Top 5 must-have tools for Digital Wildlife illustrators

As a wildlife illustrator, your job is to creatively capture the beauty of the natural world. From the boxing of brown hares to the delicate flutter of an orange-tipped butterfly's wings, your canvas can capture a moment or creature that not many people get to witness. As a digital illustrator, it is even more important to have the right tools at your disposal, as they can get expensive and time consuming. Here are my top five must-have tools for every digital wildlife illustrator:

 

1. iPad or Drawing Tablet

As artists, we have the freedom to experiment with different mediums, whether it is a high quality sketchbook, canvas, or tablet, It is totally up to you. I found drawing straight onto my iPad a great way to experiment and discover my personal style, but you can also seamlessly transition between traditional and digital techniques, offering endless possibilities for experimentation and refinement. I started with a basic iPad, but if you can afford it, go for one with a large amount of storage space and the newest model you can get. To draw on your tablet, you will also need a digital pencil, I have used the 1st generation Apple pencil for nearly 5 years, but the 2nd generation has easier charging options. 

 

2. Software

The foundation of any design work comes down to software, so this is where to invest and save time while creating better quality work. Now, if you are on a budget or not, Procreate is the one software you need to get for your tablet. I could not shout any louder about how great and affordable it is. It comes with built-in brushes, but you can add more for a cost. Personally, I have never found the need. Drawing feels just like on paper, but you can also animate, 3D draw and so much more. After I finish an illustration, I transfer all my illustrations to my desktop, create products in InDesign, which is great for layouts and adding typography, and edit stock photos in Photoshop, which is predominantly an app better suited to this type of design. These are subscription-based products nowadays, but if you are spending your time doing design, this is what you need to be using to learn and create the best quality work. 

 

3. Reference Materials

Accurate reference materials are essential for capturing the intricate details of wildlife in your illustrations, as, trust me, nature lovers will know when you include a detail that is wrong. There are loads of options out there, including wildlife guides, books, and even Facebook groups for artist reference images, which means you have permission to use them. You can also take your own photos or reach out to photographers, which I have recently done myself. 

 

4. Tablet Stand

This may not seem essential but after you have hunched over your tablet for a few months with pillows as support, you will change your mind. I was really particular about what I wanted, and now I only want to buy tablets that will fit this stand. You want the correct support not only for your back but also for your hands, plus this wooden one just looks nice. 

 

5. Phone stand

Now, this is not essential for illustrating but in this world of social media and needing to shout about your work so people can find you, I would say it is. Filming content is hard enough but filming a screen is so tedious. I avoided the shiny glare by adding a paper screen protector, but then finding a tripod that could film my screen, which is tilted at an angle by my stand, was hard. There are a few options out there, but I decided to invest in this one from Canvas. It is expensive to ship to the UK, but I love how sturdy it is compared to reviews on others, as well as how stylish it is, all its settings, and its flexibility. 

While these tools are essential for me as a wildlife illustrator, everyone has their own way of working, and that is the beauty and freedom of being creative. And the most important tool of all is your passion for nature and wildlife. Happy illustrating!

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