My Materials: Acrylic Illustration

Illustrator Jon Berkeley takes us through the tools he uses to conceive, paint, and publish his acrylic illustrations

Whether digital or analog, the variety of materials available to an illustrator is vast. Everyone has their own preferences but when investing in your own materials, it can be helpful to see what other professionals use.

Jon Berkeley has over 30 years of experience in editorial illustration, and has won awards from Creative Quarterly, the Society of News Design, and the British Society of Magazine Editors for his work illustrating for the biggest magazines in the world. His preferred medium is acrylic as, in his opinion, it offers him the best of watercolor and oil painting.

In this video, Jon shows us what tools he uses, sharing simple tips on how and why they are useful for acrylic illustration.

1. Paper

There are three types of paper Jon uses for his illustrations.

The first is the light paper found in the sketchbook he uses to jot down any ideas or concepts that come into his head, whether they are work-related or otherwise.

The second is his layout paper. This paper is finer and smoother than his sketchbook’s, this allows him to use it easily with a lightbox.

Finally, he uses a heavy paper of around 300gsm for his final paintings. This paper needs to be thicker to hold his paint without warping.

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2. Pencils

Jon describes drawing with hard pencils as the equivalent to “drawing with a stick.” He opts for soft pencils for his sketches as they allow him to draw easily and achieve rich shading. Later on in the process, he might go as hard as a 2B pencil to create neater drafts.

3. Brushes

While many artists avoid them, Jon prefers to use soft, synthetic brushes as they are easier to care for, especially when using a material like acrylic. He uses two types of brush, pointed and flat, and does not use any brush smaller than a number 4.

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4. Paint

Most paint brands offer two standards of paint, student (often called studio) and a higher quality artist paint. Where possible, it’s always best to go for the artist paint but, if you are on a budget, studio paints will suffice.

Jon recommends, however, that you do invest in a high quality white paint as it can cover other paint layers, and a weak white will not mix well with other colors.

If you liked this tutorial, check out Jon Berkeley’s course Acrylic Techniques for Creative Illustration to learn how to use your imagination to develop a conceptual illustration from start to finish using acrylic paints.

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You may also like:

- Botanical Painting with Acrylic, a course by Lucila Dominguez
- Illustration with Paint and Mixed Technique, a course by Jesús Benítez
- Creative Drawing with Ink and Gouache, a course by Lucía Coz


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