Sarah Hurley

Supply List – Inktense Blocks, Inktense Pencils, Watercolour Paper, Waterbrush – Derwent, Jar Stamps – Little Musings, Cloud Stamp – Hero Arts, Valentine Stamps – Pink Paislee, Once Upon a Princess Cartridge (Cricut Expression) – Provocraft, Staz-on Ink Pad, Kraft Card, Water Spray Bottle 

Valentine's Card Project with Sarah Hurley

Firstly I stamped two jars (in case of a mistake or smudge!) using a Staz-on ink pad (this is a solvent based waterproof ink so won’t run and spoil my image once I start to add colour) onto watercolour paper. Using the Inktense pencils, I added some Bright Blue to the edges and bottom of the jar and some Teal Green to the inside of the jar (very lightly) then, using a water brush I blended the colour out using lots of water as I wanted the colour to be very feint to give the effect of glass.

Once this was dry I added some Black to the edges of the lid and some White in the centre and blended with a water brush. While the lid was still wet I added more White to highlight and blended (the colours are more intense when used on wet paper.)

Valentine's Card Project with Sarah Hurley

While the jars were drying I cut a piece of watercolour paper to 13 x 9.5cms, using the Inktense blocks dry I coloured the cloud stamp with two shades of blue (you can add colour to a dry stamp but it won’t stamp until you wet the stamp or stamp onto wet paper) I then misted lightly with water using a spray bottle and stamped onto the watercolour paper – set aside to dry.

Valentine's Card Project with Sarah Hurley

I then cut a piece of Kraft card to 14 x 10cms and using my Cricut Expression I cut a heart shape in the middle. I then rounded the corners and used a red pen to doodle stitching round the heart and the edge of the paper.

When the cloud image was dry I mounted it onto a card blank using double sided tape, then using 3D foam I added the Kraft card over the top, allowing the stamped clouds to peek through the heart.

Valentine's Card Project with Sarah Hurley

Once the jar was dry I stamped the hearts inside the jar using the same technique with the Inktense blocks – using them dry onto the stamp and then misting with water. If you miss any parts out (i.e. if too much water goes on one area and dilutes / washes away the colour) you can just touch up the area with your Inktense pencils or a corner of the Inktense block.

I then added the jar to the front of the card with 3D foam, and a stamped greeting to the top left corner.

Some of my Top Tips! 

  • Using the Inktense blocks directly onto your stamp is a great technique to achieve a watercolour effect for backgrounds etc
  • For more precision you can use Inktense pencils onto specific areas of the stamp
  • The more water you add, the more blurred and painterly your image will be when you stamp
  • Bear in mind as you flip the stamp over some water will run, mixing the colours; if you want to avoid this look then wet the paper instead of the stamp, this will also make your colours brighter.
  • For a more intense colour, wet your stamp with the mister first and then add colour to the stamp.


I love discovering new things with these pencils & blocks. They are so versatile, I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of my experiments popping up here soon!

09:38 by Rebecca Watson Rebecca Watson

How To Draw Eyes

12 December 2011

Val Webb takes us through an illustrated guide to drawing eyes - let us know what you think!

Eyes are challenging to draw, but they are also a lot of fun -- and the eyes are often the key to expressing human emotion in a drawing. Here's a short, step-by-step tutorial on drawing realistic eyes in pencil. For your model, cut a pair of eyes out of a magazine photo or crop a pair from an online image. Cut away the rest of the face so that you won't be distracted as you concentrate on this drawing exercise. When you have finished, I'd love to see your results! My email is

How To Draw Eyes


How To Draw Eyes


How To Draw Eyes


How To Draw Eyes


How To Draw Eyes


How To Draw Eyes

Val Webb is an illustrator of flora, fauna & fairies - she also teaches botanical and nature drawing. Please visit for more information.

12:45 by Rebecca Watson Rebecca Watson

Developing a Personal Style

18 November 2011

A guest blog from Lina Maria Carrillo on developing a personal style as an artist.

Developing a Personal Style

I have loved to draw ever since I can remember. Looking back at my work, I can see how I have gradually developed my own style as an artist. When flipping through my sketchbooks now, I laugh how many identical swans a 4 year old could possible draw over and over again. I like to hope that this level of persistence and commitment some day will serve me well in my artistic career. Later on, I have also cringed at some styles I have experimented with, particularly my naked life-drawing phase!

I think this is basically the same story for every person who likes to draw; we each like to hope that our work has evolved over time and stands out in our own way.

I believe the best way to develop our own artistic identity is to follow what we love. If you love to draw realistic, abstract or even finger paint, go for it!. There is no use trying to emulate someone else’s style, as at the end of the day our best work should clearly reflect who we are as an artist and our love for art.

At a personal level, now that my passion has turned into more of a career, I have to think about whether my work is pleasing to the audience’s eye, whether it is commercial enough to be used for advertisement purposes, and most importantly, whether it is effective in putting my point across. Having my own blog pushes me to come up with new ideas every week. I experiment with new techniques with digital media; I like to play around with my watercolors to create patterns that I can scan and play around with on my computer.

Eventually, when a stranger can pick my work out of others because it has my personal touch, this is something I definitely strive for. Developing my own style seems to be a continuous evolution but I am happy to forever be learning new methods and techniques. This is what I love most about being an artist!

Lina Maria Carrillo

Developing a Personal Style

Developing a Personal Style

11:26 by Rebecca Watson Rebecca Watson

The importance of drawing

4 November 2011

Keith McMean, watercolour artist tells us about the importance of sketching.

This is the first blog post I have written for Derwent Pencils and hopefully it won’t be the last.

Most of you might know that I am by definition a watercolour artist but as we all know the foundation of any good painting is the drawing that everything hangs on. Imagine what it would be like if the angles on a building were not quite right, this causes the viewer a slight discomfort and sometime they have no idea why but one thing they do know is they won’t be purchasing that painting or sketch!

Drawing and sketching are the fundamentals that any artist should master before even thinking about adding paint to paper or canvas. I remember holding a painting workshop many years ago and one of the students said to me “but I can’t draw a straight line” and my response was “there are no straight lines in nature, only man made” admittedly it was a landscape workshop we were on. But this doesn’t get away from the fact that drawing is key and care and attention should be paid to.

I have completed a small sketch of one of my favourite places, Whitehaven harbour and this is something I have painted and sketched a lot over the past 30 years and I never tire of looking at and painting it.

The importance of drawing

But what I have tried to capture is the essence of the place with this tonal sketch, sometimes I might even write the colours on the sketch to remind me, such as sky Ultramarine and yellow ochre and so on, this is a great way to bring the scene back when you are in the studio ready to paint.

I don’t underestimate the power of the pencil and I am sure that there are lots of pencil artists out there thinking ‘that’s rubbish’ and maybe it is, what I am getting at here is that using pencils for really detailed work or tonal sketches doesn’t matter, it’s the fact that YOU CAN use them to an end.

So next time you are in the art shop and you stumble on a box or rack full of pencils don’t dismiss them by thinking “what could I use them for?” there are a million and one things you can use them for…so go on use them!

Until next time.

The importance of drawing

Thanks so much to Keith for his interesting opinions on sketching. For more information on Keith's work, why not visit:

12:01 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