If you're an illustrator I'm willing to bet you love illustration work from the '50s and '60s.
There's just something about classic illustrations from that era.
Sketching with real pencils, building up dry brush work, using masking fluid, and adding text by taping on typed sheet.
It added soul and character to the work.
Programs like Photoshop and Illustrator save us a ton of time. But they also make it hard to capture the subtle nuances of traditional illustration techniques.
Today if you want to bring those subtle nuances to your work you have to work pretty hard.
Most illustrators and designers have developed their own unique process. It typically involves some mix of Illustrator, Photoshop, searching through tutorial websites, scanning, Photoshop brushes, filters and a little luck.
Some designers get amazing results this way. But when you're on a deadline (or just want to have fun and not think too much) it can be overwhelming.
My friend Brad Woodard and I thought it would be cool if there was a product that took some of the work out of the process.
So we decided to make a natural media brush and tutorial pack (so you can get everything you need to make natural looking illustrations in one place).
Step 1. Spent a ton of time collecting and sharing illustration work we loved
We used Pinterest to build a collection of illustrations we loved. This included a lot of 1950s children's book illustrations. It also included work from current designers that achieve a great looking hand drawn look in their illustrations.
Step 2. Create 100+ brush presets and test them with Brad
I'll be the first to admit I'm not the best illustrator. But Brad Woodard is one of my favorites. What I love so much about his work is that it seamlessly mixes mid-century inspired illustration with modern touches.
So we spent hours on Skype working together. I'd make brushes, try them myself and then send them over to Brad via Skype chat.
He'd try them in his illustration work. Then give me feedback (for example, "This brush sucks, Dustin. Don't ever make one like that again").
After early a dozen hours working, refining and testing we had a set of 20 brushes we both loved. For every one we kept, we threw away 5.
Step 3. Create a set of tutorials to compliment the brushes
Early on in our conversations Brad mentioned something really interesting to me. Normally, when you buy brushes you're kind of left hanging. You have to download them and just start messing around. Eventually you might find a few you like.
We thought it made more sense to include tutorials with a REAL project. That way, you can download the brushes, install them and start working on something right away.
That way you get way more value. Not only do you have the tools, but you also have someone helping you get the most out of them.
Step 4. Add lots of little touches to make the pack as awesome as possible
It would be easy to make a pack of brushes, put it in a ZIP file and offer it for sale.
But if you've bought RetroSupply products before you know we never do that. We want to make the products as friendly and enjoyable to use as possible.
So we did what we always do with RetroSupply products. We thought out the little details to make the product the best it could be.
Here's some of the little details we added:
The result is a brush/tutorial pack that we're both proud of. It's helps you improve your illustration work with great tools and great tutorials.
This pack is the first in a series of "dream brush" packs that Brad and I are making together.
Each one explores a different style of mid-century illustration work. This first pack is all about illustrations that use pencils and dry brushes.
Here's what's included in the SpaceRanger Pack:
If you were to take a class and get supplies to learn this kind of stuff at a real school (even an affordable community college) you'd be set back over $100. And that's low-balling it.
But with the SpaceRanger Brush and Tutorial pack you acquire some incredible tools and skills for about the price of a take-and-bake pizza. Plus, you don't have to drive across town for 12 weeks taking the classes.
The only way we could make this easier is if you could download the knowledge into your head (and that technology simply doesn't exist yet).
The SpaceRanger Brush Pack requires Adobe Photoshop CS4+ as well as a pressure sensitive tablet (for example, a Wacom Cintiq). File size is approximately 19.5 MB.
The Illustrator's Brush Kit for Adobe Illustrator is a collection of 6 of our best-selling Illustrator brush packs. Each one of these packs has become a best-seller.
32 sponge and ink scatter brushes that make it easy to recreate the textures of mid-century children's books.
40 ink pen brushes that make it easy to achieve the same kinds of strokes illustrators used in mid-century commercial illustration work.
40 pencil and charcoal brushes achieve the impossible, getting realistic pencil strokes in Illustrator!
35 halftone and line textures created from a $200 '50s army surplus catalog. Easy to use. Just grab the blob brush and paint halftones and lines like magic!
23 chalk brushes inspired by chalkboard art and sandwich board signs from the '30s.
30 ink and water brushes make it easy to add a wash of color and shading to your work with the swipe of your mouse.
Each pack was made from real source material and references historical commercial illustration work.
So what exactly does that mean? Here's the breakdown.
Whenever possible we sample the brushes from mid-century catalogs, advertisements, posters and other material. We acquire this material from places like Ebay, antique stores, estate sales and swap meets.
Of course we combine and tweak each piece of the product so it's not an exact replica out of respect for these great commercial artists of the past.
When we make our brushes we pay close attention to how the brush looked originally.
For example, when we created the VectorTone pack we paid close attention to the ratio between the dots, the shape of the dots after soaking into the paper, and how often flaws occurred.
Yeah, sometimes we get a little obsessive compulsive on the details. But it's who we are!
Sometimes the best way to recreate these old effects is to recreate them. In many cases we actually purchase material and then recreate retro work and then sample the work we created.
For example, InkWash is a throwback to the ink washes that illustrators used to add shading to their work. For this pack we looked at the original uses of ink washes in ads and articles from old science magazines.
Then we purchased india ink, brushes and heavy illustration paper. By tweaking our ink and water proportions, brush strokes and how loaded the brush was we created hundreds of samples.
Finally, we picked the best samples to convert into brushes.
Sound quality is poor on this video, but seeing the effect is awesome!
VectorTone is a collection of graphic styles, swatches, actions that make it crazy easy to add halftones and crosshatching to your work.
Over the past 18 months I've collected dozens of sponge brushes, acrylics, inks and papers. Using these tools I've spent many early mornings and late nights drinking coffee and making textures.
This pack of 32 sponge scatter brushes was sourced from these hundreds of samples over the past 18 months.
NOTE: It has been pointed out to me that these brushes may render slowly. This is due to the high definition of the brushes. I'm currently working on a solution for a future update. However, this is something to consider in purchasing this pack.