Boys' Life Inspirational Images

by Dustin Lee May 11, 2021 2 Comments

Boys' Life Inspirational Images

Each week in the RetroSupply Secret Society we do a post called From the Archives where we showcase some inspirational art from the past. A few weeks ago, resident illustrator Robin Banks posted some art from a 1952 issue of Boys' Life that was popular in the community.


Boys' Life Cover (1952)

A gorgeous cover likely painted in gouache with dry brush techniques for adding details. Gouache dries with a matte finish which makes it excellent for adding colored pencil on top for fine line work and texture. The elephant towards the bottom of the cover shows excellent use of pencil or a small dry round brush to add detail and depth.

Boys' Life 1953 | RetroSupply Co.

Perfect for Advertisers

Like most magazines, Boys' Life was an advertising paradise. Because the magazine was directed towards such a clear demographic advertisers could create ads that grabbed the readers attention and encouraged them to take action.

Note how the ads can use very direct language directed at the consumer including:

  • “Happy way to be head of the class anywhere!”
  • “Hey Scouts! Hey boys!”
  • “Breeze back to school on a Schwinn Traveler”
Schwinn Traveler ad | RetroSupply Co.
Nestle chocolate advertisement | RetroSupply Co.

Eye catching Artwork

Artists were required to create artwork that could grab a restless kids attentions — often on tight deadlines. This illustration of a worm talking to a boy pulls the viewer in with a close-up of the action, a look of surprise that creates curiosity, and a hit of color.

Notice that the illustration is done with ink and watercolor for fast output.

Boy with earthworm illustration | RetroSupply Co.

invisible Marketing (Almost)

Online advertisements are often designed to look like content to disarm the reader. The same was true 70 years ago! This colorful comic persuades the reader to sell Christmas cards emphasizing that it's easy and fun to make money.

Boys Life comic | RetroSupply Co.

Look at those textures!

Okay, I just have to stop here and point out the delicious tactile textures in these pieces. Look at the use of halftones in the RC Cola advertisement! The same shading and halftone effects can be achieved using our DupliTone halftone pack. It was designed to simulate exactly this kind of art!

RC Cola advertisement | RetroSupply Co.
1953 Boys' Life illustration | RetroSupply Co.

Summer Adventures

These are some of my favorite pieces. All the action makes me want to go outside and have some adventures with friends. Swimming, catching frogs, bird watching, and building a campfire. Who could ask for more?

You can achieve this same type of look in your artwork using our Standard Pens for your inking and Paper Boy vintage paper textures.

Illustration of scouts | RetroSupply Co.

CMYK Halftone Magic

When we were developing our ColorLab color halftone printing effect kit we referenced a lot of work like the art below. The American football comic shows a traditional use of color printing with both solid hits of color as well as halftone dots and lines. The How to Make it... shows just how much depth of color and texture can be achieved with color halftones.

Football illustration | RetroSupply Co.
Fish halftone illustration | RetroSupply Co.

The Art Department

I just had to finish off this post with this illustration. I wanted to work at the San Francisco Chronicle as a kid (don't as my why I was so specific) and this is sort of how I imagined it might be to work at a newspaper.

Art department illustration | RetroSupply Co.

The Secret Society

Want to see more inspirational images like this, freebies, tutorials, and a growing community of retro-loving creatives? Try the RetroSupply Secret Society FREE for 30 days!

Dustin Lee
Dustin Lee


2 Responses


May 13, 2021

Great article on timeless design classics like boys life, it reminds me of the old Beano comics i used to read as a kid here in South Australia. Dustin that newspaper office reference is spot on, as is the artwork. I started my career in 1985 as a copy boy at The News which was a tabloid format newspaper and where Rupert Murdoch started the News Limited empire, it was fantastic working there as it was all old school, etching plates with wonderful halftones, lead type, huge type setting machines in the compositing floor, the noise was deafening and we used to get images from overseas on a gram machine which would print out using a standard dedicated phone line . The editorial floor where i worked was a noisy environment with journos and editors feverishly hammering away at old type writers, shouting “COPY” which than activated a young person like myself to rush over and grab the copy, i was soon working in the pictorial section with the artist and photographers, my job was looking after the artist & sizing up images for printing, the sub editors would write instructions for size in columns & ems and i would deliver to Adelaide Art Engravers on the roof next door where they would rephotograph on these huge cameras, create a etching plate, process in baths of acid and deliver to compositing for printing, you could see the halftone patterns which was so cool. I sadly saw the transition to computers in 1987, i left in 1988 after doing my cadetship in editorial management and moved to Canada and the US for 3 years than 2 years in the UK, great times i will always fondly remember.

Su Hall
Su Hall

May 13, 2021

My brother used to receive “Boy’s Life” magazine.
That was 50+ years ago! LOL
I do love this style!

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