Eleni Debo’s professional illustration brushes are perfect for a myriad of different projects. In this article, she talks us through how to get the best from her brushes and gives her recommendations on when to use each brush…
We are big fans of Eleni’s ‘painterly’ editorial illustrations which regularly feature in international newspapers, books and magazines. While originally starting out as an illustrator using traditional media, her work has in recent years evolved to become more and more digital and as a result of this transition, Eleni decided to start creating her own brushes. After using and testing her brushes on hundreds of commissioned illustrations over these past few years, she has now collected 45 of her best and most versatile brushes to create a contemporary brush pack for others to start experimenting with as well.
Here’s Eleni to tell us more about the evolution of this impressive raster brush pack which is compatible with both Affinity Photo and Designer.
Why I started creating my own brushes
When I started out as an illustrator my work was mainly made using traditional media, specifically gouache painting and stenciling. From the start, one of the main characteristics of my process was finding ways to create interesting textures, and using my tools in more unconventional ways. Instead of just painting with gouache, I was looking at how I could stamp with it, smudge it, stencil it. I would alter brushes to create the effect I was looking for, or use whatever object (tinfoil, feathers, my fingers) I could find to create unique textures with it. I even let the paint dry up on my brushes so I could use the pulverized paint to give a kind of charcoal-like effect.
Two original gouache illustrations by Eleni Debo.
However, when I started to get more and more editorial commissions, I hit a bit of a roadblock. The editorial world can be really fast-paced and I started to lose too much time waiting for my paint to dry to be able to keep up with the intensely short deadlines. As a result, I had to start incorporating digital techniques to finish my work faster, like making colour corrections and correcting details digitally, instead of painting over the existing layers. Gradually this evolved into only doing the base layers and textures in gouache, and then finishing the illustration digitally. To continue the distinct texturized looks of my work, I began scanning dozens of those paint strokes, smudges, speckles and textures and started creating my own digital brushes with them. That way I could continue on screen where I left off on paper.
To me, creating digital brushes felt like a very logical continuation of my gouache experiments into the digital realm. Over these past years, I have continued to expand my brush library, constantly making new brushes to create a specific look or feel I was trying to achieve for certain commissioned pieces. I once mentioned on one of my social media accounts how I had created a brush for a commission where I had to find a way to paint Nebula clouds. The people at Affinity, with whom I already had the pleasure of working with, noticed my post, and that’s how the idea started to grow between us to use my brushes to create my very own brushpack.
Included in the pack are:
- 4 basic rough edges drawing brushes
- 3 distressed inking pens
- 4 chalky shape blockers
- 9 gradient shader brushes
- 16 speckle, noise and spray-paint brushes
- 9 dry paint and crosshatching brushes
They are compatible with both Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer (Pixel Persona) on iPad and desktop.
To make sure you’ve got everything you need to start using these brushes, I have included the following documents with the purchase of the brush pack:
- Installation instruction PDF
- Brush overview sheet PDF
- Tips and tricks PDF including lots of sample illustrations.
You can watch the process clip of this springtime illustration I recently made for the promotion of Affinity’s 1.8 launch to see the brush pack in action.
A process video showing how Eleni uses her brushes to create an illustration.
How to get the most out of my illustration brushes
In selecting the brushes for the brush pack, I made sure to include brushes that could cover the entire process of illustrating, from sketching to colour blocking to final illustration, but that could also be applied to a wide range of styles.
The brushes are perfect for creating digital pieces from start to finish, but given that they were originally created to bridge the gap between my analogue and digital work, I have found they also work very well when combining traditional and digital media. So far I have used my brushes in combination with gouache painting, watercolour painting and coloured pencils!
Many of the brushes included in the pack are very versatile in use. The ‘Chalky shape blocker’, for example, is a brush that I use for both sketching, colour blocking, erasing, shading and texturing. Used at a large width it is great for blocking out large shapes in your drawing, and its square shape is perfect for blocking out architectural elements. The texture of the brush adds a nice distressed feel reminiscent of screen printing to the shapes. But when used at a small width the brush actually behaves much more like a graphite pencil and I’ve found it great for sketching and hatching.
These brushes are so versatile they can be used for a myriad of different projects including:
- Professional digital illustrations, concept art and retouching of analogue drawings
- Editorial illustration, book covers, children’s books, graphic novels, printmaking, hand-lettering and more!
I’m sold! Where can I get hold of this epic brush pack?
Eleni Debo Illustration Brush Pack is now available to purchase on the Affinity store.
You can also read our previous interview with Eleni where she talks to us about winning a prestigious World Illustration Award.