ILLUSTRATING KNOWHOW Mixing Tools and Styles Part 3

Continuing the series of Know-How articles on mixing art techniques, picture book writer and illustrator Bridget Marzo reveals some of her ink and paint mash-up techniques and tools.

(For Layn Marlow's preceding articles see See Part 1 and Part 2)

My characters from Tiz and Ott's Big Draw enjoy drawing and painting, line and colour.

So do I. And I like to surprise myself. For almost every project or commission, I play with and combine techniques to fit the story or concept.

Drawing directly in ink with any kind of pen gets my adrenaline going. I tell myself that I’m working on a 'final' piece, however many versions I end up doing. I drew Tiz and Ott many times with a Pentel Brush Pen. It meant a lot of ink cartridges to get each gesture and expression right. And I worked with crayons, brushes and pencils too, like they do.

A scan of some Tiz & Ott studies done in brush pen, crayons, coloured pencil, paint  – I used just some of these in the final illustration.

To keep things fresh I’ll draw directly in ink on thick cartridge, sometimes working on my lightbox, following guidelines of an earlier rough without exactly tracing it.

Having a digital back-up means that I can play with real ‘analogue’ tools and take more risks with colour, textures and paint.  It’s truly liberating, especially when the scene needs some depth of atmosphere or emotion.

Tiz and Ott were digitally collaged onto this ‘sea’ built up of at least 3 different paintings (and a little crayon)  from Tiz & Ott’s Big Draw

For Ice Age Mo, a very different project I’m writing, I've combined pen and ink with acrylic on paper in a mash-up process that ends up on screen  -  almost a reverse of Layn’s process.

I started with a pen and ink drawing – this time done with glass pen on cartridge (more about that in Part 4)

Then I got my acrylics out  - to mix a range of colours from the three primaries. Here’s an overview of my lightbox with my gear and the painting in progress.  

Overview of lightbox with the painted paper laid over my ink drawing
You can just see the line drawing under the paint.  I started with a light wash for the background, roughly following the ink outlines I could see beneath.  Then I had fun using a rubber spatula to spread dollops of paint to suggest the rough stone and earth in the foreground.

I scanned the ink drawing into Photoshop, and this background painting, and placed it on a layer under the ink drawing. The Multiply function in the Photoshop layers menu allows you to see through the layers to line them up with more layers from other scans of smaller paintings of the characters and the fire.  I tweaked the line and the paint with my small Wacom Intuos 4 tablet on which I use a lightweight pressure-sensitive Classic Pen.  I'll use the Photoshop ‘Rough Dry’ brush or the clone tool to cover a gap or a speck in the paint, zooming in to check the overall picture at 100%.  I’ve learnt to avoid being “pixel perfect”.  It’s all too easy to kill the life of a picture when you refine it on screen.

Here’s a glimpse of the result on screen (and my cat sitting on the lightbox).

I always test print the final result on cartridge paper.  That said, colour sync from screen to print is rarely a problem nowadays.

You’ll see a giclée print of this and lots of wonderful work by selected SCBWI illustrators at our upcoming Biennial Illustration exhibition, Pictures at Play at London’s Half Moon Theatre gallery.

–––––––––––––––––– ∞ ––––––––––––––––––

In next month's concluding Part 4 Bridget will look at some of the gear she mashes together, including her glass dip pen and Neocolor pastels.


Bridget Strevens Marzo is a former International Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI and current illustration volunteer in the British Isles. Her long string of successful picture books includes the recent Tiz and Ott's Big Draw (archive


  1. I love this! Thanks, Bridget! I hope some prints are for sale at the exhibition!

  2. A great tip, lining up over the lightbox, thanks Bridget!


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.